The Royal Order of the Duck 2

600px-Anas_platyrhynchos_male_female_quadrat

I like ducks. Specifically, I like Mallard ducks. I have no particular problem with other types of ducks and have been known to dine on a few domesticated members of the duck family, but Mallards are my favorite because they are wild and live a relatively unstructured life. They have some characteristics that make them easy to like. One of the best characteristics is their ability to seem calm even in the face of all manners of storms.

I think people in business (and in the New Navy) could learn a lot from ducks too. Dr. Deming is famous for his 14 points which was first recorded in his book “Out of the Crisis”. He is widely thought to be the father of TQM (Total Quality Management) and his work is still being studied and used all over the world. He also left a legacy of warning businesses about things that would make them fail or at least not reach their highest level of achievement. Those ideas are known as:

The Seven Deadly Diseases

The “Seven Deadly Diseases” include:

  1. Lack of constancy of purpose
  2. Emphasis on short-term profits
  3. Evaluation by performance, merit rating, or annual review of performance
  4. Mobility of management
  5. Running a company on visible figures alone
  6. Excessive medical costs
  7. Excessive costs of warranty, fueled by lawyers who work for contingency fees

I like to look at the first item on this list from a Duck’s perspective. Humor me, it actually makes sense if you open your mind to it.

Lack of Constancy of Purpose

If you have been around business (or the Navy) for more than a few weeks, you have seen this disease in play. Every other day there are new demands and new objectives being sent through the pipeline. The bigger the organization, the worse it gets. Its almost as if the competing departments are trying their best to drive the ship in their own separate directions in order to justify their existence.

Every time you force people to change their focus on some new program that may or may not be related to the key objectives of your organization, you are diminishing their efficiency. The energy required to gear up for a new initiative actually is compounded by the fact that a certain amount of energy will be needed to slow the emphasis on the last initiative. Plus, depending on the size of the group, you probably lose about half of them each time you pull them away from the previous effort.

The mallard is completely focused on its purposes: survive and multiply. All of the mallards activities are centered around the things which will ensure their own safety and continuation of their species. They don’t really have to think about it and you can be sure they do not have focus groups or planning retreats to understand what the mission is. If they allow themselves to get distracted by non-value added activity, they die. The sad truth is that in this world, we are all part of the food chain. We have evolved quite a bit over the centuries to be more civil and less aggressive, but at the end of the day, my survival depends on my ability to do something better than the next person.

Its not fair, it shouldn’t be that way but in the end, if you want more customers, you may at some point need to take some from your competition. If you are competing against a “duck” you are in trouble if you are not one yourself. You may have heard this quote in the past:

“Always behave like a duck – keep calm and unruffled on the surface but paddle like the devil underneath”

Jacob Braude (American author)

The mallard stays focused in the rain or when the sun is shining. It does not allow itself to lose that focus even when threats are near. Part of its defense is not allowing the circumstances of the moment distract it from the key purposes for which it is designed.

One other very important thing about the mallard is that it has a sort of secret weapon in its struggle to survive. Being able to fly is part of its existence but being able to float is even more critical since the sources of food for mallards are waterborne plants.

The duck may be shaped like a boat because it happens to be a duck… but that doesn’t mean it will be automatically waterproof. Duck feathers are made up of tightly woven strands that link together microscopically. The secret is that they have an oil gland that produces waterproofing material for the feathers. But even with those features, it still wouldn’t be very buoyant without one thing happening:

Hours of focus, day after day, they apply small amounts of oil from a gland near the tail, and carefully apply it to every feather while  smoothing those microscopically fine links together to form a watertight barrier.

Without that daily, hourly, dedicated activity, ducks will and do fail at swimming. Ducklings drown because they haven’t perfected the art (nor do they have the fully mature physical capability) of oiling their feathers. And occasionally, adult ducks get lazy, stop oiling their feathers, and sink.

I most envied the duck for so many years because I liked the way things just seemed to run off their backs. Like stress. In fact, that was the reason I had a mallard on my office desk to remind myself to just let things roll off. I guess I assumed it was automatic. Now I understand that the ability to let things roll off takes a lot of daily work. You need to be constantly working on staying focused and not let the stuff around you make you lose that focus. Eventually, you may get to the point where you can float but its important to remember to be proactive in getting to that point.

Duck 007

I recently passed the duck along to a colleague as the newest member of The Royal Order of the Duck. I hope he continues to serve as a visual reminder that being waterproof in life’s storms is important and it takes work to maintain. But at the end of the day, floating is better than sinking.

Mister Mac

 

November 10th, Update on the Royal Order:

I found this on someone else’s Facebook page today and thought it was a worthy addition

Take a deep breath Reply

IMG_0781

I don’t think about Oxygen much anymore. When I get up in the morning I think about what I am going to eat, what I am going to wear, what I have to do today and where do I need to go. These are all conscious choices and decisions that have to be made each day. Food sustains us (or in the case of the ribs out on the grill right now) can also destroy us. Making sure I have the right balance is an almost never ending struggle since most of the foods that are good for you are often ugly and funny tasting. Even the ones that are somewhat cute (like Brussels sprouts) come back up my throat at the least opportune time.

I know my Mother loved me and I am sure the strain of raising five kids on a tight budget was often a challenge. But every once in a while I suspected that she had evil intentions with her cooking. Seriously, who serves liver and onions with canned spinach? My older brother Chuck taught all of us how to gag when we were still very young and we still thought he was “the” role model to follow. I can see the contorted features of his face as the first piece of meat reached his lips. This was followed by dramatic surges of his stomach timed impeccably with the breath-catching gagging sound. The hunched in shoulders and gurgling sounds completed the perfect start to a cavalcade of coughing among all of the boys.

Why can’t all food taste like cheeseburgers right off the grill. You know the kind, the ones with the upgraded meat and the searing effect of the grill. Just the right amount of seasonings and the cheese melted evenly over the craterlike surface of the burger. A fresh slice of tomato, crisp lettuce, and real mayonnaise on a bun fresh from the bakery. Follow that up with a rich desert of any kind and life is exceedingly good.

IMG_0768

The little fellow in the picture is Shing…
he travels with me all over the globe

 

I don’t think about carbon dioxide much anymore either. I do consider the weather report before I pull out the clothes for the day. Being in a semi-retired state right now, I don’t think much about what the business community might think about my attire, I just want to be comfortable and ready for whatever chores are on my list today. I don’t remember my Dad ever having a list when I was growing up. But based on a lot of conversation and reading other people’s blogs I would suspect that my generation has become the most list oriented group of men in all of history.

Sometimes the list is typed. Those are the most impressive since you know much thought has gone into their creation. Our computers are in the same room and sometimes I hear my wife madly typing away on hers. She was an administrative person before she retired and her typing skills are still epic compared to mine. I no longer need to ask what she is typing. Once I was actually told it wasn’t my list, it was just her way of keeping track of things for herself. When I looked over and saw “Paint the deck” I realized that “her” list was just another way of showing “My” chores.

IMG_0736

When is the last time you wondered how much carbon monoxide was in the air? After dressing myself and having the coffee that will kick me into a higher gear, making the choices about where to go first and what the purpose for the journey are become the real drivers for the day. Is there enough gas in the car, what’s the weather like, what time of day is it and which route will I take. But again all of those are choices in one way or another and the sum total of the choices I make will occupy my day.

Funny that I wouldn’t think about oxygen anymore. It takes about 21% of it to make your life comfortable. More if you are exerting and a wee bit less if you are resting. Carbon Dioxide is actually a rather cooperative gas since it is both a waste and a source of energy. We make it and the plants use it. Pretty good circle if you ask me. Even carbon monoxide has its uses although as a submariner, I have always viewed it as a colorless – odorless – tasteless killer of men in their sleep. Keeping those elements in balance is the only way a submarine can operate under the water for months at a time.

Just because I don’t think about them anymore doesn’t make them any less important to my life. Without them being in the right balance, I would surely not survive. It just makes me think about all the other important things in life that need to be in balance that I don’t think about. During the past few months I discovered that faith, family and focus were not balanced properly. If anything can cause a top to spin out of control, it’s the imperfections that are built into the design of the top’s balance. Sooner or later if it spins too long, it falls out of its sustaining pattern and drops on its side.

Just like submariners need to be proactive about balancing those life giving elements of O2 – CO2 and CO, I need to be more proactive about balancing work, life and faith. I am glad I still get another chance to try and find the right balance.

Time to go finish the ribs.

Mister Mac

Food/Water Safety During & After Emergencies Reply

hurricane-feature

FOOD SAFETY DURING AN EMERGENCY
Did you know that a flood, fire, national disaster, or the loss of power from high winds, snow, or ice could jeopardize the safety of your food? Knowing how to determine if food is safe and how to keep food safe will help minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. This Consumer’s Guide will help you make the right decisions for keeping your family safe during an emergency.

POWER OUTAGES
We practice basic safe food handling in our daily lives, but obtaining and storing food safely becomes more challenging during a power outage or natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

Steps to Follow to Prepare for a Possible Weather Emergency:
Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.

  • Make sure the freezer is at 0 °F (Fahrenheit) or below and the refrigerator is at 40 °F or below.
  • Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers after the power is out.
  • Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk, and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately-this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
  • Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice cubes and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
  • Group food together in the freezer—this helps the food stay cold longer.

Steps to Follow During and After the Weather Emergency:

  • Never taste a food to determine its safety!
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
  • The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed).
  • Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below.
  • Obtain block ice or dry ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.
  • If the power has been out for several days, then check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer or food thermometer. If the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below, the food is safe.
  • If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, then check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
  • Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, and deli items after 4 hours without power.
  • When in Doubt, Throw it Out!

SAFETY OF FOOD IN CONTAINERS EXPOSED TO FLOOD WATERS
How to Determine What Food to Keep or Discard

  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water.
  • Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
  • Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel-type can opener.

Pots, Pans, Dishes, and Utensils

  • Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils (including can openers) with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available).

Countertops

  • Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available). Allow to air-dry.

Steps to Salvage All-Metal Cans and Retort Pouches
Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved if you do the following:

  • Remove the labels, if they are the removable kind, since they can harbor dirt and bacteria.
  • Thoroughly wash the cans or retort pouches with soap and water, using hot water if it is available.
  • Brush or wipe away any dirt or silt.
  • Rinse the cans or retort pouches with water that is safe for drinking, if available, since dirt or residual soap will reduce the effectiveness of chlorine sanitation.
  • Then, sanitize them by immersion in one of the two following ways:
    • Place in water and allow the water to come to a boil and continue boiling for 2 minutes, or
    • Place in a freshly made solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available) for 15 minutes.
  • Air-dry cans or retort pouches for a minimum of 1 hour before opening or storing.
  • If the labels were removable, then re-label your cans or retort pouches, including the expiration date (if available), with a marker.
  • Food in reconditioned cans or retort pouches should be used as soon as possible, thereafter.
  • Any concentrated baby formula in reconditioned, all-metal containers must be diluted with clean, drinking water.

Safety of Drinking Water If Flooding Occurs

  • Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters if it is available.
  • If you don’t have bottled water, you should boil water to make it safe. Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool, and store it in clean containers with covers.
  • If you can’t boil water, you can disinfect it using household bleach. Bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for disinfection. Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.
  • If you have a well that has been flooded, the water should be tested and disinfected after flood waters recede. If you suspect that your well may be contaminated, contact your local or State health department or agriculture extension agent for specific advice.

In Its Path 3

hurricane flags

One of my least favorite memories of the USS San Francisco was the stop we made in Guam in 1982. In an earlier blog, I talked about the first part of the visit where the wives came to visit. But in the middle of the stay, two things happened that made it a very bad memory. The first thing that happened is probably still classified so let me just say that during a routine evolution, sea water was found in a high pressure air line. You don’t need to know a lot about submarines or high pressure air lines to know that its probably not a very good thing to find sea water in them.

When 4500 pounds of pressurized air rapidly squeeze through pipes in any amount of volume, anything that is carried along with that air becomes like a carving knife on the surfaces they come into contact with. That air is used for a number of things inside the boat but one of the most important things is the emergency blow system that can rapidly return a boat to the surface in an emergency. Salt water in that system can also cause a very highly corrosive effect so it was important to get this taken care of as quickly as possible.

The second thing that happened was the approach of one of Guam’s typhoons. The wives were gathered up and sent back to Hawaii and we got to work trying to fix the boat. Normally, typhoons and submarines have a mutually compatible agreement… they come and we go under them. It has worked well for most subs for years. You still feel some of the effects but as long as you drive anywhere but where the typhoon is, you are pretty safe.

Guam typhoon

But if your emergency blow system is out of commission (as well as some other pretty important equipment) you will not be diving anywhere. If you can’t get it fixed you will be buttoned up next to the safest pier you can find and pray the storm surge doesn’t get you. Even though the lines are tied up pretty well, any appreciable surge would probably snap them like ribbons. All of the other ships were leaving so we would be on our own.

Auxiliary Division and others worked feverishly around the clock with the help of the tender guys and we did some pretty creative things to try and empty any traces of salt water from the HP air lines. Flush after flush with testing that continues to reveal the extent of the contamination. All the while, we were being fed information about the location of the typhoon as it got closer and closer. I can never remember being so tired in my life after we finally managed to get the all clear just in time to clear the port.

Guam typhoon 2

I think we were too tired to be afraid. But as Irene closes down on the east coast tonight, I can imagine how many people are feeling. We all know that hurricanes can come at any time. We get complacent and are willing to take the risk because of the joy of living close to the water and all its adventures. But no one can ever be fully prepared for Mother Nature’s fury in a way that will completely shelter them.

Prayers go out to all. Listen to the advice of the emergency workers. And we will see you all on the other side next week.

Mister Mac

Agnes, How Could You? 2

Fate is a funny thing. You just never know when its going to kick in. June 15, 1972 was my ship out day to go to Great Lakes recruit Training Command. Graduation had only been a short period before that date and I was very busy for those few days tying up loose ends before starting my great adventure. On the 14th, I finished putting my clothes away that I would not need and down in our basement I finished loading up my collection of magazines and love letters from the girls I had dated in high school.

scan0017

I thought I was being pretty clever since I figured out a hiding place inside of a built in wall cabinet that my Dad had built years ago. The selected place was about 24 inches off the floor and completely out of sight on a shelf that had been installed at an earlier time to hide various and assorted contraband that a typical 17 year old in 1972 would want to keep from the eyes of his parents.

What I was completely unaware of was on that same day a tropical disturbance had formed over the Yucatan Peninsula which would very quickly change the course of history and have an impact on my family that lasts to this very day.

I boarded the plane on the 15th and was seen off by Mom and Dad and a very teary eyed girlfriend. Oh you should have seen the prideful looks as I joined the other young men off to serve our country. Viet Nam was still an active conflict and each of us knew that until the day it ended we may be called on to participate. The plane ride was great with the helpful flight attendants (called Stewardesses back in those days) casually forgetting that we were probably all underage. I had never had a cocktail before in the open light of day so that was quite exciting. I do believe I even had several cigarettes that had been smuggled on board. This “being on our own” stuff was already bearing rewards.

postcard-chicago-ohare-airport-restaurant-rotunda-nice-1972

As we were flying towards Chicago O’Hare, two forces were gathering that would set the tone for the next few months. The first was a collection of Petty Officers and Chiefs that would be greeting us at the airport to welcome us into their Navy. The second was an increase in the strength of that tropical disturbance in the warm waters of the Caribbean to a full tropical depression and later tropical storm. The intensity of both forces continued to grow as we left the plane and into the loving arms of those waiting sailors and Chiefs. In a very short order, some of us who had partaken of those drinks soon began to regret the decision. Its almost as if the Stewardesses knew what was in store for us.

Company Commander

We waited in the large arrival area for all of the flights to arrive from various other airports that night. As hour slipped into hour, it occurred to us that even in the best of scenarios, we were going to arrive at our first destination rather late. Most of us agreed that it would be the right thing for the leaders to take that into account the next morning. After all, common sense would dictate that we would all be better prepared to face our first day with a bit of a sleep in.

The bus arrived at the camp at about 3:50 and we all fell into the unmade bunks we found. It was pretty cold as I remember it and I think most of us slept in our clothes. The Petty Officers who brought us there disappeared without telling us how to get linen so we just kind of made due with whatever we could find. Sleep came quickly but not quite as quickly as the lovely wake up call at 0430. Lots of banging and clanging and more regret for those illicit drinks on the plane. Off to the chow hall, single file, no talking, eyes straight forward, take all you want, eat all you take, pretty much a demeaning way to start what was to hopefully be a real adventure.

Glakes Uniform Issue

As the other storm churned in the southern waters near Florida, it continued to strengthen and gained a formal name; Agnes. It was really the first storm of the season and a very rare June one at that. Typically storms come later in the year and are characterized by a slow dance across the Atlantic through the various island nations before visiting the US proper. Agnes had a mind of her own however and by the 19th of June landed on the Florida Peninsula as a category 1 hurricane.

The hurricane was not much to look at when it landed but a number of things were going to happen over the next few days that would make it memorable to many people. It continued its path through the center of the country and then fate kicked in. The storm merged with a non-tropical low on June 23, with the combined system affecting the northeastern United States until June 25

220px-Agnes1972rain

The combination of the two storms created a slow moving rainmaker that flooded the entire Mid Atlantic region causing much death and destruction. Many areas actually experienced a 500 year flooding event and were completely unprepared for the affects nor the aftermath.

It didn’t rain that much in Great Lakes that month. We were quickly swept up into the routine of future men of war. I can’t say I was really focused on home at all since each day was a challenge in its own. There were radios in the barracks and we listened to them at night. But this was long before the days of CNN and the Weather Channel so none of us were aware of the scope of the storm battering the mid section of the country.

The suburbs of Pittsburgh where we lived is a hilly area and our home on Duncan Station Road was half way up a very large hill. We were pretty well above any river surge so even the large amounts of water that flooded the surrounding areas shouldn’t have impacted us. However, I was about to learn the existence of an elevated water table that became swiftly overburdened by the excessive rainfall. That water table had already been saturated by a heavy spring rain season, so Agnes did her best to top it off.

The natural flow of that water table pushed larges amounts of excess water right into our basement. When the folks finally discovered it, it was already almost waist high and would required an external pump to remove it in the days to come. Here is where Agnes and fate intertwined to cause me some fairly embarrassing moments and would provide fodder for family gatherings even to this very day.

As the water lifted inside the basement, my cleverly hidden stash came floating out. I can only imagine the looks of surprise on my parents faces as Miss April came floating by in all of her glory. Miss May would probably float well on her own if I remember correctly, but her image still created a bit of consternation for my very Presbyterian Dad. And worst of all of course were the very explicit well written love letters from the girls I had dated in high school.

Thankfully, my parents were actually pretty forgiving once the shock wore off. Dad and I had a heart to heart talk after boot camp and I never again kept any of the love letters no matter how safe I thought they would be.

In retrospect, I will always wonder what in the heck I was thinking by even keeping the things I kept. Its not like I planned on reading the notes again and every month after that new images would be published for years to come. But I suppose it was a life lesson that I would get to remember for years to come. My older brother Chuck uses it in an occasional sermon to this very day.

Agnes taught a lot of people a very hard lesson. As we sit waiting for this hurricane season to officially start, I wonder how many other people remember to be ready for the unexpected?

Mister Mac

The Right Stuff Reply

“Seaman Schmuckatelly, what in heaven’s name do you have there?”

“It’s my emergency box, sir!” he says proudly as he places the large, overflowing cardboard box on the deck.

emergency

“Emergency box?”

“Yes Warrant, the Chief told us we might be in for a storm and we should check our gear and be ready.”

“Are you sure he wanted you to put it all together in that cardboard box sailor?”

“Well, sir, I was being proactive and thought I would be ready for anything that might happen. You just can’t be to careful you know.”

big boxes

“Well, if you don’t mind, lets take a look at what you’ve gathered together there son.”

Proudly, Schmuckatelly says “Aye Aye sir” and pulls a large snowmobile suit from the box.

“What the heck is that for sailor?” asks an incredulous Warrant.

“Well sir, prolonged exposure to the elements is one of the dangers in any survival environment according to the film strips we watched this morning.” Schmuckatelly holds the blue one piece outfit up as if to show the Warrant how much sense it made to have a one piece insulated garment to ward off the elements.

“I suppose you have a good point about the purpose lad, but you do realize we are off the coast of South Florida and it is August, right? Plus, I am pretty sure that outfit isn’t waterproof so it will probably get a bit heavy if it gets exposed to any water… you do realize we are on a ship, right?”

“Well, you have a point there sir. But let me show you what else I have here” as he rummages through the big box. With pride, he pulls out a large electric fan and presents it to the Warrant.

“Hmmm. An electric fan. This I got to hear.”

“This is a dual purpose piece of survival equipment sir. See, if we are out on the life raft and there is no wind, we can rig this baby up and rig up a sail and push our way to land” he says proud of his insight. “Plus, if it does get too hot, the fan can be used to cool everybody down.”

“I see.” the Warrant replies. “And how long of an extension cord do you think you’ll need? Would you do me a favor and go find the Chief and bring him to me. We need to have a chat”

Okay, you get the point.

Having the right emergency equipment for the right situation is the real lesson for today. Sitting in you office or at home with a normal day to day existence, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about what happens when the lights go off. But you will the minute they do. That’s about the point where you start asking yourself questions like “when is the last time I changed the batteries?” or “do I have any batteries in the house at all?”

Your emergency supplies will depend on your geography, expected or anticipated types of events, and who you are preparing for. It will also be influenced by two key choices;

Do you stay or do you go?

What types of shelters are within traveling distance and what can you expect to find there? Do you actually know where your area shelters would be if right this minute you were ordered to evacuate?

Plus, in many cases where the unexpected happens, the shelters themselves could become engaged (such as in a flood or tornado). What is your backup plan?

Do you have any family members with special needs? How will you make sure those needs are attended to until a more permanent solution is put into place? Remember, in the event of a major event, Rite Aid may or may not be open and it will be difficult in the first few days for first responders to address critical needs that your family members may have. In most cases, you will quickly find that shelters are set up rather generically so coming up with a diabetic insulin shot may be a bit of a challenge.

Ready.gov has some good lists for making a kit. We have had one in a protected place in our home for years and I have a regular schedule to go through and update things that go out of date because of manufacturing limitations. No point to having a great kit if its all expired or no longer useable. We also keep a Go-Bag in a location that’s easy to get to in case we are ordered to get out of the house quickly. Dehydrated food in the foil pouches are great since they just require a bit of water and can be consumed whether you have a heating source or not.

Simple tools that don’t have much weight, hiking mess kits, a small gas backpacker stove that uses several different kinds of fuel, flashlights, signaling equipment and other small items make up the rest of the go bag.

We have larger items in another location in case the decision is made to shelter in place. These are bulkier and not as easy to transport but certainly make for a more comfortable in the event we can’t go anywhere.

emergency_kit(1)

You will have to decide what is right for your circumstances. But not having a plan or preparing at all means that at some point, you will show up at a shelter and have to hope that it has what you need.

And I should warn you: Seaman Schmuckatelly got out of the Navy a few years back and now volunteers as an emergency shelter worker someplace in America.

His job was assigned to him based on his vast Naval experience in survival… yep, that’s right. He is in charge of supplies for the shelter. Good luck with that.

“May the Power protect you.” 1

Zordon’s last words: “Andros, listen to me. It is your duty as a Power Ranger to save the universe. Now is the time.”

One of those quirky moments in my post retirement career as a highly paid consultant (insert laughter here) was an assignment in southern California giving a maintenance training session to some operators from a plant in the Midwest. The fact that we were in Southern California in the first place using a rented facility was kind of interesting since both the company I was working for at the time and the company we were training were located a very long distance away from there.

026_22A

I will have to assume someone from their union was a master boon-doggler and convinced some unsuspecting projects guy with more budget than brains that this was the only possible place in the universe that these classes could be taught.

Next door to the building was another warehouse looking place that looked pretty non-descript until you saw the people working there. (At this point I will ask all submarine sailors to take your mind out of the gutter… California is known for other types of film and TV projects).

My first introduction to the “characters” next door was seeing the Blue Ranger and the Pink Ranger out on the fire escape catching some California sun between takes. Talk about a Hollywood moment. The empty costumes of their opponents were hung just inside the front door and somehow they didn’t look as intimidating with no actual person inside. I do have to admit to not watching the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers much but seeing the actual characters just hanging out does kind of take some of the magic off the idea.

029_25A

That night at the hotel, a few of us were sitting around talking when one of the frequent earthquakes kicked in. It wasn’t a very big one but it did rattle the table at poolside and the lights flickered on and off for a bit. Since all of us were on upper floors of the hotel, the use of an elevator would certainly have been impacted by the loss of electricity. Looking out over the freeway, it also occurred to me that getting out of dodge might pose some problems too. We all kind of wondered what the plan was if there was a big one that night. I will have to admit not sleeping as well as I normally do.

I had completely forgotten about that evening until this afternoon when Debbie brought in an advertisement for a power generator company nearby that is offering an off-season discount for one of the new LP gas units. Since this is Hurricane season, I thought I would check out the product and give you some feedback.

First, a disclaimer. Like any major product purchase, you should investigate thoroughly what you will consider based on your needs. You should also look at all safety requirements and precautions since it will be your actual house. (There, now you can’t sue me.) But I thought some of the findings were interesting enough to pass along as thought starters and hope they do so.

The first question is, Do you really need an alternative power supply? While I am sure that having the X-box up and running may keep the grandkids from being too bored might be important, that probably isn’t your first concern. We have lived in hurricane country, tornado alley, super snow regions and earthquake center points. But we were a lot younger then and probably didn’t have much in the way of spoilable food anyway. Now however, we keep a bit more on hand based on the way we shop so losing electricity would have a pretty good impact pretty shortly.

In your planning, do you have special health needs or considerations that might require climate control? As we age, we seem to pick up more and more health problems and frankly enduring heat or cold outside becomes more of an issue for people with chronic problems. What if you did lose heat for three or more days? Do you have an alternate source of fuel or heat? Plus, for those that have ever spent a day and night in sweltering humid heat after several other days of sweltering heat know that the respiratory systems of some members of your families will be challenged.

Speaking of heat, you do know that even if you have gas heat, it requires some kind of electricity for controlling the blower, right? Besides heat, how you get your water may be just as much of a priority. Anyone who has ever lived in a community where individual home well water was the main source understands that the loss of power not only sucks, it affects your ability to wash, drink, and flush (the big three when your are talking about personal water).

Your location will also effect your decision making. If you live in a temperate climate with absolutely no fear of any power disruptions, good for you. Come back tomorrow when we cover emergency kits. For the 99% of the rest of you, please stick around for a bit more.

I normally go to the experts when it comes to consumer products and as most people will agree Consumer Reports probably has the most stuff to review about what will work in your case. I have no intention of repeating everything they have to say, but will tell you that after going to their web page and finding a report on Backup Generators, I now feel like I can make an informed choice that will fit our needs.

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/safety-security/generators/overview/index.htm

In our case, I need something that will automatically kick on without me having to go outside and getting it set up. I don’t want to be standing in sub-zero weather trying to pull start a machine that is just as cold as I am. Plus, having been around enough gasoline powered generators, I know they run out of fuel pretty quickly so somebody is going to be back out there filling the bad boy up again at some point.

Nope, the one we are looking at for our house is pretty close to the LP gas model we saw. It can run for days, it has a higher wattage capability and frankly, it’s a no-brainer for our point in life.

gen-inst

Some good points to ponder. If you do go with the smaller gasoline powered units, you may be surprised how much gas you need to have on hand (and treated) in order to keep the appliances and devices in your house running. Plus, carbon monoxide is a big deal in many situations so make sure you follow the precautions on any type of unit. Finally, have an electrician install a transfer switch to your unit since a generator should never be connected directly to your home.

em6000

Review all of the safety precautions listed on the unit and use the safety information located at the Consumer Reports website.

Hopefully, you will never have to use your preparations for more than a few days. But be assured that once the event occurs, the cost of those bad boys goes up significantly and the availability will be a pretty big challenge too. The time for planning is not after the event is already in progress.

Mister Mac

Are you ready? Are you sure? 4

With the recent storms in Florida and the south, I was reminded about another large storm and it’s impacts. We are praying for the folks in the South today and hope that everyone remains safe. God Bless and Protect you all.

 

One of my post retirement hobbies has been public speaking. My subject matter is pretty expected; Navy stuff, World War 2 history and of course Submarines in the Cold War. I’ve probably given hundreds of talks over the past sixteen years to all sizes of social and civic groups. But one of my favorite topics has been developed over the past ten years. Readiness. As a good submarine sailor, I pride myself for thinking about all of the situations I might find myself in during our routines and travels. Living in Western Michigan was a joy in some ways but also a challenge since we were right in the path of some of the meanest lake effect snow showers I had ever encountered.

One of my least favorite memories was Thanksgiving in Grand Haven when the snows came down so fast and so hard it knocked out power to the house. The plows were slow coming up Lakeshore Drive and we weren’t going anyplace anytime soon. But without electricity (in a house that is heated by electricity) you suddenly discover the reality of how well prepared you are.

Another of my least favorite memories is the trip to south Florida after Hurricane Andrew paid a visit. We were up in Nova Scotia on a liberty run when the news broadcasts started showing some of the devastation that was occurring. A quick run on the Hunley to pick up supplies led to a three-month on site recovery operation. Being out in the field for even just a few days, you could see the level of destruction that nature is capable of producing.

I have lived in many different parts of the country (north south east west) and frankly every area has its own environmental issues that could create a situation where you would have to self sustain. Hurricanes, flooding, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, sever winters and on and on. Not only do you have environmental issues, you also have the emerging threats from potential catastrophes like power grid failures, terrorist threats, and disruptions to services that could occur because of those events.

The real question is this: Are you ready? Are you sure?

Here’s a little test:

1. How many days does FEMA, the Red Cross and Department of Homeland Security tell you to be able to self sustain for?

2. How much water per person should you have stored for cooking, cleaning and other uses?

3. Do you know how to shut the utilities off in your house in the event of an explosion, fire or earthquake?

4. If you had to evacuate in a hurry, what would you take with you? What if you couldn’t come back for weeks?

5. How would you communicate with loved ones in the event you are in different areas when the “event” occurred?

6. If you have to evacuate, where would you go? Do you have a plan or are you just hoping to be told what to do?

7. How well do ATM machines operate without power?

What struck me most about the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew was that it was an equal opportunity event. Everyone who was living there at the time faced the same challenges of a food and water supply problem. Shelter was also challenging because regardless of the type of housing you had, Andrew pretty much smacked them all down.  I never thought I would see refugees living in America but frankly that is what a lot of people looked like as they lined up for their meals and water supplies.

Truthfully, no amount of preparation would completely eliminate the recovery you will have to go through in the event of a catastrophic incident like Andrew. But remember that the same people who are coming to help will have their own time to prepare their vehicles and equipment. The Red Cross and the government agencies all need a short amount of time to become activated and that means self-sustaining for a short period of time.

http://www.ready.gov/ is your first stop if you didn’t feel comfortable with your own answers above. Even if you did, it won’t take very long to go to the website and check it out. It also has links to FEMA, Disaster assistance and other resources. You can also visit the Red Cross at http://www.redcross.org/  You will find many additional resources there plus ways you can help your neighbors.

Hurricane Andrew landed in Florida 19 years ago this week. After he left, there were many communities devastated. I know two things about disaster preparedness:

1. It is too late to plan after the disaster has already started

2. If you don’t have at least a plan, you become a part of the disaster (which means that someone else will have to have planned for your recover)

The last thing to remember is that in the event of a major disaster, one of the first things that normally goes away is electricity. It will be really tough to turn on your computer and go on the internet to see what to do next if that is the case.

Mister Mac

Monkey See, Monkey Do Reply

As I have gotten older, I have discovered that the words on pages seem to have grown smaller and less distinguishable. I was convinced for some time that this was a result of printing companies using cheaper and less effective ink and smaller letters to conserve costs. Kind of like the fast food restaurants are doing with their burgers these days. I have yet to get one that looks like the one on the advertisements.

Unfortunately, the cost cutting measures could not be equated to my slowly shrinking computer screen and my wife introduced me to my very first pair of reading glasses. Amazingly, at that very moment, I discovered that the printing industry recognized my concerns and returned the quality level to both the size of the letters and relative quality of the ink.

Vision can be a funny thing. It can be affected by a number of things including internal and external factors. This reminded me of the first time I experienced a vision issue related to unusual environments.

As the George Washington was getting ready to surface for the first time in over two months, one of the old salts on board told me to be prepared for what I would see when we finally got to go topside. It turns out that living in a closed metal tube for that long of a period of time has an effect on your eyesight. Once you are topside, everything looks completely out of whack.

There are lots of reasons for the phenomenon. The typical day on a submarine is fractured compared to normal life. Since the watches are broken up into six hour segments, your body is constantly out of whack if you are on an eighteen hour rotation. The lights in the berthing compartment are normally turned to red or off (depending on where you slept) and the control room is varying shades of white to red to black depending on what you are doing at the time.

Depending on your watch station, you find that the most important length of vision is from your body to the gage or panel you are monitoring. If you are a helmsman, its less than a few feet and you are constantly monitoring the course, depth and bubble indicators. Not doing so could result in a swift whack to the back of your head so you learn quickly how to focus. The same can be said for many of the watch standers both forward and aft. You really just don’t need to see that far at any given time.

Climbing out of the forward hatch for the first time, two things are quickly apparent. Even on the cloudiest day, its BRIGHT and everything you see is much larger than you remembered it from two month ago. I think the tender must have grown to three times its size in the short minths we were goneHunley 001.

Your depth perception is out of whack as well. Two conditions (myopia and esophoria) are prevalent in almost all returning sub sailors. Myopia is a near sightedness that grows to be less intense after you are away from the boat. Esophoria is something else completely and apparently affects many submarine guys over the course of their careers. It is described by medical personnel as a tendency of the eyes to deviate inward.

The Naval Submarine Research Laboratory did a number of studies in the 1960’s and 1970’s to determine the long term effects of serving on submarines. Since patrols were lengthened and our ability to stay underwater was increased with newer technology, it made sense to try and figure out why guys were having so many vision problems after leaving the boats.

The submarine environment was always thought to be a contributing factor. Think about it. If the furthest space you could see on a typical submarine was about twenty feet, you would naturally believe that the eyes would focus more on close in objects. Test were done on a number of animals but the most telling ones were those conducted on monkeys.

just monkeying around

Our friends the monkeys have similar sight systems to us so placing them in a comparative confined visual environment showed that they almost immediately started showing signs of progressive visual impairment. When the monkeys were removed from their restricted spaces, they would bump into objects and express frustration at not being able to understand what had changed. Much like the bubbleheads turned loose in fast cars not long after returning from patrol who were unable to perceive the curves they failed to negotiate properly.

So there is proof that living in confined spaces for too long will cause changes (short and long term) to the vision of the people in those spaces. That explains a lot to me about Washington DC. The people who work in the capitol building have become myopic and esophoric in the way they see the rest of the country. That explains why some of the decisions they have been making lately seem so cross eyed. They have such limited vision, they can’t see beyond their next election cycle. It also explains why they are so awkward when they are forced to leave their little comfortable confines and tend to bump into things that have always been there.

Maybe all we really need to fix the countries problem is some good eye doctors.

Or maybe just replace the whole lot with monkeys. They will still develop the crossed eyes and shorter vision but will probably do a lot less damage to the country. They surely can’t do much worse and would probably be easier (and cheaper) to maintain.