Archive for the ‘Introduction’ Category


October 9, 2014



I don’t sell things. I don’t get kickbacks or bonus checks or free products from “partners” who profit from my recommendations. I don’t have a book, an e-book, or a class, to sell you. I write. I recommend products I find useful and pass along connections to information that I have found to be valuable for me. Maybe you’ll find the products useful as well… or maybe they just won’t work for your needs. Maybe the information will be valuable to you, or maybe it won’t fit with the situation in which you find yourself. But that’s the important lesson about being prepared: preparedness is personal. What works for me may not work for you. All the money in the world won’t help you if the stuff you have isn’t the stuff you need… and the stuff you need won’t help you if you don’t have the know-how to put it to good use.

That being said, a LOT of people are going to start harping about Ebolavirus. You’re going to hear about “near magic formulas” that will protect your family. You’re going to hear about “the cures the government doesn’t want you to know about.” Most of what you’re going to hear is crap. It’s crap designed to separate you from your hard-earned dollars.

I don’t know about you, but I’m living on blue collar wages. And I need every bit of the money I take home. I don’t have the disposable income to blow on “miracle cures” and “secrets” that amount to nothing. I need solid, practical advice. I don’t have time or money for crap. I bet you don’t either.

I don’t believe in hoarding knowledge for profit. I believe in sharing it. I believe that knowledge is power. The more you know, the safer you can be in most circumstances.

I’m about to pass along the best info I’ve found on Ebolavirus. It’s a Pathogen Safety Data Sheet for Ebolavirus issue by the Public Health Agency of Canada. A Pathogen Safety Data Sheet is sort of like a Material Safety Data Sheet: it helps you know what you’re dealing with and how best to keep yourself as safe as possible. Like an MSDS, a PSDS takes something complex and breaks it down into more manageable pieces.

After the link, I’m going to present some pertinent excerpts from the text from the PSDS with notes & annotations to help clear up some of the medical terminology and put things in layman’s terms. Here’s something else, a disclaimer… because y’know… the lawyers and ambulance chasers are always out there… I’m not a medical professional. I’m a regular woman trying to figure things out. I use a dictionary and Google and WebMD and AltaVista and DuckDuckGo to find facts and define words that I don’t understand. I can’t give you medical advice. And if you go out and do something stupid or deliberately put yourself in harm’s way and cut corners and get infected with something, that’s on you. If you have questions or you’re sick, you should consult medical professionals.

You’ll also see how quite a LOT of this just isn’t going to apply to you. Currently your odds of coming into contact with anyone who’s infected are quite low… unless you make a habit of travelling to hot zones, or you have a job that puts you in proximity to infected persons.

Here’s the link to the best info I’ve found on Ebolavirus:

Here’s the pertinent info from the PSDS [my notes/comments are in BOLD italic type]:



NAME: Ebolavirus

SYNONYM OR CROSS REFERENCE: African haemorrhagic fever, Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF, Ebola HF), filovirus, EBO virus (EBOV), Zaire ebolavirus (ZEBOV), Sudan ebolavirus (SEBOV, SUDV), Ivory Coast ebolavirus (ICEBOV), Tai Forest ebolavirus (TAFV), Ebola-Reston (REBOV, EBO-R, Reston Virus, RESTV), Bundibugyo ebolavirus (BEBOV, BDBV), and Ebola virus disease (EVD) Footnote 1 Footnote 2 Footnote 3 Footnote 4.

Essentially, this section lets you know that there are several strains of Ebolavirus.



PATHOGENICITY/TOXICITY: Ebola virions enter host cells through endocytosis and replication occurs in the cytoplasm. Upon infection, the virus affects the host blood coagulative and immune defence system and leads to severe immunosuppression Footnote 10 Footnote 12. Early signs of infection are non-specific and flu-like, [this is why people often wait too long to seek treatment… it presents like the flu] and may include sudden onset of fever, asthenia [weakness, lack of energy], diarrhea, headache, myalgia [muscle aches], arthralgia [weakness, lack of joint pain], vomiting, and abdominal pains Footnote 13. Less common early symptoms include conjunctival injection [“red eye,” severely bloodshot eyes], sore throat, rashes, and bleeding. Shock, cerebral oedema [fluid on the brain], coagulation disorders, and secondary bacterial infection may co-occur later in infection Footnote 8. Haemorrhagic symptoms may begin 4 – 5 days after onset, including hemorrhagic conjunctivitis [extremely red and swollen eyes w/ bleeding], pharyngitis, bleeding gums, oral/lip ulceration, hematemesis [vomiting blood], melena [black, tarry feces – associated with blood in the GI tract], hematuria [blood in the urine], epistaxis [nosebleed], and vaginal bleeding Footnote 14. Hepatocellular damage [liver damage], marrow suppression (such as thrombocytopenia [low blood platelet count], and leucopenia [decreased white blood cell count]), serum transaminase elevation [abnormal liver enzymes – but this makes sense since liver damage is part of the deal], and proteinuria [excess protein in the urine],may also occur. Persons that are terminally ill typically present with obtundation [decreased mental alertness], anuria [a condition in which the kidneys fail to produce urine], shock, tachypnea [rapid breathing], normothermia to hypothermia [normal to low body termperature – which is weird since fever hits you at the onset], arthralgia, and ocular diseases Footnote 15. Haemorrhagic diathesis [susceptibility to bleeding], is often accompanied by hepatic damage [liver damage], and renal failure [kidney failure], central nervous system involvement, and terminal shock with multi-organ failure Footnote 1 Footnote 2. Contact with the virus may also result in symptoms such as severe acute viral illness, malaise [you feel like s***], and maculopapular rash. Pregnant women will usually abort their foetuses and experience copious bleeding Footnote 2 Footnote 16. Fatality rates range between 50 – 100%, with most dying of hypovolemic shock [shock caused by the heart not having enough fluid to pump effectively], and multisystem organ failure Footnote 17.

They treat Ebolavirus by trying to keep your organs going and hoping that your immune system will be able to beat it back.   When you understand what Ebolavirus does in your body, suddenly the treatment protocols make a little more sense.

INFECTIOUS DOSE: Viral hemorrhagic fevers have an infectious dose of 1 – 10 organisms by aerosol in non-human primates Footnote 41.

This is a really small dose of viral organisms. So, caution is called for. Aerosol is different from airbone. Aerosol means that the virus has to be transported IN another substance. If it were truly airborne it wouldn’t need another substance, it would just float invisibly, microscopically in the air. IT DOESN’T DO THAT AND HASN’T MUTATED TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT. AEROSOL IS DIFFERENT FROM AIRBORNE.

MODE OF TRANSMISSION: Person-to-person transmission occurs via close personal contact with an infected individual or their body fluids during the late stages of infection or after death Footnote 1 Footnote 2 Footnote 22 Footnote 42. Nosocomial infections can occur through contact with infected body fluids for example due to the reuse of unsterilized syringes, needles, or other medical equipment contaminated with these fluids Footnote 1 Footnote 2. Humans may be infected by handling sick or dead non-human primates and are also at risk when handling the bodies of deceased humans in preparation for funerals Footnote 2 Footnote 10 Footnote 43.

Person-to-person transmission occurs through contact with infected bodily fluids or tissues.

INCUBATION PERIOD: Two to 21 days Footnote 1 Footnote 15 Footnote 17.

COMMUNICABILITY: Communicable as long as blood, body fluids or organs, contain the virus. Ebolavirus has been isolated from semen 61 to 82 days after the onset of illness, and transmission through semen has occurred 7 weeks after clinical recovery Footnote 1 Footnote 2 Footnote 59 Footnote 60.

82 days. Use a condom.



RESERVOIR: The natural reservoir of Ebola is unknown Footnote 1 Footnote 2. Antibodies to the virus have been found in the serum of domestic guinea pigs and wild rodents, with no relation to human transmission Footnote 34 Footnote 47. Serum antibodies and viral RNA have been identified in some bat species, suggesting bats may be a natural reservoir Footnote 37 Footnote 38 Footnote 39 Footnote 40.

No one knows where it lives in nature. In the States, it’ll be people.

ZOONOSIS: Zoonosis between humans and animal is suspected Footnote 2 Footnote 22 Footnote 37.

VECTORS: Unknown.



All information available on stability and viability comes from peer-reviewed literature sources depicting experimental findings and is intended to support local risk assessments in a laboratory setting.

DRUG SUSCEPTIBILITY: Unknown. Although clinical trials have been completed, no vaccine has been approved for treatment of ebolavirus. Similarly, no post-exposure measures have been reported as effective in treating ebolavirus infection in humans although several studies have been completed in animals to determine the efficacy of various treatments.

DRUG RESISTANCE: There are no known antiviral treatments available for human infections.

As the situation continues to unfold, we’re hearing about more & more experimental drugs, vaccines & therapies. When the Canadians generated the PSDS there were no known antiviral treatments available… that is to say that there wasn’t an antiviral drug that would successfully combat Ebolavirus. . It doesn’t mean that there aren’t treatment measures to be taken for an infected person.

Currently I think it’s safe to assume that someone who’s suspected of infection will have everything thrown at them in order to stop the spread of the disease. The question, as we saw with the drug ZMapp is whether the demand will outstrip the supply.


SUSCEPTIBILITY TO DISINFECTANTS: Ebolavirus is susceptible to 3% acetic acid, 1% glutaraldehyde, alcohol-based products, and dilutions (1:10-1:100 for ≥10 minutes) of 5.25% household bleach (sodium hypochlorite), and calcium hypochlorite (bleach powder) Footnote 48 Footnote 49 Footnote 50 Footnote 62 Footnote 63. The WHO recommendations for cleaning up spills of blood or body fluids suggest flooding the area with a 1:10 dilutions of 5.25% household bleach for 10 minutes for surfaces that can tolerate stronger bleach solutions (e.g., cement, metal) Footnote 62. For surfaces that may corrode or discolour, they recommend careful cleaning to remove visible stains followed by contact with a 1:100 dilution of 5.25% household bleach for more than 10 minutes.

3% acetic acid: the acid most commonly associated with vinegar. Most vinegar is somewhere between 4 – 8% acetic acid. Vinegar. Ebolavirus is susceptible to vinegar. And alcohol based cleansers. And household bleach. You don’t necessarily need exotic cleanser to kill it on surfaces.


PHYSICAL INACTIVATION: Ebola are moderately thermolabile and can be inactivated by heating for 30 minutes to 60 minutes at 60°C, boiling for 5 minutes, or gamma irradiation (1.2 x106 rads to 1.27 x106 rads) combined with 1% glutaraldehyde Footnote 10 Footnote 48 Footnote 50. Ebolavirus has also been determined to be moderately sensitive to UVC radiation Footnote 51.

60 degrees Celcius = about 140 degrees Fahrenheit.


SURVIVAL OUTSIDE HOST: Filoviruses have been reported capable to survive for weeks in blood and can also survive on contaminated surfaces, particularly at low temperatures (4°C) Footnote 52 Footnote 61. One study could not recover any Ebolavirus from experimentally contaminated surfaces (plastic, metal or glass) at room temperature Footnote 61.  In another study, Ebolavirus dried onto glass, polymeric silicone rubber, or painted aluminum alloy is able to survive in the dark for several hours under ambient conditions (between 20 and 250C and 30–40% relative humidity) (amount of virus reduced to 37% after 15.4 hours), but is less stable than some other viral hemorrhagic fevers (Lassa) Footnote 53. When dried in tissue culture media onto glass and stored at 4 °C, Zaire ebolavirus survived for over 50 days Footnote 61. This information is based on experimental findings only and not based on observations in nature. This information is intended to be used to support local risk assessments in a laboratory setting.

A study on transmission of ebolavirus from fomites in an isolation ward concludes that the risk of transmission is low when recommended infection control guidelines for viral hemorrhagic fevers are followed Footnote 64. Infection control protocols included decontamination of floors with 0.5% bleach daily and decontamination of visibly contaminated surfaces with 0.05% bleach as necessary.



SURVEILLANCE: Definitive diagnosis can be reached rapidly in an appropriately equipped laboratory using a multitude of approaches, including RT-PCR to detect viral RNA, ELISA based techniques to detect anti-Ebola antibodies or viral antigens, immunoelectron microscopy to detect ebolavirus particles in tissues and cells, and indirect immunofluorescence to detect antiviral antibodies Footnote 1 Footnote 2 Footnote 14 Footnote 41. Note: All diagnostic methods are not necessarily available in all countries.

Definitive diagnosis through blood test.


FIRST AID/TREATMENT: There is no effective antiviral treatment Footnote 27 Footnote 37. Instead, treatment is supportive, and is directed at maintaining organ function and electrolyte balance and combating haemorrhage and shock Footnote 22 Footnote 55.

Treatment is SUPPORTIVE. They try to keep your body going while your immune system finds its feet and mounts a defense against the virus.


IMMUNIZATION: None Footnote 27.

PROPHYLAXIS: None. Management of the Ebola virus is solely based on isolation and barrier-nursing with symptomatic and supportive treatments Footnote 8.

Isolation (and social distancing). “Barrier-nursing” means wearing personal protective equipment and not getting exposed to infected fluids or tissues.


PRIMARY HAZARDS: Accidental parenteral inoculation, respiratory exposure to infectious aerosols/droplets, and/or direct contact with skin or mucous membranes Footnote 54.

You get it by breathing or ingesting infectious fluids or tissues (blood, saliva, tears, sweat, mucus, semen, feces, vomit, etc.), or by having those things in contact with your mucous membranes. 

UPDATED: August 2014.

PREPARED BY: Centre for Biosecurity, Public Health Agency of Canada.

Although the information, opinions and recommendations contained in this Pathogen Safety Data Sheet are compiled from sources believed to be reliable, we accept no responsibility for the accuracy, sufficiency, or reliability or for any loss or injury resulting from the use of the information. Newly discovered hazards are frequent and this information may not be completely up to date.

Copyright ©

Public Health Agency of Canada, 2014



Footnote 1

Plague. (2004). In R. G. Darling, & J. B. Woods (Eds.), USAMRIID’s Medical Management of Biological Casualties Handbook (5th ed., pp. 40-44). Fort Detrick M.D.: USAMRIID.

Footnote 2

Acha, P. N., & Szyfres, B. (2003). In Pan American Health Organization (Ed.), Zoonoses and Communicable Diseases Common to Man and Animals (3rd ed., pp. 142-145). Washington D.C.: Pan American Health Organization.

Footnote 3

International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (2013 Release). Virus Taxonomy. Ebolavirus.

Footnote 4

Kuhn, J. H., Becker, S., Ebihara, H., Geisbert, T. W., Johnson, K. M., Kawaoka, Y., Lipkin IW, Negredo AI, Netesov SV, Nichol ST, Palacios G, Peters CJ, Tenorio A, Volchokov VE, & Jahrling, P. B. (2010). Proposal for a revised taxonomy of the family Filoviridae: classification, names of taxa and viruses, and virus abbreviations. Archives of virology, 155(12), 2083-2103.

Footnote 5

Sanchez, A. (2001). Filoviridae: Marburg and Ebola Viruses. In D. M. Knipe, & P. M. Howley (Eds.), Fields virology (4th ed., pp. 1279-1304). Philadelphia, PA.: Lippencott-Ravenpp.

Footnote 6

Takada, A., & Kawaoka, Y. (2001). The pathogenesis of Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Trends in Microbiology, 9(10), 506-511.

Footnote 7

Towner, J. S., Sealy, T. K., Khristova, M. L., Albarino, C. G., Conlan, S., Reeder, S. A., Quan, P. L., Lipkin, W. I., Downing, R., Tappero, J. W., Okware, S., Lutwama, J., Bakamutumaho, B., Kayiwa, J., Comer, J. A., Rollin, P. E., Ksiazek, T. G., & Nichol, S. T. (2008). Newly discovered ebola virus associated with hemorrhagic fever outbreak in Uganda. PLoS Pathogens, 4(11), e1000212.

Footnote 8

Feldmann, H. (2010). Are we any closer to combating Ebola infections? Lancet, 375(9729), 1850-1852. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60597-1.

Footnote 9

Beran, G. W. (Ed.). (1994). Handbook of Zoonosis, Section B: Viral (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, LLC.

Footnote 10

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Footnote 11

Sanchez, A., Kiley, M. P., Klenk, H. D., & Feldmann, H. (1992). Sequence analysis of the Marburg virus nucleoprotein gene: comparison to Ebola virus and other non-segmented negative-strand RNA viruses. The Journal of General Virology, 73 (Pt 2)(Pt 2), 347-357.

Footnote 12

Harcourt, B. H., Sanchez, A., & Offermann, M. K. (1999). Ebola virus selectively inhibits responses to interferons, but not to interleukin-1beta, in endothelial cells. Journal of Virology, 73(4), 3491-3496.

Footnote 13

Bwaka, M. A., Bonnet, M. J., Calain, P., Colebunders, R., De Roo, A., Guimard, Y., Katwiki, K. R., Kibadi, K., Kipasa, M. A., Kuvula, K. J., Mapanda, B. B., Massamba, M., Mupapa, K. D., Muyembe-Tamfum, J. J., Ndaberey, E., Peters, C. J., Rollin, P. E., Van den Enden, E., & Van den Enden, E. (1999). Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of the Congo: clinical observations in 103 patients. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 179 Suppl 1, S1-7.

Footnote 14

Zilinskas, R. A. (Ed.). (2000). Biololgical Warfare – Modern Offense and Defense. Boulder, Colorado, USA: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

Footnote 15

Feigin, R. D. (Ed.). (2004). Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases (5th ed.). Philadelphia, USA: Elsevier, Inc.

Footnote 16

Baize, S., Pannetier, D., Oestereich, L., Rieger, T., Koivogui, L., Magassouba, N., Soropogui, B., Sow, M. S., Keita, S., De Clerck, H., Tiffany, A., Dominguez, G., Loua, M., Traore, A., Kolie, M., Malano, E. R., Heleze, E., Bocquin, A., Mely, S., Raoul, H., Caro, V., Cadar, D., Gabriel, M., Pahlmann, M., Tappe, D., Schmidt-Chanasit, J., Impouma, B., Diallo, A.K., Formenty, P., Van Herp, M., & Gunther, S. (2014). Emergence of Zaire Ebola Virus Disease in Guinea – Preliminary Report. The New England Journal of Medicine. Epub ahead of print.

Footnote 17

Casillas, A. M., Nyamathi, A. M., Sosa, A., Wilder, C. L., & Sands, H. (2003). A current review of Ebola virus: pathogenesis, clinical presentation, and diagnostic assessment. Biological Research for Nursing, 4(4), 268-275.

Footnote 18

World Health Organization. Ebola Virus Disease – Fact Sheet N°103. Updated April 2014.

Footnote 19

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1990). Epidemiologic notes and reports updates: filovirus infection in animal handlers. MMWR, 39, 221.

Footnote 20

World Health Organization. Global Alert and Response (GAR) – Ebola virus disease update – West Africa. Disease outbreak news. August 6 2014

Footnote 21

Centres for Disease Control. 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. August 6 2014

Footnote 22

Bausch, D. G., Jeffs B.S.A.G, & Boumandouki, P. (2008). Treatment of Marburg and Ebola haemorrhagic fevers: a strategy for testing new drugs and vaccines under outbreak conditions. Antiviral Res., 78(1), 150-161.

Footnote 23

WHO Disease Outbreak News – Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (2007). 2008

Footnote 24

WHO Disease Outbreak News – Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever in Uganda – Update. (2007). 2008

Footnote 25

Formenty, P., Boesch, C., Wyers, M., Steiner, C., Donati, F., Dind, F., Walker, F., & Le Guenno, B. (1999). Ebola virus outbreak among wild chimpanzees living in a rain forest of Cote d’Ivoire. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 179 Suppl 1, S120-6. doi:10.1086/514296.

Footnote 26

Bray, M. (2003). Defense against filoviruses used as biological weapons. Antiviral Research, 57(1-2), 53-60.

Footnote 27

Leroy, E. M., Rouquet, P., Formenty, P., Souquière, S., Kilbourne, A., Froment, J., Bermejo, M., Smit, S., Karesh, W., Swanepoel, R., Zaki, S. R., & Rollin, P. E. (2004). Multiple Ebola Virus Transmission Events and Rapid Decline of Central African Wildlife. Science, 303(5656), 387-390.

Footnote 28

Nfon, C. K., Leung, A., Smith, G., Embury-Hyatt, C., Kobinger, G., & Weingartl, H. M. (2013). Immunopathogenesis of severe acute respiratory disease in Zaire ebolavirus-infected pigs. PloS one, 8(4), e61904.

Footnote 29

Kobinger, G. P., Leung, A., Neufeld, J., Richardson, J. S., Falzarano, D., Smith, G., Tierney, K., Patel, A., & Weingartl, H. M. (2011). Replication, pathogenicity, shedding, and transmission of Zaire ebolavirus in pigs. Journal of Infectious Diseases, jir077.

Footnote 30

Marsh, G. A., Haining, J., Robinson, R., Foord, A., Yamada, M., Barr, J. A., Payne, J., White, J., Yu, M., Bingham, J., Rollin, P. E., Nichol, S. T., Wang, L-F., & Middleton, D. (2011). Ebola Reston virus infection of pigs: clinical significance and transmission potential. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 204(suppl 3), S804-S809.

Footnote 31

Morris, K. (2009). First pig-to-human transmission of Ebola Reston virus.9(3), 148.

Footnote 32

Allela, L., Bourry, O., Pouillot, R., Délicat, A., Yaba, P., Kumulungui, B., Rougquet, P., Gonzalez, J-P., & Leroy, E. M. (2005). Ebola virus antibody prevalence in dogs and human risk. Emerg Infect Dis, 11(3), 385-90.

Footnote 33

Olson, S. H., Reed, P., Cameron, K. N., Ssebide, B. J., Johnson, C. K., Morse, S. S., Karesh, W. B.., Mazet, J. A. K., & Joly, D. O. (2012). Dead or alive: animal sampling during Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreaks in humans. Emerging health threats journal, 5.

Footnote 34

Morvan, J. M., Nakouné, E., Deubel, V., & Colyn, M. (2000). Ebola virus and forest ecosystem. [Écosystèmes forestiers et virus Ebola] Bulletin De La Societe De Pathologie Exotique, 93(3), 172-175.

Footnote 35

Connolly, B. M., Steele, K. E., Davis, K. J., Geisbert, T. W., Kell, W. M., Jaax, N. K., & Jahrling, P. B. (1999). Pathogenesis of experimental Ebola virus infection in guinea pigs. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 179 Suppl 1, S203-17.

Footnote 36

Ebihara, H., Zivcec, M., Gardner, D., Falzarano, D., LaCasse, R., Rosenke, R., Long, D., Haddock, E., Fischer, E., Kawaoka, Y., & Feldmann, H. (2012). A Syrian golden hamster model recapitulating Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Journal of Infectious Diseases, jis626.

Footnote 37

Leroy, E. M., Kumulungui, B., Pourrut, X., Rouquet, P., Hassanin, A., Yaba, P., Délicat, A., Paweska, J. T., Gonzalez, J., & Swanepoel, R. (2005). Fruit bats as reservoirs of Ebola virus. Nature, 438(7068), 575-576.

Footnote 38

Hayman, D. T., Yu, M., Crameri, G., Wang, L. F., Suu-Ire, R., Wood, J. L., & Cunningham, A. A. (2012). Ebola virus antibodies in fruit bats, Ghana, West Africa. Emerging infectious diseases, 18(7), 1207.

Footnote 39

Yuan, J., Zhang, Y., Li, J., Zhang, Y., Wang, L. F., & Shi, Z. (2012). Serological evidence of ebolavirus infection in bats, China. Virol. J, 9, 236.

Footnote 40

Olival, K. J., Islam, A., Yu, M., Anthony, S. J., Epstein, J. H., Khan, S. A., Khan, S. U., Crameri, G., Wang, L-F., Lipkin, W. I., Luby, S. P., & Daszak, P. (2013). Ebola virus antibodies in fruit bats, Bangladesh. Emerging infectious diseases, 19(2), 270.

Footnote 41

Franz, D. R., Jahrling, P. B., Friedlander, A. M., McClain, D. J., Hoover, D. L., Bryne, W. R., Pavlin, J. A., Christopher, G. W., & Eitzen, E. M. (1997). Clinical recognition and management of patients exposed to biological warfare agents. Jama, 278(5), 399-411.

Footnote 42

Arthur, R. R. (2002). Ebola in Africa–discoveries in the past decade. Euro Surveillance : Bulletin Europeen Sur Les Maladies Transmissibles = European Communicable Disease Bulletin, 7(3), 33-36.

Footnote 43

Hewlett, B. S., & Amolat, R. P. (2003). Cultural contexts of Ebola in Northern Uganda. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 9(10), 1242-1248.

Footnote 44

Reed, D. S., Lackemeyer, M. G., Garza, N. L., Sullivan, L. J., & Nichols, D. K. (2011). Aerosol exposure to Zaire ebolavirus in three nonhuman primate species: differences in disease course and clinical pathology. Microbes and Infection, 13(11), 930-936.

Footnote 45

Twenhafel, N. A., Mattix, M. E., Johnson, J. C., Robinson, C. G., Pratt, W. D., Cashman, K. A., Wahl-Jensen, V., Terry, C., Olinger, G. G., Hensley, L. E., & Honko, A. N. (2012). Pathology of experimental aerosol Zaire ebolavirus infection in rhesus macaques. Veterinary Pathology Online, 0300985812469636.

Footnote 46

Weingartl, H. M., Embury-Hyatt, C., Nfon, C., Leung, A., Smith, G., & Kobinger, G. (2012). Transmission of Ebola virus from pigs to non-human primates. Scientific reports, 2.

Footnote 47

Stansfield, S. K., Scribner, C. L., Kaminski, R. M., Cairns, T., McCormick, J. B., & Johnson, K. M. (1982). Antibody to Ebola virus in guinea pigs: Tandala, Zaire. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 146(4), 483-486.

Footnote 48

Mitchell, S. W., & McCormick, J. B. (1984). Physicochemical inactivation of Lassa, Ebola, and Marburg viruses and effect on clinical laboratory analyses. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 20(3), 486-489.

Footnote 49

Elliott, L. H., McCormick, J. B., & Johnson, K. M. (1982). Inactivation of Lassa, Marburg, and Ebola viruses by gamma irradiation. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 16(4), 704-708.

Footnote 50

World Health Organization. Interim Infection Control Recommendationsfor Care of Patients with Suspected or Confirmed Filovirus (Ebola, Marburg) Haemorrhagic Fever. March 2008

Footnote 51

Sagripanti, J. L., & Lytle, C. D. (2011). Sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation of Lassa, vaccinia, and Ebola viruses dried on surfaces. Archives of virology, 156(3), 489-494.

Footnote 52

Belanov, E. F., Muntianov, V. P., Kriuk, V., Sokolov, A. V., Bormotov, N. I., P’iankov, O. V., & Sergeev, A. N. (1995). [Survival of Marburg virus infectivity on contaminated surfaces and in aerosols]. Voprosy virusologii, 41(1), 32-34.

Footnote 53

Sagripanti, J-L., Rom, A.M., Holland, L.E. (2010) Persistence in darkness of virulent alphaviruses, Ebola virus, and Lass virus deposited on solid surfaces. Arch Virol. 155: 2035-9.

Footnote 54

Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) (2007). In Richmond J. Y., McKinney R. W. (Eds.), . Washington, D.C.: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Footnote 55

Clark, D. V., Jahrling, P. B., & Lawler, J. V. (2012). Clinical Management of Filovirus-Infected Patients. Viruses, 4(9), 1668-1686.

Footnote 56

Emond, R. T. D., Evans, B., Bowen, E. T. W., & Lloyd, G. (1977). A case of Ebola virus infection. British Medical Journal, 2(6086), 541-544.

Footnote 57

Formenty, P., Hatz, C., Le Guenno, B., Stoll, A., Rogenmoser, P., & Widmer, A. (1999). Human infection due to Ebola virus, subtype Cote d’Ivoire: Clinical and biologic presentation. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 179(SUPPL. 1), S48-S53.

Footnote 58

Human pathogens and toxins act. S.C. 2009, c. 24, Second Session, Fortieth Parliament, 57-58 Elizabeth II, 2009. (2009).

Footnote 59

Rowe AK, Bertolli J,Khan AS,et al. Clinical, virologic, and immunologic follow-up of convalescent Ebola hemorrhagic fever patients and their household contacts, Kikwit, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Commission de Lutte contre les Epidemies à Kikwit. J Infect Dis 1999;179 (Suppl 1):S28-35.

Footnote 60

Rodriguez LL, De Roo A, Guimard Y, et al. Persistence and genetic stability of Ebola virus during the outbreak in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1995. J Infect Dis 1999;179 (Suppl 1):S170-6.

Footnote 61

Piercy, T.J., Smither, S.J., Steward, J.A., Eastaugh, L., Lever, M.S. (2010) The survival of filoviruses in liquids, on solid substrates and in a dynamic aerosol. J Appl Microbiol. 109(5): 1531-9.

Footnote 62

World Health Organization (2010). WHO best practices for injections and related procedures toolkit. March 2010.

Footnote 63

World Health Organization (2014). Interim infection prevention and control guidance for care of patients with suspected or confirmed filovirus haemorrhagic fever in health-care settings, with focus on Ebola. August 2014.

Footnote 64

Baush, D.G., Towner, J.S., Dowell, S.F., Kaducu, F., Lukwiya, M., Sanchez, A., Nichol, S.T., Ksiazek, T.G., Rollin, P.E. (2007) Assessment of the Risk of Ebola virus Transmission from Bodily Fluids and Fomites. JID. 196 (Suppl 2).




What scares you more? A perspective on stuff vs. everything else

September 16, 2014

Wow, I thought being unemployed was crazy. Now the headlines seem worse than ever. We’ve seen civil unrest sparked by a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri… the worst ebola virus outbreak in more than a dozen years… the rise of ISIL in the Middle East… heck, even in my home town of Albuquerque, the Department of Justice had to wade in and weigh in on police use of force. And God only knows what’s been going on that mainstream, media hasn’t covered and spit up for us. These are crazy, evening frightening, days.


So, folks… what scares you more? What sorts of emergencies and situations do you think are more likely where you live? And are they the same things… those things that scare you, versus the things that are most likely?








It may be sexy and cool to prepare for a zombie attack, but is it really likely? In the face of a pandemic, will the ammunition you stockpiled protect you from infection as effectively as an N95 mask? And will any amount of guns, or personal protective equipment protect you if you don’t have it when you need it? Or what if you don’t see the emergency developing around you and don’t have time to save yourself or your family? I’ll write more soon about likelihood vs. impact… and about what sorts of situations we’ve found ourselves in over the last few months…


But in the meantime… ask yourself… what scares you? And how can you be prepared for it?



Image from

Crazy Times

October 1, 2013

Here it is, October 1, 2013 and the world is changing around us. Summer is giving way to autumn. The nation is not-so-quietly trying to adapt to the first pieces of the Affordable Care Act taking effect and our national government has manage to shut itself down for the first time in, what is it now, eighteen years I believe. Strange days, my friends.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how we’re starting at Square One, re-addressing what it means to be prepared in light of a new diagnosis in the family, and the potential of another family member coming to live with us. Life, in its infinite wisdom has thrown us another wrinkle: five days after my last post my boss called me in to work on my day off and laid me off.

ImageShe could no longer meet payroll, she said, our system wasn’t sustainable. Even though, in no small part due to my work with her, we had more than doubled the practice volume (from 120 patients per month to more than 300), “past debt obligations” now made it impossible for her to meet payroll. Thanks and goodbye.

In what will be the last rant at my former boss, I will say that I think we put a good system together and now she’s going run with it. I think she was thinking that with only three remaining employees, she wouldn’t be impacted by the Affordable Care Act  (amateur mistake).  I also think that she had no desire nor any intention of implementing the Privacy and Security measures required of her by HIPAA and HITECH and eliminated the voice that was reminding her that she needed to be compliant if she wanted to continue doing business.  Like the kitten hiding only its head under the couch, if she can’t see it, it ain’t there.

Well, we live and learn. I hope.

So, here I am pushing 50, unemployed and trying to keep the family fed, the roof over our head, keep the lights on and the water running and still manage to make some preparations on a much-more-limited budget. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes.

This is a boat hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans find themselves in.  So folks, let’s all row together. We’re stronger together than alone.

Thanks for reading. You’re the best.


Image from University of Southern California Center for Work and Family Life

Making other plans, Part 1

September 17, 2013

In my September 13, 2013 entry, I talked a little about how we were back to square one with our preparations. In this series, we’ll begin to address what that looks like and how we’re dealing with it… or trying to…

Making other plans, Part 1

Previously, we had been preparing with the goal of maintaining two adults with a conventional sort of assortment of food and a butt load of water. Now, we’re preparing with the goal of maintaining three adults – and two of those adults have a diabetes diagnosis. This may not seem like a big deal, but both of those diabetics control their blood sugar through exercise and carbohydrate restriction. The other could eat whatever was on the table, but wouldn’t be harmed by the carb cutback. When you look at most prepping  and survival websites, you’re going to see all this advice on buying and storing grains, and what to do with grains, grinding grains, and baking breads in your solar oven, great desert ideas and 1001 ways to cook oatmeal and all that.

Not so much with that for us. Not anymore. We could maybe get away with a little of that for a short term survival situation, but it wouldn’t be long before the carbohydrate load was causing my diabetic housemates to suffer mood swings (just what you need during an emergency), headaches, and the other health effects you get when a diabetic’s blood sugar gets out of hand: they’ll catch every cold that’s going around; they’ll become susceptible to urinary tract infections; and the list goes on. NONE of that is what you want to be facing when you’re in a situation where everyone needs to be functioning as close to 100% as possible.

So, how do you prepare when you have to get 2,000 – 3,000 calories a day, but fewer than 100 carbs? That’s a damned good question. One which we’ve been working on for nearly two years.

First, the good news

The good news is that neither diabetic requires insulin. Unlike many other diabetic households, we’re not faced with the daunting task of procuring and storing insulin. We do, however, have to worry about getting enough of the right kinds of calories while not slowly killing the diabetics with carb overload.

Some folks might poo-poo this carb restriction approach, but it is the only thing which has worked for the two diabetic adults in our house. It has allowed them to stay off insulin, cut back to the most minimal doses of their glucophagic medication (now it’s a PRN instead of an everyday med), caused weight loss, lowered their triglycerides, and lowered their blood pressure. Writing as the non-diabetic in the household, here’s what it did for me: 145 points off my triglycerides in 8 months and I lost 40 pounds. Dropping the weight also dropped my resting heart rate and gave me the energy to do more stuff: like exercise – or just get my chores done. So, laugh all you want, the carb restriction has done great things for us… now the question became: how do we prep?

minnesota public radio waterMore Water. No, really, MORE water.

When you’re cutting carbs, you’re naturally consuming more protein and more fat to get your calories. The reason this matters for your preps is that these foods require more water for your body to process them. It takes more water from your body to break down the proteins and fats, and more water to transport away the waste products of their metabolism.

We drink a lot of water anyway – about an ounce per two pounds of body weight per person per day at minimum. Usually more. An ounce of water per pound of body weight is not unusual for us – and we’ll go more than that if we’re working hard, or if it’s really hot, or both. This is what everybody needs minimally anyway. But if you’re low-carbing it, adequate water intake is essential for proper kidney and liver function. Seriously essential: no one wants to deal with liver damage or kidney failure — especially during a crisis.

So, adequate water. What’s adequate water? Again, our rule of thumb is a minimum of two ounces per pound of body weight per person per day. For example: let’s say you weigh 150 pounds. You’d need a minimum of 75 ounces of water a day, every day. If you were working hard chopping wood in winter, or fixing fence in the sun, you’d need a minimum of 150 ounces – one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. You might even need more if you tend to sweat profusely. And, if you low-carb it like we do, you’ll need to be much closer to that one ounce per pound mark.

I weigh 140 pounds. My water bottle I use at the office holds 26 ounces (what a weird number, right?). I drink at least 3 of them every day – 78 ounces of water. That gets me my minimum number every day. When I’m outdoors working, like I was last weekend, I drink far more than that. Last weekend, when I was outside both days, I drank 6 liters on Saturday (that’s 203 ounces of water) and 4 liters on Sunday (135 ounces). I was wrung out from the heat, but even on Monday my urine was clear and copious.

Cody Lundin, one of my prepping/survival idols, recommends stockpiling 3 gallons of water person per day. For him, this includes the water you use for hygienic purposes. If you’re adding extra water to compensate for processing the proteins and fats, this would certainly be your minimum number – and it should probably be even higher.

Now that you have a better idea of how much water you need every day, how much water you need to store is a matter of multiplying your daily gallons by how many days you want to be prepared. Let’s say I’m stockpiling 4 gallons water per day per person in my household. That’s 12 gallons. If we’re prepping for a week (really y’all, 72 hours is a joke… FEMA tells you in disaster training to prepare for a minimum of two weeks — that 72-hour thing is only for the most minor emergencies)… 12 gallons x 7 days is 84 gallons. Two weeks: 168 gallons (about 712 liters of water – that’s 60 cases of those little water bottles). A month: 336 gallons. That’s a lot of water. A whole lot of water.

I’m not going to go into how best to store water. That’s far too individualized and many other authors cover the subject more than adequately. What I want you to take away from this entry today is this: if you have special dietary and/or medical considerations, you don’t get to prep like everybody else.

I’ll be honest. We don’t have enough water put away. Not yet. We have numerous cases of “those little water bottles” that we buy when they go on sale. But we don’t have enough. As a household, we’re currently discussing how we want to handle the expense and logistics of storing more water. We’re debating various options: opening our well (our property has a sealed well on it), buying a storage tank, putting in rain barrels, etc. And we’ll keep you posted as the planning and implementation goes along.

Here’s what I want you to take away from this: if you have a medical condition like diabetes, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, etc. you are not going to be able to prepare like everyone else. You might want to say “Oh, just forget my diagnosis,” but you can’t. Your survival during a crisis situation depends on being even more conscious of your diagnosis before all hell busts loose. The good news about this is that when you feel you’re finally squared away with your preps, your diagnosis is going to be one less thing you have to worry about.

So, that’s it for Part 1 of Making Other Plans. In Part 2 we’ll talk a little more about water and start to dig into the issue of food and how we’re handling it.

As always, thanks for reading. We’re stronger together.


References & Recommended Reading

When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes, Cody Lundin, 2007, Gibbs Smith Press.

Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life, Nora Gedgaudas, 2001, Healing Arts

Image courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio

Long time gone…

September 13, 2013
Street sign in Albuquerque - photo credit long since lost. My Apologies to the photographer.

Street sign in Albuquerque – photo credit long since lost. My Apologies to the photographer.

So, yeah… it’s been nearly two years since I sat down to blog. This is unfortunate, because a lot that deserves honest attention has happened in that time: the blossoming of the latest wave of zombie popularity (which is fun stuff and has tremendous application for folks who want to be prepared), the unwinding of hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, the escalation of tensions elsewhere in the Middle East, new viruses, new technologies, the NSA surveillance debacle, the drone program, the bombing at the Boston Marathon, the madness of the world economy, the re-emergence of Fukashima, and on… and on… and on…

And through it all, I’ve been silent. Not intentionally, but it’s that old saw: life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.  In the nearly two years I’ve been away from the keyboard, we’ve been dealing with career changes, and with health and family issues that just seemed more pressing than getting another blog entry out.

Ironically, it’s those same health and family issues that have brought me back to  the laptop after the long silence.  Because of a changing family dynamic and serious health issues, we’ve been confronted with the fact that our preparations are no longer viable. We have been forced to change the way we think about being prepared, change the how we plan and prepare, change the things we decide to store.

The last two years have taken us essentially back to square one. But in that, we feel that there is much to be learned. So, as always, we’ll take you right along with us.  We’ll look at how we prepared before and how we do it differently now. We’ll look at what we’ve learned and what still needs work. We’ll be honest about our victories — and about our epic failures. Because you deserve to know — and because you could be faced with a similar issue, out of the blue, just like we were.

So, expect more blog entries, more articles, more book reviews (our favorite authors are still hard at work). Expect more honesty and personal experience.  Pull up a chair next to the fire (you do know how to get a fire going, don’t you?), and make yourself comfy. Let’s get this show on  the road again.

I look forward to sitting with y’all soon.


Book review: Getting Out Alive

March 2, 2011

I’ve been off the radar for awhile. It’s been a busy time with school work and general “stuff” around our micro-homestead. Hopefully, things will level off a bit and you’ll be reading more of us soon.

This weekend, I was thrilled to find Scott B. Williams’ Getting Out Alive: 13 Deadly Scenarios and How Others Survived in my mailbox. I have been waiting for it since I read his previous book this summer. I teach Disaster Psychology for our local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training weekends. In these trainings, we cover the importance not only of nuts-and-bolts preparedness, but of the mental aspect of emergencies as well. Scott B. Williams’ books are on my recommended reading list for trainees.

Scott B. Williams’ latest work Getting Out Alive, is an excellent contribution to the field of emergency preparedness literature.  Coming as it does, on the heels of his successful book Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It’s Too Late, you might expect Getting Out Alive to be targeted at the survivalist crowd – but it’s not. It’s a literal survival and preparedness book for people who don’t like thinking about emergencies and who certainly don’t like books about preparedness. And, in this, it excels.

I’ve often joked that civilization is a veneer. A veneer is a thin layer of wood bonded to a an inferior or less attractive substrate to improve its appearance. Very little furniture nowadays is, at its core, what it appears to be on its surface. Civilization is like that. It is a thin layer of civility held in place by the glue of modern conveniences and the ephemeral presence of authority. Take away our lights, our water, our sensory stimulation (television, radio, cell phones) and we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Take away the deterrent of law enforcement or government and people revert to their more primal natures with alarming speed. The reverse is also true. Most people have become so far removed from their more primal selves that when they find themselves in situations like those in Williams’ latest book, they don’t know what to do with themselves either.

Getting Out Alive is a collection of potentially deadly scenarios that deftly demonstrate exactly how easy it is to find yourself between a rock and a hard spot with no hope of escape or rescue. Each one of Williams’ 13 deadly tales could begin with the words, “It all started innocently enough.” Each scenario presents plausible circumstances that any of us could find ourselves in without warning and presents potential options for escape and survival. Each scenario is accompanied by real life tales of other victims who endured similar survival situations – some of them made it out, many didn’t. Each scenario is also accompanied by snippets of wisdom related to the particular scenario circumstances (like forest fires, or being snowbound). Most valuable, however, are the Ten Tips for Survival that appear at the end of each scenario. If you read nothing else, be sure to read the Ten Tips at the end of each chapter. If you read nothing else out of this book, you’ll regret it, but at least you’ll be slightly better armed for an encounter with unforeseen circumstances.

The greatest strength of Getting Out Alive is that it demonstrates that any one of us can find ourselves in a bad place without any warning  –  yet it also explains exactly how simple it is to be prepared. This is a great book for your friends who think that emergency preparedness is for paranoid survivalists. It drives the point home that anyone can be a victim in a disaster or an emergency and that it’s everyone’s responsibility to take steps to be prepared. Getting Out Alive is not a step by step guide to being prepared, it’s something more important – a book designed to change the way people think about emergencies.

I know that I get concerned that people I know and love just don’t think anything can happen to them.  And I know that not one of these people will tuck away an extra can of soup or roll of toilet paper or bother to pack a bug-out bag until they really buy into the idea that they are not immune to emergencies.  I can only hope that the light bulb goes on above their heads and they take measures to keep themselves safe.

If you’ve been worried that people you care about just aren’t ready for an emergency, Getting Out Alive would be a great gift that might just change the way they think.

As always, thanks for reading.


So how’s it goin’? An update…

January 16, 2011

So, here we are just a couple of months into our preparedness foray. We’ve done some research and some reading. And, as of last week, we had socked away three days’ worth of food for two women.  We  had about $10 invested in 12,000 calories and four gallons of water. We felt pretty cool. But we knew then, as we know now, that we are just getting started.

This week, we added more calories to our shelf (it’s WAY too early and too small to call it a stockpile). And we added some “medicine cabinet supplies” as well.

For food this week we added about 21,000 calories to the shelf:  10,000 calories in pasta (a whopping $6), 1,000 calories in tomato sauce (for making marinara – at another $6), 5,000 calories in peanut butter ($2 – we caught a sale) and 5,000 calories of Nesquik (for $6 – chocolate in my coffee or hot chocolate will be sources of comfort in an emergency). For $20 we added five days’ worth of calories. Add that to the three days of food already on the shelf and we’ve accomplished our first prepping goal: being able to weather out a week or so at home without access to the store.

A week's calories

You’ll note that we have feminine hygiene products on our emergency supply shelf. Of all the survival provisions we’ve stocked away, these are the most expensive. Those three packages cost almost  as much as everything else put together.  About $36 for what you see in the picture (not including the water). As much as that costs, it’s enough for two women for two months. What are feminine hygiene products worth? For the right woman on the wrong day, they could be priceless.

This week, we started the “medicine cabinet” section of our shelf. First aid kits aren’t pictured here. As I said, this is the medicine cabinet. There are two quarts of hydrogen peroxide (for treating wounds – $3), two quarts of isopropyl alcohol (for wounds and sterilizing things = $2), ibuprofen (for those times when it hurts = $9), a bottle of stool softener ($5) and a couple of bottles (in the box) of anti-diarrheal medication ($5).  This section of the shelf set us back about $24. We added the anti-diarrheal  just to be on the safe side. We added the stool softener because emergency situations are incredibly stressful. And nothing messes up your normal bowel functions quite like stress, an irregular diet (or a bunch of MRE’s) and an abnormal routine. It’s important for your health as well as your comfort to keep your elimination working as normally as possible.

At this moment in time, we have four gallons of water on the shelf. It’s tough to judge how much water we have on hand by what we have on the shelf since we usually have three or four gallons on the shelf at any given time, plus a gallon or so in the car, and a  gallon in total in the form of smaller water bottles here and there. But, we have four gallons of water on the shelf. At our current customary rates of consumption, that’s enough water for the two of us for two days – not including bathing and toilet flushing. To have enough water for a week , at our current levels of consumption, we’d need to store another ten gallons at the minimum.

Truth be told, I should probably drink more water. My sensei was fond of saying that you should drink a couple of ounces of water for every pound of body weight – more if you were exercising strenuously in hot weather. For me, that would mean close to three gallons of water a day. I don’t drink that much water a day. I probably should but I don’t. My actual consumption is much closer to one gallon. Cody Lundin recommends drinking three gallons of water per day at minimum. Drinking more water every day is one of my New Year’s resolutions. But, right now, I hover around drinking a gallon a day. If we were to store three gallons per person per day, we’d need to store 42 gallons to get us through that week we were planning on. We’re not there yet. But this is a process, not an event.

A few years back we had quite the winter storm here in Albuquerque.  I had two feet of snow in my front yard.  My neighbor claimed he hadn’t seen anything like it since 1959. The city pretty much ground to a halt for the better part of a week. At the time, we had plenty of food in the pantry and the deep freeze. The power stayed on and the water mains didn’t break so we did just fine. We stayed home,  watched movies, played games and periodically went out to knock the ice out of our trees so that they wouldn’t take out the power lines. Now we still have plenty of food in the pantry and the deep freeze. But we’ve added the dimension of mindfully preparing in case something like that winter storm happens again.  So, our first prepping goal was to be ready for a week – and to know that we were ready for a week.

And well, here we are at two months in, and we have a little under  $100 invested in emergency food and supplies.  We have a week’s worth of food (plus a little), a couple months’ of feminine hygiene supplies, some basic medicine cabinet items, and a couple of days’ water. It’s a start.

Remember, if you don’t start, you’ll never be ready. And, however far behind you may feel like you are, you’re miles ahead of someone who hasn’t done anything. And however little you feel that you have set aside, you’re still better off than the guy who’s doing nothing.

As always, thanks for reading.

~ L.


Solar Radiation – when there’s too much of a good thing

January 12, 2011

In a previous entry, we covered geomagnetic storms and their potential impact on the power grid and electronic devices here on Earth. To recap, geomagnetic storms are caused by gusts of solar wind interacting with the Earth’s magnetic fields and atmosphere. Depending upon their intensity they can create power blackouts by triggering false alarms in system designed to protect the grid. At their most intense they can actual damage power transmission equipment. At higher levels of intensity, radio transmission suffers, navigation beacons become useless for the duration of the storm – and you can forget that line about “fewest dropped calls.”

Even though geomagnetic storms are very interesting, they are not the only space weather that effects our planet. We also experience the effects of solar radiation storms (which we’ll cover today) and radio blackouts (which we’ll cover in a later entry). Solar radiation storms are spikes in solar radiation emissions from the sun. Radio blackouts are caused disturbances in the ionosphere that result from x-ray emissions from the sun. Both can impact our electronic devices and solar radiation has the ability to impact human life directly as well.

Map of annual average solar radiation

Solar radiation is not necessarily a bad thing. People who depend upon the sun for power, rely upon it. The profitability of companies that install solar power systems, or utilities that generate power for the grid from the sun make their living by knowing how to harness available solar radiation in their regions. Yet, while a spike in solar radiation may sound like a not-so-bad thing for the guys with solar panels on their houses, it can have a detrimental impact. Solar radiation, even though it can be useful, is still radiation. Even moderate solar radiation storms can subject airline passengers flying at higher latitudes to what NOAA calls “elevated radiation  risk” (NOAA, 2005) and solar power equipment can be functionally impaired or permanently damaged.

Average frequency is based on an 11 -year solar cycle. Solar radiation storms also have similar intensity ratings: from S1 (Minor) to S5 (Extreme). Let’s break the intensity scale down.

S1 – Minor Solar Radiation Storm. Happens about 50 times per 11-year cycle – or once every 80 days or so on average. According to NOAA there is virtually no biological impact and no impact on navigation. People using HF radios in the polar regions may notice, but for most of us, it’s a non-event.

S2 – Moderate Solar Radiation Storm. Happens about 25 times per solar cycle – or about once every 160 days. NOAA states that these solar radiation storms subject airline passengers flying at higher latitude to “elevated radiation risk” (NOAA, 2005) and goes on to state, “Pregnant women are particularly susceptible” (NOAA, 2005).  How many pregnant women think to check the space weather forecast before booking an airline ticket? It’s something that most of us don’t even think about. Satellites may experience “single event upsets” (NOAA, 2005) and HF radio signals and navigation in the polar regions will degrade.

S3 – Strong Solar Radiation Storm. Happens about 10 times per solar cycle – or about once every 13 or 14 months. During these events NASA requires astronauts to take radiation exposure precautions. Those airline passengers and crew who were are now exposed to even more greatly elevated risk from radiation exposure. Again, pregnant women are at greatest risk.  NASA says this exposure is roughly the equivalent of getting a single chest x-ray.

S4 – Severe Solar Radiation Storm. Happens maybe 3 times per solar cycle  – or once every 3 – 4 years, give or take. Astronauts on space walks are exposed to “unavoidable radiation hazards”  even when taking precautions (NOAA, 2005).  Satellites will experience imaging noise and memory issues – perhaps even orientation problems. And if the satellites are having issues, all those services we use that depend upon efficient satellite performance are going to be impacted. The problem with your Garmin, may not really be a problem with your Garmin at all. Expect navigation errors. On the ground, solar panel efficiency will decline. Do we even need to mention the radiation risk posed to airline passengers and crew in the higher latitudes?

S5 – Extreme Solar Radiation Storm. Happens on average less than once per solar cycle. Astronauts face unavoidable high radiation exposure risk. Those airline passengers and crew? Even more greatly elevated risks – especially to pregnant women. Satellites can be severely impacted or even “rendered useless” (NOAA, 2005). Navigation using electronic systems will be challenging at best. Expect HF radio trouble, and perhaps complete radio blackouts in polar regions. On the ground, solar panels may suffer permanent damage.

As near as I can tell from my internet research, the last solar radiation storm of any significant intensity was in the summer of 2000 and it was an S3. When are we due from another? Or a bigger one? No one knows for certain. Solar radiation storms are difficult to predict. Currently, about the best we can do is see the event,  and brace ourselves for the impact of the solar radiation storm that will arrive 15 minutes or so later.

While we’re  super careful about exposure to x-ray radiation during pregnancy, most pregnant women who are clear to fly don’t think twice (or even once) about solar radiation.  Even though prediction is dicey, if I were pregnant, I would want to know about the solar radiation forecast before I got on an airplane that would be taking a flight path through a higher latitude.

There are two main points I hope you’re walking away with today.

1) The Earth is part of a solar system that functions within a larger universe. We are not immune to what happens in space, or with our sun. Solar generated events, like geomagnetic storms (covered previously), solar radiation storms (covered today) and radio blackouts (to be covered later) all have an impact on our planet. Sometimes that impact is not limited to our electronic devices, but can extend to our bodies as well.

2) Sunscreen cannot protect you from all wavelengths of solar radiation. It only blocks some of the ultraviolet rays that are responsible for sunburn – and only for a limited amount of time.  If you’re flying through higher latitudes during a solar event, you have no protection at all.  As always: forewarned is forearmed.

As always, thanks for reading.

~ L.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  2005. “Solar Radiation Storms”  Retrieved from:

Images: Solar radiation map © 2010

Book Review: Patriots

December 28, 2010

This is a review of James Wesley, Rawles best seller: Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse.

Okay, here’s the thing (there’s always a thing): if you’re thinking that you’re going to pick this up and read a riveting, end-of-civilization tale, you’re going to be a little disappointed. That’s really not what this book is about. That’s not what this book is for. Patriots has a different purpose. It is a not-so-thinly veiled list of recommendations for people bent on the “hunker down and ride it out” school of survivalism. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that this is a good thing or a bad thing, and this is not an indictment of that philosophy. I’m just saying that Patriots is less a novel and more a set of recommendations for creating and stocking your TEOTWAWKI retreat. Just so you’ll know.

Historically, Patriots has been distributed under a number of titles and has always done well. It’s been a near runaway best seller for its various publishers since its first distribution as shareware back in the 90’s. It’s wildly popular with hardcore survivalists. The author has penned a sequel and is shopping his screenplay around, trying to get a movie deal for a full length feature. As of 2009, there were no takers, but Rawles is not discouraged and sees his project as the “first of a new wave of ultra-realistic films [that will be] entertaining, thought-provoking, and even educational” (Rawles, 2009). Rawles is also the author of For the record, I have and do read his blog.

If you’re looking for a light, entertaining, bathroom read, this is not your book. If you’re thinking that you’re going to pick it up and maybe glean a little information for the day that the fecal matter strikes the air handling device, you may be in luck. I’m certainly not saying that you ought to do everything that the characters in this book do. But I am saying that they do have some knowledge that might be helpful to know if things get out of hand: like how to suture, how to deliver a baby, how to fix cars, how to plant and harvest a garden, and set up solar power arrays. They know how to communicate without telephones or cell phones and they don’t panic when the power goes out. They know some useful stuff. So, there are some good things in this book.

I have to admit: the further I read, the better I liked it. But there are some definite negatives as well. All the characters have great jobs,  and are making tons of money before the collapse. They spend years (nearly a decade) stockpiling cash and supplies. They’re so good at this that when the collapse finally arrives and they inventory their supplies, they have three years of food, hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition and have converted their primary weapons to full auto. Less than 50 pages into the book, they’d already killed a couple of people and performed emergency surgery. 50 pages later they’d killed a couple of guys who were pushing a cart down the road past their property for being cannibals.

For myself, I don’t know that would’ve let the passers-by know they’d been seen. I mean, if you don’t see me, and don’t hear me, I’m not there. If you jump my fence, however, we have another sort of issue entirely. But that’s me. I never would’ve given away my location, never would’ve endangered myself and my group members by stopping the travelers. I mean, what if the two were just point men for a larger group that was coming right up behind them? There would’ve been a firefight in the middle of the road. Dangerous and wasteful. Given how well supplied their stronghold was, there was no need to stop the travelers. After all, what could they possibly have that they didn’t already have in stock? It was reckless and dangerous, in my humble opinion. See where my thoughts go? I mean, if you’re hunkering down, then hunker down, dang it.  But I get it that this was a necessary plot development to demonstrate how bad things get and how quickly it happens. Most people don’t think that cannibalism is a real threat in SHTF or TEOTQAWKI, but modern  history teaches us differently. In the twentieth century alone, due to natural disaster and manmade emergencies, millions of people have fallen victim to cannibalism in various parts of the globe – many, if not most, of them in nations that are considered completely industrialized and civilized.

Anyway, my chief complaint about Patriots is that the members of the Group weren’t exactly part of the American Middle Class before the collapse. They had the time, the knowledge and the cash to make things happen. Most Americans, even if they wanted to spare a thought for preparedness, just don’t have those sorts of resources. Most Americans aren’t making white collar wages. Most Americans aren’t able to pay cash for their houses, or their guns. Most Americans don’t have the time and disposable income to travel the country scouting out places to create their survival compound. Most Americans are not creating fake identities and renting post office boxes in order to purchase parts for illegal weapons conversions. Most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and sweating the small stuff. If things really go to hell, most Americans are going to need to figure out a way to survive if they haven’t already. For that, Patriots is going to be short on advice.

As you can probably tell, I’m one of those “Most Americans.” That is to say that I believe that each of us must decide what we’re preparing for, plan how best to do that, and then put that plan into action. We have to live within the circumstances in which we find ourselves – which may not be ideal. I’m betting that none of us has as much money or time as we wish we had. And I believe that we all have to find a way to do the best we can with what we have. Again, it may not be the circumstances we wanted to find ourselves in, but here we are and now we have to find a way to deal. Money can buy you MRE’s, but it can’t buy you smarts, or mental and emotional resilience.

So, to recap with the lessons I’m taking away from the book. Bad news first so we can end on a high note. Not the greatest story. Pretty much strictly doom and gloom, murder and mayhem. The Group’s survival strategy involves doing things that can get you arrested now – when laws are still being enforced. The survival strategy advocated in this book isn’t going to be a viable option for the majority of folks.

But I promised you a high note, right? So here it comes. Here are the good points I took away from Patriots. There is a wealth of information on survival, preparedness and firearms in this book.  Glean from it what you need. Preparedness is a mindset as well as a process of learning and accumulating necessary supplies. It cannot happen overnight, so you should start preparing now, before things get really rough. Start learning the skills you think you’ll need now. Plan your work and work your plan and your odds of success and survival are greater. Your faith** will sustain you.

As always, thanks for reading.

~ L.

** That would be based on Early’s definition of “faith” as found  in his work on compassion fatigue and in  his self-care pyramid… but more about that in another entry. I promise.


Rawles, James Wesley. “New Edition from Ulysses Press Now Available.” Retrieved from:

Cover photo: ©2009. James Wesley, Rawles.

Happy Holly-Daze

December 22, 2010

It’s finals week for me. So posts will drop off some this week. Even though I’m treading water in a frenzy of cramming and test taking, I’m working on some stuff for “LegitCit” for the calm after the storm. There are a couple of book reviews in the pipeline, a few articles on natural hazards that should be entertaining, and some gadget/gear reviews in the works. We’ll be cranking out some skills articles as well. Before long you’ll get to chuckle at my amateurish efforts at fire starting and at creating yarn with a drop spindle. Just wait until we trim hooves and vaccinate again. What fun we’re going to have. And then, before you know it, it’ll be shearing time and that should be quite an adventure.

Anyway, the long and the short of it, posts will drop off a little this week and pick up as the days begin growing longer. We’re excited about the stuff we’re working on for after the holiday. So, if we don’t “talk” until after the holidays: enjoy the holidays – whichever ones you celebrate. Have fun. Be safe.

As always, thanks for reading.

~ L.