Back in November last year, I read about this Kickstarter project on Uncrate via Flipboard app on my iPad.(I think). I’ve been looking for a waterproof cash container for a while and all the one I can find on Amazon are either too small (designed mainly for medications) or not cool enough, or just not what I am looking for.

The Ti2 Sentinel however, is perfect. It has multiple sizes to choose from in both lengths and diameters. It’s made of titanium so it should be very durable. It’s waterproof so cash or any legal documents should not get wet. And most important of all, the prices are affordable and in exactly the right range for me. Oh and it’s hand-made in USA. What more can one ask?

I pledged my money for a S6M since looking at the schematics I didn’t think the S6S will accommodate cash notes. The S4L will but I want something with large enough diameter to store decent amount of cash. The project owner, Mike Bond, provides detailed updates on the build process, which was very reassuring for the backers like myself. After waiting for 3 months and just a couple of weeks after the original delivery estimate, my S6M arrived yesterday. It is exactly as described in the Kickstarter project. Beautifully handcrafted. The square thread is particularly impressive attention to details. It is definitely something that is “use and forget” which is important as part of the emergency kit.

Ti2 Sentinel in plastic package
In plastic package
Ti2 Sentinel out of the package
Out of package
Dissembled into all three parts
Dissembled into all three parts

Lessons learnt from Sandy – Are you prepped for the next one?

What did we learn from our hurricane Sandy experience? Since my emergency preparation and Every Day Carry posts, I’ve added many additions to the Go bag:

  • 3 days worth of dry rations
  • LED Headlamp
  • Butane lighters
  • Duct tapes
  • Work gloves
  • Water-proof notebook
  • Thermal blankets
  • Water-proof map holder
  • Water-proof NJ road map
  • Water purification tablets
  • N95 face masks
  • Binoculars
  • Extra pair of eye glasses

But the more useful addition is the mental preparation. Both Leah and I were on the same page with regards to what needed to be prepared. We spun into action after dinner on Sunday (about 2 hours before power went out) when I started seeing water coming into our street. The binoculars proved to crucial as without it I won’t be able to see the water level at the street outside and realized how deep and rapid it was raising. Having the Go bag already packed meant we only need to finish a few remaining tasks such as:

  • Take all of our legal documents from the fire-proof box into the water-proof map case, which then went into the Go bag
  • Fill the bath tug with water
  • Fill all water bottles, jugs, etc. with filtered water
  • Pack clothing (enough for 3 days and appropriate for the weather) for the adults and the girls in case we need to evacuate (like in Irene)
  • Pack toiletries for the adults
  • Pack simple medicines for the adults and the girls
  • Sort out the order of food to be consumed. The ones expire soonest to be consumed first, etc. And make plan on what our next meal will consist of.
  • Turn the refrigerator to coldest settings to maximize the length food remain edible.
  • Move car from first floor garage to third floor
  • Check batteries in all the flashlights, lamps, and lay them out ready to be used
  • Check emergency radio is picking up weather channel
  • Recharge all iPhones and iPads
  • Powering down all electronics

As I was lying in bed, fully clothed, I went through the following checklist before I felt prepared (noted: not “safe”) enough to fall asleep:

  • Evacuation route out of the building on foot, out of the city by car, and out of the state by car
  • Which friends we can evacuate to. For example, the friend we evacuated to during Irene got even worse weather than us during Sandy. Won’t be much of an improvement if we drove there.
  • Nearby shelter addresses and how to get there

And during the seven days of no power and water, the 5.11 Tactical pants proved to be one of most valuable item I own. It has so many pockets of various sizes that I was able to carry my house keys, car key, wallet, flashlight, multitool, and knife whenever I wore my pants, which was always except sleeping. Actually we slept in our clothes in the first night just in case we needed to evacuate in a hurry. I have 3 pairs and was able to be wear them throughout the week.

Despite the above, our preparations still fell short on three major areas during hurricane Sandy:

  1. Power management
  2. Cooking arrangement
  3. Lighting

Power Management

I had plenty of spare batteries to power flashlights, LED lantern, and the headlamp. But there was no provision to charge our cell phones. Even turning off 3G/LTE data connection when we were not using it, our iPhones won’t last longer than 2-2.5 days. Thankfully we got to charge our phones in our building lobby but it should not be something we rely upon. My original plan was to use the Etón radio which has a hand crank and a USB outlet. But it were inadequate in charging a modern smartphone, which requires fair amount of amperage from the charger. And as a last resort, I can always run the car engine to charge the phones but I would much prefer not to waste fuel for that.

Actions

  • Purchase solar panel charger that can store and charge smartphone and tablet. Current candidate is the Solar Joos Orange.
  • When we move to a house eventually, a generator will be an essential part of emergency gear. Need to research the manufacturers, types, power rating, etc.
  • Invest in a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) for the NAS box. I had to time to shutdown most electronics before power went out but I may not have the luxury the next emergency comes. UPS like this should be able to support the NAS and internet router long enough for them to power down properly.

Cooking Arrangement

We had enough clean drinking water in plastic gallon jugs for the first couple of days as well as bottled waters from supermarket. We also had a bath tub full of cleaning water. Likewise with food, Leah used up as much ingredient and food before the storm hit. What we didn’t have is a mean to heat water or food. We had a fridge full of food but we could not eat them without cooking them first. So we ate cold food and juice/water for 3 days before local restaurants that were not affected by the power outage opened up for business.

Actions

  • Research camping stoves. Which type of fuel they use, how long they’d last, how much fuel supply we need to stock up for 3 days. Can it be used indoor safely.
  • Portable gas stove (like this one) seems to be a reasonable alternative if only for indoor use.

Lighting

The LED Lantern was amazing. It lit up the whole room so we didn’t have to live in darkness. But we only have one so only one room at a time could be lit. Not a major problem but it certainly can be improved. The headlamp was also incredibly useful. It proved to be essential when the only lantern was used in the living room, and one of us needed to do something in the kitchen or the bathroom.

I only realized we had 10 chemical light sticks the day after the power outage. More are needed so we can have enough to last 72 hours on light sticks alone.

Actions

  • Purchase more LED lantern. Possibly one for each large room.
  • Purchase additional headlamp so both of us can wear one simultaneously.
  • Purchase additional chemical lightsticks.

Every Day Carry – EDC

After my first attempt at organizing an emergency bag (or Bug Out Bag, B.O.B.), I haven’t done anything to refine/complete the setup. This is mainly due to lack of time. However, recently I started listening to In the Rabbit Hole podcast and there are a trove of useful information. From the EDC episode, I realize my EDC (Every Day Carry) is really inadequate so last week I set out to improve it.

Previously I had a Fenix EO5 flashlight and Leatherman Squirt PS4 on my keychain. When Leah gave birth to the girls I gave her the flashlight and Leatherman for her diaper bag, and I bought myself a JETBeam BA10 and Leatherman Juice CS4 as replacement. They are obviously too big to be on the keychain so I carry them in my messenger bag for my daily commute. After listening to the podcast, I realized some important items are missing.

First, because of the increased number of items I want to carry with me, it is much easier and better organized if I store the items in a bag. I picked the Maxpedition E.D.C. Pocket Organizer and put my JETBeam and Leatherman on the left hand side. A spare battery is added for backup. A disposable lighter (I’m not a smoker but the ability to make fire is useful in any emergency) and a simple first-aid kit round out the left hand side of the organizer. On the right, I added the iPhone charger and cable so I will be able to keep my phone charged in an emergency. That plus a iPhone backup battery pack from MonoPrice and a face mask goes into the pocket. The face mask will help me through any dusty situation. Having the equipment in the Maxpedition mean I can just pick it up from my messenger bag and put it into the Timbuk2 Stork messenger/diaper bag when we go out during the weekends.

For the keychain, I added three items. First, a PocketToolX Brewzer. It is kind of mini-multitool in that it has a flat head screwdriver, a box opener, and a bottle opener. It is made of high-grade stainless steel and is TSA compliant. Then I have the LaCie iamakey USB flash drive. I can use it for carrying general files, but the feature I wanted it for is the built-in encryption software. This allows me to store scanned copies of our legal and travel documents (passports, driving license, greencards, etc.) on the flash drive securely. And since the software for decryption is on the drive, I can use it on any computer as I won’t need to download and install any software. Finally, the green tube is a glow ring. It is basically a plastic tube filled with a small amount of tritium gas (a radioactive isotope of hydrogen) which glows as it decay. Why is it useful? If I drop my keys while I was out in the dark, say while camping or a park, the glow ring will allow me to find it if it is within about 30 feet. It is not available for sale in the US and I purchased mine from Nite GlowRing in the UK.

I’ve also learnt a lot from the podcast about other items that I should include in the B.O.B. In addition to the B.O.B, I’m going to build a baby B.O.B. for the girls specifically and a mini B.O.B. for the car. All of these will be in future posts.

Preparing for emergency

I was in Manhattan 10 years ago. I lived in mid-town and worked one building next to the World Trade Center 2. I watched it happened live on TV. It was the first time I felt I was not prepared at all to deal with an emergency. I did not have a plan. Any plans. Plan for evacuation, plan for communicating to families, plan for getting up-to-date news, plan for no electricity, plan for no water, plan for no food supply, plan for helping others with first aid, plan for, well you get the idea. That was the first time I realized I needed to be prepared for the next emergency, be it a terrorist attack, storm, or earthquake. Alas, life went back to normal and the preparation I’ve managed for the next 8 years were a few large bottles of waters under the kitchen sink.
Continue reading “Preparing for emergency”

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