Notes for Thursday – September 03, 2015

On September 3, 1752, the American Colonies officially adopted the Gregorian calendar, and it immediately became September the 14th.

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During the month of September, Ready Made Resources will be offering Mountain House Foods at 35-50% off. Make sure you visit their web site if you are thinking of topping off your storage.

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This week we welcome our newest advertiser: DBArms.com. They assemble and market some of the very best Individual First Aid Kits (IFAKs), medic bags, and trauma kits on the market. Be sure to check out their web site. If all that you presently own is a “boo-boo” first aid kit that doesn’t have much more than band-aids, then it is high time for you to acquire a serious trauma kit. And of course get the training to go along with it. (Short of taking formal EMT training, I highly recommend the inexpensive training offered by the Western Rifle Shooter’s Association, and by Dr. Bones & Nurse Amy.)

August In Precious Metals, by Steven Cochran of Gainesville Coins

Welcome to SurvivalBlog’s Precious Metals Month in Review, by Steven Cochran of Gainesville Coins. Every month we take a look at “the month that was” in precious metals, covering the price action of gold and examine the “what” and “why” behind those numbers.

Volatilitywas the name of the game in August, as a surprise currency devaluation by China spooked investors into realizing that the Communist government in Beijing likely was lying about the state of their economy. This ignited a global meltdown in stocks, the likes of which have not been seen since the height of the financial crisis.

Gold started the month struggling near multi-month lows, under $1,100 an ounce but rose on safe haven bids as the month wore on briefly reaching the $1,170 mark at the height of the stock market meltdown. Gold got another boost at the end of the month, after falling on a stock rally, as equities were unable to hang on to gains.

Precious Metals Market Drivers in August

CHINA SYNDROME

The Chinese government shocked world markets on the 11th, when it suddenly devalued the renminbi (yuan) by 2% and pledged to let it move according to market forces. Stocks worldwide sold off, and the currencies of nations that supply China with raw goods were hit hard. Gold jumped $15 on the news. Beijing didn’t keep its promise of a “free market” in currencies for long, as it began massive direct intervention by selling U.S. dollars and buying yuan to stop the collapse of its currency.

The devaluation of the yuan has more people receptive to the idea that the Chinese economy is in far worse shape than the government will admit. The only reason the Shanghai stock market hadn’t completely come apart is that the government is forcing state-owned entities to buy stocks. August 24 was called “Black Monday” by the press, as the Shanghai composite lost 8.5% and dragged the rest of the world’s stock markets down with it. By Wednesday, massive direct intervention by the Chinese government when stocks fell too much had the index solidly in positive territory, and investors returned to stocks in the belief that the government would not let the market collapse.

GLOBAL STOCK ROUT

Stocks in the U.S. and Europe saw the worst days since the height of the financial crisis in the wake of China’s yuan devaluation and accelerating stock market meltdown. American households saw $1.8 trillion of wealth go up in smoke in the stock market. Many “mom and pop” investors saw the writing on the wall and followed the big equity firms out of the market just in time. Bloomberg notes that individual investors pulled out of both stock and bond mutual funds in July, escaping the crash in August. $6.5 billion was taken out of stock mutual funds, and $8.4 billion was taken out of bond mutual funds. This is the first time since 2008 that small investors have fled the market completely. Usually, when they cash out of stock mutual funds, they move to bonds.

FED POLICY

Perhaps even more than the big trouble in China, the uncertainty over Fed interest rate policy shaped the economic landscape in August. The Fed seems to have adopted a policy outside of their dual mandate of controlled inflation and full employment and now consider making sure wealthy investors don’t lose money in the stock market as their goal. Whenever the market gets jittery over a rate hike, one of the Fed officials comes out and says something to rescue stocks.

Some pundits, notably James Rickards and Peter Schiff, are betting that not only will there be no rate increase with inflation near zero and stocks selling off, but that the Fed will actually go back to quantitative easing – “printing money”. Albert Edwards, an analyst at Societe Generale, agrees, saying “you’ll hear the printing presses from Mars.

After the big losses on Wall St in the last part of the month, some in the “alternative financial press” said to watch for the Fed to float a trial balloon regarding QE4. Lo and behold, the next day, Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said he was in favor of another round of quantitative easing instead of raising interest rates (cue spooky music).

Speaking of quantitative easing and the trillions of tax dollars the Fed gave to Wall St. banks, research by the St. Louis Federal Reserve shows no evidence that QE helped the economy.

On The Retail Front

The Greek crisis, which resulted in austerity measures being passed by Athens and the government losing its majority, has led to snap elections being called for September 20th.

It also led to a huge increase in physical gold purchases in Europe. Gold refiner Degussa reported that German gold buying increased by 50% in the first half of the year.

American Silver Eagle sales for August topped four million ounces, following an extremely strong July. ASE sales for the year are already over 31 million coins.

Market Buzz

China surprised global markets (in a good way, this time) by updating their official gold reserves for the second month in a row. Prior to last month, the latest government numbers were from 2009. China’s official gold reserves grew by 19 metric tonnes in July, to 1,677 metric tonnes. This makes China #5 in the world for gold reserves and the largest non-Western gold reserves in the world. Only the United States, Germany, the International Monetary Fund, and Italy have larger gold reserves.

It isn’t just the Chinese (and Russians) that are bullish on gold. Billionaire hedge fund legend Stan Druckenmiller has placed a huge bet on gold prices rising. Bank of America is joining the mainstream voices declaring that gold is undervalued at $1,100.

Peter Schiff says blame the Fed, not the Chinese, for spooking the stock markets.

Also from Peter Schiff, he says the Chinese are too late to the currency wars with their yuan devaluation, because the Fed will launch QE4 to win the “race to the bottom”.

While not jumping on the “QE4” bandwagon, both Barclays and TD Securities say forget about a rate hike in September; it isn’t happening until March of next year!

Mega-miner GoldCorp (NYSE: GG) just started production at a new $2 billion gold mine in Canada.

In the “Who’d have thought it?” department, the Federal government is returning “most” NORFED dollars it seized in its prosecution of Bernard von NotHaus. For good measure, we get news that *maybe* someone is taking a real look at gold manipulation.

We end this month with a story that once again proves that “all that glitters is not gold”. Hundreds of people in a Chinese city shut traffic down all day, frantically harvesting “gold dust” from a busy street. It turns out that the treasure was really crystalline sulphur!

Letter Re: Fishing Pliers

Good Morning Hugh,

Thank you for your hard work; keep fighting the good fight. Greetings from the great state of Tennessee! I’ve written you for years but from my address in NY. We’ve finally broken free and are speaking w/ our feet. It feels great. We’re renting at the moment, homestead-shopping. Why yes, I have been to the realty-blog, as well!

Regarding the recent post on fishing pliers, I had a great experience with pliers in my trials in the Saltwater Reef-keeping aquarium hobby. Growers of hard coral species (Acropora, Montipora) who propagate frequently use various shapes/sizes of pliers to break fragments off the mother colonies in the tank. Being in saltwater, this naturally presents problems for most metal implements. The fine folks at Sears have solved the expense of this problem with their lifetime warranty on Craftsman tools. One of my fellow hobby enthusiasts had returned scores of them! The manager asked what he used them for on one trip. He explained, and the manager laughed and told him they were in Aisle 12 and to have a nice day! While not ideal in a survival situation, it is one company that stands by the no-hassle lifetime guarantee. So feel free to purchase a fancy-shaped/size/type of pliers or selection of pliers from your local Sears store, and when they get old and rusted and beat up, take them back and get a shiny new one!

Also I wanted to comment regarding the tin-foil safe idea. Foresight protected me from such a mistake, however. The Sentry Corporation has a 1 cu. ft. model that is entirely mechanical, costs a couple hundred bucks, and has served me well. They recently shut down (or are winding down) operations outside Rochester, NY, and are moving the work to Mexico. (Thank you, NAFTA!) I purchased the product when it was U.S.-made, but I have owned it for years, and it’s worth the price of admission. – K.

Economics and Investing:

Stock market too big to fail? I suppose it’s possible that the Fed could start buying specific stocks to keep the market propped up. – P.S.

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​The surging ranks of America’s ultrapoor – G.G.

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Canada officially enters recession – G.G.

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SILVER MARKET OUTBREAK: Surging Physical Demand & Falling Inventories

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Items from Mr. Econocobas:

Why The Federal Reserve Should Be Audited

Video Interview with Greg Hunter : Jeff Berwick-Nothing but Black Swans Ahead

Odds ‘n Sods:

“Kill Whites And Cops”: NOW You Know Why Disarming You Is The Democrats’ Top Priority! – GJM

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Alarm sounded on government’s ‘genetics’ survey – B.B.

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Albuquerque police lieutenant shoots fellow officer 9 times at point blank range – T.P.

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Chinese warships spotted off the coast of Alaska – J.R.

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Nevada family fights government over mine property near Area 51 – T.P.

Notes for Wednesday – September 02, 2015

Today, we present another entry for Round 60 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $10,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chromlined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR type rifle to have quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools, and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  4. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul pmags 30rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt. (An equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions.),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A Model 120 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $340 value),
  7. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  8. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  9. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $300 gift certificate, and
  10. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of FloJak.com,
  3. The Ark Institute is donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  4. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  5. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  6. Twenty Five books, of the winners choice, of any books published by PrepperPress.com (a $270 value),
  7. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  8. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $150 gift certificate,
  9. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  10. Safecastle is providing a package of 10 Lifestraws (a $200 value).

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  6. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Precision Rest (a $249 value), and
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 60 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

Base Layers and the Differences- Part 1, by A.S.

Today there is a great deal of knowledge on the Internet and outdoor magazines about “layering”, so most people who are daily or frequent readers of SurvivalBlog would have a good understanding of using different layers to keep the human body neither too cold nor too hot. Either one will have life threatening consequences if not managed correctly away from urban areas. For the purpose of this article my intention is to explain, in layman’s terms, some of the finer points of using different base layer fibers and their properties, as well bring to attention a new space age fiber, namely Tencel, that utilizes the latest in technology. (There will be more on Tencel later.) Today, base layers come mostly in three different materials– wool/Merino, polypropylene, and cotton. (I steer away from cotton.), Sometimes manufacturers use mixes of two materials such as Merino and poly.

My experience in discussing this subject by the way is through my involvement over about 35 years in mountain rescue and bush survival. I am by no means an expert, but I have long time field use of what works and what does not. That being said, I will also explain what I use and why I use it for serious outdoor use. Of course this use applies to long-term SHTF use! So, let’s get started.

1. Polypropylene

The most common and inexpensive material is polypropylene, which is a by-product of the petroleum industry, and as such polypropylene sheet is manufactured from a propylene monomer (strands bonded with elastomer), using a relatively safe gas for the process. This in turn is a waste by-product that used to be burned off into the atmosphere, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Now the end product is used for clothing, and by far the biggest type of clothing where it is used is for thermal base layers. It is also used for cheap, dollar store clothing as a consequence. The more polypropylene used in products the more better help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As far as using the material for base layers, polypropylene is spun into fibers and then woven by machine onto a loom and then cut, dyed, and stitched. The benefits of using polypropylene as your base layer or next to skin layer is that the material, when wet, dries quicker than wool, merino, and cotton. For example, if you fall into a river while doing a crossing, which is a dangerous feat to do alone in winter as I have done, you will dry out quicker than if you were wearing merino, but using cotton as a base layer is worse! Cotton will kill you through hypothermia in such circumstances. However, the serious disadvantage with polypropylene is that it’s a plastic polymer, and if while drying out next to the fire that you started to keep warm it catches alight, you now run the risk of serious burns if you get sparks near it. Needless to say, wearing a plastic base and getting these burns will really ruin your day when you’re miles from anywhere, so bear that in mind when selecting this material as your base layer, although sometimes you can find a mix of cotton and polypropylene, though that’s just as bad in my opinion. However, the material has good wicking ability and breathability, along with good insulating properties. This is a viable low-cost option for people starting out or on a fixed budget, and it dries very quickly when wet, but it feels “colder” than Merino or other wool base layers. My recommendation is avoid polypropylene, if at all possible.

2. Merino

Merino is the process of refining raw wool from Merino ewes and then spinning and weaving the wool into light but very durable garments. Note that Merino wool is very different from other wool types. Merino is soft and has low or no itch, which is common with coarse wool of nearly all other types of sheep. Merino wool is just as light per gram in weight as other garment fibers such as nylon, cotton, rayon, and others. Also, the benefit of using Merino for a base layer is the well-known insulating properties of wool. Merino though has the extra ability of being very light when worn next to the skin while trapping warm air molecules between the wool and your mid layer. When worn with a merino base layer and a mid layer on top, you will get the feeling of maximum instant warmth. Going back to the falling in the river scenario, Merino wool base layers will keep you warm while being wet. Even soaking wet, the base layer can be dried off near a camp fire and will not go up in smoke like the polypropyline base will, not to mention the benefit of having the risk of serious burns to your skin eliminated. Also, Merino has the ability to stretch to a high degree. For example, I normally am a 40-inch waist in jeans and cargo pants, but with the Merino base layer I use a size “L”. So take care when buying a Merino base layer to allow for the stretch and for a better fit as a next to skin layer. Note also the Merino wool base layer, when held up to the light, will appear very thin. Merino by its nature is a very thin wool fiber compared to other wool fiber, so don’t be alarmed if the strands don’t seem strong or warm; the contrary is true. Note:there are other heavier wool base layers, such as the surplus thermal base layers, but many people are allergic to the heavier wool thermal layers, so next we come to the late player to enter the market..

3. Tencel

Tencel® is the registered trade name for lyocell, which was developed over the last two years. It’s a biodegradable material made with wood pulp from sustainable tree farms (eucalyptus). Tencel textiles are created though the use of nanotechnology in an award-winning closed-loop process that recovers or decomposes all solvents and emissions (99.5 percent). The greatest benefits are the variety and exceptional comfort you can experience with Tencel clothing. The wood pulp cellulose comes from waste trees from countries that suffer soil degradation and that will not grow normal, slower growing hardwoods and native timbers in subropical climates. Fabric sold under this brand specifically is often mixed with other fibers, such as Merino, silk, and cotton. Being made using wood fiber, it has the inherent well-known insulative properties of wood. Combine this aspect with Merino wool, and you have a product that is warm, easily washable, long lasting, and does not have the property of being flammable. For example, in the last two years there has been more thermal layers coming on the market that combine Merino wool (60 percent), Tencel (30 percent), and Elastane (10 perent); this gives the fabric more stretch and ability to keep shape after being washed in a normal washing machine. Tencel itself is anti-bacterial and will absorb 50 percent of its weight in water, making it ideal for mixing with wool. It is wrinkle resistant and has a very smooth, silky feel to it, which is great news for millions of people who cannot tolerate the itch of wool on the skin. Many, many people are allergic to wool on bare skin, but adding Tencel with Merino eliminates the itchy feel and allows the skin to breathe naturally. What are the disadvantages of Tencel? It will shrink 3% in the first wash but have after that have no shrinkage and the material is more costly to produce than other fibers but will pay for itself in longevity. (I have used my Merino/Tencel thermal layers for consistent winter use for the last two years with minimal signs of wear.)

Recommendation for Layering

My personal recommendation for layering when hiking or going bush is generally using four layers– a base layer (against the skin), a close body layer, a mid layer, and an outer shell layer. For example, I usually wear the following:

Remember you can cool down or keep warm by removing a layer as you see fit. Body core cooling must be avoided at all costs due to hypothermia, and sweating must be avoided also. Even with all of these layers I use it makes for very light clothing, allowing for maximum enjoyment of the outdoors without big bulky clothing such as heavy bonded fleece jackets and work type clothing that one normally finds in Kmart and other big box stores.

Conclusion

So when selecting your next SHTF thermal base layer or just hitting the trail on your upcoming adventure to try out some of your latest preps, try using Merino wool with Tencel as a base layer; I guarantee you will be surprised at the lack of itch, the warmth, and the great feel of using Tencel with Merino, plus you are doing something for our planet! I haven’t discussed pants and how to layer for your legs. That comes in part two, so stay tuned for further reading about Tencel. Blessings

Letter Re: A Year’s Supply of Food on a Budget by J. H.

Dear Sirs,

Regarding a recent letter mentioning the use of rapeseed as a cooking oil, care must be taken in finding the right cultivars as natural rapeseed is not suitable for food uses. Wikipedia describes this in depth. In a long-term survival situation over many grow seasons, I’m not sure I would trust the use of rapeseed to remain safe for consumption of the oil.

-Mike

Economics and Investing:

China fooled the world, and now comes the Great Unwinding – G.G. (May require an account to read the article.)

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From 9/1, France bans cash payments over 1000 euros (previous limit was 3000) – G.G. (Google translated version)

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The rise and fall of the American homeowner: Current homeownership rate is back to where it was 50 years ago.

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Items from Mr. Econocobas:

Central Banks Can’t Save the Markets From a Crash. They Shouldn’t Even Try – The first section of this is pretty good, but after that it starts venturing off topic.

Video: Greg Hunter Interview with Jim Sinclair-Silver Will Be Gold On Steroids In Coming Rally

Reader’s Recommendations of the Week:

Movies

April 9th In Danish subtitled with English, covering the German Invasion of WW2. One note is that just because strategic surprise has been achieved doesn’t mean you can’t work to get the tactical advantage back.

Admiral In Dutch subtitled with English. Absolutely stunning visuals. Covers Dutch republic in its war against Germany, France, England.

Books

I also read had the chance to read the Knights Templar trilogy by Jack Wythe. I suggest all three–Kights of the Black and White, Standard of Honor, and Order in Chaos. While reading I discovered where Friday the 13th comes from and the term “black balled”. In the third, it touches on the changes of the world and the world of the Templars collapsing around them. Just because the TEOTWAWKI has happened doesn’t mean that life doesn’t continue.

– CD who has escaped Northern VA.

Odds ‘n Sods:

South Dakota drops teaching high schoolers about American revolution, founding documents – B.B.

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IRS Could Not Verify 40% Of $15 Billion Of Affordable Care Act Tax Credits Due To Lack Of Data From Health Insurance Exchanges – PLC

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FLIR ONE thermal imaging camera review – G.P.

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President Warns Nation Of Massacre And Death – Scenes Of Plundering In The Streets, Empty Shelves And Mile Long Lines Should Have Americans Preparing For The Worst – B.B.

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From Mike Williamson, SurvivalBlogs Editor At Large: some finer Form 4473 points

Notes for Tuesday – September 01, 2015

September is Kilted to Kick Cancer Month. It was a wise move, not picking January. (Brrrr!) September is also National Preparedness Month.

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Today, we present another entry for Round 60 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $10,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chromlined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR type rifle to have quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools, and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  4. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul pmags 30rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt. (An equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions.),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A Model 120 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $340 value),
  7. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  8. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  9. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $300 gift certificate, and
  10. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of FloJak.com,
  3. The Ark Institute is donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  4. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  5. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  6. Twenty Five books, of the winners choice, of any books published by PrepperPress.com (a $270 value),
  7. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  8. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $150 gift certificate,
  9. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  10. Safecastle is providing a package of 10 Lifestraws (a $200 value).

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  6. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Precision Rest (a $249 value), and
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 60 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

EMP Protection For Electronic Safe Locks, by PrepperDoc

Like many preppers, I have a safe with a digital lock that I purchased before I understood EMP, and I would now like to have some protection for that lock against the E1 component of an EMP attack. (Because the lock is not attached to any very long wires, the E3 component is not an issue.) I present here a simple technique that may provide significant (although imperfect) protection and which is amenable to becoming a commercial product by a motivated individual (and I freely give away the idea). Such additional protection would be expected to raise the probability that I won’t have to hack into my own safe after an EMP event.

The accompanying photo shows a swath of household aluminum foil simply pressed over my digital lock and held in place with a rubber band. The outer portions are hand-pressed to lay as flat as possible against the painted surface of the metal safe door. If you are careful, you can remove and re-install it several times. A bit of structure provided by some masking tape around the lock would probably make it last even longer. As I will demonstrate both by theory and experiment, even this simple system is likely to be of significant help, increasing the probability that your lock will not be harmed. Also, it could very easily be manufactured and a far better version sold at a profit by an enterprising person. Create a steel mold a bit larger than the typical electronic lock by grinding away at a slice of a steel rod. Take 1/16″ aluminum or steel and hammer it to fit over the mold (the “bubble”) to have a fairly flat circular “brim” around the “bubble” that can lay flat against the safe front. Add a bit of the thinnest Velcro fabric you can find to secure it to the safe (possibly even indenting a spot or two in the “brim” so the “hat” will lay as flat as possible to the safe. It’s done. Now, market it!

Because electronic locks may be relatively small with short wires, presenting a small “aperture” to receive E1 energy, some may actually already be relatively resistant to EMP. There are commercial locks available for under $200 that have been shown to be unaffected by “simulated EMP”[1]. However, my particular low-end lock hasn’t been tested to my knowledge, and there would be a gunsmith charge on top of the purchase price to put a tested lock in place. That would raise the total cost beyond my mid-range safe’s value. Hence, I pursued this attempt to protect my existing lock. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I have the ability to break into that safe.)

If you aren’t interested in a lot of electrical engineering discussion, immediately skip down to the last section on experimental confirmation.

What is the electromagnetic threat signature of the E1 attack? The milspec “test” waveform (See Figure 1 of Ref. [1] ) that is used to simulate an E1 (hopefully similar to the real thing!) is a very rapidly rising and falling pulse (a few nanoseconds) creating a very high voltage/field, which has a frequency spectrum that is fairly constant (and large) from very low frequencies, up to about 10 MHz, and then declines as it moves from there higher. (See Figure 2-15 of Reference [2]). At 1 GHz the simulated spectrum is three orders of magnitude weaker than it is at 10 MHz, which would suggest that the primary goal should be to protect against “short wave” frequencies and lower. Note, however, that the actual observed signal (See Figure 3-1 in Reference [2]) has many very fast “ripples” and therefore may have more potent microwave energy than the simulation test signal; so, good microwave protection may also be important. As I will attempt to argue, my suggested solution probably provides significant (but not total) protection at these frequencies of interest.

To actually calculate the resulting electromagnetic field versus time, or measure the exact protection such a device would provide to my electronic lock would be quite a computer or measurement feat. (Hint: This would be a great thesis for a Masters’ student in Electrical Engineering.) However, one of the things I learned during my training in electromagnetics and electrical engineering was to hunt for similar problems that did have a known solution. In this case, the “brim” of the cover, together with the steel door of the safe, acts like a very thin waveguide for the transmission of electromagnetic waves. This effective waveguide has “defective ends” because it never makes connection laterally to the safe door but to very small wavelength (high microwave) signals, and it resembles an infinitely wide but not very tall (about 1/8″) waveguide. Also, when looked at from the lower-frequency circuit designers’ viewpoint, if the entire system is about 12″ in diameter with a 6″ diameter central bubble, the brim has a surface area of about 85 square inches approximately 1/8″ or less from the safe door, and therefore has roughly a capacitance of >150 picofarads, representing an impedance of about a thousand ohms at 1 MHz and 10 ohms at 100 MHz, 1 ohm at 1 Ghz. That’s not a really low impedance but not an open circuit either; it helps to make the shielding effect better at higher frequencies in the circuit designer’s view.

Let’s further examine the waveguide analogy to the brim. Waveguides are widely used to transport electromagnetic energy from transmitters to antennae. However, they are usually used only for microwave (>1 Ghz) signals, because of the problem of “waveguide beyond cutoff.” That is, if the dimensions of the waveguide aren’t at least the size of one wavelength of the signal to be transported, the waveguide can’t maintain the most common electromagnet field (the TE10 wave), and transport fails. In our case, we don’t have a normal “waveguide”, but our system resembles one that is very thin (say, 1/8″) and wide (about 12″ wide), about the size of a 1 Ghz wave, suggesting that our hat brim may function well to impede the transmission of signals below 1 GHz from the outside to the area of the bubble (where the lock is located). This is an approximation, of course. This is not going to be perfect isolation; with elaborate test equipment one would likely quantify the leakage level, but it will be much better than doing nothing at all. I’ve used this trick before (with real waveguide) to get connections into and out of a microwave cavity, but to completely block microwave energy from escaping. It worked perfectly in that instance, even when probed by a nosey biomedical safety officer. So I think it has a good chance in this instance also. It’s certainly far better than nothing! It is true that “slots” in waveguide can be used as actual antennas (suggesting EMP energy could slip through), but it only works if the slot is on the order of one wavelength. So, again our system may significantly impede energy below 1 Ghz.[4]

If you wanted to possibly improve the shielding at very low frequencies, one trick would be to sand the paint off a small area (maybe one square inch) of the front of the safe and have a copper brush affixed to the aluminum shield that would make contact at least at that one spot. This will be most helpful below 1 MHz. I didn’t test this.

SafePhoto

One disadvantage of this proposed solution (and an option for improvement) is that it does not directly provide magnetic shielding. However, in air the magnetic field is related to the electric field via physical constants. Knocking down the E field by conductive shielding (this solution) will cause both the resultant E and H fields on the inside to be reduced. However, there’s an improvement for this also! If you construct the shield out of a ferrous substance (e.g., steel) and provide brush contacts at say three points, you probably add significant magnetic shielding as well. I have not tested this at all.

Experimental Confirmation of Simple Shield

To test this protective system, my wonderful wife performed a test with an AM broadcast band radio receiver that suggests this idea actually works. My biggest concerns were at frequencies < 1 MHz. The portable radio picked up a strong signal from a local 5kW AM radio station about eight miles away, which is well within the local published range, at a frequency just under 1 MHz. The signal had no static, showing a very high signal to noise ratio. Plastering the radio up against the painted, non-conductive safe using aluminum foil with a “brim” of approximately 4″ reduced the station’s strength down into the static, just barely notable. Since AM radios have “automatic gain control”, it is not easily possible to measure the actual shielding level. This suggests a very significant amount, probably > 20 dB. [That is merely an educated guess from years of Ham radio experience.] Note that no attempt was made to directly, physically connect the foil to the safe. Although this is clearly not perfect shielding, by significantly reducing the field that reaches my electronic lock, it may significantly increase the probability that it escapes unharmed from an EMP event. A final suggestion is that if you do not anticipate needing to re-enter the safe for quite a while, it would be wise to use aluminized a/c duct tape to simply tape down the edges of the lock cover. A similar improvement has been tested on garbage can Faraday shields with very significant improvement.[5]

REFERENCES

References


[1] Dayton T. Brown, Inc., Electromagnetic Susceptibility Test Program Performed on Eight Lock Assemblies, accessed at: http://www.libertysafe.com/images/downloads/SGEmpTesting.pdf


[2] Savage E, Gilbert J, Radasky W. The Early-Time (E1) High Amplitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and Its Impact on the U.S. Power Grid. Accessed at: http://www.ferc.gov/industries/electric/indus-act/reliability/cybersecurity/ferc_meta-r-320.pdf [Note: this is a very extensive reference on the characteristics of the EMP induced wave.]


[3] Waveguide Cutoff Frequency, accessed at: http://www.radio-electronics.com/info/antennas/waveguide/cutoff-frequency.php


[4] Wade, P. W1GHZ Microwave Antenna Book, Chapter 7: Slot Antennas. Accessed at: http://www.qsl.net/n1bwt/ch7_part1.pdf


[5] disasterprepper. EMP Trash Can Faraday Cage Testing in Lab. Accessed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3S2KDuVxaU