Letter Re: The Usefulness of MSDS Info for Chemicals

Jim: I saw J.A.N.’s letter about MSDS information for chemicals.  A comment J.A.N. made indicated the lengthiness of some MSDSs – very true with amazingly confusing info.  Another source is the international chemical safety card (ICSC) and can be located here.   These are typically only two pages in length, have standardized format, and are available in numerous other languages.  As an FYI – the “MSDS” is quickly becoming archaic as the U.S. is finally catching up with the international concept of SDSs  (no “M”)– with mandated format, international symbology, and definitive info for personal protective clothing/equipment (PPE).  Too many …




Letter Re: Fire: Your Partner in Survival

Dear JWR: The excellent article, “Fire: Your Partner in Survival, by Pledger” mentioned the BTU ratings of certain trees. Wanting to know a bit more, I did some searching and found a chart of the BTU ratings of various types of wood. On another note, Pledger’s reference to a cord as 4×8 feet by 16 inches threw me. I looked it up and found that a “full cord” measures 4x4x8 feet, which is the number I was familiar with, ranging from 80 to 100 cubic feet stacked. The web site I found uses 90 cubic feet for its BTU ratings. …




Two Letters Re: Surviving Snowmageddon

Dear JWR: You don’t always need a snow plow to to free up the streets in a snow-bound neighborhood. I found a video that shows a U.S. military surplus M35 2-1/2 Ton (“Deuce and a Half”) truck being used to pack down snow. – Solar Guy   Mr. Rawles, We in dry Central Texas are having the opposite problem from your “Snowmageddon” contributors: Dry wind-blizzards. On Monday, February 25th we had dry, sunny weather combined with high winds all day and night. I stepped outside after lunch to check the mail. Uhh-Ohh. The brush pile fire we had burned almost …




Welding, Post-TEOTWAWKI, by G.M.

I am a retired journeyman pipefitter who is a Certified Welding Inspector.  I teach at a nearby community college two days a week.   Welding encompasses such a large body of knowledge that no one person can know all there is to know and certainly cannot condense everything into a short article, but let me start with some basics. First of all, if you can’t tell the difference between steel, stainless steel, aluminum or cast iron you shouldn’t be welding.  You have to know what process to use and which filler metal to use.  Some things will hurt you or kill …




Letter Re: Natural Gas Explosion in Indianapolis

Just writing in for the first time to bring an interesting incident to the forefront of the readers minds. It’s been lost in the national news since it happened . Saturday night, November 10, 2012 at just past 11 p.m. an explosion rocked a south Indianapolis neighborhood. Officials immediately cordoned off the neighborhood and started doing sweeps of the debris looking for survivors. In all four houses were totally destroyed, two were wiped to the foundations. Several surrounding homes were damaged beyond repair and 80 homes were damaged. The scene looked like a war zone with the look of a …




Home Fire-Safe Checklist/Defensible Space, by Matthew Stein, P.E.

Fire Statistics The following statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are for fires in the USA in 2009: There were 3,010 civilian deaths from fire, 2,565 of which occurred in the home. There were 260 civilian deaths from motor vehicle fires. Only 105 civilian fire deaths occurred in non-residential structures. US fire departments responded to an estimated 1,348,500 fires resulting in an estimated $12,531,000,000 in property losses and 17,050 civilian injuries. In general, fires cause more loss of life and property in America than all natural disasters combined. Every year, fires are responsible for more loss of life, …




Approaching Fire or Extreme Fire Alert, by Matthew Stein, P.E.

After living in The States off and on for several years, in 2008 Andrew and Mary Hall moved back to their home in Buxton Australia so they could  be closer to their aging parents. It was a modest three bedroom two bath house with exterior walls of “mud brick” (adobe) that helped keep the home’s interior cool during the hot Australian summers. With large eaves, a metal roof, and adobe style mud brick walls, many would consider their home to be reasonably fire resistant, but its construction proved no match for the forces of nature that turned the neighboring towns …




Beyond the Defensible Space: Fire Safety and the Structure of Your Home, by Matthew Stein

Given the record breaking droughts, heat waves, and fire storms of the summer of 2012, if current scientific predictions of global warming prove anywhere near correct, then the we can expect that this scary situation will become the new normal  in the coming years. Whether you are a homeowner wishing to improve the fire resistance of your current dwelling, or are planning to build a new home, beyond creating a “defensible space” around your home there are a number of other actions you can take to improve the chances that your home will survive a local wildfire. These guidelines are …




Letter Re: Lessons From The Colorado Wildfires

Jim, I was two miles from where the Waldo Canyon fire when it started last Saturday. We saw the fire just minutes after it began. Within five hours, 2,500 acres were consumed. Four hours after we left Garden Of The Gods, they evacuated the park. Then they evacuated the town of Manitou Springs where we were staying. We had to leave because of this. 32,000 people have had to abandon their homes. Some 6,000 acres have burned so far. Keep the people of Colorado in your prayers. – Shrike




Letter Re: Preparing Your Retreat For a Forest Fire or Brush Fire, by F.A.

In the article “Preparing Your Retreat For a Forest Fire or Brush Fire” by F.A., the author states “In reality though, the gap exists because the Forest Service policy was to fight every fire. I’m not meaning to offend anyone, but I believe they got caught up in the same ‘spend it or lose it’ budget planning that has helped bury this country in debt. Their policy was to extinguish any reported fire by 10:00 AM the following morning. Imagine the resources necessary to accomplish this goal. Even in the primitive areas, then designated wilderness areas after the passage of …




Preparing Your Retreat For a Forest Fire or Brush Fire, by F.A.

As hundreds of thousands of acres are burning all across Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Wyoming, as I write this article, the smell of smoke wafting through my window has caused me to think about the many thousands of people that have retreated to the Redoubt. While I have no way of knowing how many folks have relocated from parts other than the Rocky Mountain west, I suppose that many are not familiar with the devastation a forest fire can cause; nor how quickly the devastation can occur. I also can only assume that most of the Redoubt folks …




Letter Re: Lessons From The Colorado Wildfires

Dear Editor: Wanted to share my evacuation experiences and lessons learned while they’re still fresh in my mind.  Although it wasn’t a 5 minute evacuation, it was pretty stress-free.  Fortunately, I started serious preparations early this year, or it would have been a whole lot more work.   My house is (was?) within about five miles of the starting point of the fire.  Not far at all, but fires don’t burn that well downhill, so it was ok.  But the wind picked up big last night and sent the fire into the houses within about three miles of me.    I got my pile of “definitely …




When Push Comes to Shotgun: Survival in the Suburbs, by Michael K.

To anyone who swatches the news or opens up an internet browser from time to time, it’s exceedingly clear that the world is becoming an extremely dangerous place.  From the abstract threats such as global economic collapse or pandemic to the more concrete ideas of natural catastrophes, terrorist attacks and the like, it’s obvious that preparedness isn’t just something to think about occasionally, it’s an absolute necessity.  Yet, with our feet firmly planted in the middle class, my wife and I don’t exactly have the money to go out and build the fortified bunker of our dreams for the day …




Letter Re: Evacuating Quickly to Escape Wildfires

JWR: As a former California Department of Forestry (C.D.F. which is now Cal-Fire) wild land firefighter I would like to give some professional advice to persons living in wildfire prone urban interface locations.  The 100 foot clearance required is really a necessity in defending your retreat.  If infrastructure is still up, when told to evacuate, GET OUT ! From a roadway, I once had to listen to the screams of a woman who burned to death because she refused to evacuate her home.  It is a haunting memory. Have an advance plan for safety zones and escape routes.  A safety zone …




Letter Re: Evacuating Quickly to Escape Wildfires

James, There is much conversation about the desirability of moving to a rural retreat location.  Much has been written on your site about moving to moving to the American Redoubt.  But how many people really consider the drastic changes in their lifestyle when moving out of the city to a rural location?  Consider one drastic change:  fire protection.  People living in cities with asphalt streets, fire hydrants, professionally staffed fire stations, and minimal response times may not understand the change to living in a rural area with fire protection offered by volunteer departments.  I have lived in rural areas for …