Personal protective equipment (PPE)

While researching for my post on Disaster kits part one and two I noticed there seems to be general confusion on on the topic of PPE and what kind you need for different purposes. What really hit the nail on the head and promted me to write this post on PPE was when i read a guide on redcross.org that basically equated a surgical mask and an N95 mask. These two types of masks are not intended for the same purpose at all, but more on that later.

To simplify things i usually divide the threats into 3 main groups:

  • Infectious agents
  • Radiation (or rather radioactive particles)
  • Chemicals and gasses

Some of the groups require the same basic PPE. The easiest to provide protection against are by far particle borne threats such as infectious agents, toxic dust and radioactive particles.

Infectious agents:

When trying to protect against infectious agents knowledge of the specific pathogen is useful, however in most cases fairly cheap single use PPE and some procedures for putting it on and taking it off, will go a long way to protect the wearer from infection. If you want the gear with the best protection available you can easily spend thousands of dollars on positive pressure suits and a self contained air supply, and even then, all it might take to still be infected is a small tear in the suit. The downside of such suits, apart from the pricetag, is limited mobility making a tear fairly likely to occur. Instead i recommend getting the following:

  • plastic apron (outer layer)
  • category 3 and 4 chemical suit (outer layer, taped seams and with double liquid tight closing mechanism)
  • hood that, when combined with a half mask and goggles or a full mask, covers any exposed skin of the face
  • half mask and face shield for non airborne diseases and full mask for airborne diseases (there is a theoretical infection route through the eyes when dealing with an airborne disease) FFP3 or N95 filtering masks are a minimum protection level. A reusable mask fitted with a P3 filter will eliminate 99.95% of all particles.
  • absorbent inner layer (surgical clothing or similar)
  • nitrile gloves (inner layer)
  • long sleeve chemical gloves (outer layer, must provide some mechanical strength as well as act as a barrier)
  • liquid tight footwear (rubber boots)
  • chemical tape for sealing up the openings where gloves or boots meet the suit
  • large garden spray bottle and diluted bleach (used before taking off the PPE and possibly as a decontamination shower after taking off the suit)

The procedure for putting on and taking off the gear is as important as the gear itself, I will cover this in a later post.

Radioactive particles:

There are many types of radiation, some harmless and some harmfull to the human organism. It is however beyond the scope of this blogpost to delve into the specific types of radiation. For those intrested, wikipedia has a fairly easy to understand article on radiation 

In movies you often see actors wearing radiation suits to protect against ionizing radiation. The truth is, that the suits are not designed to protect against radiation itself, as this would require a lead lined suit so heavy that even the Hulk would have a hard time walking around in it. The intended purpose of most radiation suits is to protect against ingesting, inhaling or otherwise bringing back radioactive particles from a contaminated area.

Why are a few specks of radioactive dust so problematic you ask? well radiation follows the inverse-square law meaning if you half the distance to a radiation source, you quadrouple the radiation dose (simply put,  the closer the source of the radiation is to your body the more damage is done). Furthermore radioactive materials can have a very long half-life and thus emit radiation for a very long time increasing the damage done over time.

When trying to protect yourself from radioactive particles the same equipment used to protect against infectious agents can be used (see list above). The only difference is that dousing yourself in bleach is not necessary, instead a thorough decontamination shower before and after taking off the suit is highly recommended.

Chemicals and gasses:

This is the point when choosing the right PPE becomes either complicated, expensive or both. The problem when dealing with chemicals or gasses is that is that you have to know what chemical or gas you want to protect yourself from and the specific concentration of the chemical or gas in the surrounding environment. As an example a standard run of the mill natural rubber glove will offer excellent protection from acid, but very poor protection from organic solvents (ethanol / alcohol will penetrate in a matter of minutes).

I other words this is a preppers nightmare. If worried about an unknown chemical or gaseous threat the only safe bet is basically an airtight heavy duty chemical suit with its own air supply and those are quite expensive. Even with the best gear expect a limited time before the chemical might breach the suit. If you know the specific threat (gas or chemical) you can probably get by with much less as filters and chemical suits are available for a wide range of applications.

A note on filtering masks (respirators):

When dealing with particle contaminants (infectious agents and radioactive or toxic particles) filtering masks are often used. I have seen a lot of suggestions for using a surgical mask for this purpose probably because they are cheap. However surgical masks are intended to protect patients from saliva droplets from the wearer and as such the mask offers little or no protection for the wearer. FFP3 masks and N95 masks are designed to make a tight seal to the wearer’s face and filter out particles from the incoming air. If you want to step up that protection a half or full mask fitted with a P3 filter will, if fitted to the wearer, do better than the single use masks. Keep in mind though that no filter is 100% effective.

A wide range of filters are available for half or full masks that enables you to filter out harmful things such as organic solvents, mercury or inorganic gasses etc. 3M has a good guide for selecting the appropriate filter for a specific purpose.

In conclusion:

For any PPE to be effective you have to know the threat. Sure you can the top of the line gear if you have enough money, but in most cases you will be cumbered to an unnecessary degree by heavy gear. Even the very best PPE will only protect you for a limited amount of time and will not be effective against all threats (radiation for example). When dealing with infectious agents or threats where even small exposures pose a substantial health risk, the proper procedure for putting on and taking off the gear is as important as the gear itself.

Disaster Kit – Part 2 (shelter in place)

In part 1, I covered the disaster kit for bugging out. In part 2 I will be covering the basics for sheltering in.

The scenario

A major disaster just hit your area and has taken out power and landlines. The water supply is still up, but running on backup power. You have spent years building that model railroad in the basement and there is no way in h*ll you are leaving it for looters to ransack. Time to batten down the hatches and prepare to shelter in place.

There are plenty of scenarios where sheltering in place, is the most sensible choice. It’s likely that the roads are closed or overcrowded with other people trying to leave the area. Scenarios where you expect the disturbance to be over relatively quickly, like weathering a storm and the aftermath, are also prime candidates for using the shelter in place tactic.

The following is what I believe you will need (partly compiled from ready.gov and redcross.org):

If you already read part one of this guide, you will notice that some items are on both lists. This makes it possible to read them independently.

  • First and foremost, fill up on water as long as the resource is still available. All containers capable of holding potable water should be filled to the brink. Needed amount of water: One gallon per person (about 4 liters) per day (minimum 14-day supply for sheltering in place)
  • Food: Non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (14-day supply for sheltering in place)
  • A way to prepare food (camp stove or similar, remember fuel aswell)
  • Headlamp and/or flashlight (I recommend a good headlamp to keep your hands free)
  • Candles or other illumination source
  • Plywood panels for covering windows and/or doors (mostly useful in storms and for complicating entry from the outside)
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (30-day supply) and medical items
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Cell phone with chargers (for mains and for the car, you might not be driving anywhere, but if mains power is unavailable, a car battery might save you)
  • Powerbank for charging phones
  • Extra cash
  • Map(s) of the area (preferably with points of interest like water sources already plotted)
  • Duct tape and plastic sheeting (for sealing up windows and/or doors from harmful particles)
  • Alcohol based disinfectant
  • Household chlorine bleach (usable for disinfectant)
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) is useful for guarding against infectious or otherwise harmful agents, but keep in mind that most are single use and prolonged exposure to chemicals or radiation will likely mean that your PPE is less effective or has no effect at all
  • When sheltering in place hypothermia is usually less of a concern, but if you have a heatsource that works off grid a small stockpile of fuel for that heatsouce might prove invaluable, especially in cold climates. Most people will already have warm clothes and blankets available in their homes
  • If you have babies, children or animals in the house consider special needs (formula, diapers, petfood etc.)

I intentionally left out weapons from the list even though some kind of defensive capability might be sensible to have. Where I live there is very strict regulation on weapons of any kind, even simple “weapons” such as slingshots, clubs or long bladed knives are illegal to own. If you decide to acquire items for self defense, be sure to obey local legislation, and keep guns or similarly dangerous items locked safely away from curious children.

As with part one the list above is by no means complete, but represents what I try to have available for me and my family in case of emergency. Depending on the type of disaster and the climate you live in the most valuable items might differ from the list above.

What do you believe needs to be in a “shelter-in-place kit”?

Disaster Kit – Part 1 (bug out)

When preparing for anything it greatly helps to know what you are preparing for. Although you can’t predict the future, there are different statistical likelihoods that certain events will happen.

Luckily I live in a fairly peaceful part of the world and major earthquakes, hurricanes, volcano eruptions, tsunamis and other natural disasters are unlikely to occur. This fact saves me from a lot of “home improvements” to counter those immediate threats. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a bunker in the backyard, I just don’t have a real need for one at the present.

What I am vulnerable to however, is what usually follows any natural disaster, namely the disruption of infrastructure. We have come to rely so much on running water, electricity, phones and internet access that when one, or all of those, stop working, most people have no idea how to cope. History tells us that some degree of chaos and anarchy is likely to follow.

In the following I will try to lay out a basic list of what you should have available in case infrastructure fails for a short time. As even the basic list is fairly extensive I will be dividing this post in two posts based on whether you want to shelter in place or bug out. Part one deals with bugging out.

The scenario

A major disaster just hit your area and has taken out power and landlines. There are still a few mobile providers available, running on backup power, as is the water supply. The disaster is such that you do not expect power to come on again anytime soon, which means whatever infrastructure is still running will soon fail. It’s time to get out of Dodge. Rural roads are still open so you decide to take your car.

This is what you will need (partly compiled from ready.gov and redcross.org):

  • Extra fuel for your car (about 1000 kilometers / 620 miles worth)
  • At least one spare tire and tools to change tires.
  • Water: One gallon per person (about 4 liters) per day (3-day supply for evacuation)
  • Food: Non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation)
  • A way to prepare food (camp stove or similar)
  • Headlamp and/or flashlight (I recommend a good headlamp to keep your hands free)
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (in case you have to ditch the car)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
  • Multi-purpose tool with can opener
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers (for mains and for the car)
  • Powerbank for charging phones
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Emergency blankets
  • Map(s) of the area (preferably with suitible escape routes already plotted)
  • Duct tape
  • Soap
  • Alcohol based disinfectant
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper (bleach can be used as a disinfectant by diluting nine parts water to one part bleach. For emergency water treatment use 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners)

be_red_cross_ready_horizontalIf you have children or babies consider special needs such as entertainment, diapers, formula etc. The same is applicable for pets (leash, food, ID, water and bowl)

Depending on the type of disaster, you might need to protect yourself from dust or contagions, and for that purpose you will need at least a N95 or FPP3 mask fitted for every family member. Forget about surgical masks as they do little to protect the wearer from dust or infectious agents. Furthermore a good quality chemical protective clothing, with at least type 3 and 4 protection, is nice to have on hand, for added protection from radioactive particles and infectious agents.

Keep in mind that in most survival situation water and heat are your most precious resources, so fill up on water and fuel as long as those resources are still working. Tools for making fire, dry and warm clothing and blankets/sleeping bags can be essential in surviving in cold climates.

Lastly when travelling in a group, a means of communicating (such as two way radios) can prove immensely valuable.

The list above is by no means complete, but it will most likely cover the basic needs and these are the items I have stored for my family. Part two of this post will deal with the scenario of sheltering in place.

Which items do you have in your “bug out” disaster kit?

Painting Clean Edges

Our recent addition to the family prompted a space reallocation. M got the old office and A got M’s old room. Most of M’s old room is white, but a single wall was painted with stripes of white and two shades of green. Painting 10 centimeter wide stripes in alternating colors on a whole wall is fairly time consuming, (but a Paint samplescheap alternative to putting up wallpaper) which is why K reassured me that the colors were gender neutral and I would not have to repaint the room, if we got a girl at some point. Turns out gender neutral colors change over time and  3 years later we are repainting (purple with a white border)……deep down I guess I knew this would happen.

This is what I learned about how to get those perfect sharp edges:

  1. Get a good quality masking tape, which will make removing the tape cleanly a lot easier.
  2. You will need two colors of paint, even if your wall is allready the color you want as a base. Even the best masking tape will still let some paint bleed under the edge of the tape and the only way to get around that problem, is to control which color bleeds under the edge.

The process is best explained with an example. Say you have a white wall and you want to paint a purple stripe on it.

  1. Start by masking off the border of the purple line, making sure to press the masking tape thouroughly to the wall.
  2. Paint the border of the tape you want to end up as purple, white (the base color) and let it dry. ThisMasking tape allows the white paint to bleed under any part of the tape that is not completely closed off.
  3. Paint the stripe purple, making sure not to go beyond the outer border of the masking tape.
  4. When you have finished with the last layer of purple, peel off the masking tape carefully to reveal a nice clean border between the two colors.

Keep your brushes in a closed plastic bag and you will be able to paint with them over and over again without rinsing, for at least a week.

EdgesSo A’ room now has a purple wall and I thought the room was finished, but last week I overheard K telling some friends that she has some regrets about the color and now wants wallpaper instead!!!……….

Apple Brownie and Apple Juice

ApplesWe are literally drowning in apples this year. We have already filled the freezer with applesauce, which will later be used for apple trifle and yesterday we juiced the remaining apples.  When you juice you get a lot of pulp and it really annoyed me to let that go to waste. This  time I tried putting it in a cake. I used this Rivercottage recipe for Beetroot Brownie and simply replaced the beetroot with apple pulp. The apple pulp is a little dry compared to freshly blended beetroot, so to compensate I added 1 dl. of water (3 fl oz) to the pulp during blending. Even when I know there is apple in this recipe, the taste is still only that of great brownie.

Applejuice

Tip: Freshly squeezed juice should be consumed pretty fast, but if you freeze it in cleaned milk cartons, it will last several months. For apple juice you might consider adding a little bit of lemon juice to reduce discoloration due to oxidation.

 

Color Changing Activity Board for Toddlers

At the age of 2, M was pretty adventuros and kept us busy tidying up closets  and drawers. Part of our effort to keep his little hands busy, was to make him an activity board (busyboard). Here he could explore to his heart content, without any risk of cuts, burns, poisoning, electrocution or breaking expensive items. The board itself is nothing new.

Basically you cut a piece of fiberboard or plywood to desired size, paint it as you like, populate the board with whatever your child likes and mount the board to a suitable wall.

Our son had a special intrest in switches and colored lights and to accomodate that, I decided to mount 3 switches each controlling one channel of an RGB LED. The idea is that the individual colors can be turned on or off, one by one, enabling the child to mix the colors. The result can be seen in the video below.

The light feature is designed to be inexpensive and very easy to build. Its based on a single 5mm RGB common anode LED with voltage reducing resistors for each color.  However individual leds for each color could just as easily have been used. I used hot glue to diffuse the light.

The diagram below shows the curcuit alongside my ghetto implementation of it.

diagram and implementation

As seen I built it using whatever I had lying around that day, making this instance of the project very inexpensive and low impact. Except for paint, solder and hot glue every part is made with salvaged materials.

When someone sees the board for the first time, children and adults alike, they seem to go straight for the light switches and stay there –  fascinated.

 

Google Analytics – a Starter Guide

If you have gone to the trouble of creating a blog and publish stuff, at some point you will probably wonder if anybody is actually reading your posts. If you are looking for more followers your next immediate questions will be:

“Who, what and why are they watching?”

The base install of wordpress will not tell you this, but fortunately there are several reporting tools available. I chose Google Analytics because it’s greatly recommended, very comprehensive and last but not least – it’s free. 

This guide will help you install Google Analytics on your wordpress.org powered site. Continue reading Google Analytics – a Starter Guide

Upgrading to Windows 10 – Step by Step Guide

I just upgraded to Windows 10. I was actually relatively happy with Windows 7, but ever since the upgrade to 10 proclaimed it was ready to install, my computer started giving me periodic BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death), with increasing frequency. Coincidence?

Conspiracy theories aside my Windows 7 installation had been begging me to be put out of its misery for a long time, and if I was going to do a fresh install anyway, I might as well upgrade. Here are my recommendations for the upgrade and simplified step by step instructions of the process.

Continue reading Upgrading to Windows 10 – Step by Step Guide

Manfrotto 324rc2 head top plate repair

20150910_103346__1442516468_87.55.214.56I recently purchased a manfrotto 324rc2 head with a damaged top plate for cheap.

My plan was to repair the head for use with a small (and light) point and shoot camera.  The top plate has mounting holes in two locations which I thought would enable me to just mount the plate in the second set of mounting holes, making for an easy repair. Unfortunately, upon close inspection, the  damage to the plate was more extensive than just the mounting holes. The plate had several little hairline fractures which might result in a catastrophic failure if stressed too much.

Continue reading Manfrotto 324rc2 head top plate repair

No readers but lots of spam

As I was still researching and setting up the technical aspects of this blog, I suddenly got an email telling me that someone had commented on a post. At first I was really excited – our first reader! The comment read something along the lines:

“I agree completely with your thoughts in this post, it’s like you read my mind. Really nice blog you have”.

A comment like that would normally have given me a feeling of great acknowledgment, but when I realized to which post the comment had been made, I started laughing. This person commenting on our blog was either a master of meditation or holds the world record for lowest recorded IQ in a human. Why? Continue reading No readers but lots of spam