Lessons Learned: Allergy shot to non-working wood stove…(updated at 2:45pm)

Updated at 2:45pm with an added “Lesson Learned”…#10.

Also added, was the outcome of the “fix”.

All of the updates are in red color text.

It has been a long time since I did a Lessons Learned, although I am working on a series for the COVID experience. So, after dealing with an issue this morning I thought it a perfect time to do one…and I am doing it semi-real-time. Yeah, yeah…I know…original content time…sorry 😉

One note before I start, I usually keep the “issues/mitigation” grouped together as a pre-summary content item. This time however I am going to do the “issues/mitigation” inside of the background to let it make a little more sense since there is a convergence of several issues going on here. And I want to show how “convergence” can really do a number on you…but “prepping” can overcome it all.

Background –

This morning I woke up to an almost cold wood stove, 570 in the bedroom, 590 in the main part of the house…and to make it worse…fully expected. Normally it would be warmer in both areas by at least 4 – 10 degrees. But this morning I knew it wouldn’t be…and it was expected. But I better back up and explain some issues first.

Lessons Learned: Expect the unexpected.

Heat: When I build our house I planned for our primary heat source to be a wood burning stove. We have about 1,000 sq ft house and a wood stove heating is perfectly fine and popular in our area. Temps range from the lowest I’ve see -50 for a 20-year record low that occurred in 2018. Average this time of year about 90 – 300 at night, to about mid-30’s to mid-50’s during the daytime. But, the story goes deeper than that.

Our cabin/shop was to keep the small wood stove that I bought for that use. However, money got tight towards the completion of the house so we moved the small 1,200 sq ft rated stove to the house…thinking to replace it after the first winter when our budget could absorb the purchase. So we have a wood stove that is really barely capable of heating the house. But, it also means that I have to get up 1 – 3 times at night to feed it with wood. No, don’t worry about that…at 65 years of age I am answering the call of nature at least once anyways. 

Lessons Learned: Sometimes cutting corners…or using an alternative option seems good at the time, but it will probably come back to bite you later.

What Happened –

So, the last 3 – 4 days it has been mild at night and in the mid to upper 50’s during the day. The daytime temps drove us to maintain smallish fires during the day just to take the edge off. But, small fires also mean cooler smoke…more likely to soot-up your chimney. But, we have top quality chimney components to offset that issue…so we thought. The problem was the wind; it’s been windy so the cool smoke was hitting the bird cage (smallish square vent holes) part of the chimney’s rain cap and cooling the smoke even further. That allowed soot to build up and block some venting holes completely and clogging up others, some stayed open. That reduces the amount of smoke venting out the chimney…and that ain’t good.

So why didn’t I notice the clogging vent holes when I was outside? Ah, good question…and I will get to that. For now, back to the heat issue.

So the primary heat was the wood stove, but I like to think I am not a dummy; I had a back-up…Mr. Heater Vent Free 30,000 btu propane heater. I had bought and used it to heat the house while I was finishing off the inside and before I moved the wood stove to the house from the cabin/shop. It worked fine…but would suck a 100# propane tank down in about a week. My intention was to use it in emergencies once the house was finished and we were living in it, should an emergency occur. Yes, that means I had a propane outlet close to the wood stove where I would place the heater if the need arose.

But, I am a redundant kind of guy. I also have a Mr. Heater “Buddy” (4,000 – 18,000 btu) model that I used in the cabin/shop before the wood burner. It also acts as a great single room portable heater. And it is intended to be used in the cabin/shop.

And lastly, I installed a 24” electric baseboard heater in the bathroom and a 36” electric baseboard heater in the bedroom.

So I have a Plan A (wood stove), Plan B (electric baseboard), Plan C (big propane heater), and Plan D (small propane heater). I got it covered!

Lessons Learned: Have really good plans…thought out in advance, and have multiple back-up plans.

So let’s move on to the next phase…the allergy shot. I have allergies and in this area they can be bad at times and really get me down…congestion, drainage, coughing, potential for bronchitis that potentially moves into pneumonia if left untreated. So about 7 months ago I got my first allergy shot here. It was an under-dose and so a month later I was back to the clinic for another shot…a full-sized shot this time. The doc said it would last 3 months and encouraged me to come back when it was time. Yeah, sure, ok, no problem.

A month ago, a full month past the 3-month allergy shot effective timeframe, I noticed the sniffles coming on, blowing my nose a little more than normal, and then came the watery eyes, some real congestion, and more coughing, lots of drainage, etc. But, I was busy with a couple high-profile projects…no clinic trip for me…work comes first!

Lessons Learned: Use a calendar for important events…and stick to it.

And our propane supply…ah, yes. We live way out in the sticks for a propane truck, so no 500# tank for us…no sir. But, the propane guy was cool he talked me through a system that would work just fine. Well, at least most of the time and if I did my part. We have two 100# tanks, each tank will last use 2 – 5 months depending on our usage and time of year. The two tanks are connected with a 2-way valve, both tanks hooked to it…one tank runs out, flip the switch and it goes to the other tank. Take the empty tank into town…$2.15 per gallon later (24 gallons), hook it back up at the house and we are good to go.

Ah, remember I was so busy with my project that I neglected all the signs that I needed another allergy shot? Yeah, that kicked into the propane issue as well. The empty tank sat there for the same month not getting refilled. Then I didn’t refill last week because I was helping my neighbor. This week I didn’t refill it because I didn’t want to have my lungs ripped out of my chest and see them lying on the ground while I gasped for air in intense pain. Yeah, a bit melodramatic…meaning it would really, really hurt to lift one or both tanks, into the pickup, and then put them back into place once they were filled.

So don’t think I am too dumb…I had purchased a used 100# tank for emergencies and it just sat there ready in case it was needed. And I have a long hose on one side of the “flip switch” to be able to hook it up to the 25# propane tanks (grill size) as wll. I have three 25# tanks for the grill and house back-up.

To recap my propane…Plan A (enough propane for 6 – 10 months), Plan B (back-up tank for another 3 – 5 months), Plan C (3 small tanks for 1 – 2 months), and lastly Plan D (usually 8 small 1# tanks for the Buddy).

Note: I also have the conversion hose and adapter for the Buddy to run off the 25# tanks, so I guess that is a Plan E.

Lessons Learned: Have really good plans…thought out in advance, and have multiple back-up plans.

Lessons Learned: Stick your plans…don’t ignore them.

So what is the issue??????  The allergy shot.

So my allergies kept getting worse and worse…I was hurting and knew I had to go get the shot…then my out-of-town neighbor called. He lives about 4 hours away in the big city and has a nice 10acre place next to mine. He is remodeling the old house and I am doing the majority of the work helping him out. He and his wife were coming up for a long weekend…the next day. He started outlining the work he hoped we could get done. I am all in when it comes to helping him…he is a good man, great friend, and so the help was a given. The allergy shot could wait till the next week. Ah, mistake!!

Shortly after he got here and we were working I noticed a shortness of breath, more congestion than normal, and really tired. The next day I noticed my chest was a little painful when I bent over, then went to stand up. The next day it was much worse. By the time they left Sunday night I was really hurting, it was painful to say the least. So I knew the allergy shot was a must! But, Monday’s are the worst day (busiest day) for the clinic…I would wait until Tuesday morning.

But, Tuesday morning came and went and I was busy neck deep in a project that just couldn’t wait…I could tough it out. NOT!!!

By late Tuesday afternoon I was in terrible, horrible pain…my chest hurt anytime I moved. If I coughed, sneezed, or sniffled hard I would almost cry the pain was so bad. Then I recognized what had happened…pleurisy! I had it one time before about 20 years or so ago. I remembered it developed after a severe allergy bout. It was back.

Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura — a membrane consisting of a layer of tissue that lines the inner side of the chest cavity and a layer of tissue that surrounds the lungs. It becomes inflamed when it becomes infected. It becomes infected from the results of advanced symptoms of allergies run amok in my case.

So how does that all fit in? I’m getting to that…be patient.

Lessons Learned: Health comes first whenever possible. Don’t ignore warning signs of health problems.

So I get to the clinic get the allergy shot, get the meds for the pleurisy (antibiotic and steroid), and head to the store for some hardware for my on-going project. Oh, FYI…the antibiotic kills the underlying infection causing the inflammation, the steroid basically reduces the inflammation until the infection is gone.

And, the project I was talking about now and earlier…my third solar array. Why a 3rd? Because I am getting a new inverter and charge controller. Why am I getting those? Because 1 of my 2 new lithium 24v batteries went bad and I was getting a single 48v lithium vs two replacement 24v batteries. Oh yeah…there is a story there as well. Another time maybe. For now just know we are running our solar system on limited power. No problem…I have two back-generators; 1) inverter style to run the whole house and/or charge the batteries through the inverter, 2) another in case the first one goes out and I need to charge the batteries through the inverter. I try and keep 10gals of gas on hand all the time, filling can #1 when it get empty but still having can #2 full for back-up. The two cans give me about 20 hours run time. I can run the generator for about 1 – 1.5 hours to fully charge the batteries.

So I get home from the clinic, take my meds, reluctantly put my feet up and stop working so I can heal. By then I was in intense pain whatever I did…even sitting on the couch watching TV hurt. Felt like getting hit in the chest with a hammer…and breaking a rib each time.

What does all of this have to do with the chimney having problems? Ah yes…lack of attention…more on that later.

Since I was working at the neighbor’s place I had done less than the minimum at our place. The weather was mild so we were doing cooler fires during the day, and not really hot fires at night. And due to my complacency I wasn’t looking at my chimney at all. I normally look it over a couple of times a day just as a precaution. But now I wasn’t doing that the week before while I was working at the neighbor’s. And when they left I wasn’t doing it because I had my feet up trying to get over the pleurisy.

So it’s Thursday and I noticed a little trouble with the woods stove draft. The smoke was lingering in the stove and an occasional “puffing” into the room. Yup, restricted airflow up the chimney! No problem though…build a hot fire and burn-off the buildup and you are good to go. Ah, mistake! Although it had worked in the past…not this time. The buildup wasn’t in the chimney proper, it was the birdcage vents in the rain cap…but I didn’t know that because I wasn’t looking at the rain cap. So the hot fire just created more of problem. No problem though…burn a creosote block and clear it that way…with a hot fire. Ah, mistake for the same reason as before…the buildup wasn’t in the chimney proper, it was the birdcage vents in the rain cap…but I didn’t know that because I wasn’t looking at the rain cap. So that step just created more of problem. But it is night then so I would just nurse a fire overnight and deal with it the next day…Friday. I unknowingly made the problem worse just nursing a cooler fire all night and creating more of a buildup on the rain cap vent.

Friday I finally went outside to assess the amount of smoke coming out of the chimney…and there it was, a clogged birdcage in the chimney rain cap. So I tried a couple of things to unclog the vents from the ground…none of which even remotely worked. But the intense pain ensured that I was in no way going to climb a ladder some 15’ and try to work on the chimney. So I tried the hot fire trick again.

Did you know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome?

Lessons Learned: Pay attention to details…ALWAYS!

Lessons Learned: For the important stuff…have a back-up person trained to do the same job…paying attention to the important details.

Mitigation –

Finally Friday night the wood stove is in bad shape…well, the chimney actually. No problem…I was feeling WAY better by Friday night…THANKS meds! So I figure nurse a fire overnight and fix it Saturday. And that brings me to this morning…

I wake up at 3:30am to 570 in the bedroom, 590 in the main part of the house…cold! But only 320 outside…not bad at all…nice little blessing. No time to waste…got to get to work. Steps taken:

  1. Reluctantly get out of nice, warm, very comfortable bed.
  2. Put on long-sleeve thermal, put on flannel shirt, pants, wool socks, shoes, etc.
  3. Cover wife with her heavy robe.
  4. Cover wife with additional blanket.
  5. Tell wife everything is OK when she mumbles something about, “Is everything ok?”
  6. Move dog and dog bed away from electric baseboard heater.
  7. Dog grumbles and gets on the bed…in my nice warm comfortable spot.
  8. I get the Mr. Heater Buddy fired up in the bedroom…gotta take care of my wife!
  9. I go outside and start stand-by generator to charge the batteries so I can run the baseboard heaters.
  10. Back inside and turn on the baseboard heaters.
  11. Move the Buddy to the main part of the house.
  12. By now it is 580 in the bedroom, 600 in the main part of the house, 310 outside.
  13. Drink a glass of Pepsi with ice…wake up!
  14. Get on warm coat, hat, headlamp, gloves, and head to the shop to get the BIG BOY heater…the 30,000 btu Mr Heater wonder!
  15. Back to the house, hook up the big heater, replace the battery in the igniter, turn on the heater to “pilot”…nothing. Several minutes later, and some serious worrying, it finally lights off…I am happy…wife will be warm when she gets up…peace has finally settled over the world.
  16. Sit down and eat 2 pieces of cold pizza left over from last night so I can take my anti-Pleurisy meds. Oh, and another glass of Pepsi. 2nd dog wakes up to share my pizza…she is sorely disappointed. Now both dogs have me on their short list.
  17. It is now approaching 5am, 590 in the bedroom, 640 in the main part of the house, 310 outside
  18. I sit down and watch some news, and realize that this could be a great “Lessons Learned” article I could write. A lot going on and a perfect convergence of events. I head to the computer.
  19. It is now 6:40, 640 in the bedroom, 690 in the main part of the house, 290 outside
  20. Wife is still asleep, both dogs are sharing my nice warm spot on the bed. I am almost done with rough draft of this article…and life will go on. Oh, just ate three chocolate chip cookies to quell the heartburn from eating last night’s pizza earlier this morning.
  21. After finishing this article and getting it posted, and after it is full light outside, I will get the ladder and clean the vents on the rain cap. Then I will disassemble the wood stove’s interior chimney pipe to make sure everything is nice and clear.
  22. Put it all back together and shut down the electric baseboard heaters, shut down the 30k propane heater, and drink another glass of Pepsi celebrate.
  23. Afterwards I will gloat all weekend to my wife at how tough I am, and how smart I am, that I got it all figured out, had multiple plans in-place to keep us safe and warm, and tough enough to fix the problem…even while sick on my deathbed.
  24. Pray she doesn’t realize it was multiple cases of negligence on my part that caused all of it to begin with. And really pray she doesn’t read this article!
  25. Next Monday, first thing, fill both propane tanks, and the gas can that I am sure will be empty by then.
  26. Make plans to buy the new wood stove.

Note: The next allergy shot date is already on the calendar.

Lessons Learned –
  1. Lesson Learned: Expect the unexpected.

I tried to think about the “what if’s” at every step of the planning phase of just not building our house, but our entire lifestyle here at the homestead. While You can’t think of everything, don’t let the unexpected surprise you, know that the unexpected will happen. Then bring all of your plans together to mitigate the problem.

  1. Lesson Learned: Sometimes cutting corners…or using an alternative option seems good at the time, it will probably come back to bite you later.

While I would like to say, “Never cut corners!” that is not always feasible/practical/realistic. Do the best you can with what you have. If you cut a corner, plan to mitigate any related failure until you can correct the cut corner. Correct the issue as the soonest realistic opportunity.

  1. Lesson Learned: Use a calendar for important events…and stick to it.

Sometimes life is hectic, sometimes memory isn’t good enough. Have a family calendar for important events and use it.

  1. Lesson Learned: Have really good plans…thought out in advance, and have multiple back-up plans.

This one should be a no-brainer. I hope what I already have written shows the necessity for having really good plans. Fortunately for me I had plans, back-up plans, and back-up plans for my back-up plans. That kept a bad situation, non-working heat source, from making us miserable or worse. When creating those plans make them as simple and as practical as possible. Plans that are too complicated stand a far higher chance of failure. Also, go deep on your plans…3 deep is good, more is better.

  1. Lesson Learned: Stick your plans…don’t ignore them.

Yes, you have to be flexible and adaptable in what you do. But plans are there for a reason, use them…stick to them. If they don’t work, then figure out an alternative course of action.

  1. Lesson Learned: Health comes first whenever possible. Don’t ignore warning signs of health problems.

What is my #2 item on the 7 Common Threats and Risks? Injury and sickness. You can’t perform at your best, maybe not at all, if you are injured or sick. Take care of yourself. I can’t imagine where I would be if I hadn’t gone to the clinic when I finally did. At the very least I would be in extreme pain, very cold, frustrated beyond belief, and a very unhappy wife. At worst…well, we won’t go there.

  1. Lesson Learned: Pay attention to details…ALWAYS!

Granted, I was sick, but that is no excuse. And yes, it was nice of me to be helping my neighbor. But, the bottom line in this situation is I still needed to pay attention to my life’s details. I didn’t have to have a mutually-exclusive situation. I could have easily take the time, and been more motivated, to pay attention to the important details such as ensuring our primary heat source remained fully operational.

  1. Lesson Learned: For the important stuff…have a back-up person trained to do the same job…paying attention to the important details.

And this is a tough one for me…not thinking I have to do everything all the time. I am not the only person that can do the important things. My wife is a smart lady (other than marrying me), I could have easily walked her through the wood stove heating principles and asked her to keep an eye on the chimney as well. That would have been two sets of eyes all the time keeping track of what was happening. And, when I lost it this last 10 days, she could have had good Situational Awareness of the chimney and warned me of the buildup.

  1. Lesson Learned: The existing baseboard heaters are not sufficient for my needs.

I will move the larger bedroom electric baseboard heater into the bathroom, replacing the smaller one there. I am buying a significantly larger electric baseboard heater for the bedroom that will be sufficient for that space. The smaller electrical baseboard heater from the bathroom will now get installed in our small spare/storage room.

10. Lesson Learned:I had optional medicine available and didn’t remember that.

I had plenty of OTC allergy meds, including those with “D” on the label, meaning decongestant. So I could have started treating the allergies as soon as the first symptoms showed up. But, for reasons unknown to me I completely spaced it and forgot about them. That is called “tunnel vision” and a killer of good Situational Awareness.

Summary –

It all started with the neglected allergy shot. I didn’t keep track of the date, the ever-worsening symptoms, and the early onset of pleurisy. And while that was happening I neglected my health while placing work, ours and neighbors, above my health. And I considered myself too busy to refill the empty propane tank when it needed it. Now, I have one completely empty tank and the other tank is about 25% full. NOT a good situation to be in during the middle of winter.

The convergence were these major issues:

  • Under-performing solar system.
  • Low propane levels.
  • Serious and worsening health situation.
  • Primary heat source going out.

Fortunately, at every critical step I had a good plan in-place to handle the challenge. And I had multiple back-up plans to deal with any surprises. Planning works!!!

Now it is 7:30am…Heartburn is no better, time for a couple more chocolate chip cookies AND a tall glass of cold milk. I am sure that will cure the problem. It’s also 650 in the bedroom, 690 in the main part of the house, 290 outside. It is getting light outside. I will head out to work in another couple of hours or so. I hear my wife waking up, so it’s time for me to make her a nice warm mug of herbal tea…and start gloating about all I’ve done to make our family safe and warm…how entirely awesome I am. Oh, and start praying as I mentioned earlier…that she doesn’t figure out it was all my fault to begin with.

Please take the time to read this article, think through what happened, my mistakes, my planning, my actions this morning…then see if you can apply anything to your situation. The go eat a couple of chocolate chip cookies and drink a glass of cold milk…the combo cures far more than heartburn!

2:45pm update: Called a neighbor, good friend, told him I would have sausage gravy and biscuits ready in 30 minutes AND I needed help with a chimney issue. He was there in 25 minutes, ate at least his share. I was grateful.

We talked about the chimney issue. We decided a complete overhaul. Out came the drop cloths, tools, chimney brush, shop vac, etc. We completely cleaned every inch of the chimney pipe, the rain cap, the bird cage, AND the wood stove as well. We were filthy when we were done, but our test fire went perfectly, and all is good. Then we ate burgers that my wife fixed. And yes Linda, my wife helped all along the way.

My chest is now hurting again, I am really tired, the shower felt great, and nap time when this article is updated.

My thanks to Judith, Barry, and Linda for the wonderful feedback and suggestions. They got incoprated into this article as an added “Lesson Learned”…#10.

Note 1: I do have a primary stand-alone smoke detector/alarm and a primary carbon monoxide detector/alarm. Then I have a combination unit, smoke & carbon monoxide, that is hooked up to my SimpliSafe system. So not to worry about the wood stove and/or propane heaters. And yes, I have an outside air supply for both the wood stove and propane heater.

Note #2: It’s now 8:20 and I am about to post this article. It’s also 660 in the bedroom, 700 in the main part of the house, 300 outside. It is full light outside. Wife is awake and asking for her tea. Hot water is on for the tea. I will start the sausage gravy and biscuits for breakfast shortly. I will let you know how the “fix” works out.


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Lessons Learned: I shot myself…

Yeah…OK…it was “click bait” to be sure. But yes, it is also true…just not maybe the way you were thinking.

Truth…yes, I shot myself. More truth, it was with a nail gun.

Background –

So there I was…10′ up in the air,  on a ladder, using my air-powered nail gun to install soffit under the eves of our 1000sq’ retirement house. Things were going along nicely until I felt a dull stabbing pain in my left index finger. I looked at the finger and there was a nail that had gone through the piece of soffit, through the furring strip and into my finger having entered right beside the knuckle. And yes…I was kind of in disbelief.

So I had to lift my hand up to pull the nail out of my finger, then climb down the ladder. Of course I gently lowered my Hitachi nail gun to the ground first. Once on the ground it really dawned on me what I had just done…and the pain started to show up. Strangely enough it wasn’t a searing or sharp pain…more like a dull ache. I wrapped my handkerchief around my finger to stem the blood flow.

I started to walk to the cabin…then it dawned on me, “Why walk the 100 yards?” So I turned and headed to the UTV to drive the 100yards to the cabin where my Family First Aid Kit (FFAK) was. All I could think about was getting it washed out, cleaned up, bandaged, and get back to work. Yeah…not thinking real well at the time.

I got to the cabin, retrieved my FFAK, went out to the front deck, and started to asses the damage. I didn’t really think about it at the time…but I was shaking. I used the BandAid Wound Wash to clear away the blood BandAid Wound Washand allow the lidocaine in the Wound Wash to dull some of the pain. It would also help prevent infection due to the antiseptic in it.

I had been thinking about it and while it wasn’t too painful, I started wondering if there was any bone damage…as in penetration of the bone or splintering. Having been an EMT on the street with the fire department for a number of years I knew that if bone damage or fragments were present I could be dealing with not only infection but other more serious issues.

I flexed the finger, it hurt, but was flexible, although not as much as normal, I didn’t sense and grating. I then felt around the entry hole, joint, etc. and could feel no unusual movement or anything like bone fragments. But, I am no expert or doctor so I decided an x-ray was the safe bet on this one.

It was weird…there was this tiny entry hole and no exit hole. I remembered not seeing the tip of the nail poking out the skin. I figured it had slid up the finger right along the bone. Total length inside my finger…about 1-1/4″.

I got it cleaned up, applied some triple antibiotic, and then wrapped 1-1/2″ gauze around it. Now, time to call my wife. After a somewhat brief conversation, once I got her on the phone, it was decided she would double check to see if there was a closer place for treatment than the hospital in the nearby larger town while I would start the 30 minute drive. No, no need for a medi-vac or even an ambulance…not really life threatening or even all that serious in reality.

On the way to town, about half way, she found an emergency clinic that was closer than the hospital emergency room. Cool…it would be closer, probably less waiting time, and obviously cheaper. I asked her to call them back and make sure they accepted our medical insurance.

Making the story much shorter…got to the clinic, I was patient #2, got in quick, x-ray, bandaged up, prescription for 10-days of cephalexin, and I was on my way back to the cabin.

Issues/Mitigation/Reality –
  1. Issue: I am building a house which can be fairly dangerous due to the potential of construction accidents. Mitigation: I would keep my phone on me at all times in case I was hurt I could call for help. Reality: I had been working on the house for 4 months with not even a close call with an accident. My phone was in the UTV not in my pocket where it should have been.
  2. Issue: Accidents do happen. Mitigation: We have a well-stocked FFAK for just such instances. Reality: The FFAK was 100 yards away in the cabin
  3. Issue: Our house is located out in the sticks. Our closest neighbor is 500 yards away. The closest nice neighbor is 1000 yards away, small town 20 minutes away, larger town 30 minutes away. 10 – 12 minutes of fairly rough dirt road just to get to the highway. Mitigation: Keep truck ready to go, keys in the ignition during the day, UTV handy at all times. Reality: Truck improperly parked, no keys in the ignition, didn’t even think about the UTV at first.
  4. Issue: There is the potential need for emergency medical/accident care. Mitigation: In addition to the FFAK and training, we have a great trauma hospital 30 minutes away, there are two life-flight helicopters available. Reality: I wasn’t sure that I would make the drive myself if shock set in. I don’t know our address to give to 911 to get an ambulance there. I don’t have the GPS coordinates to my house to facilitate a helicopter ride to the hospital.
  5. Issue: While there is a great trauma hospital 30 minutes away, there might have been closer medical care facilities but I didn’t know that. Mitigation: Pre-identify any potential medical treatment facility. Reality: Not done.

So there I was…accident victim, alone, 30 minutes from medical care, and honestly…fairly unprepared for it. I always thought that if something serious happened I would call my wife (320 miles and 6 hours away) and let her coordinate the response via phone. Well…reality time! She was busy at work. First call to her office got someone who didn’t know where she was. I then called her cell-phone…ignored. Called her right back…ignored. Called her right back…text message response…she was busy and would call me back later. Called her right back…text message response…she was busy right then and couldn’t talk. Called her right back…she answered and was a little miffed, she had been working with a client.

While she was talking I spoke over her, “I just shot myself and I need to go to the hospital.”

Yeah, that got her quiet. Shortening the story…the plan…

  • She started to coordinate the response while I headed into town.
  • She was to call me back in 20 minutes to make sure I was still mobile.
  • She would check to see if there was a closer medical treatment facility. Yeah…Google it!
  • She would call ahead to the hospital to let them know I was coming.

What happened…

  • She found a closer emergency treatment clinic.
  • I went there instead.
  • She called ahead to let them know I was coming.
  • She called them back to make sure they took our medical insurance.
  • She called me back and kept me on speaker phone while I drove to the clinic…about 15 minutes.
Lessons Learned –
  1. Having the cell phone on me as a mitigation step was a great idea…if I would have had it on me. I had grown complacent. So, I need to stick with our mitigation strategy and avoid complacency.
  2. Having a great FFAK was wonderful! Having it 100 yards away from the worksite was not a very good idea. So maybe a better idea would be to move it to the worksite. But, considering I spend more time at the cabin than the worksite…maybe not such a great idea. Better idea might be to have two FFAKs…or at least a scaled down version at the worksite to provide immediate first aid till I got to the FFAK at the cabin.
  3. Having cell-phone communications with my wife is great! Depending on her to coordinate a medical response…not so much. Rework that whole mitigation strategy for more practical response/coordination.
  4. Having great medical treatment centers nearby is fantastic! Knowing where each is, what their level of trauma care they can handle, and how to get there is absolutely necessary. And all of that needs to be done in advance of the actual accident.
  5. Having ambulances and life-flight helicopters available is an incredible blessing. Knowing how to get them to your location could be considered imperative. Knowing that in advance of an accident is a necessity.
Summary –

I am recovering nicely. Finger is at about 75%, mostly no swelling, no infection, and very little discomfort. And I know I got lucky. There were a number of points along the way that could have made things turn out far differently. Fortunately, I can learn from this experience…and maybe you can learn something from my experience as well.

It’s great to have plans in-place to deal with risks/threats…but only if they are realistic. And part of that means that you actually have taken the mitigation steps. The other main take-away for me…avoid complacency. I became complacent and left my cell-phone in the UTV vs. having it on my person. What if the nail had actually nailed my hand to the house where I couldn’t climb down off the ladder? Then what? Yeah, I hate to think about that one.

Accidents are real. Risks and threats are real. It doesn’t take an emergency, disaster, or grid-down event to require advance planning to mitigate the potential of injury or worse. Neglect mitigation steps at your own peril…or that of your family.

Whatever project/task you are involved with:

  1. Identify what realistically can hurt you.
  2. Develop a realistic mitigation plan.
  3. Stick to the plan.
  4. Avoid complacency.

<to read more about risks/threats/mitigation click here>

<to read more about emergency medical care and kits click here>


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Lessons Learned: Harvesting onion seeds

note: originally written/posted in 2015

harvesting seeds from Utah Spanish Sweet onionOne of my goals this year was to grow a year’s worth of onions and harvest the seeds from them for use next year. So far, so good. And yes, I planted a heirloom onion called Utah Spanish Sweet. I am really pleased with the onion, it seems to do very well here in the desert southwest where water is at a premium. But you wanted to hear about the lessons I learned while harvesting the seeds…

I have been holding on to several large seed heads from the onion tops. I didn’t do anything special, just put them on a table on the patio under the roof. But I did put off harvesting them as long as possible. Why? I’ve been working on my radio boxes, power boxes, and solar projects lately and wanted to stay focused on them. But this morning I had some time before getting ready for church so today was the day for harvesting seed.

First let me say, onion seeds are really small and my hands are really large. They are not easy for me to pick up. So the person in your family with small hands is probably the one most suited to this task. I am thinking “wife” from now on.

And I really wasn’t sure how many seeds to harvest so I figured I would gather approximately as many as I remembered were in the package from last year. Seemed reasonable at the time.

The seed heads were nice and dry, ready to go. I got a toothpick and started picking apart the seed pods allowing the little (tiny actually) seeds to fall onto the paper towel I had set on the dining room table. I was about 30 seed pods into it when I was bored out of my mind. Yeah, my ADD/ADHD kicked in and I was ready to move on to something else. But duty was calling…back to harvesting.

I knew there had to be a better way of getting the seeds out of the pods. I was right. I simply got a bunch of dried seed pods in my hands and started to gently rub them together in my hands. Sure enough, the seed pods broke open and out came the seeds. And with the seeds came the seed pod husks and the tiny little stems that had formerly been attached to the seed pods. So now I had seeds, seed pod husks, stems, and a bunch of finely ground powder that came from the husks, stems, and who knows what all. But I had a mess on my hands. But I knew a solution…pioneer skills!

threshing wheat

threshing wheat

Yup, I remembered reading about the days of wheat threshing, something the pioneers did back in the 1800’s and earlier. It is basically throwing the wheat up in the air and the heavier wheat berries fall back onto a canvas cloth and the wheat chaff gets blown away in the wind. In my cupped hands went a thimble sized amount of seeds and onion seed pod chaff…then I gently blew on it. It worked! But it was really slow.

Out to the shop I went, located a small glass jar, got my can of spray air and cupped my hand over the jar that now held a bunch of seeds and chaff. I stuck the air can nozzle in and gently started introducing air. It worked!! And it was pretty fast.

I cleaned up the last of it on a paper towel, let the seeds dry in the air for a day, then put them in a little plastic Utah Spanish Sweet onionziplock baggie. And now I have about 2 – 3 growing seasons worth of heirloom onion seeds ready for planting. All total I think I had about 1-1/2 hours in the entire process, including the learning curve.

So what lessons did I learn? The following:

  1. It takes a lot of seeds to supply enough onions for a whole family.
  2. It takes a lot of time to harvest onion seeds.
  3. I thought I had to figure out a “process” to speed things up. But the toothpick method would have been fine. It might have taken me 3 – 4 hours but it would have worked out with no problems. Maye even “cleaner” seeds when I was all done.
  4. Life after grid-down will flow at a slower pace…a lot slower. And you know, I think that is just fine.
  5. I might not get any opinions out of those seeds next year. Yup, I mean, how do I know that the seeds are actually any good? They should be, I know. But I’ve never done it before so I have no firsthand knowledge or experience doing it. So will it work out? I certainly hope so. But what if this was already grid-down? How do you like the idea of rolling the dice, your food dice?

So the number one thing I took away…I better make sure I can verify and validate all these little issues and challenges so I know for a surety that what I “hope” will work, “actually” will work. I don’t want to be basing the well-being of my family on “hope.” We know how that works, don’t we.

Information on the Utah Yellow Sweet Spanish Onion –

Utah Spanish Sweet onionA large, sweet yellow onion. Loved for it’s mild, sweet flavor, it is excellent raw. It does well in Western states and similar climates. This sweet onion is very popular for slicing and eating raw because of its mild sweet taste, and is delicious baked, sautéed, or fried.


•  It has fair storage characteristics.
•  Large bulbs sometimes weighing a pound or more.
•  Skin is a straw color and the flesh is white.
•  Plant very early in the spring in a sunny location as soon as the ground may be cultivated and enriched with organic material. Plant seeds 1/4 of an inch deep, 2 inches apart with 18 inches between plants. Press soil firmly over seeds.
•  Germination in 7 to 12 days at 50 to 60 F.
•  115(+/-) days to harvest.
•  Allow plant tops to fall and die before harvesting.
•  Deep globe up to 6″ in diameter and up to 2lbs. each.
•  Shiny straw brown skin with white medium firm flesh is a heavy producer.
•  Smaller bulb sets can be stored to replant next year.

Update Note:  In 2016 I used my saved seed to plant that year’s crop of onions. I had great onions!!! Harvesting the seed worked out just fine.




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Lessons Learned: My Walk Along the River this Morning

note: originally written/posted in 2015

Physical TrainingAs you know by now I try to do physical training 5+ times per week. I am also blessed with a job that pays me to do that each day. But I am cursed being in an area that at this time of year it is 100+ degrees and humid most days. But today was nice, hot but a stiff breeze blowing. Along the river it is usually a couple degrees cooler when the water is flowing. So I headed to the river for my PT today.

It was absolutely gorgeous along the river there this morning. I was even wearing my new tennis shoes. Hey, if you haven’t read my “Lessons Learned” about my tennis shoes you might want to read about that under Lessons Learned. I did my stretches and headed north along the river enjoying the stiff breeze blowing the bugs and mosquitoes into oblivion.

I have to admit I was a bit in la-la land as I was walking along. But then I got pulled back into reality. Let me share a series of photos with you and then I will talk some more…

Lessons Learned - River WalkLessons Learned - River WalkLessons Learned - River WalkOK, what did you see?

I am sure you saw everything I did, but what did it mean to you?

Since you are probably not familiar with this river, especially this part of the river, I doubt you picked up on what all of this meant. But to me it meant I need to keep my Situational Awareness (SA) up all of the time. Let me go into the details and tell you what I saw…

Lessons Learned - River Walk - danger signs - red flagsLessons Learned - River Walk - danger signs - red flagsLessons Learned - River Walk - danger signs - red flagsThe river corridor here is owned by a government agency. Yeah, go figure. And they maintain this trail for walkers,  bikers, and horseback riders to enjoy the riverside. It has probably been about a year since I walked this river trail. But, I’ve been walking it for probably 7 or 8 years now. And I enjoy it. But this is the first time I ever saw anything like:

  • The empty cases of beer.
  • The large soda cups.
  • Tire tracks and ruts.

But then as I got a little further along the path I saw this…

Lessons Learned - River WalkLessons Learned - River WalkLessons Learned - River WalkAnd what it really was…

Lessons Learned - River Walk - danger signs - red flagsLessons Learned - River Walk - danger signs - red flagsLessons Learned - River Walk - danger signs - red flagsUp until this point this area never had anything like this…nothing…ever. And so I decided to turn it into an SA exercise.

The trail is 1-1/2 miles out to the point where I turn around and head back. The three miles with a few sets of pushups along the way takes me about 45 minutes. I got to the end, the half-way point, turned around and headed back. I started to take pictures to make this an SA experience for me and to share it with you.


Because I want to keep SA in the forefront of our preparedness skills. Similar to what I did with the “tennis shoe” Lessons Learned a while back. So hang in there and see if you can take away something useful from this article.

So here is the scenario that I set up…

It is the third day of grid-down. I got caught at work and was unable to leave due to agency responsibilities. I finally get a chance to leave. I am walking home where my family is waiting for me. I know this trail, it is where I regularly PT. It is a combination of the safest, most direct route home. It is also the only route where I will have water available to me; I have my MSR Sweetwater Filter System to use. I head home about 9:00 in the morning. Here is what I see as I walk along…

River walk lessons learned - situational awareness SAFirst thing, I walk in the middle of the trail to keep the safest distance from each edge of the trail. When a bush is close to the edge of the trail I move to the more clear side of the trail. That allows me a small increase in reaction time due to distance. It also gives me a slightly better view of what, or who, might be trying to ambush me. Then I see…

Lessons Learned - River Walk

This trail is “non-motorized” meaning that only walkers, bikers, and horseback riders are allowed. The presence of these tracks is out of the ordinary. The deep ruts is also a red flag. Either a truck accidentally went there, or someone intentionally tried to drive off the road into soft sand. Either way, it is a red flag. Then I see this…

Lessons Learned - River Walk

This area has never been trashy, there never has been large soda cups along this trail. They are fresh. They are next to a bush, but not “wind blown.” Why are they there? Where are the two people who put them there? A little further along I see this…

Lessons Learned - River Walk

Major red flag!! There is a strictly enforced no-drinking policy in this area, along this trail. Never have I seen an empty beer bottle let alone multiple empty beer cases and the bottles. But not all the bottles are strewn around. The cases are not faded, not rained on, not torn up. All of that points to them being fresh, recently put there. I keep walking, now as I come around the bend I see this…

Lessons Learned - River WalkNow, what does this tell you? To me this is a huge red flag, a true danger signal that absolutely cannot be ignored or dismissed lightly. So what is the deal?

The shopping cart is the first thing I notice. That indicates that someone, or a group, pushed the cart here with a “load” of something. Maybe food, water, and such. Or maybe cases of beer. But it was enough of a load that they didn’t want to carry it and had enough guts to steal a shopping cart to get their goodies here. But I have to keep moving, but I slow way down now, full of caution. Then the rest of it comes into view…

Lessons Learned - River Walk

What do you see given the scenario I painted at the beginning of this exercise?

More directly, and more importantly, what don’t you see that could well be fatal?

Let me digress for just a minute. At no time ever has camping been allowed in this area. The cops would never, and have never, tolerated people camping int his recreational use area. It is strictly for “day use” only. Although we have a large homeless population in the area, the cops simply won’t have this within a recreational area.

So, obviously you see the camp. How many folks is this camp set up for at first glance? But have you identified the real issue yet? That issue that could be the fatal issue.

Let me give you a clue by asking a question…”Where are the campers, the people?”

Yeah, you don’t see them right? Why don’t you see them?

Let’s explore the options:

  • They left and moved on to another camping location.
  • They went to town for food.
  • They went for a swim in the river.
  • They went scrounging for edible plants along the river bank.
  • Ambush01They have been arrested and taken away.
  • They have been killed and their bodies are in the bushes.
  • They are alive and in the bushes waiting for their next victim, their next prey, to come along.

I am sure there are more options you could come up with but I think the options I laid out got you thinking. Which are the most dangerous to me right at the moment I spot their camp?

I will propose that all of them are dangerous to me, but the last two particularly so. Why?

The first five all do with them simply being away from their camp for some period of time. But what if they are returning to their camp at the same time I come walking by? Do they see me as simply walking by or do they see me as approaching their camp to steal their gear?

How will they will view my uninvited presence? But they are likely to see my presence with some degree of defensiveness in my opinion. So, what would be their normal reaction in that case?

And do you honestly think they would all leave their camp and not leave someone behind for security purposes?

Now, let’s look at the last two options I listed. If there a difference in the degree of danger to me?

I don’t think there is a difference, either is a significant danger to me. If they have been killed by a person or persons then what is to say that I am not the next to meet the same fate?

I didn’t smell any dead bodies so I honestly think this was not the case. So that pretty much would leave the last option as a very probable option. And in my opinion, the most potentially deadly.

What would you do at this point? But before you do, remember the scenario I painted for you, think in terms of reality for the situation.

I would slowly drop into a slight crouch to lower my profile, do a quick 360 to clear my immediate area, and then slowly move to the closest cover in the opposite direction (or at least 90degrees) of the camp. Then I would RiverWalk-11develop the best 360 view I could and then settle in with patience.

I want to observe the camp area and the approaches for 30 – 60 minutes minimum. If I honestly think there could be an ambush waiting for me then I would observe and then withdraw. I would have no desire whatsoever to try a counter-ambush or any other kind of engagement. My mission is to get home…period.

If I don’t see anyone for 30 – 60 minutes then I slowly and carefully continue on my way but not using the trail for my travels.

If I did see someone I would slowly withdraw and carefully continue on my way but not using the trail for my travels.

Notice my actions are the same whether I observe someone or not. At this point I have no desire to interact with anyone. The more interactions with people that take place in a scenario like this, the more likely you are to encounter trouble, problems, or worse.

Leave people alone…get home.

I mentioned not using the trail for movement in describing what my actions would be. Why?

Well, if you were desperate, of low moral character, and had no issues taking people’s gear, equipment, food and water, where would you do that?

Where people are, right? And where would people be besides their homes, where they would be vulnerable? Yup, walking along a remote trail. So where would I walk?

I would walk 100’ or so off the trail, among decent brush parallel to the trail. That distance would be enough to put you to the rear of ambushers if there were any. Most people wouldn’t expect to see you walking that far off the trail when walking on the trail is the easiest. You do the unexpected.

So what to do if you aren’t that paranoid cautious yet? Try these ideas:

  • Walk in the middle of the trail creating distance between you and the sides of the trail giving you slightly more reaction time.
  • If there is brush close to the edge of the trail on one side, as you approach move to the opposite side of the trail keeping your eyes open for threats on both side.
  • If the bush crowds in on both sides of the trail, stop. Act distracted such as tying your shoe, adjusting your hat, looking at your watch. While you are engaged in the act of deception observe the entire area for threats. Any sign of threat take slow, careful and well thought out evasive actions.
  • Alternative to the above, stop and take a break next to some concealment like a bush or tree. Now, observe the area for 15 – 60 minutes for any threat indicators. Take appropriate action based on observations.
  • Additional alternative, without breaking stride make an immediate hard turn off the trail. Take evasive action based on your perception of the threat. But don’t continue near the trail. If you are going to continue moving forward, do so outside of the 100’ margin of the trail.

A couple things to be very cautious of:

  1. Don’t engage someone trying to talk with you. In the scenario outlined above they will try to bluff you into something, gaining time to relocate their ambush against you or social engineer you into something. Either way you go with this, they are a threat. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have been hiding from you.
  2. If they claim to be police and shout for you to stop you have a tough choice to make. First question, how do you know they are really police? Second, even if they are police, can you afford to be stopped and probably detained by police? Remember, you are armed. They police probably won’t like that too much and they will see you as the threat, especially since you just thwarted their ambush. Me? I would escape and evade at all costs.
  3. Any encounter or engagement of any kind with anyone is a threat to your freedom of movement and possibly your life. Simply move on…your goal is to get home to your family.

I hope that you have gotten something out of this Lessons Learned article. I am not trying to turn anyone into a special operations ninja or anything like that. I am not qualified to train folks in those skills. But what I am trying to do is share thoughts and scenarios with you that might help you think through a situation ahead of time. That is called planning and training.

Enjoy your day!! And go take a walk down by the river.




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Lessons Learned: Size 12 Tennis Shoes & Normalcy Bias

note: originally written/posted in 2015

As I have already mentioned in a number of articles, especially the boot review articles, I have feet that are pretty beat up. That being the case, shoes and boots that actually fit me correctly and are comfortable are virtually impossible to find. When I do find a pair that fit me I stick with that brand and model, sometimes buying multiple pairs to last me into the future. Well, this year Normalcy Bias struck…along with a little Competency Bias. And it all has to do with a size 12 pair of tennis shoes. Let me explain…





First, let’s review what Normalcy Bias is the refusal of your brain to accept that something has happened, will happen, or to what extent something has happened.


Now let’s tie those two bias’ into my size 12 tennis shoes…no pun intended. OK, so you know it is hard for me to buy decent boots and shoes due to years of abuse of my feet as a structural and wildland firefighter. Fortunately a couple of years ago I found a brand of tennis shoes that really fit my feet very well. They last about 18 months before they have to be replaced. Late last year I was seeing that my latest pair was needing replaced soon, luckily I found some for sale online. I bought three pairs to make it easier in the future, plus I had a little extra money sitting around. No, I can’t buy them in any store anymore because they aren’t carried in any store anywhere that I can find.

So my old pair finally give it up and I get out a new pair. Problem!!

The new pair seem to be too tight and really kind of crushed my foot. So I wore them a day thinking that it was a fluke or something. It wasn’t. I got the other two pairs out, all the same size, all the same fit. I wasn’t thrilled but I knew that they were the right size since they were the same exact size as the old pair’s size. The label told me so.

At that point I figured I would keep wearing them and they would stretch out and fit as good as the old pair. Well, they didn’t and seven months later my feet are still sore after my physical training that I try to do 5 – 6 times a week for at least an hour each day.

Well, I bought a pair of Lowa Tibet GTX boots and I did a review on them. I am also still in the process of breaking them in. One night after hiking about an hour in the arroyo behind my house that stretches into the desert I was taking those boots off and switching to my size 12 tennis shoes. My feet hurt in that same places in my “broken-in” my Feet are sore and are killing metennis shoes. Ooooppppssssss……something wrong here! And my toes were way further into the tennis shoes than my boots.

Changes had to take place…my feet were killing me.

I went into my home office, got online, looked up the tennis shoes in size 13, found several pairs, and ordered a pair in my favorite color combination. Yup, couple different shades of khaki. Two days later the shoes were on my door step, I was smiling and my wife thought I was a little more weird than normal. Shorten the story…the shoes fit really, really well.

So why the heck is that little experience worthy of an article?

Oh, come on…you can’t figure it out yet?

I wear a size 12 shoe, albeit extra wide, and these tennis shoes in size 12W had always fit in the past, so the current size 12W should fit. And If they are tight, I should just get over it and wait for them to stretch out to the right size/fit. Right?  Why?

However, seven months later the new size 12W tennis shoes still weren’t fitting right/comfortable and that is after well over 150 hours of “breaking in.” You would think the thought would have crossed my mind that something was just a bit wrong. Yeah, well it should have. But I was suffering from Normalcy Bias.

Me?!?! Yeah, me. I am supposed to know what I am talking about when it comes to preparedness. I am supposed to be that guy that has answers and can help other people avoid those things that will get them hurt or killed. Yet, I failed and I failed on one of the most basic tenants of preparedness…Normalcy Bias.

Tunnel Vision is a result of normalcy biasYup, I got tunnel vision:

  1. This is the size shoe I always wear, so this pair of shoes it the right size.
  2. All shoes take breaking in, so these shoes will fit when they are broken in.
  3. You have bad feet, your feet are supposed to hurt.
  4. You have more important things to think about.

And we know what tunnel vision can do…it can get you killed.

Now the real question is what do I do about this problem. And for me there is only one real answer. Well, two actually.

First, I have to write to you about it and explain how easy Normalcy Bias can creep into your life. Even something so simple as the correct size and fit of tennis shoes. If it isn’t right…figure it out and make it right. If it doesn’t work, it isn’t going to magically start working.

Second, I have to take a deep breath and look over the rest of what is going on in my life right now. And ask the question…What else am I missing? I am working on that one right now.

Why the reevaluation of life?

Think about that for a minute. If you have been reading my website articles for any length of time you have a pretty good feel for the type of person I am. What do you think I could be missing?

See, here is the problem…I am in a position of not knowing what I don’t know.

So I have to step back, collect myself and rapidly assess if there are the other areas that I might be off course. That is making “lemonade out of lemons” as a famous fellow once told me.

Does any of this have anything to do with you? Maybe, maybe not.

eliminate Normalcy biasThis is a glaring example of Normalcy Bias that I got struck with. What I am hoping is that you learned something through this…it can happen to anyone.

Now, my question to you…”Are you suffering from Normalcy Bias in some way, in some area of your prepping life?”

Please take a few minutes in the coming day or two and just think through what is happening in your life and consider if you might have some amount of Normalcy Bias going on. And if you do…work at overcoming it.





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Lessons Learned: Recent Church Bombings in My Town

note: originally written/posted in 2015

Last Sunday morning I was enjoying just a lazy Sunday morning waiting for my wife to return home. I had been cleaning up the kitchen and vacuuming. I hate my wife coming back home from being out of town and her walking into a messy house.

I had been a bachelor for the previous 4 days while my wife traveled back to her childhood home to celebrate her parent’s 70th wedding anniversary with the entire family. I was looking forward to her being back, I have a great wife!

Then the cell phone rang and it is a Peace Officer buddy of mine from church. He works closely with me on security matters for 13 congregations in a 3-county area. He didn’t have good news.

He explained to me that there had been two separate bombings at two separate churches within minutes of each Bombsother. He explained damage had occurred but was unaware of any casualties. We coordinated a response, he would head to the scene to feed us information and I would start clearing our two separate church buildings in our town. Eight different congregations share the two buildings, four congregations for each building.

I quickly cleaned up, dressed in Sunday attire and headed out the door. My day ended about 10 hours later. Let me share a few things that I think are important, what I learned, or at least had reinforced to me that day.

  1. There is always a lack of, or confusing, information. Even though I had a contact at the scene of one of CommunicationsProblemthe bombings, and he is a supervisor, he still had a hard time sorting out the good and bad information. There were widely varying stories about what had happened. It swung from firecrackers in a mailbox to pipe bombs at the doors. The reports said no one was present, when in actuality there were people in both churches having services. Communications is, and always will be, the #1 problem in any emergency or disaster situation. If you don’t make some preparations on how to deal with that, then you will be behind the curve from the very beginning and probably won’t be able to recover from it.
  2. No known motivation. Early on there was no actual motivation of why it was done or even who might have done it. There still isn’t. Without having some kind of idea of who or why, it is much harder to get a true feel for what is happening and how to properly respond. We had to make assumptions as to what the motivation might be but we couldn’t even guess as to whom. Since no one was hurt, and the devices didn’t explode where people were at the moment, then we felt it was more a statement event. We were wrong from the very beginning.
  3. The police utterly failed to notify other churches or provide protection to any other potential targets. Like moths to a flame all law enforcement converged on the crime scene en masse. That left the entire city, even the whole county, with virtually no police protection at all. The police called one other church, quickly told them what had happened and asked them to call the other churches in town. We have 100+ churches in town, how do you think that worked out? Most churches were never contacted. There was absolutely no “protect & serve” that morning, all the police were at the two scenes vs. providing protection for citizens.

Had this been a diversionary tactic for anything else, the police would have been 100% screwed. The police acted unprofessionally; poorly trained, poorly prepared, poor response…poor everything. That once again reinforces that you shouldn’t count on effective law enforcement response when there is a true emergency or disaster.

Lessons LearnedHere are the specific lessons I learned last Sunday…

  1. While we, our church’s limited security group responded well to our 8-congregation area of responsibility in this specific town. But we were understaffed from the very beginning. We simply didn’t have enough people to adequately respond to two separate buildings to quickly clear them, and declare them safe or evacuate them. We were also understaffed to provide security during services throughout the rest of the day.
  2. While our leadership of the 13-congregation area was notified quickly, there was no clear direction given as to what each congregations should do. For example; should they evacuate the buildings? Should they continue with services that day? Who should each congregation contact for information and direction?
  3. While we have a significant Emergency Preparedness Plan for the congregations in the area, it doesn’t cover “bombings” or “bomb threats” etc. Almost three years ago we discussed needing a specific security plan, it was never acted on. It should have been, it would have covered this situation.
  4. I am supposed to be the person that advises the 13-congregation leader and remain by his side as a subject matter expert during emergencies and disasters. However, due to us being undermanned and not calling in other folks to assist, I was out in the field and not where I needed to be. A lot of this was driven by not having a full sense of what was happening, but having a sense of urgency to react to protect church goers. However, had the problem grown, we would not have had key people in-place as per the plan.
  5. I personally dehydrated that day. I began my response a little after 0900 that day. I didn’t drink my first water till almost noon. By then I was behind the hydration curve. I drank periodically from building drinking fountains as I could, but it was not enough. I should have carried water with me and maintained my water intake to the appropriate level. I could have stopped at a convenience store to buy a bottle of water. I got tunnel vision and was too task focused.
  6. There was no sense of panic among our responders. We accepted the situation for what is was and went about our business of responding. I would imagine if you had asked most church members that day, they weren’t even aware of what we were doing.
  7. The primary response players for our church stayed in good contact. We used texting mostly to reduce time on the phone. However, we did have phone conversations when appropriate information needed to be shared. Had the phones gone down we would have been screwed. Our handheld Ham radio cache was back at my house.
  8. As I was leaving the house I took a extra couple of minutes to load a second spare pistol magazine. I usually only carry one spare magazine thinking 19 shots should be plenty in 99%+ encounters as a conceal carry person. However, this was a special case. The extra 9-rounds in the second spare magazine made me feel a little more secure.
  9. As I was walking out the door I also stopped to ensure that my handheld tactical light was working and the batteries were fresh. The light can fit comfortably in my pants pocket. I don’t see a need for some 4-cell D-size battery flashlight. A small, easy to use, comfortable to carry, tactical light is what I prefer.
  10. And as my hand hit the doorknob I had a flash of brilliance…I would be looking over church grounds, walking through church buildings, armed…ah, what is wrong with that picture? Any cop who might see me would think and/or do what? Yeah, can you see a problem there? So I grabbed my “Security Enforcement Officer” badge. Looks like most police department shields. It just might give me that extra second or two to let a cop know that I am not the bad guy. It is a great investment at under $30 for the badge and holder.
  11. There are no criteria provided to our congregations for “must evacuate” and “may evacuate” events. There is zero guidelines for those kinds of events. That is unacceptable. How would leaders have any clue on how to proceed in this situation or one like it.

Lot’s of stuff going on in this kind of a situation, I am sure I will come up with more as time goes on. But never, ever, in my wildest imagination would I have guessed that I would live in a time and place where you had bombs going off at churches. But here we are…we are in those times.

While one of the church leaders and I were talking towards the end of the day, we were lamenting the same thing…church bombings and crazy times. His response, “We’re in the last days brother.”

Indeed we are.To-Do List - 01

So here is my partial “to-do” list out of all of this:

  1. Update the Emergency Communications Plan to include the ability to text message each congregation leader as a group.
  2. Update the Emergency Preparedness Plan with guidelines on “evacuation” decisions.
  3. Update the Emergency Preparedness Plan to include more direct violence threats such as bombings and active shooter.
  4. Follow through on creating a Security Plan.
  5. Work on how to identify more folks to act as security when needed.


plan prepare practice

There are a few more items but those are confidential.

Church BombedI do have a few questions for you:

  • What would you do in a real-life “church bombing” scenario?
  • What would you have your family do?
  • What would expect your church to do?
  • How could you help in such a situation?


Let’s all commit to learn from what has happened and may we be better prepared for a situation like this in the future. For it is the future…Welcome to the last days brother!




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without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
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Lessons Learned: My Dog’s Wounded Leg

note: originally written/posted in 2015

I have two great dogs, one of them is absolutely precious! I found her at the dog pound over 7 My dogyears ago, she just turned 8. She and I have that real bond thing going on, she is truly a great companion to have around.

She is part Pharaoh Hound and part pit-bull. She has the heart of a lion, the courage of a Rhodesian Ridgeback and the tenacity of a terrier. She has never been afraid of anything in her life. She has beaten-up (not intentionally) a full-grown male Doberman, a very large German Shepard, and a couple lesser breeds. She is over that now…mostly. She will cuddle on the couch for as long as you can sit there. She hates birds, loves most male dogs, and has to show other female dogs whose boss. She torments our Golden Retriever mutt till he just can’t take it anymore, then she loves on him and makes him feel better. She is 52 pounds of solid, rock-hard muscle and a head that is a block of granite.

And she got a nasty leg wound on her leg a few days ago running in the desert with me.

This is the same dog that 5-1/2 years ago blew out her rear-leg knee. $2,800 knee reconstruction surgery later she is still going strong. But this was a soft tissue wound and not very deep. It is 3” in length, 1” wide, it tore off the layer of hair and a layer of skin.

I let her tend to it the first two days accessing how bad it was, seeing what attention it might need. She did a pretty BandAid Wound Washgood job, but licking it can only do so much. Now it was time for me to step in. So I got out the medical kit and scrubbed her wound clean with WoundWash, placed a generous TrippleAntibioticamount of triple-antibiotic on the wound itself and coated the entire area. Then more triple-antibiotic ointment on a 4”x4” gauze pad and wrapped that onto her leg with 5” gauze. I did that 3 times per day for 4 days, and decided to put the “cone” on her to make sure she wouldn’t get to it, tear the bandage off and start licking it again while we weren’t home.

It is now 4 days later and she is doing well. The wound is still noticeable and the cone is off whenever we are home. She thinks the cone is some medieval torture device, I would too if I had to wear it. The wound will need some tending to for probably another week or so to make sure she doesn’t aggravate it by licking it.

So why all this long explanation and story about my great dog?

I have gone through an entire tube of triple-antibiotic, couple rolls of gauze, and more 4×4’s than I care to admit to. Gauze 2" x 5"As a prepper, a prepper that is responsible for 13 church congregations and who runs a 4" x 4" Gauze Pads 4x4large prepping website and also who happens to have written a couple prepper novels, you would think I have a large amount of medical supplies on hand. I do.

But this little episode has made me wonder if I have enough. This was little more than an abrasion, a super bad case of road-rash and not much more. I started thinking this morning what if this was a bad wound on her leg, a serious deep muscle wound. Of course I would have headed off straight to the vet’s office and let them take care of her. But what if there was no vet? Or what if I couldn’t safely get there?

I ran the streets for a lot of years on a fire truck doing the EMS thing. I have seen and provided emergency medical aid to some pretty torn up people in those years. I saw some folks die, picked up body parts and enjoyed some success in saving lives along the way. But I had a whole “system” behind me. What if there was no “system” to count on for assistance?

So I looked hard again at my medical supplies and still felt confident that I can handle a wide range of emergency medical problems and do so for an extended length of time. Or can I?

Here are a couple lessons learned from tending to my dog’s wounded leg:

  1. I don’t have enough 4”x4” gauze pads. How many should I have? No idea.
  2. I don’t have enough wide (4”+) rolls of gauze. How many should I have? No idea.
  3. I have enough triple-antibiotic ointment, but I really could use some “spray” version of the same, or something similar. How much should I have? No idea.
  4. I didn’t use exam gloves while working on her wound, but, if it was a human’s wound I should have, and would have. I don’t have enough exam gloves. How many should I have? No idea.

Why no idea on how many of the different items? Just that, I have no idea how much is enough. What I have might be enough if there aren’t many injuries. But one good car wreck with multiple victims and my supply would be all but wiped out. So I have no true idea how much is enough. It probably falls into the category of “you can never have too much.”

I felt good about my medical skills that I used while working on her wound, done it many times before on humans and animals. But if it had been really serious I would have to draw on skills I used 10 – 15 years ago. And those skills are no longer fresh in my mind. Maybe I would have to dust off one or two of the six or so medical books I have.

I also had no way to “put her under” if it had been bad. No, not as in euthanasia. Put her under as in anesthesia. Actually, I had no real way to deaden the area locally to relieve the pain while I did any cleaning or other procedure. I depended on her patience and tolerance for discomfort I caused.

Conclusion –

When the grid goes down, or when a serious emergency or disaster strikes, times are going to be tough. If an animal or person gets injured, precious medical supplies will be used up quickly. It will be a tough decision to restrict medical supplies to humans; priority-based decision making (i.e. triage) says humans will need them the most.

I need to get my wife more first aid training. I can render pretty good care but what if the injured person was me?

In our little group of friends we have a couple of nurses and a paramedic so we are really blessed. But they have to have equipment and supplies to work with or their skills lose lots of value very quickly.

I will be adding more medical supplies to our preps with some overtime money this fire season.

My dog againAnd most of all…I love the cute white dog so much it makes my heart hurt to see her suffer. And she can make me feel like a million bucks when she says, “thank you” with her eyes for providing the medical care she needs.

She knows, she knows…





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Lessons Learned: the Greek gyro

note: originally written/posted in 2015

So how many conversations have you had about this Greece thing? You know what I am talking about, Greece’s Greek default, greece defaultdefault, bank holiday, ATM restrictions, lack of cash, etc. Well, I have had a number of those discussions and I keep looking at it like a huge “lessons learned” opportunity.

Things that I saw thanks to the Greek tragedy:

  1. Bank holidays can be real and can cut off your debit card purchasing quickly, as well as restricting access to your own cash via ATMs.Greek2
  2. The Greeks never thought it would happen to them. Hence, the long lines at ATM machines withdrawing $67 a day until the ATMs ran out of money.
  3. Progressive, liberal, socialist countries with their big-spending, big-government, debt-loving habits will not work. They never do, never have.
  4. The utter arrogance that the Greeks expressed that is was everyone else’s fault but their own.
  5. That I never wanted to be in those ATM lines…ever.

So what did I learn?MoneyStack

  1. Always have a stack of cash on hand, large or small. I won’t tell you how much or where to keep it. I have some and it makes me feel more secure. Think about Greeks who didn’t have to stand at the ATMs for hours worrying about the money running out. And then if it ran out, you wouldn’t be able to buy food for your family.
  2. Always have some precious metals on hand. Can you imagine if you were a Greek shopkeeper and had Precious Metals for preppers - grid-down, emergencies and disasters - gold & silversome “X” on your shelves and a person came in asking for credit until the banks opened up. How receptive would that shopkeeper be? Now, another guy comes in with a handful of silver rounds or a couple of 1oz gold rounds? Yeah, you get my point.
  3. Always have enough food to feed my family for “X” number of days. You have to fill in the “X” part based on what you feel is important. < click here to read this for my opinion >
  4. Don’t be arrogant!! Never think you are too good compared to others, and admit when things (i.e. decisions and bad habits) don’t turn out so well. But especially admit when it is your fault. Then you an learn and grow.

There is so much more that I could write about as far as “lessons learned” but those are the biggest ones with one US united states Debt Clock 2015exception…government debt.

The problem with Greece was the fact that the Greek government was unable to pay their debt payments. And they had to go begging for the IMF or the ECB to lend them more money to make payments on loans they already owed money on.

Yeah, borrowing money to pay interest on money they already borrowed. Does that sound even remotely responsible?

Well, here is something to think about…”The USA is in the same exact position. We have to borrow money to make debt payments on money we already borrowed.”

But here is the kicker…the USA just prints more money. Yes, we don’t have to borrow it, we just print it. Actually, we USA answer to national debt is to Print more Money worthlessdon’t even print it, someone at the Federal Reserve just pushes a button and it appears in the government’s computer system that tracks the country’s money supply.

How stable and “right” does that sound? Do you think that at some point people will begin to think that isn’t such stable and responsible way of doing business? And those people are located all around the world.

And here is the wildcard…what about the $90,000,000,000,000 ($90tillion) dollars that the government owes in pensions, Social Security, Medicare, and all the other entitlements and liabilities?

Where is that money going to come from? How is the government going to produce that much money to pay out in addition to the huge national debt that exists in real terms right now? Simply create those dollars on yet another computer? Or even print it by the pallet & truck load?

What does your gut tell you will happen when that day comes?

So, what are you going to do about it today, tomorrow, or the day after?

May I suggest:

  1. Always have a stack of cash on hand. I won’t tell you how much you should have. I have some. Think about Greeks who didn’t have to stand at the ATMs for hours worrying about the money running out. And then if it ran out, you wouldn’t be able to buy food for dinner.
  2. Be PreparedAlways have some precious metals on hand. Can you imagine if you were a Greek shopkeeper and had some “X” in stock on your store’s selves, and a person came in asking for credit until the banks opened up. How receptive would that shopkeeper be? Now, another guy comes in with a handful of silver rounds or a couple of 1oz gold rounds? Yeah, you get my point. What if you were the guy with the gold or silver?
  3. Always have enough food to feed your family for “X” number of days. You have to fill in the “X” part based on what you feel is important.
  4. Don’t be arrogant!! Never think you are too good compared to others and admit when things (i.e. decisions and bad habits) don’t turn out so well. Admit when it is your fault, you can learn more that way.

You think Greece was bad? There are four more countries in similar circumstances, Puerto Rico being one of those. And remember, Puerto Rico is considered part of the US for all intents and purposes.

There is so much I want to tell you to do. But that isn’t my place, not my responsibility, not my right. But I can make suggestions and hope they help. But more than anything else I would like you to do the following:

  • If you are spiritual or religious please pray and ask what is best for you and your family to do right now, today, to be better prepared. Then when that inspiration comes…do it!! Do it without any hesitation, without any reservation, without any regret and with a glad heart.
  • If you are not religious, think through the situation in your mind. What does that “gut feeling” tell you to do? Then when that “gut feeling” hits you…do it!! Do it without any hesitation, without any reservation, without any regret and be grateful.
There you go. I am with you, we are in this boat together, you have a place at my table.

decide commit Succeed


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