Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Raft That Will Get You To New Jersey

In the event that all bridges and tunnels out of Manhattan are closed and you just have to get off the island, an inflatable raft is your best option if you don't own a boat. The best inflatable raft I've read about is from a company in Alaska called Alpacka Raft. Alpacka rafts are expensive -- the cheapest one is almost $800 without a paddle -- but they are extremely durable and compact. When packed the raft takes up only 9"x24" of space and can easily fit in a closet. I read about this raft in the November issue of Outside magazine. The article, Mission Improbable, was about two men who used them while traversing the wilds of western Canada. As for me, several months ago I purchased a two-man Coleman Colossus Inflatable Boat from Cabelas because it was cheap, less than $50, and I was planning to paddle to New Jersey with it as an experiment for this blog. I never made the attempt but if I was serious about it now I would try it with the Alpacka. I'm not going to buy one because my wife would kill me for wasting money and deep down I don't think I'm ever going to row off Manhattan. But the thought does reside in the back of my mind that it might one day be necessary.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Costco's New Emergency Food Bucket

Costco is now offering a waterproof Emergency Food Supply for about $75 (it's $85 if you order after Sept. 14th). Included in the plastic bucket are 275 separate servings of vegetarian offerings such as potato bakon (sic), corn chowder, Western stew, rice lentil, whey milk, blue berry pancakes and barley vegetable. While I can't vouch for the taste of these meals, the advertised 20-year shelf life makes it a good item to buy and forget. To order the Costco food bucket click here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

National Preparedness Month Go Bag Giveaway

On Thursday, September 4, the New York City Office of Emergency Management and members of the Citizen Corps Council will kickoff National Preparedness Month by giving away preparedness guides and 1,000 Go Bags filled with emergency supplies. There will be all day events in each of the five boroughs. To find the event location closest to you, click here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

New Earthquake Threat To New York Area

In June I posted a story on the possibility of an earthquake in the New York metro area. A new report in the latest issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America uncovered more troubling news about seismic faults in the area and has sparked several articles on this growing danger. One of the most troubling findings to come out of the study is the danger posed by the Indian Point nuclear facilty, located 24 miles away. The New York Daily News quotes the lead author of the report who states that the power plant sits on a 'bullseye' of two faults and that he "wouldn't want to live within 5 or 10 miles of the place." For the full article click here. Yahoo News also had an extensive article based on the study and quoted another author of the report who compared the possible damage to New York from a quake "like something out of a Greek myth." For that story click here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Are NY Times Reporters Preparing For Disaster?

Two articles on survival preparations and skills in two days, what does The New York Times know that we don't?! The first article, She's Ready: Just Add Water, came out yesterday and profiles a woman in suburban Massachusetts who wrote a book on disaster preparedness and has stockpiled six months of food and supplies. Her advice to New Yorkers: "I'd invest in a water filter -- and look for a way out." Thanks. The second article, They Will Survive, appears today and describes the lessons learned during a weekend survival course in the woods of Verona, New York. According to the instructor the most important survival tool after your brain is a sharp knife with a fixed blade and single sharpened edge. The article also detailed the versatility of an empty Altoids tin. But what I found more interesting than the wilderness survival lessons was the article's comments section, where readers posted their own tips for urban survival.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fox News Reports Alert Level May Be Raised

Fox News aired an interview today with Scott Weber, a former senior counsel to the Department of Homeland Security and now a terrorism expert, who says that upcoming high profile events -- the Olympics, the Democratic and Republican conventions, and November presidential election-- have heightened the possibility of terrorist attacks both here and abroad. Fox News host Martha MacCallum referenced an unspecified report that says there may soon be a heightened alert status because of these events. For a complete transcript of the interview, click here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Threat of Anthrax Terror Attack Increasing, Says DHS Doc

The Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Homeland Security, Dr. Jeffrey W. Runge, testified today that the threat of a biological attack, and more specifically one using anthrax, "has been building since well before the attacks of 9/11." Such an attack could kill hundreds of thousands of people and that - using the example of an attack in downtown Providence, Rhode Island - "it would likely go undetected for days, until large numbers of people begin showing up in emergency departments and doctor's offices two to five days after the attack." The only advice I can glean from this report is to become better friends with your doctor or pharmacist, and get treated with antibiotics as quickly as possible after an attack. For a full anthrax treatment FAQ from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention click here. To read the full text of Dr. Runge's testimony click here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

NY Times Article on Preparing for Disasters

This past weekend The New York Times published an article "Meeting Disaster With More Than a Wing and a Prayer" (7/19/08) that provides an overview of how to prepare for disasters, while also emphasizing that most people are not ready for such a possibility. The reporter confesses that she scored a very poor 2 out of 10 on a readiness quotient test. You can also take this test, developed by the Council for Excellence In Government, by clicking here. For the full article click here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bertha Not Threat But Dangerous Mystery

National Geographic News yesterday reported that Hurricane Bertha is so far from the coast that it is not a threat to the U.S. coastline, but a little disconcerting is news that the storm didn't behave as expected. By around 3 a.m. EDT Monday, Bertha had barely reached hurricane status with winds of about 75 miles (120 kilometers) an hour. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, Florida, predicted that the storm would not intensify much beyond that. But 12 hours later Bertha's strongest winds had ramped up to 115 miles (185 kilometers) an hour, making it a Category Three storm and the first major hurricane of the 2008 season. What happened to the storm during those 12 hours is a mystery. "We haven't come up with any explanations," said Richard Pasch, an NHC hurricane specialist. For the full story click here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bertha Now A Hurricane!

This just in from the National Hurricane Center:



Sunday, July 6, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Her Name Is Bertha


The National Hurricane Center has just issued an advisory at 5 a.m. this morning for Tropical Depression Two. While it's still far too early to consider this a threat to the Eastern Seaboard (left, see tracking map) it is something this blog will start monitoring. I've also added to the site a JULY 08 STORM UPDATE section featuring a live news feed from the National Hurricane Center. It's just below my home page welcome message. For more hurricane tips and news, click here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tax Free Go Bag Legislation Delayed Till '09

Legislation now before the New York State Assembly that would make purchases of specific Go Bag supplies tax free during the first 11 days of September has been delayed, according to 73rd District Assemblymember Jonathan Bing, who introduced the bill in May. "Emergency preparedness awareness is important to me which is why I proposed this legislation," said Bing. "Unfortunately, current budget challenges presented difficulties to passage this session. I look forward to raising emergency preparedness awareness in the mean time and getting this bill passed in the next session." The bill, officially titled A.11206, would also declare September to be "Emergency Preparedness Month" in the state of New York. This September Bing's office will be working with local CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams), the Red Cross, the Office of Emergency Management and the Mayor's office to host events educating city residents on disaster preparedness.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Attack On Iran Could Spark "Nightmare Scenarios"

According to a report today in the New York Sun, an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities might lead to retaliation on U.S. soil. One such possibility raised in the story is "Hezbollah or Iranian intelligence terrorist operations on soft targets, such as shopping malls and community centers, in third countries and possibly even America." The article makes it clear that there are many targets more likely to be at risk after an Israeli attack. However, if such a military action does take place, it's a safe bet the DHS will raise the threat level in New York City. To read the full story click here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tip of the Week from the Office of Emergency Mgt.

"Stay Cool in the Pool" is this week's tip from the New York City Office of Emergency Management. The email tip sent out today announced that this Friday, June 27, the city's 54 public pools will open. It seems like an odd tip to come from this office but I guess it's a slow week. The OEM announcement continued with the following advice: It is important to stay cool as temperatures rise. Visiting one of the City's pools is a good way to keep your body temperature low on a hot summer day. Remember to re-apply sunscreen after you swim. Personally I'd rather have a cold beer but that's just me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Time Mag: How To Survive A Disaster

The May 29th issue of Time magazine features an interesting article by Amanda Ripley, culled from her book The Unthinkable, entitled "How To Survive A Disaster." It explores the psychological effects of disasters on people and why some live and others don't. For the complete article click here.

Red Cross Reserve Volunteers Wanted

The American Red Cross of Greater New York is looking for Reserve Volunteers. The following is their description of the program: The Disaster Reserve Program is designed for people willing to help others during major local disasters, like the 2006 Queens blackout, the 2007 Orange County floods and the recent tornado in Brooklyn. It enables people to be pre-qualified and pre-trained so that they can provide immediate humanitarian assistance when a major local disaster strikes. To become a Disaster Reserve Volunteer you will be required to attend and complete a one-day Reserve Institute, or equivalent courses. Once on board, Disaster Reserve Volunteers will be expected to participate in a total of four Red Cross events–any combination of disaster operations, exercises, meetings and additional training–in a 12-month period. If you are interested in volunteering, click here.

More Extreme Weather Says Gov't Report

A new report released yesterday by the US Climate Change Science Program, which is overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, details North American climate changes and the news isn't good. As detailed in their press release: "Among the major findings reported in this assessment are that droughts, heavy downpours, excessive heat, and intense hurricanes are likely to become more commonplace..." To download the brochure summarizing their findings click here (pdf).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Today's Go Bag Purchases

I just placed an order this morning from my new favorite store Cabela's after reading in HSToday about how "...federal catastrophic disaster preparedness is problematic across the board, especially in the area of mass-casualty medical care – which by many informed accounts is terribly ill-prepared..." I decided to upgrade my first aid kit with the following: For the emergency stitching of wounds, a Disposable Body Stapler Kit for $24.99 (it's on back order); and to stop bleeding, two packs of Biolife Sports QR Powder at $9.99 per pack. The third product I purchased is unrelated to first aid, but I'm hearing through the grapevine that there might be concerns in the future about our water supply. I already have an extra supply of water and water tablets, but since this has suddenly got my attention I also purchased this morning two Frontier Water Filter Straws for $9.99 each, though I will be upgrading my water purification capabilities when I get more information.

New York Third Most Vulnerable City In Nation

According to an article in the latest issue of HSToday, if a Category 3 Hurricane struck this region, "such a storm could surpass Hurricane Katrina as the largest natural disaster ever to hit the United States." The story details why our area is the third most vulnerable city in the country for such a disaster, after Miami and New Orleans, and quotes a variety of experts on the scenarios that might unfold. It also explores the preparations area residents should make in the not-so-unlikely event that this might really happen. I highly recommend reading this story, for the full article click here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Do You Live In a Hurricane Evacuation Zone?

For a quick tool to determine if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone, courtesy of the NYC Office of Emergency Management, click here. You simply type in your address and submit. You can also check out a detailed map of the city, featuring the three levels of evacuation zones and evacuation center locations, by clicking here (pdf).

Current Threat Level

This just in from the Department of Homeland Security:
June 18, 2008 — The United States government's national threat level is
Elevated, or Yellow. The U.S. threat level is High, or Orange, for all domestic and international flights. Only small amounts of liquids, aerosols and gels are allowed in carry-on baggage. See the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for up-to-date information on items permitted and prohibited on airlines. We are mindful of the recent tapes and propaganda messages allegedly from Al Qaeda regarding increased attacks. At this time there is no credible information warning of an imminent, specific threat to the homeland.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Don't Spread Rumors!

An anonymous reader posted a comment that is worth repeating: "When I lived in California, the yellow pages had an Earthquake Checklist...Number 1 was, as I recall: Don't spread rumors." I remember trying to cross the GWB into the city on the evening of 9/11 and getting the wonderful news (reported by 1010 WINS, I believe) that terrorists were trying to blow up the bridge and a van full of explosives had just been pulled over. Turns out none of it was true. Don't spread rumors is such a simple concept and it makes sense. Just something to keep in mind.

An Earthquake in Manhattan?

People laugh when I talk about the possibility of a serious earthquake in Manhattan because the last big one (5.5 on the Richter magnitude scale) was in 1884. But then I read an article (click here) that notes we get a significant earthquake just about every 100 years, which would mean we are about 24 years overdue. I emailed the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory about this article and Senior Science Writer Kevin Krajick wrote back that "The article you cite is pretty accurate...However, the return time of M4 or M5 quakes is not as well defined as it suggests. It could be 100 years. Or it could be several hundred years; no one knows the answer." As for the effect on the city, the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation states that a moderate earthquake could cause over 1,000 deaths and "would have significant impact on the lives and economy of the Tri-State region." An earthquake in Manhattan? Don't Laugh!

A Great Bag For First Aid Supplies, Etc.

As I organized my Go Bag I had two first aid kits that were in cumbersome metal briefcases. While these looked nice on a store shelf, they weren't an efficient use of space and could not accommodate additional supplies. So I tossed the metal cases and put all my first aid supplies and manuals into a Mountainsmith Basic Cube, which I purchased for $12.95 at It is very sturdy and with 1600 cubic inches of space has plenty of room. The handle makes it easy to pull out and carry separately. I also bought one in yellow for all of my emergency cooking supplies.

A Great Multi-Function Radio

I have five radios in my Go Bag (three are battery operated, one is a hand crank flashlight that also has a radio in it) but the Red Cross/Eton FR-300 is my Swiss Army Knife of radios and a great investment at $50 on What I like most is that it can operate both with batteries and by charging it with a hand crank. It also has a cell phone charger, flashlight, siren, and individual knobs to select various weather frequencies as well as to receive audio from TV stations. Endorsement by the American Red Cross sold me on this model.

Good Work Gloves

I keep three pairs of these DeWalt work gloves in my Go Bag because if you find yourself in a debris-filled environment and you need to either extricate yourself or help others, hand protection is essential. These gloves were cheap (just $6.99 a pair with a discount for buying three) and, like my boot recommendation, you can go with more expensive options but these do the job. I purchased my gloves from the Working Person's Store and was very happy with their service.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Scariest Site On the Internet? called this blog "The Scariest Site On The Internet?" when I posted my best advice for a blackout here as the city melts under this awful heat, and Con Ed can't guarantee power or subway service.

My Best Blackout Advice

With this heat wave already causing blackouts in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, my best advice if you experience one is to fill up your bathtub with water right away! I live on the 12th Floor of our apartment building and in the big blackout of 2003 we soon learned that water gets up to the rooftop water tanks using electric pumps. Once this water supply is gone, you're out of luck and then the only option for draining toilets will be bottled water. As for hygiene, I keep a supply of individually-sealed sanitizing wipes (a variety of brands are available at any drugstore), Purell liquid sanitizer, and also full body wipes (I've purchased these at both EMS and LL Bean but can't find them on their web sites) which are like the hand sanitizing wipes only much larger. For more blackout tips see also: You Need A Phone Like This, Best Lantern Ever, My Favorite Flashlight.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

It's Hurricane Season

The latest hurricane forecast was released two days ago by Colorado State University's Dr. William Gray and you can read it here (pdf). Basically it says we can expect eight Atlantic basin hurricanes this season and seven tropical storms, with Florida being the most likely state to get hit. A separate interactive Landfall Probability Table gives our area a 6.9% chance of an intense hurricane making landfall this season. Some think we are overdue and under prepared for this possibility (click here for that story) as few now remember the 1938 hurricane nicknamed The Long Island Express.

A Real Tough Jacket

I love the Filson Tin Cruiser because it is so uniquely tough and you won't find it at any store in the city. You can't wash it or dry clean it, in fact the company says that some customers "just hose 'em down at the end of the day." The jacket was designed nearly 100 years ago for loggers and is made of something they call Tin Cloth, which is the exact opposite of anything they carry at Barney's. If I'm called upon to clean debris in the middle of a storm, I'll be wearing this thing!

A Good Pair of Boots

The gold standard of work boots among city construction workers is the Timberland Men's Waterproof 6 Inch Premium Boot. When I was down at the Javits Center after 9/11 to volunteer, people wearing sneakers were told in no uncertain terms that they'd get hurt. When disaster strikes, the ground can be littered with sharp objects. If you're going to be walking around in that environment you need to protect your feet. Yes there are more exotic, expensive and tougher boots out there but these do the job. You might also want to invest in a few packs of Blist-O-Ban blister bandages. The NY Times ran a story recently about various blister treatment options and this brand came out on top.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Best Lantern Ever

When I first saw the L.L. Bean Freeplay Rechargeable Crank Lantern in their Spring catalog I immediately ordered two. These units now complement several other lantern/lighting options I've purchased in the past. I believe that the Freeplay is the best and what you might call the pinnacle of my search for emergency lighting solutions. I began years ago with the purchase of emergency candles that were the size of small logs and would supposedly burn for weeks. Then I upgraded to a Coleman 8D Pack-Away Lantern which was good, but I didn't like the fact that it needed eight D batteries to operate. Wandering the aisles of Paragon Sports' camping department I came across the Uco Candle Lantern from Peregrine Outfitters. This is an elegant little device that works for nine hours on a single, small candle. But now if I have to take just one device with me in an emergency, it'll be the Freeplay from L.L. Bean.

Chemical Light Sticks

I was shopping at Home Depot on Third Ave. and 59th Street and saw these 12-hour chemical light sticks for sale (orange only) right by the registers. I'm not sure how I might use them in an emergency but something in my gut said to get eight of them. Home Depot's web site doesn't sell them but you can get them direct from the manufacturer for $1.99 each by clicking here.

The Best Guide To Area Roads

I've lived in Manhattan for almost 20 years but I'm embarassed to say that even now there are streets and avenues I've never heard of, and when it comes to the outer boroughs, forget about it. For this reason I rely heavily on the Internet to chart my course when I'm out of familiar territory. But in any disaster I'm expecting the Internet to be one of the first things to go down. That's why I picked up this particular Hagstrom Street & Road Atlas covering a 75 mile radius from midtown Manhattan. This should cover any place we might need to go for evacuation, emergency shelter, etc.

You Need A Phone Like This

The most basic land line phone was something I realized we needed after the big blackout of 2003, when all cordless phones became useless. I got this phone on the left at Radio Shack for about $14 soon after. This exact model does not appear to be in stock on their web site but any cheap land line phone that doesn't require an external power source is invaluable when all other phones stop working. Mine is sealed in a Ziploc bag to ensure it stays dry.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What I Carry Everyday

Not exactly an emergency tool but probably the gadget I get the most use out of on a daily basis is the Victorinox SwissCard Lite. It's not something I would have ever considered buying, but my wife and daughters picked it out for me one weekend while shopping. It's the size of a credit card and just slightly thicker. Since I don't use a wallet it fits right in with the plastic and paper money in my pocket. It's got a scissors, knife, tweezers, pen, pin, red led light, magnifying glass (can't burn paper from sunlight with it though:(, multiple screw heads and a ruler (up to 3"). As I write this I'll admit I didn't even know it had the pin or led light for a couple of months. Very practical, very simple.

Maybe For Your Country House

I love of all sorts of gadgets but since I live in Manhattan there are certain things not worth owning for lots of legal reasons. But something cool, in a disaster-preparedness sort of way, that you might keep in mind is the Henry Repeating Arms U.S. Survival Rifle. An older version of this rifle, known as the AR-7, was used by Air Force pilots. This new, improved version, which fires .22 long ammunition, breaks down into a waterproof stock and weighs only 2 1/2 pounds. It costs $230 and, go figure, it's made in Brooklyn! (Caveat Emptor, I do not own this and have never used this.)

My Favorite Flashlight

This Surefire E2L Outdoorsman flashlight never ceases to amaze me. It's small, built like a piece of military hardware and is incredibly powerful. I took this on a vacation to Arizona and was able to illuminate the rock wall on the other side of a small canyon at night. Shine it in someone's face and it is blinding. Our favorite thing to do with the Surefire at home is charge the glow-in-the-dark eyes of a stuffed toy ghost. The glow afterwards from its eyes is bright enough to see by in a dark room. The flashlight runs on special Lithium batteries that I haven't had to replace yet (had it for a year now) but I bought a box of 12 from Surefire for $21. Best thing about the batteries is they have a shelf life of 10 years. Surefire sells a wide variety of flashlights but I'm quite happy with the one I got. This is a great addition to any emergency kit!

Keeping Documents Dry

Putting all of my important documents and papers together was a big job (including one very long afternoon going back and forth to the Social Security offices) but my solution for protecting and keeping them in one place was easy. I chose an Ewa-Marine waterproof pouch, which claims to be waterproof up to 1000 feet deep. It is made of very heavy but flexible clear plastic. There are three knobs on top that you screw down to seal it tightly, making it impervious to water. The hassle of screwing and unscrewing the three knobs each time I need to retrieve a document or passport is a small price to pay. The pouches come in various sizes and are priced accordingly, mine cost $28. To see their selection click here.

The Loudest Whistle In the World

Until someone convinces me that there is a better whistle, I'm keeping two of these Storm Whistles from the All-Weather Safety Whistle Company in my Go Bag. They have a brochure that goes into great detail on why these whistles are the loudest and the best. If you're curious, you can click to read it here (pdf). You can buy the Storm Whistle for $5.50 direct from the company as well as on many web sites.

Emergency Multi-Function Tools

I read about the famous Ka-Bar USMC Fighting Knife (pictured above) and its reputation as one of the most useful and indestructible tools a soldier could have. It can be used to hammer, pry open crates, and cut through most anything that is cuttable (sic). It is also inexpensive. I purchased mine (with serrated edge) on through the Ohio Knife company, which I chose because they had the lowest price at $47.99 plus $7.29 for shipping. I must also confess that I think it looked cool and I had no reason to own this except as an emergency tool to supplement my Leatherman Charge TTi Multi-Tool (on the right).

Protection Against A Dirty Bomb

When I tell people about one of my more expensive Go Bag purchases they sometimes give me that "maybe you're taking this a little too far" look. But if terrorists ever detonate a dirty bomb in the city, a Portable Geiger Counter will suddenly seem like a brilliant gadget to have. That's because a dirty bomb would only contaminate a small area with dangerous radiation and it might be completely safe just a few blocks away. With a Geiger counter you can quickly know if you're in a danger zone. This is also a device that, when you do really need one, will be harder to find than the Wii at Christmas! I purchased my unit for about $250 from Edmund Scientific's, a company I have happily bought gadgets and toys from for decades.

A Simple First Aid Manual

One day my daughter brought home from school a Red Cross checklist of emergency first aid supplies. There were some things on this list that I had not seen before so I went out to upgrade my first aid kit. I realized after returning from my local pharmacy (where they looked at me a little strangely when I purchased syrup of ipecac) that I had no idea what to do with these things. So if you're not already a doctor, a book on first aid is definitely a smart purchase. The title I chose was Pocket First Aid. The publisher's description of this edition is as follows: Adapted from the most recent edition of the First Aid Manual, this pocket sized first aid guide is the only book available that is illustrated with photographs. Written in a clear, step-by-step format, Pocket First Aid covers many first aid methods, from resuscitation of conscious and unconscious choking victims, to how to deal with bleeding, shock, spinal injuries, poisoning, seizures, fractures, and bandages.
As for the syrup of ipecac, everything I've read says DON'T USE IT!

My Go Bag

Here is a great bag from The North Face, an extra large (XL) Base Camp Duffel Bag, that I purchased from for $149.95 incl. shipping. It is super strong and can be worn like a backpack. I could have bought it directly from The North Face but they didn't carry the color yellow, which I wanted, and I would have to pay extra for shipping. I was very happy with's service.