Looks like the Earth narrowly escaped being hit with a massive solar flare.

Credit: Space.com

This could have been a VERY BIG problem for a variety of reasons.  A Solar flare can cause massive damage to electronics, electrical transmission systems, and wireless communications.  You can read about a super solar flare from the 19th Century by clicking here, just imagine the impact a similar event would have today…

The good news is that damaging solar flares are relatively rare and don’t always cause widespread damage to electronics.  However, they can impact the electrical grid and cause widespread power failures.  The loss of power is the most dangerous aspect of solar flares since modern society is dependent on a reliable source of electrical power.  This is why having generators and/or batteries is so important in disaster planning.

In future articles, I will discuss topics like backup power and what to do during extended power outages.  For now, be aware that electrical power is vulnerable to solar flares and other natural phenomena.

I was ten minutes late getting into work today, here is the reason why.

Credit: KTVK

Violence can happen at any time, any where.  In this case, a road rage incident that turned into a shooting took place during rush hour about two blocks from where I work.  More details on this particular case will emerge as the investigation progresses but the takeaway from today’s event is you need to be ready no matter where you are.

If nothing else, make sure your car has a first aid kit so you can render assistance to either yourself or others.  You may not be able to prevent a road rage incident from becoming violent, but you should be ready in case that happens.  After all, incidents like this can happen any where, any time.

Looks like LA may soon be following Detroit’s lead when it comes to Chapter Nine Bankruptcy protection.

South Central LA

Credit: News Genius

You can read about it here but the refrain is a familiar one, municipalities spend too much on generous pensions and get caught in a bind when the economy slows down.  Couple that with high taxation, rising crime, crushing regulatory burdens, lousy schools, along with a poisonous political climate and you get…Los Angeles.  Well, at least the weather is better in the City of Angels than in Detroit.  As California Pension Reform President Dan Pellissier said last week:

I think your city of Los Angeles is probably two to three years away from being in the same position that Detroit is where there is not enough money to pay the bills…[L.A.] can’t project, going forward, a stable budget because they face the same pension problems that everyone else in the country does.

Given the current financial situation many cities find themselves in, individuals need to prepare to take care of themselves.  The government won’t always be there to protect you or help you during your time of need.  Independence and preparation are a better course of action than dependency on increasing stressed municipal departments.  What are you going to do today in your life to become more independent?

One concept that many of us need to be more aware of is Operational Security or OPSEC.  In a nutshell, OPSEC is keeping information from potential adversaries.  For the military, this means keeping details of movements and future operations secret.  For civilians like you and me, that means not broadcasting your whereabouts or other important details.  Being careful about where and when information is divulged will help keep you safe and protect your property.

This is important in today’s world.  Let’s face it, we live in a connected world where social media is ubiquitous.  Many of us can instantly communicate where we are and what we are doing with our smartphones and tablets.  While this can be fun and harmless, it can expose people to additional risk if the wrong people get hold of important information.  And as recent events illustrate, what gets posted on social media does not stay private.

What does this all mean?

If you are at a restaurant, sporting event, or landmark and you post about it on a social media site then everybody who can read your post knows where you are.  Criminals can use this information to stalk you, rob you, or break into your home.  I won’t get into the whole subject of meta-data collection, but the more you post on social media sites the more information private and governmental entities have on you.  Ask yourself if you really need to post your whereabouts and status to the world?

To maintain good OPSEC, consider making a couple changes in your habits.  First, only let trusted people know your whereabouts before you go somewhere.  Second, if you want to post pictures, review, or other observations about an outing, do so after the event.  Third, when you have plans to go somewhere, don’t feel compelled to let the world know about it on social media.  All of this information is not time-critical to those who aren’t going to be with you, it can wait.

The key concept is to be careful with what you divulge to others.  Information is power and the more you reveal, the more data a potential adversary (ex. burglar) has on you.  Both good guys and bad guys use social media so treat the information you post on it with great care.  Taking a few small steps to increase your OPSEC will yield much greater safety and security in the connected world we live in.

The Detroit bankruptcy filing shows that if something cannot go on forever, it will stop.  Some acted surprised but this has been years in the making given the toxic combination of corruption coupled with lavish spending the city has engaged in for over a half century.  Decisions have consequences and math has finally trumped politics in Motown.  Sure, some will fight it but the reality is, Detroit can’t meet its financial obligations and its debts will have to be reorganized in Bankruptcy Court.  It won’t be the last city to enter Chapter 9 either, that much is a given.

Guess my predictions proved prescient.

City finances can impact crucial services like Fire and Police, which are being stretched to the breaking point by arson and crime.  Old equipment and poor maintenance contribute to slow response times, which endanger both lives and property.  As the Detroit Free Press reports:

The Fire Department’s average time is 7 minutes, and EMS’s response time is 15 minutes. That’s partly due to old trucks and ambulances that are poorly maintained combined with a never-ending string of incidents. Detroit has had between 11,000 to 12,000 fires every year for the past decade, and firefighters have been responding with “junk” equipment, according to an unnamed fire captain in Orr’s report.

If that wasn’t bad enough, 2/3rds(!) of the City’s ambulances are out of service.

Now Detroit may be an extreme example of municipal dysfunction but many of the same conditions exist in other communities.  Falling tax revenues, higher fuel prices, increasing benefits costs, ballooning pension commitments, and economic stagnation are a fact of life for all cities, counties, and states.  This results in fewer services, at a higher cost, with longer response times for citizens.

So don’t plan on government agencies quickly coming to your aid during an emergency.  Having first aid kits, fire extinguishers, firearms, extra food and water, batteries, flashlights, and KNOWLEDGE will help you help yourself when things go wrong.  Being prepared not only helps you, it also helps your neighbors and community become more resilient.

Take a look at this Steven Crowder video from 2009.

Big Government and Big Unions built that!

To think that once Detroit was the motor behind the Arsenal of Democracy, now its an example of what municipal bankruptcy looks like.

Credit: Alexander Synaptic

I’ve discussed this before but what is happening in Detroit is a symptom of what is happening in many American cities these days.  It is probably the most extreme example but Motown points to a bleak future for cities that are loosing tax revenue, population, and business while increasing spending on government employees.  The situation has become so bad that bankruptcy is being discussed openly.  My guess is that this will happen, the only question is when.  One thing I can safely predict though is many more cities will declare bankruptcy in the coming months.

Eventually this will mean that cities can get out from under the crushing union contracts, lavish employee benefits, and generous pensions that got them into their fiscal mess in the first place.  However, in the interim city services will suffer and citizens will be left on their own to deal with emergency situations.  In many respects, cities will become wild and dangerous places like some frontier towns were back in the 19th Century.

The solution is to plan on taking care of yourself in emergency situations.  Individuals and communities will supplant municipalities as services decline in the face of continuing economic stagnation.  This will produce greater self-reliance along with strengthening communities, but along the way it will be a rough ride.

Plan accordingly.

If there were any doubts how deadly wildfires can be, last week’s Yarnell Fire should have removed them.

Credit: KTLA

A wildfire outside of Yarnell, AZ killed 19 members of a firefighting crew that were battling a blaze outside that small town.  By all accounts, the crew was well-trained and equipped to do their job.  However, the fire overwhelmed and killed them.

The lesson here is that wildfires are vicious and can turn deadly in a matter of moments.  They can kill even the best-trained and equipped first responders, so its important to take the danger of wildfires seriously.  I’ll discuss this subject in more depth in future posts but if you have property in wooded areas, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Be ready to evacuate quickly – Wildfires can happen suddenly and change direction without warning.  If there are fires anywhere near where you live, know that you may only have minutes to evacuate.
  • Keep radios, flashlights, and batteries handy – Smoke and ash can create darkness even in the middle of the day.  Make sure you have flashlights so you can see even in obscured conditions.  Also, keep a radio handy so you can tune in to get up to date information on evacuations and other wildfire updates.
  • Know your escape routes – If you have to evacuate, have multiple routes planned in advance.  Sometimes roads may be closed either due to the fire or for use by emergency personnel.  Keep this in mind and have primary and backup routes mapped-out.

There is much more but the key concept is to plan to deal with wildfires before they happen.

Every now and then, the results of a trial can set off a man-made disaster like the 1992 LA Riots.

Credit: LA Times

I really hope that’s not the case with the George Zimmerman trial in Florida.

That being said, a wise person should be prepared for civil disorder should the worst occur.  After all, riots can and do take place for a myriad of reasons.  Even the foreign press realizes that the case against George Zimmerman is weak and that he could be acquitted.  Given all the press attention and the focus on the race/ethnicity of those involved (Hispanic and Black), this case could result in civil disturbances ranging from peaceful protests to widespread violence.

Kevin over at Misfires and Light Strikes has an informative post that covers the basics along with some links some additional links (here and here) that delve deeper in the situation.  Since the case could go to the jury any day now, make sure you are ready should the worst happen.  Be aware, be ready, be safe.

If you have a moment, hop on over to Daniel Greenfield’s blog (Sultan Krish) and read one of his posts on the case.  Its a fascinating read about the culture clash going on within the lower half of the Middle Class.

My girlfriend and I were in San Diego over the long Independence Day weekend.  It felt great to get out of the heat and relax just a few blocks from the ocean.  What made the trip even better is I had a chance to apply preparation in practice during non-emergency situations.  Doing so made the four days even more enjoyable and stress-free for both of us.  Here’s what happened:

My girlfriend has a iPhone and needed to charge her battery.  Her charger cable was getting frayed and she did not have a backup.  Before we left, I got one from my stash of cables and gave it to her.  Not only did this enable her to recharge her phone, it built additional goodwill between us.  I had an extra cable because the dual-mode USB charger I purchased came with both a micro-USB and iPhone cable.  My DroidX uses the micro-USB cable so I had a spare one.

Not only did I have a spare cable, I had a spare charger too!  I brought my Go Bag with me and amongst its contents is…a dual-mode USB charger and cable.  Since I already had another one in my automobile, we could both charge our phones at the same time!

While I have a first aid kit in my car, I also have one in the Go Bag as well.  After a busy day walking around, my girlfriend got a blister on one of her toes.  Since I had several extra bandages in my first aid kit, she was able to apply one and not have any more problems with her toes.

Remember how I wrote a while back about redundancy and dual-use?  Well, I was able to do some of that while in San Diego as well.  One night my girlfriend surprised me with some treats from a wonderful Italian cafe downstairs from where we were staying.  However, we needed a knife to cut the cannoli and the brownie she brought so we could share them.  Enter my Gerber folding knife.  In no time both treats were cut cleanly and we could enjoy both of them.  After a quick clean, the knife was back on the outside of my Go Bag.

You see, preparation is not just about getting ready for the next disaster.  Everyday life can become much more enjoyable when you have the products and tools you need nearby.  So put your preparations to work for you whenever the need arises, its good practice.