Saturday, December 21, 2013

New Calendar Promotes Emergency Preparedness Plan

The One Year Survival Calendar is exactly like it sounds, a one year, step-by-step guide to reach the goal of being self-sufficient enough to survive any disaster for up to a year or more.

What such recent natural disasters as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have taught us is that a disaster could strike at any time, and that if one did, you are going to have to survive it on your own.

Even in supposedly technologically advanced nations like Japan and the US, emergency help can take at minimum days to arrive and even weeks and months. With the numerous potential disasters, both natural, and manmade, it would be foolish not to at least prepare three days’ worth of food and equipment

The One Year Survival Calendar goes even further and guides you to prepare to survive up to a year on your own.

The months are divided into four levels of preparedness based on how long one could survive without outside rescue or assistance.
Level 1 – 3 days
Level 2 - 3 weeks
Level 3 – 3 months
Level 4 – 1 year or more

The Preparedness Levels range from the simplest and least expensive, to progressively more complex and more expensive.
Support independent publishing: Buy this calendar on Lulu.

On the right side of each month are lists of the skills you should learn, the equipment you should gather, and the supplies you should acquire for that month. On the left are pictures of the types of equipment that can help you choose your own equipment.

This calendar is a great motivator for anyone that has been planning on getting some emergency supplies together but haven’t found an easy and clear way to do so.

Visit the website here:
 Check out the narrated slide show presentation here:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Plan: How to organize and run a Community Emergency Response Group

If you have been conscious for the past ten years you no doubt have the same feeling that all of us have, that maybe things aren’t going so well. We seem to be facing dozens of potential disasters that may change our society as we know it. The threats are many, war, depression, famine, pandemics, the collapse of the monetary system, martial law and dictatorship, asteroid impacts and grid collapse. Even if you don’t believe it’s the end of the world no one can argue against taking a few precautions by storing some extra supplies and learning a few lifesaving skills. This is just common sense. 

When one begins to prepare for a potential emergency or disaster you come across a lot of good advice such as, store three weeks’ worth of food and water. Prepare a First Aid Kit and a Bug Out Bag. Then learn some First Aid, self-defence, and wilderness survival skills.

One important piece of advice is to work with friends, family, and neighbours. 

I have tried to follow this advice. I approached some friends, family and neighbours and spoke of my concern for current events and that if something of a disastrous scale were to occur could I depend on them to work together with me in mutual support.

Most just looked at me strange. “Oh you’re one of those preppers.” Some would say. “Well yes and no. I’m not one of those preppers, but I do believe it would make sense to take some precautions, in case a disaster does occur and government services aren’t available.”

Fortunately a couple of my buddies said they understood, that they had a month’s supply of food, a backyard garden, and an extra cot, so they got my back covered. Well that’s nice, but I still felt there was something missing.

I joined some Prepper and survivalist groups and while most offered moral support and some great training workshops, the whole idea of how we would support each other during an emergency was never defined.
And that’s as far as I got with that advice.

So while working with a group of like-minded individuals to support each other during an emergency is sound advice, no one can really explain how it would all work out. It is sort of left to, ‘When a disaster strikes, we’ll know what to do then.’

Well you won’t. During an emergency is the least likely time everyone will suddenly get their shit together. What is needed is a plan because without a plan, an emergency will become a disaster.

So I began to think about a plan. I wanted something that was easy and simple that everyone could understand quickly, but also something that would work and solve all issues. And when you think about it, there will be a lot of issues that will need to be solved.

After much thought I have come up with The Plan. Here’s why this plan is one the most important survival tools in your kit.

Scalable: This plan works for groups of five or fifty. It also can be scaled to a few people wanting to prepare for a short term natural disaster, to those people that are planning for the end of the world as we know it and are working towards long term sustainability.

Adaptable: People living under any circumstances can implement this Plan regardless of geographic location and income. It can be used by farmers in the country, middleclass families in the suburbs, and even homeless people in the inner cities.

Equitable: Everyone involved is an equal, and has a voice and vote on all decisions made by the group.

Flexible: The degree of commitment is flexible and can either intensify in order to meet goals or impending signs of catastrophe, or relaxed when goals have been met or potential dangers wane.

Democratic: There is no command structure. Everyone votes on almost all parts of the plan.

Practical: Everyone has a clear role to play in both preparing for disaster, and an action plan of what they should do during a disaster.

Goal Driven: This Plan also works as preparedness triage, going from how to prepare for the most important and immediately life threatening situations first, and then moving through to how to prepare for indefinite self-sustainability.

The Plan also includes information on:

  •  How to found a Community,
  •  How to form teams and what each team is responsible for
  •  An apptitude questionnaire that will help each member in choosing a team
  • Rules and codes of conduct
  • Ways of funding your Network
  • Membership agreement
  • Graded preparedness and skill levels used to set goals and plan your preparedness strategy
  • Lists of skills, supplies, and equipment needed for each individual member, team, and Group needed to reach four clearly defined Levels of Preparedness
  • Plus a timeline plan of action for what every person and team should do during a disaster.

The Plan is a template that anyone can use to form and run their own mutual aid emergency support group that will be able to prepare and train for any emergency and can provide all members with lifesaving help when you need it most, even the end of the world.

If you wish to create a community to survive the many dangers that we face today, then The Plan is the best tool available.

For more information on how this plan works please see my slide show presentation video on youtube here:

Coming in 2015

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Testing the Bug Out Bag

Joe Lake
I had a chance to test our Bug Out capabilities the other weekend when I took my 59 year old wife and our 23 year old family friend into the wilds of Algonquin Park.

I had been canoeing the Park since I was 13 and part of a three year outward bound program that was the best learning experience I ever had at my middle school. I learned how to travel light and make do with the minimum amount of comforts.

Canoeing anywhere into the park requires that you do at least one portage, and often three or more per day. This means humping everything you brought, plus the canoe and paddles anywhere from 100 yards to three miles.

(Showing off)
Those that are bush savvy make the portage in one trip - backpack, canoe, and paddles all on your back in one go. Those that haven’t learned the lesson of traveling light, have to make two or three trips. Instead of carrying 90lbs for a half a mile a day, they carry 180lbs three miles a day.

Nothing makes you question the usefulness of a piece of equipment more than having to hike back to go and get it six or more times a day.

It was for this reason that I always viewed my Bug Out Bag with skepticism. I believe the assumption most Preppers make is that in an emergency you would just toss the BOBs into the truck and head for the sticks. However, as I discussed in my previous article,The Summer Shower that Took Down Toronto, evacuating an urban center during an emergency in a vehicle is likely doomed to failure.

The second assumption then is to sling your BOB onto your back and hike out of danger. It is this second assumption I will address.

Too Much Weight

Like most Preppers I stuffed my day pack with as much survival equipment and supplies as it could hold. I have a Bug Out Bag for every member in our home but they were far to heavy for either my wife or our young female friend to possibly carry for more than a few blocks.

Our strategy was to duplicate the items in each BOB so that if one or more were lost, we would still have full redundancy in the third. I can guarantee that if we had to hike out of a danger area, half our equipment would be discarded before we got a mile.

(This is NOT my BOB,)

An often recommended inclusion in a BOB is 3 days’ worth of water. The girls wanted to bring bottled water instead of drink from the lake, (which I have done on numerous occasions without boiling or disinfecting with no ill effects), and since we had only one portage on our trip I acquiesced. However, if we had to actually back pack the water, there is no way we could have carried that weight.  On the first portage we had to make two trips because of the water we carried. Coming back, with only a litre of water left for each of us, we were able to do the portage in a single trip.

In a real disaster evacuation, I would make sure to have one or more methods of purifying water and focus on finding sources of water as you go. 

One of them fancy newfangled water filters I wish I could afford. Till then I just boil my water.

Day Packs, Back Packs

Like most people I live on a tight budget, and as much as I would like to throw money at the problem of emergency preparedness, I have to watch my expenses. For our Bug Out Bags I chose some fairly rugged looking day packs in the $50 range. Since they are intended to last for only three days, this would have sufficed. The reality is that these bags probably wouldn’t last much longer than three days anyway. This trip helped remind me of how tough, travelling through rough country can be on equipment, and people. (See further down)

When I have saved enough money, I will look to purchasing at least one "H" frame hiking back pack with waist belt and chest strap in the $200 plus range. I used these in my younger days and can attest to their ruggedness, the benefits of distributing the weight through the hips, and being able to strap all sorts of gear to the outside.
This is what I got.

This is what I want.
Grocery Cart

As an experiment we brought along one of my wife’s grocery carts. Stripped of the attached bag, the remaining frame was lightweight and folded up taking up minimal space in the canoe. The wheels were larger than those usually found on the cheaper carts, a full six inch diameter, and made of rubber instead of PVC.

We found that we could strap all sorts of equipment to the frame and one of the girls could easily pull more than twice the weight she could carry. When I finally buy a good frame backpack I will look into improvising a set of those wheels onto it and substitute the metal pull handle for a heavy duty shoulder strap. I’m sure this configuration would allow the girls to transport an entire Bug Out Bags’ worth of equipment with much less effort. 

Yes Sir! er...I mean Ma'am
(I have researched the commercially available backpacks that have wheels already incorporated and would not rely on these to work in a bug out scenario. While they may be fine for pulling along polished airport lobby floors, in the wild, my guess is that they wouldn’t last a day.)

I don't think so


While all three of us are more fit than most people we know, this trip required effort we didn’t expect when we set off. My wife and I are well into middle age and as much as it pains me to admit it, we started to feel our age. Even PJ, a fairly fit 23 year old woman, was pushed to exhaustion. 

Doing Pilates at the gym is great to stay looking thin and fit, but it does not prepare you for the type of work required to travel through tough terrain. What with lifting, carrying, collecting firewood, building cooking fires, setting up shelters, cooking, and keeping the fire going, we must have done the equivalent of 250 squats a day.  By the end of the day my quads and calves were cramping. When was the last time you added 250 squats, a three mile hike with an 80lb back pack, and five hours on the rowing machine to your work out?


We set off fairly late in the day and made about five miles in five hours. This would be a good rule of thumb to go by, one mile per hour. Under perfect conditions, with fit people, the maximum range in your evacuation plan should be no more than 8 miles per day. For most people, five miles would be a stretch. Add adverse weather, sickness or injury and your range could drop to a mile or two per day.



I think that the most important factor in your survivability is physical fitness. Evacuating on foot from a disaster and providing for the basic necessities while on the move will be an intensely physical ordeal. If you don’t have the health and physical stamina, then all the equipment and supplies can’t help you.


You will never know how well your survival plans will work unless you have tried them out in a dress rehearsal. Take your BOB out into the wilderness for three days. Only through experience will you be sure that your supplies and equipment will provide the necessities for staying healthy and comfortable for three days.

Less is More

Assume that a BOB is something you will be carrying on your back all day, not something to throw in the car. After your dress rehearsal you will find that many of the items you’ve stuffed into your BOB is not worth the weight to benefit ratio. Take those items you no longer want to include in your BOB and put them instead into your Car Kit, or Home Kit. During an emergency, you won’t have the time to go through all your packs discarding the extra weight.


Camping in the wilderness is not only a spiritually rejuvenating experience, but also a great work out, and a means of testing yourself and your equipment. If you’re serious about emergency preparedness, it is something you should do at least once a year.

Please watch my short video below of our Algonquin Park trip.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Summer Shower that Took Down Toronto

The Summer Shower that Took Down Toronto

A Real Life Survival Story

Toronto, a modern international city, financial and cultural capital of Canada, was taken down in twenty minutes by a summer shower.

On Monday July 8th a record 126 millimetres of rain fell on Toronto in just two hours. Around 4:30, just into rush hour, the sky turned black and a sudden deluge descended. Twenty minutes later the power went out throughout the city. A half hour later every major artery out of the city was flooded. The flooding combined with the lack of traffic lights ensured that traffic throughout the city came to a standstill. 

Public transit fared no better, subway stations became flooded and all trains were stopped. The railway lines for the commuter train service, known in Toronto as the GO system, came to a halt stranding thousands. One train tried to make it out of the city but ended up swamped in six feet of water where it took seven hours for police in zodiacs to shuttle 1200 trapped people to safety.

The power blackout lasted, in our neighborhood, for three days, which gave us a chance to test our three day emergency kit. Although it was a record rainfall for one day, it was, after all, a summer thunderstorm, not a category 5 hurricane, not a 9.0 earthquake, not a nuclear attack.

The following are some observations on what worked and what didn’t and some tips on how you can fare better.


Firstly, the national weather center totally dropped the ball. No severe thunderstorm warnings were issued. Later the excuse was they were tracking two storm cells and had no idea they would converge over Toronto. 

In addition to internet, TV, and ground line phones going dead, all cell phones and Wi-Fi connections went dead as well - only radio was left.

We had an emergency radio that you could recharge using a built-in dynamo hand crank. This radio worked great and we we’re able to listen to talk radio shows to kill the boredom of sitting around for three days.

We pulled out the radio after about a half hour without power to see if there was any news. There wasn’t. Public radio was at least two hours behind what was happening on the ground. Personally, I find a two hour delay in getting information on a developing emergency situation is too long.

After spending twenty minutes scanning the AM/FM and even the SW channels I got the hint that we were not going to get any useful information. So we broke out the EMCOM Kit and our Yeasu HT and tuned into the emergency services trunk line. Within minutes we started to get a picture of what was happening in the city. 

We found out which roads were closed or going to close, good to know if you plan on evacuating. We knew which public transit services were affected. If you’re an urbanite without a vehicle, this info could well affect your decision on whether to shelter in place or evacuate.

We also found out that within a half hour, all emergency services were stretched to their limit.

Most of the emergency calls were for people trapped in elevators, followed by people trapped in cars, followed by car accidents. Lesson learned? Avoid elevators and roads during an emergency. Keep this in mind for everyone thinking they’ll just load the Bug Out kits into the SUV and head for the cottage should the shit hit their fan. This minor emergency shut down all roads, imagine if there had been an evacuation order or a wide spread disaster.

There were dozens of other emergency calls, such as the three people swept away into the river and clinging to a tree branch. Or the warehouse roof collapse, the sink hole, and dozens of medical emergencies usually for the elderly who were experiencing panic attacks. All of this kept the EMS hopping as evidenced by the near continuous wailing of sirens that went on for a sold twelve hours.


Of course we had more than enough food for ourselves for three days and so did all of the neighbours we spoke with. One problem was the food spoiling in the refrigerators. Things stayed cool in the fridge for about 12 hours, but after that, things started to spoil. As soon as the blackout hit, my wife put all the items she wanted to keep cold into the freezer. Especially the beer, which stayed frosty for the entire ordeal and was the one luxury we enjoyed. She also keeps about six one litre water bottles of water in the freezer so that if there was a power failure the blocks of ice will keep the freezer cool longer.

Twenty-four hours into the blackout our neighbours were throwing out bags of spoiled food.

People living in the 35 story tall hamster cage next to us all had electric stoves, so trying to cook and thus save some of the food before it went bad wasn’t an option. Most camp stoves and improvised cooking stoves are dangerous to use in a small apartment with no ventilation. The real hero in our case was the pop can alcohol stove. This little beauty easily boiled pots of water for coffee, (imagine going three days without coffee?) and we cooked all our meals with it. We set it on top of our electric range and there was no fire hazard or fumes.

The next day, most of the other tenants took to their cars in search of coffee shops and grocery stores in areas where the power had been restored. The local grocery store had emergency generators and so they stayed open for the first 24 hours, but then their generators stopped working. The condo complex also had back-up generators that kept the elevators, lobby lights, and hallway lights working but by the second day that generator stopped working too.

Batteries, I keep about 16 rechargeable batteries 8AA and 8AAA and they served our needs for the three days, mostly because we had the hand crank emergency radio. But I could see that without being able to recharge them, those batteries would be used up in a week


Toronto is one of safest places to live in the world. Our annual crime rate is about equivalent to any Sunday morning in Chicago.  However, on the second day, the police issued warnings to the residents in the still affected blackout area of an increase in burglaries. No power, no alarm system, easy pickings. These burglaries were crimes of opportunity, but what would happen if the power stayed off for two weeks instead of two days, and people were hungry? Those burglars won’t be after TV screens and laptops, they’ll be after food, period. And they won’t be just the career criminals, but your starving neighbours too.

Shelter in Place or Evacuate

The first question one asks in an emergency situation is whether to shelter in place or evacuate.

During the first 12 hours there was no sense trying to evacuate since you would only get trapped in a traffic jam. Most people stayed put and sweated it out, literally. The temperature and humidity ranged between Turkish Steam Bath and Bangkok in July. Sleep consisted of lying naked and semi-conscious while your sweat soaked the sheets and pillows beneath you.

By the evening of the second day, and with recent reports that the transformers servicing our area were still under thirty feet of water, most residents, fed up with the heat, lack of food, light, internet, cable TV, and hot meals, started to evacuate to friends, families and hotels outside the affected areas.

We really had nowhere else to go, so we toughed it out. Which brings me to my biggest oversight in my preparedness equipment. Living in Canada we assume that a power blackout will entail slowly freeing to death, and so we have means of generating heat. But in this instance we were in serious danger of succumbing to heat stroke. There was nowhere to go to get out of the heat. We took cold showers when we started to become a little dizzy, but if there had not still been water available, heat stroke would have been a real possibility. I’ll be looking into getting a couple of battery powered fans, and extra batteries.

On the evening of the second day the property management brought in four portable generators. Tenants that had extension cords could plug their fridge in. Of course anything in the fridge would have gone bad by then, but our fridge was still icy cold from all the ice blocks. Most tenants didn’t have extension cords that could reach the generators. While it was nice to have some power to run the fridge and even plug a fan into, the noise from these machines is deafening.

Finally, after 72 hours power to our area was restored. The minute the air conditioner started working again, the outside temperatures dropped to a cool breezy 18C.


The three days without power was a nightmare. The boredom, the noise, the heat, the isolation and lack of communications was trying. While our emergency supplies and equipment was enough to provide the basic necessities, it wasn’t enough to ensure we would be comfortable.

What concerns me is what if this had been a real disaster? I tend to be more positive than the doomsayers who predict social chaos following any serious disaster, but I question now that I may have been too optimistic. No one we spoke with had even thought about preparing an emergency kit. They would become very desperate very quickly.

Lessons Learned

Anyone that has a lick of sense already knows that relying on government for anything is futile. From preventing crime, providing medical services, and protecting the environment, to responding to a disaster, anything the government touches turns to instant excrement. Not to say the Emergency Services guys and gals didn’t do a good job, they did, but they are restricted to working in a system created and run by politicians.

A three day kit for everyone in the home is the absolute minimum requirement. A three week supply of food, batteries, cooking fuel, and water would be even better.