Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Home Security Christmas Holidays

by Chris E McGoey, CPP, CSP, CAM

Christmas holidays are a special time when families and friends come together to celebrate the season. It is also the time of year where families and friends are most generous and practice the tradition of gift giving. It should be a joyous and happy time for all of us.

Unfortunately for us, home burglars view the holiday season a little differently. For them, it is a time of opportunity to burglarize your home for cash, credit cards, and all the new gifts of small electronics, computers, jewelry, and easily sold valuables.

Here are a few tips of what they look for when shopping for a house to burglarize. These tips will help you enjoy the holidays without incident.

Burglars look for an easy entry with good escape routes. Don’t openly display your Christmas tree and gifts in the front window so it’s easily visible from the street. It’s too tempting for them to smash the window and grab the wrapped packages.

Burglars look for occupancy cues like outdoor lights burning 24 hours a day, piled up newspapers, or advertising flyers hanging on the door knob. Use an inexpensive light timer when you are away and ask a neighbor to keep the front of your home clean of papers and debris.

Burglars know to look for the hidden door key near the front entrance. Don’t hide spare keys under rocks, in flowerpots, or above door ledges. Instead give the spare key to a trusted neighbor.

Burglars prefer to enter through unlocked doors or windows. Sliding windows that are not secure can be seen from distance. One holiday problem can occur when exterior Christmas light extension cords are run inside through a window and prevent it from being secured. Hire an electrician or handyman to install an inexpensive exterior outlet for your holiday lights.

Don’t post your family name on your mailbox or on you house. A burglar can call directory assistance to get your telephone number and call your home while in front of your house to confirm that you are away.

Don’t leave descriptive telephone answering machine messages like, “You’ve reached the Wilson’s…we’re away skiing for the Christmas holidays…please leave a message.” Burglars love to hear that they have plenty of time to break in and completely ransack your home.

After Christmas day, don’t pile up empty gift boxes from your new computer, DVD player, or stereo receiver on the street for the garbage man. Burglars appreciate knowing that you have expensive gifts inside for them to steal. Break them down or cut them up to conceal the items better. After a lucrative burglary, the chances of being burglarized again are increased to steal the new replacement products.

Last, but not least, fortify your home by installing solid core doors, heavy duty locks, longer screws in the lock strike plates and door hinges, and install secondary security devices on all accessible sliding windows. See my webpage on burglary prevention at home security.


Home Invasion Family Survival Tips

by Chris E McGoey, CPP, CSP, CAM

Imagine this scenario. After a long week at work, you are finally able to relax at home with your spouse and two teen-age daughters. You’re in your living room watching TV with your spouse. Your daughters are in their own rooms doing…whatever. Because both of you have worked hard for many years, you are now able to live more comfortably in what you thought to be a safe community.

At 9:00PM you hear a knock on the door and your spouse gets up to answer the door. After the door is unlocked you hear a sudden outburst as two strange young men burst through the door and into your living room. As the door crashes open, you see your spouse is being punched and beaten to the floor. Before you have time react you are overcome by physical force and threats of harm to you and your family. The two men are brandishing guns and are shouting obscene threats and commands simultaneously as they push you onto the couch. One of the men quickly searches the house for other occupants while the other stands guard over you.

Your mind is racing. Will we be killed? Will these attackers beat us or molest our daughters? The level of terror and anxiety is enormous and will cause victims to sometimes act irrationally. Some will freeze and become incapacitated from fright. Others will instinctively resist and try to fight back. Others will run away if possible. Psychologists have labeled this phenomenon as the “fight or flight syndrome.” The first thirty seconds are the most critical to your family’s survival.

What Would You Do?

Most people have never pondered this question for themselves or with their family. How will I react under similar circumstances? How will my family react independent of me? How will we react together? How you naturally react depends on many factors: your sex, age, physical condition, culture, personality, how you process information, how you react under extreme pressure, special training, skills, and past experience in responding to aggression. Most people don’t know for sure how they will respond to a personal crisis until it occurs. Many are surprised afterwards by their behavior as having been heroic, calm, cowardly, or stupid.

Would you try to overpower the invaders? Would you go for your gun? Would you try to activate an alarm? Would you try to escape and call for help? Would you comply with their demands and hope they don’t hurt you? Would you allow them to tie you up? Would you allow them to take a family member away from the home? Would you risk death to save your family from harm?

The response possibilities are endless, but most fall into three general response possibilities. You can resist the assault; comply with all commands; or you can try to stay calm, wait, and resist, comply, or flee as the scenario evolves. One thing is clear, there is no one single correct response to a life-threatening home invasion scenario. The choice is personal, based on your own assessment of your physical and mental capabilities and your belief as to the level of eminent danger.

Sometimes fighting and screaming works, especially if there are neighbors who will intervene or call the police. It makes no sense to risk fighting if you are physically incapable of doing so effectively. Total compliance sometimes works. The invaders might leave you unharmed and just leave. However, compliance may increase the duration of the invasion and therefore increase the potential for molestation. You need to thoughtfully consider how you or your family members might act under the circumstances and plan accordingly.
What Works

Having a family and neighborhood plan is essential. If you develop a home security plan and talk about it with your family and neighbors, the chances of acting appropriately and getting help are greatly improved.

Prevention works best. Harden your home or apartment with strong doors and locks and three-inch screws in the lock strike plate and door hinges. See my web page on home security tips for more details. Use a wide-angle peephole and instruct everyone in your family not to open the door to strangers. Chain latches are ineffective as a barrier, so use your peephole to look outside before opening the door. Be suspicious of someone claiming to be making a delivery that you did not order or use other tricks to get you to open the door. Fortification of rear doors, sliding glass doors, and garage doors are also important. This gives you the necessary time to phone 911, sound audible alarms, or arm yourself. Read more...

Saturday, November 12, 2011


What fire ignition system should you carry?

by L. Pantenburg

The elk herd left a tantalizing trail, and we could expect to get a shot at any moment. It’s always that thought that sucks us hunters out in crappy weather into remote mountainous areas. The day was bitterly cold in Idaho’s Selway wilderness, the snow was knee deep and there were miles between us and the nearest road.

Being able to make a fire under adverse conditions can be critical to survival.

Back at camp, the first order of business was to start the fire. I took out my waterproof match container and tried to light a strike-anywhere match on the side. All the matches had been replaced a couple months ago, but not one of the 20 in the container would light. Then I tried my backup butane lighter. Because of the cold, it didn’t work either. Luckily, we had backup matches, and the fire was soon thawing us out.

“So suppose one of us had gotten hurt and couldn’t move – what would we do to start a fire?” I asked my partner. We both agreed it could have been fatal.

That frigid hunt was in 1993, and for years, I experimented to find a reliable firemaking method.

In 2002, as part of a project for Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, Oregon, Dr. Jim Grenfell and I set out to find the ultimate, practical fire ignition method that would work for the average person.

Criteria to be tested were: ease of operation, ability to use one-handed (in the event of an injury), reliability, widespread availability, durability, practicality and ease of carry. We ruled out any items that seemed to rely on expensive, gee-whiz technology.

Over the course of the next several months, we laboriously tested and re-tested conventional firemaking methods. When something showed promise after initial testing, we turned the scouts loose on it. If the method survived the torture test, we’d ask average outdoors people to try and then comment on the materials.

Here’s what we found:

This firebow setup works well, but takes considerable skill to use. It would not be a good choice for survival firemaking for most people.

Fire bow or other primitive wood friction methods: Not even in the running. In a survival situation, even if you have the time and skills to make and use a fire bow, you’d first have to find the materials to build it. If rubbing two sticks together to fire was easy, or even just moderately difficult, the aboriginal people would never have developed ways to carry a live coal between camps!

The people who depended on the friction method for twirling up a fire carried their own specialized sticks with them. Even in a forest, you might not be able to find dry, suitable materials to build your kit.

Matches: Best case scenario: You should be able to make one fire with every match, right? That points out a real problem with matches: there is a finate number of them, and when they’re gone you’re out of luck. And what if you use all your matches to make one fire because of a low skill level?

Every brand and type of match we tried was unreliable as a survival tool. But if forced to make a recommendation, I’d say the best match choice is the REI Stormproof matches. They work well under many adverse circumstances, but you can only carry a few (10, with striker strip) in a standard match case. Match Box – Plastic by Coghlans

Always keep survival matches in a waterproof case, and rotate them regularly.

The advantage is that most people can strike a match, and you can get them anywhere. The disadvantages are that matches deteriorate over time and fail, even if they’re waterproof. While coating the heads with paraffin or other sealants will work for awhile, that doesn’t make the matches dependable. Most regular book matches are useless if damp, or if they’re even exposed to moisture.

Another critical aspect is the abrasive strip on the match box or book. If it gets damp, wet or worn out, the matches won’t work. And one brand of match may not ignite on another’s abrasive strip!

Even strike-anywhere matches don’t necessarily light when struck on an abrasive surface. Try standing in knee-deep snow, during a snow and sleet storm and finding a dry, abrasive surface to strike a match on!

Butane lighter: I carry a butane lighter in my pants pocket, another in my jacket pocket and a third in my pack. If I need a fire quickly, I hope to flic a Bic and get the job done. A standard Bic lighter, according to my tests, will have about an hour’s worth of flame in it. But I don’t trust any butane lighter, and you shouldn’t either.

The Achilles heel is temperature. The boiling point of Butane is approximately -0.5 C at sea level, according to (This boiling point will drop with an increase in altitude given the reduced pressure). This means that as the lighter nears freezing, less gas will be vaporized inside of the lighter and will make it hard to light. And the higher in elevation you are, the less chance you have for ignition!

Butane lighters work great when they work! My experiments show that placing a butane lighter in ice water (33 degrees) disables it almost instantaneously. If the lighter is removed from a one-minute ice water bath, and placed in a 70 degree area, several minutes will pass before it is warm enough to function. This time varies on the size, brand, and make of the lighter. If you warm the lighter in your already warm hand, it can take at least 90 seconds under ideal conditions, and probably closer to four minutes, to make it functional.

So, if you fall into an icy river, wade to shore and desperately need to make a warm-up fire, your butane lighter won’t work for what seems like an eternity. In a situation where your hands are freezing, you may not be able to warm the lighter quickly. Your cold, numb fingers may not be able to work the wheel, either. By the time the lighter is warm enough to fire, you may not be able to use it. Disposable Lighters, Assorted Colors, Sold As A 50 Pack.

Any lighter’s durability is suspect. All it takes is one grain of sand in the wrong place and the machinery is disabled.

And don’t forget this little tidbit: if you inadvertently drop your butane lighter into a campfire, an explosion will follow!

A magnesium block, with flint stick attached on top, can be a reliable firemaking method.

Magnesium block: A favorite of the survival shows, the magnesium block with a flint stick on top, has some merit. The idea is to shave off pieces of magnesium into a small pile, then ignite it with a spark from the flint stick. The magnesium block is waterproof.

The problem in the system is that it takes a long time to scrape enough shavings off the block to ignite, and it’s really easy to scatter the pile if you bump it or the wind comes up. A magnesium block is OK, but not your best choice. Genuine Issue Magnesium Survival Fire Starter.

Zippo-style lighters: For a while, this appeared to be the winner. I filled my Zippo with lighter fluid to the saturation point, then sat down to see how many fires it would make before it failed. Over the next two days, (I suppose this is some comment on my social life), the total number of lights was 974! When full of fluid, the Zippo worked immediately after a one-minute ice water bath. It came out the freezer overnight and fired on the second try. I sealed the hinge and opening with a piece of duct tape, and left it alone for a month, and it still fired. The fuel supply of a Zippo-style lighter tends to dry out quickly, making it non-functional. But the Zippo-style lighter was wildly inconsistent in other areas. A fully saturated lighter dried out completely in three days in the desert. Having it sealed didn’t matter. And sometimes, for reasons I couldn’t figure out, the Zippo just wouldn’t light. While you can fuel a Zippo with gasoline if need be, the system is too unreliable to recommend.

Flint sticks: I carry a flint stick on my keyring survival gear and have several in different parts of my gear. When used in combination with cotton balls saturated with petroleum jelly, the system is nearly foolproof. But it takes some effort to learn how to use it, and like anything, there is no substitute for practice. Using a flint stick with only one hand can be done, but not as easily as using a butane lighter.

At the end of all this research, Grenfell and I concluded that there is no ultimate firemaking tool, and you should never rely on just one type.

So here’s the best recommendation: take at least three different methods. Environment factors that might disable one method should not affect all of them. So, include a fire tool out of each of these categories:

Flint stick, cotton balls and petroleum jelly: If forced to pick just one method of firemaking, this would be Cotton balls, petroleum jelly and a flint stick are effective firemaking tools. With practice, the combination is quick and reliable. But without a lot of practice and experimenting, you probably won’t be able to use it with one hand. If you’re disabled or unconscious, an untrained person might not be able to figure out how it works.

Butane lighter: If you’re lucky and can keep your lighter warm and dry, a butane lighter make take care of all your firemaking needs. I’ve noticed many kids can’t operate a butane lighter without practice, so some training may need to be done with your juvenile outdoor partners.

REI Stormproof matches: Most folks don’t need instruction on how to light a match, so that’s why it’s a good idea to include matches. Invest in premium matches that may work when you need them, and rotate your stock regularly. Be sure to take along the abrasive strip from the match box, and store all matches in a waterproof container!

No matter which firemaking methods you use, take along charcloth and firestarter in a waterproof plastic bag! If your Zippo or butane lighter leaks or runs out of fuel, you can use the wheel and flint to make a spark that can be caught on a piece of charcloth. Also, any other ignition methods that involve sparks can be used with charcloth.

Firestarters should be compact, durable and easy to carry. It can make the difference between dying of hypothermia or getting a fire going with damp tinder and kindling!

One last suggestion: Include a road flare in your survival gear. It is a fantastic signaling tool, burns for at least 15 minutes and will ignite virtually anything!


How to Make a Snow Trench Shelter
By L. Pantenburg

It was just supposed to be a quick, hour or so outing on cross-country skis. The day was beautiful; you got into the ground-covering groove and ended up going a lot further than planned. Didn’t pay much attention to the clouds coming over the mountains… Then, without much warning at all, Mother Nature shows her other side and turns vicious and deadly.

STOP, then look around to find an area out of the wind. The area on the right is probably the most sheltered.

The sky darkens, the wind starts to blow, and there’s that awful, sinking feeling that, somehow, you have really screwed up. The wind increases, blowing snow sideways and viability drops to nothing. You must do something immediately, because it will be only a few minutes before the full force of the storm hits.

You start to panic. Maybe the best plan is to turn and ski as fast as possible back toward your car….wherever that is…

Before you do anything: STOP (Stop, Think, Observe, Plan). Get off your feet, and calm down. Control the urge to act hastily. Accept the reality of the situation: you can’t possibly outrun the storm. You must make a shelter, quickly.

Here’s how to make a quick snow trench shelter with a tarp. You will need a tarp or quilted Space Blanket with corner grommets, Texsport Blue Reinforced Rip-Stop Polyethylene Tarps, a small snow shovel, Black Diamond Deploy 7 Shovel, an insulated backpacking sleeping pad, Stansport Pack-Lite Camping Pad, bright flagging Flagging Tape 1-3/16″ wide, Solid Colors, 14 to choose from and a signal whistle. Fox 40 Micro 2 pack.

(All these items are essential if you are recreating in snowy back country.) If you work effectively, it should take about five minutes to make a trench shelter that can save your life.

Here’s what to do when you’ve calmed down and can focus on the task at hand. Look around and decide where the wind is coming from. Find a snow drift, tree, thicket, terrain feature etc. to get out of the wind. You want to be on the lee (downwind) side of any windbreak where the least wind is.You’ll be able tell where that is by the depression, or the snowdrift in front of it.

If the snow is compacted, you may be able to cut blocks, speeding up the excavation.

Dig a trench, about waist deep, two-to-three feet wide, and six feet long. The entrance should be on the downwind side so the wind doesn’t blow directly into the shelter.

Place skis and poles over the trench, then cover with the tarp. Stretch out the tarp on top of the skis and poles, and then shovel snow on all the edges to keep the covering from blowing off.

Tie long streamers of flagging to trees around the shelter so it is easily visible.

Get inside the trench, and hold your whistle in your hand.

Rescuers may be on snowmobiles, and may have difficulty hearing shouting over the wind, engine noise, two-way radio headsets and helmet liners. So, as soon as you hear engines, start blowing on your whistle, and keep blowing. The universal signal for distress is three spaced whistles. If you left a detailed note before you took off on the trip, your survival emergency should be over soon.



My Snow Home

by A. Beauchamp

When I speak of my "igloo" it means my snow shelter. I try and build it with some things in mind: what it is I am trying to accomplish, ie am I making a shelter for the short term or long term. And, safety being paramount, you must do this crafting in stages.

Learning first with a "miniature shelter" is always good. Why? Well, after you have finished it, you can collapse it and see how it actually breaks up, so when you build a big one you can understand why crafting is everything.
I have a completed shelter for the long term as I am very active in the winter months,

If one collapsed during the night, from snow or trees, I have a redundant shelter to move immediately in to (the smaller, test one)

I always build them in three stages. First, what I call my "mound" stage. For this I try to find good snow, snow that when I use my hand and make a ball with it, just holds together, but isn't too wet and sticky, as it will then be too heavy to remove from the inner side as well as adding a lot of added weight to the shelter. And wet snow isn't a great insulator either.

Then I find a good clearing and a level spot. I make my shelters about 10 feet in diameter and about 6.5 feet high.

After piling up the snow (wait for about 45 minutes) I start to remove the snow from the inside. There are many tricks here in saving time to remove the snow (but I'll outline them in another article perhaps).

I cut a good size door initially, as it is easier to remove the snow.

Then, when the snow is all cleared out from the inside, and the inner side needs to stiffen up, I work on stage "two"...My door and tunnel.

With the extra snow taken from the inside, I now just slide it in front of the door to make a "tunnel".

In 1/2 an hour I then start to remove this snow as well -- this is fairly quick.

Once this is done, I will now have removed the snow initially from the dome and used it on my "door tunnel". Now I take the door tunnel snow (the snow I removed from the mound that made the "door tunnel") and move it forward to make another smaller dome. Let it set for awhile.

Once this is done I remove this amount to my "small dome" stage as I did initially from the "first dome", and move it to my last entrance tunnel.

When this is completed you will find that the snow you used to made the first dome has went a long ways!

In summary, pile up a big pile of snow for the snow shelter. let it set. Then scoop it out and pile it into a second pile. Let that set, scoop it out, and pile it in a third pile. Let it set, then scoop it out. These three piles are plainly visible in the above photo. Pile one is on the left side, pile two forms the right side of the shelter, and pile three the door tunnel.

I like to put a 90 degree turn on my two tunnels for two reasons:

The wind is coming in at a cross draft, this is a good direction so as not to get too much flow inside

The long tunnel structure is more ridged, with the extra two posts of snow half way down.

A great idea, in case of a high windy night and a limb lets go in the bush!

That's all.

I set my igloo up in this fashion: The big dome is for sleeping only! No exceptions! The second smaller dome is for gear storage and extra supplies and I also set aside a small area for using my stove or kuddlik to heat my food! And this then keeps the best insulation (within the snow structure) in my "sleeping dome"!

These shelters don't have to be as elaborate as you see here, but I like to have many "options" especially since I'll be there all winter.

When you're traveling the bush in -45 below zero and need a sound place to rest, this is definitely it: spacious and cozy!!

My favorite!




Search and Rescue

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