Chemical cloud fogs over town of 11,000 Kansans

A mixture of sodium hypochlorite and sulfuric acid at a spirits manufacturing plant generated a dense cloud over downtown Atchison, Kansas on October 21, 2016.  More than 100 people have been treated for respiratory problems.  The accident happened around 8 AM, forcing nearby schools and residents to evacuate.  Authorities gave the all-clear around noon the same day.


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Chickens for the win

coop-dreams_hero-interrupterr_v1Friendly fowl get Bill Gates’ endorsement as a practical, sustainable investment for impoverished regions.

A few days after I read that article, I came across a World War I poster that also advocated for chickens!


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The San Francisco Bay Area’s Tsunami Succeptibility

San Francisco Tsunami RegionsSince moving here, I have been wondering about the possibility of a tsunami pushing a critical amount of water into the San Francisco bay.  KQED asked the same question and it turns out that the likelihood is fairly low.  Whew, so we mainly just have drought and earthquakes to consider!

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Modern wonders never cease…

While gearing up for a trip to Tuolumne MeadowsTravelJohn,  I came across three products that I had no idea existed:

  1. No Rinse Shampoo – A liquid shampoo that lathers and then you just towel dry
  2. TravelJohn Disposable Urinal – A unisex, resuable bag that converts pee to gel
  3. Biffy Bag – A bag that converts solid and semi-solid waste to… more solid waste

The reviews and Q&A for the latter two are pretty amusing 🙂  Have you tried any of these?

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“Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid”


Humanitarian aid worker Jessica Alexander discusses her experiences in Rwanda, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Haiti.  It takes a particular personality to thrive in this field.

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Learning from disaster

book cover

“Joplin 5:41” by Randy Turner and John Hacker

I caught this brief interview of Joplin, MO city manager Mark Rohr on Friday’s Marketplace on NPR. He spoke about the town’s recovery from the 2011 tornadoes. The book “Joplin 5:41” includes eye witness accounts of the tornadoes and how the survivors have rebuilt their lives. It’s definitely going onto my reading list!

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The gear soldiers carry

This video gives a quick rundown of the equipment issued to soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington.

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Food For Long-Term Emergencies

Even squirrels know to prepare for hard times!

Food is one of the big areas of my own emergency preparation that has not gotten much attention.  It just isn’t as much fun to me as gear!  It is, however, essential in emergency situations where food is no longer being delivered to local stores.  My current emergency food stash consists of a single shelf stocked with instant soups, SPAM, peeled chestnuts (a gift from my mom — they’re so tasty!), and Milo drink packets.  The stash is hardly nutritionally well-balanced and barely meets the FEMA-recommended 72 hour minimum for supplies.

My sister pointed me to an article that provides a good overview of useful foods that you can stock if you have a selective diet.  It has good advice for saving money if you’re serious about stocking up in bulk.  I disagree with its statement that “no preparation is excessive”.  Any responsible person who stocks up on food should have plan for how to use that food in non-emergency situations so that it is replenished with new food and nothing goes to waste.

If you’re looking for more basic guidance, has a great starting point.  Happy squirreling away!

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Refinery Fire Prompts “Shelter in Place” Advisory

Take cover!

Last Monday evening, a major fire broke out at a Chevron refinery in Richmond, CA.

A “shelter in place” advisory was issued for the thousands of residents in the immediate area and remained in place for five hours as columns of black smoke streamed skywards.  I had previously thought that this type of advisory just meant keeping all pets and people inside, but it turns out there’s more to it than that.  In the cases of airborne risks like this one, it’s recommended to turn off everything in the house or building that circulates air.  If you have a fireplace, remember to close the flue.  It’s also recommended to seal cracks around doors and windows with tape.  I really wonder if anyone bothers to do that in more serious circumstances.  Gauging severity is challenging when an emergency event is going on since there’s so little verified information.  In the case of this Chevron fire, officials initially said that toxic chemical levels were safe, but it turned out that only the air had been tested so far, not the particulate matter.

So, do you know where your duct tape is?

For more about sheltering in place, see

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Massive Power Grid Failure for Northern India


India, a country with so many natural resources… and so many people

Earlier this week, about 700 MILLION people in northern India were affected by a catastrophic collapse of their power network. That’s more than the combined populations of the United States, Russia, and Brazil. Many Indian business and households are equipped with backup generators, but are not intended to sustain people for so many hours over so many days.

Snarelled traffic, halted trains, no air conditioning, darkness from the lack of city lights – it was a mess.  See this Wall Street Journal article for more details.

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