Wilderness Survival: Are You Prepared?

I liked this video. We here at DeMarSouthard.com get real excited about online marketing and the state of the economy, but when the sh*t hits the fan (and it will), you better be prepared for anything. Survival means a lot of things to a lot of people. You may never find yourself in the wilderness, but having some skills and information at hand is never a bad thing.

Man up, guys. Make sure you can take care of yourself out there. It's not only necessary, it's fun.

And check out this great trenching tool. It got great reviews.

Could You Survive a Flood?

Slow and steady water flow created the Grand Canyon and other spectacular sights around the globe. Millions of years of slow and steady water flow along a path might be called “creative destruction.” When that same water is fast, and especially unexpected, the result is just plain old destruction.

Being prepared for a flood is much less taxing than surviving one, and of course the best way to prepare for surviving a flood is not to live where one might occur. The Federal Emergency Management Administration hosts a web site at https://www.floodsmart.gov, where you can find information on flood maps and flood insurance. Living where you have a river, lake, or ocean view can be wonderful until Mother Nature roars at you with persistent heavy rain or a sudden warm spell after a winter of heavy snow. And, as the recent problems at Oroville Dam in California have proven, the efforts of man can be just as deadly.

So the first rule of flood preparedness is, when considering where you want to live, give an honest risk assessment to the possibility of flood before you buy or rent and possibly place all your worldly possessions, not to mention your life, in the path of potential flood waters.

The danger from a flood is not just the water, but the debris carried by it. The water may contain raw sewage, creating a health hazard if swallowed or even if it only contacts the eyes. The water may be deadly cold, with risk of hypothermia if you’re caught in it.

Water Temperature

(Fahrenheit and Celcius)

Time before exhaustion or unconsciousness

32.5° .3° < 15 minutes
32.5° – 40° .3° – 4.4° 15 – 30 minutes
40° – 50° 3.3° – 10° 30 – 60 minutes
50° – 60° 10° – 15.6° 1 – 2 hours

Whether for flood, earthquake, meteor strike, or any other possible hazard you can think of, there should be a readily accessible an emergency kit in the home. The American Red Cross suggests these minimum contents:

  • Backpack with multiple pouches and removable organizer (Joe suggests any of the Maxpedition backpacks for their extremely good quality and well-thought out designs.)
  • 1 Battery powered flashlight (2D cell batteries included)
  • 1 hand crank emergency radio
  • 1 Emergency blanket, 4.5′×7′
  • Moist towelettes (individually wrapped)
  • 1 Pen light
  • Food packets, 2,400 calories total, 5 year shelf life (ingredients include wheat flour, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, salt, water and coconut flavoring)
  • Water pouches, total of 16 ounces, 5 year shelf life
  • Procedural breathing mask
  • Rain poncho (adult sized)
  • 1 Roll of duct tape, 2″ × 30 yds
  • 1 Water container, holds 3.5 gallons
  • 1 Whistle
  • 1 Hygiene kit, including toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, soap, deodorant, washcloth, comb, and mesh shower bag
  • 1 45-piece First aid kit, including compresses, adhesive bandages, first aid tape, antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizer, gauze, and latex-free gloves
  • At least a week’s supply of any medications that might be needed – asthma inhalers, prescription medication, along with a spare set of eye glasses. If you wear contacts, plan to be without them for the duration.
  • If you have infants, ensure their special needs are supplied. Diapers, powder, formula, etc.
  • If you have pets, plan for their survival with adequate food and water.

Keep in mind, the expendable items above are per person. Clean water after a flood may be difficult to find. You’ll need at least 3 gallons per person per day for consumption, cooking, and sanitation.

The actual flood waters don’t have to reach your house to cause problems. The ground itself can be saturated with water, causing normal ground water table levels to rise. If you have a basement and there is any chance of ground water seepage, ensure you have a functioning sump pump. In addition, there are a multitude of products that will seal cracks in concrete so water doesn’t have an easy path into your home. You may also consider sealing the entire floor and walls of your basement. There are a multitude of products available at big box home improvement stores and on the web.

When heavy rains fall for days on end your home’s roof is going to be your first line of defense. The time to repair ANY possible leak is when the sun is shining. When bad weather approaches you may not be able to find qualified repairmen, and the con men will be crawling out of the woodwork when the SHTF. (i.e., when the excrement comes in rapid contact with the air oscillation device.) In addition to having a secure roof, keep gutters clear and ensure runoff water has a clear path away from the foundation of the house. When ground water tables are rising is no time to help the problem by dumping rain water close to the house’s foundation.

If flood water may be approaching, and it can happen quickly, prepare your house for water.

  • Roll up rugs and try to move furniture to a higher location. Wet rugs can easily grow mold, which can be virtually impossible to remove. Water can irreparably damage valuable furniture by soaking wood, causing joints to fail and any upholstered furniture is also susceptible to mold when the water recedes.
  • Appliances should be moved at least a foot above the highest level the water is expected to reach.
  • Turn off the electricity to avoid causing shorts and possible fires when water enters electrical outlets.

During a flood, use common sense.

  • If you’re asked or told to evacuate, do.
  • If you cannot leave the area, look for the highest ground, which may be the roof of your house in extreme situations. Try to avoid the water, as it will be filled with debris and possibly raw sewage containing little organisms you DO NOT want to come into contact with.
  • If you are on the move, avoid driving through flood waters on the road. Their depth can be unknown, inundating even the most virile of 4X4 vehicles, leaving you stranded where no one can help you. If at all possible, do not try to cross on foot; water current can be extremely powerful.
  • If you come into contact with flood water, wash with clean water and soap as soon as possible. You do have soap and water and some kind of disinfectant in your emergency kit, right?

Finally, prepare for any disaster or emergency situation by having a Family Emergency Plan. This should be written down and stored in a water-tight bag. Include, at a minimum, this information:

  • A contact person or persons not in your area – a family member or close friend in another city or state. Include all contact information: name, phone numbers, address, email, social network accounts.
  • Primary meeting place if the home is inaccessible.
  • Secondary meeting place if the primary is inaccessible.
  • Tertiary meeting place if the secondary is inaccessible.
  • Your bug-out bag or personal emergency kit should include strips of yellow or orange tape and thumb tacks. Use these to indicate to other family members that you have been to one of the meeting points and could not stay. The plan would then tell others that you had gone to the next rendezvous point on the Family Emergency Plan.
  • Information about each family member – name, date of birth, SSN (national ID number), vital medical information.
  • Medical contacts – family doctor, dentist, specialists, pharmacy, medical insurance group and personal numbers.
  • A list of all financial institutions with their addresses and phone numbers and your account numbers.
  • Cash – plan as if you had no access to a bank or ATM for at least a week.
  • If you have children in school, ensure you know their emergency plan also.

Much of the information in the emergency plan can and will change. Plan at least annually to review and update your Family Emergency Plan and review it with all family members.

Stay Safe,


Could You Survive a Volcanic Eruption?

Be glad you’re not living near Mt. Vesuvius in in 79 AD. Today in 2018, if you’re anywhere near a volcano and you’re even mildly paying attention, you’ll know when to leave town. Unlike so many other disasters that might strike, being inundated by volcanic ash is not what you should worry about if you prepare. (For an interactive volcano map click here.)

The first and most effective step in preparing for this disaster is very simple—don’t live anywhere near one of those things. A volcano is a vent to the fire and brimstone of the underworld. If it’s been active in the last 10,000 years, it’s still something to be concerned about. The danger zone around a volcano is anywhere from twenty miles from the base to one hundred miles away. Depending on size of eruption and wind currents, the maximum danger zone could be hundreds of miles away downwind. Unless you’re living on the mountain itself, molten lava is not the danger to you personally, although you can forget about anything in its path. Lava moves slowly enough that you can actually run away from it. The danger comes from ash, and most immediately from the ash that is combined with water. The slide from this combined ash and water and all the debris it picks up in its way, a lahar, can flow at over 100 MPH. You cannot outrun it and you cannot outdrive it; you can only avoid being in its path. Another danger is the pressure that’s built up under the volcano can vent not only out the top, but out the side of the mountain as well, throwing rock, boulders, mud, and ash horizontally for several miles, killing on impact. (Think of the big guns on the U.S.S. Iowa.) More, the eruption itself can be accompanied by earthquake, flood, landslides, and fire, as well as the more mundane problems of loss of electricity and water supplies for extended periods. You may be able to receive medical care if needed, but with the number of others in the same situation and lack of physical access to medical facilities due to transportation network disruptions, you should plan to be on your own for at least a week.

Even if you escape the lava, the lahar, and injury from any of a number of unknown causes when a large population is confronted with disaster, if you are in the vicinity of the volcano eruption or even hundreds of miles downwind of it, you’ll have to deal with the ash fall. Volcanic ash is composed of tiny, sharp particles containing Sulphur dioxide and hydro fluoride. The particles are small enough to get into the bronchioles of the lungs causing breathing difficulties, and the chemicals can cause extreme diarrhea. Ash settling on the roof of a house, especially with rain that will be likely result from the effect of the ash clouds in the atmosphere, can be heavy enough to collapse the roof of a house.

Eruptions are normally predictable—you’ll have sufficient time to get away from the area until the danger has passed. If, however, you are caught in an eruption zone, there are measures you can take to be prepared to ride out the worst of the disaster until life becomes a little more normal.

You may be without water and power for some time. Volcanic ash can get into any machinery, damaging it and rendering it unusable. If the machinery of power production and water delivery are not immediately damaged by ash fall, the services may still be shut down temporarily just to ensure that facilities are not damaged and still usable when the worst of the disaster is passed.

For the same reason, you should not drive your car. Ash particles can destroy the moving parts of an engine. As well, ash coating the streets, especially when wet, can cause extremely unsafe driving conditions. If you have to sacrifice your car to get out of an ash fall area, keep your speed below 35 mph and drive as if you were on ice and snow. Be prepared for the engine to freeze up at any time and concentrate on avoiding any low-lying areas where lahar flows can be life threatening and getting to a safer zone as quickly as possible.

The environment you live in will determine, to some extent, the type of equipment and supplies you will want to stock. Those in the Pacific Northwest need to be concerned with staying warm and dry; those in hot, dry climates need to think more about staying well hydrated and cool.

Your minimum emergency supply list, at a minimum, should be:

  • Dust masks for each family member. Keep in mind each person may go through several. The International Volcanic Health Hazard Network recommends the 3M 8233 mask as sufficient to filter out volcanic ash for up to 38 hours. They are inexpensive; buy at least a week’s supply for all family members. (link)
  • Drinking water—at least 3 gallons per person per day. With sufficient warning you can fill a bath tub, but make sure you have a way to cover it. You can also purchase inexpensive large capacity containers. (Link to water filters and storage.)
  • Carbon monoxide sensor(s) should be installed and operational now.
  • Good quality, comprehensive first aid kit. Make sure to include anti-diarrheal medication. As mentioned above, this is one of the side effects of breathing even tiny amounts of ash.
  • Non-perishable food for each person for at least a week.
  • Battery-operated radio.
  • Heat–resistant gloves.
  • Spare clothing to cover your entire body.
  • Blanket for each person for whom you are preparing. (Plan to be without heat for at least a week.)
  • If you have a fireplace, make sure you have enough wood on hand to last a week in constant use.
  • Detailed maps of your area and a compass. (It goes without saying—don’t even think about internet map services.) A GPS, though, may be very useful. Keep it wrapped in plastic and sealed against outside air. Ash particles can kill electronics quickly.
  • If you wear contacts, make sure you have glasses. Leave the contacts in the case. Volcanic ash under a contact lens is not something you want to take a chance on.
  • In the immediate aftermath of an eruption, have a helmet available. Even a bike helmet is better than nothing.
  • Portable light – flashlights or lanterns with spare batteries and/or fuel.
  • Duct tape and plastic sheeting to cover doors and windows.
  • Non-electronic entertainment for each family member. Being stuck indoors for several days can be awfully boring. Some suggestions are board games, puzzles, cards, books, and craft supplies.
  • Cleaning supplies. Brooms, dust pan, mop, shovels, garbage bags, vacuum, and lots of extra filter bags. Garbage bags don’t have to be large; if you put ash in them they’ll get real heavy real fast.
  • Don’t count on banks being open or ATMs being functional.

The first order of business in case of volcanic eruption is to leave the area before it happens. If this is impossible, you’ll have to plan to ride out the storm on your own; do not count on emergency rescue from private or government sources. Here’s a start to your emergency plan:

  • Build your emergency supply kit. The above list is a minimum. Based on your own circumstances, you’ll probably need more items and a week’s supply of each is minimum. Consider things like extra, non-expired prescription medications.
  • Make sure everyone in your family knows where the kit is and how to use everything in it; everything should be at hand where you can get to it easily and quickly.
  • If you live in a volcano zone, your local government has detailed information for your immediate area. Take the time now to make a visit and collect all available information. When an eruption is imminent it may be too late.
  • When an emergency of any kind happens, it’s doubtful all family members will be present and accounted for. Make sure you have an emergency contact plan and an easily-reachable rendezvous point and that every family member knows where it is.
  • Close all entrances to your house where air might enter. Turn off heating and air conditioning. If you have emergency gas heat, ensure it’s properly vented.
  • Stay indoors until all ash has settled if possible. If ash fall is heavy enough to present any possibility of damaging you’re home’s roof, plan to go someplace safer. You can text SHELTER + your zip code to 43662 (4FEMA) to find your nearest shelter. If you plan to remain in your own house, be prepared to shovel the ash off the roof periodically. In this case, ensure have easy and safe access to your roof.
  • Until you know the air is safe, wear an effective dusk mask. Ash particles may be in the air, yet impossible to see and still very harmful to lungs and digestive systems.
  • Wear clothing that completely covers the body.
  • Wrap all electronic gear in plastic and seal with duct tape. Your TV and computers will be unavailable for the duration, as air-borne ash can kill them quickly.
  • Put your contact lenses away for the duration. Make sure you have glasses available if you need them.
  • Stay informed. Make sure you have a battery-powered radio tuned to an emergency information station and check it frequently. Preset emergency stations for quick access. NOAH Weather Radio.

Remember that a major volcanic eruption can affect weather for a l-o-o-ng time. If you have the ability, storing emergency supplies for the long haul, should the end of the world as we know it come (TEOTWAWKI), is never a bad idea.

  • Be prepared,

Could You Survive a House Fire?

Could you survive a house fire?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, In 2015, there were 1,345,500 fires reported in the United States. These fires caused 3,280 civilian deaths, 15,700 civilian injuries, and $14.3 billion in property damage. http://www.nfpa.org/news-and-research/fire-statistics-and-reports/fire-statistics/fires-in-the-us

  • 501,500 were structure fires, causing 2,685 civilian deaths, 13,000 civilian injuries, and $10.3 billion in property damage.
  • 204,500 were vehicle fires, causing 500 civilian fire deaths, 1,875 civilian fire injuries, and $1.8 billion in property damage.
  • 639,500 were outside and other fires, causing 95 civilian fire deaths, 825 civilian fire injuries, and $252 million in property damage.
  • The 2015 U.S. fire loss clock a fire department responded to a fire every 23 seconds. One structure fire was reported every 63 seconds.
  • One home structure fire was reported every 86 seconds.
  • One civilian fire injury was reported every 34 minutes.
  • One civilian fire death occurred every 2 hours and 40 minutes.
  • One outside and other fire was reported every 52 seconds.
  • One highway vehicle fire was reported every 3 minutes 1 seconds.

More than any other emergency situation you may encounter, a house fire is statistically the most likely to happen in most parts of the country. Even if your house is well protected, many homes are destroyed by proximity to forest fires, and if you live in an apartment all your safety measures may be for naught if the guy downstairs isn’t so careful.

Being prepared for a house fire just makes good sense.

It goes without saying that the number one rule is prevention.

  • Teach your children that fire is a dangerous tool, not a toy. Fire is fascinating to small children, especially boys. (If I may be un-politically correct; the truth is the truth.) Show, don’t tell, children how dangerous fire can be.
  • When possible, remain in the kitchen when you're cooking something, especially if it’s on top of the stove.
  • Do not smoke in the house. Make sure you put out your cigarettes completely.
  • Dispose of or have repaired any electric appliances or electronics with frayed wires or that indicate any malfunction.
  • Avoid lighting candles unless they're directly in your line of vision. Do not leave a lighted candle in an empty room.
  • Make a habit of double checking the stove and oven after use to ensure they’re completely turned off.
  • Use a lighter instead of matches.
  • Verify smoke detectors function and have good batteries. Change batteries twice yearly. Most people find the change from standard and daylight saving time is a good time to also check smoke and CO detector batteries. (Until we get rid of that useless law.) Alternately, the first day of spring and fall or other seasonal changes may help you to remember.

Fire can happen even with the best of preventive plans. To give you and your family the best chance of survival:

  • Have an escape plan. Practice twice a year. Have two escape routes from each room of the house and ensure all family members are aware of them. If there are children or people with disabilities in the home, also make plans for their safety in a situation where seconds count.
  • Practice escaping in the dark with eyes closed.
  • Make sure windows can be easily opened and that screens can be quickly removed. Security bars should have quick release devices. Everyone in the family should know how to open all windows, remove screens, and remove security bars if there are any.
  • Ensure each room above ground floor is equipped with an emergency ladder.
  • Practice safety.

If you find yourself in this situation, the first priority is to get yourself and your family members out of the building. Do not take time to retrieve valuables. And sadly, your pets have to take a back seat to yourself and human family members. The basic rule of thumb in case of fire is, don’t do anything that does not immediately help to keep you and your family members alive—human family members first, animals only if their rescue doesn’t threaten human life.

To give yourself the best chance of getting out of a burning building, stay as low as possible. Smoke and the poisonous chemicals that may be mixed in rise with heat. And the difference between the temperature at the floor and ceiling of a room on fire can be several hundred degrees. If you’re in bed and awaken to a house fire, avoid the temptation to sit up. Stay as low as possible. Roll out of bed and assess the situation. Stay on the floor and crawl to the nearest exit. Crawling, having access to the air close to the floor, is better than standing and trying to run through smoke. Smoke inhalation causes people to become disoriented and can cause unconsciousness quickly and without warning. If you have to run through smoke, cover your nose and mouth with a shirt or rag, wet if possible, to filter out as much of the particulates in the smoke as possible.

Before opening a door, use the back of your hand to determine whether the door or door knob is hot. If you see smoke under the door, that path is blocked. Do not open the door or attempt exit through that path. If the door is cool and you don’t see smoke, open the door slowly and pass through if it looks clear. If you see fire when you open the door, immediately close it and block off all air passages to the room. If you can leave the room safely, close the door after you to contain the fire as much as possible.

If you cannot go through a door you will have to exit through a window. If you’re on a second floor or higher, your exit plan and emergency preparation will include a portable rope ladder to allow you to get close enough to the ground that you can avoid injury. If above first floor and a safe exit out the window is not possible, call for help. Get yourself to where someone will be able to see or hear you. Hang a sheet out the window if possible to alert rescue personnel that you are there. But, keep windows closed so air currents don’t draw the fire to your location. If you have to escape out a window, first make sure any doors to the room are closed to reduce the draft the fire can follow.

If you must escape from a second story window without a ladder, look for any way possible to lessen the distance to the ground. Hang from the window first to get your feet as close to the ground as possible. Look for a ledge on the building and use that to hang from before descending to the ground. Jump only as a last resort. Stay put as long as possible if you’re above the first floor.

If you can’t exit the room, close the door and cover all vents and cracks with cloth or tape to keep the smoke out as long as possible. If possible, after exiting a burning room close the door after you to keep the fire from spreading.

Know how to use a fire extinguisher and have distributed throughout the house. But before using a fire extinguisher, make sure you have called your emergency response number and that you have an escape route.

If your clothes catch fire stop, drop, and roll. Cover your face with your hands as you’re rolling.

Stay away from drapes, sheets, and table cloths. These can catch fire easily.

After exiting the building, check to see who else has escaped. Never re-enter a burning building and only re-enter the building if you are certain it is safe to do so. Tell rescue workers as soon as they arrive whether everyone is out and accounted for, or if someone may still be inside the structure.

Stay as far away from the building as possible—gas lines may explode and hazardous gases may be present in the air. Have fire drills, especially if you have children. Make sure they know what to do.

Numbers to call in case of emergency:

  • United States: 911
  • Australia: 000
  • New Zealand: 111
  • United Kingdom: 999 (112 from a mobile phone)
  • All of Europe: 112
  • Assess injuries. If any, inform first responders immediately.

To help you prepare for an emergency or disaster situation we've prepared this free Disaster and Emergency Preparedness guide. Click on the title to download it in Word and PDF formats.

Could You Survive a Hurricane?

Hot on the heels of tornado season comes hurricane season. It seems circular wind tends to create problems for us humans.

Strictly speaking, a hurricane is defined as any tropical or subtropical storm with sustained winds above 74 mph. (Why they didn’t round up to 75, I have no idea.) Hurricane “season” begins in June and lasts until early fall for Florida, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Atlantic tropical islands. To come through one of these unscathed—property and person—you should be prepared well beforehand; know how to weather the storm and how to handle the aftermath.

A family disaster plan outlines what you will do in any emergency, including natural disasters. Plan out your emergency evacuation routes, for example, and try to have several in case your first choice is unusable. Plan a meet-up location if you get separated and the home is not accessible.

Prior to hurricane season, review with family members procedures for storm preparation and make sure everyone knows how to turn off water, gas, and electricity and call emergency services.

Your disaster kit should be prepared and easily accessible. The Disaster Preparedness guide linked above includes a list of suggested contents.

When a hurricane is imminent, don’t plan on being able to supply yourself with things you’ll need. The time to prepare your kit is when the sun shines.


If you can install an electric generator, do it now. Don’t wait until a hurricane is on its way before heading to your friendly hardware store. Locate the generator away from where water might get to it and make sure it is properly ventilated and grounded. Installation instructions and information available on the internet will help you to install it, but electricity can be funny (not funny, ha-ha). If at all possible, have your generator installed by an electrician. Run a test a couple of times each year to make sure it’s in good running order.

Your emergency kit should include flashlights and a battery-powered radio with spare batteries. As a backup, you can include a hand-crank flashlights and a radio. A radio with a specific station setting for NOAA “All Alerts” will keep you up to date on storm conditions.

In addition to flashlights, a few efficient battery-powered or kinetic lights should be in your emergency kit. A good example is the Coleman LED Micropacker. Three AAA batteries will power it for several days. You can also get kinetic-energy lights that don’t require batteries—just a little elbow grease.

The extremely high winds of a hurricane can blow away anything that’s not well secured. Well in advance of a storm check your property for anything that might become a projectile in 100 MPH winds. This includes maintaining trees to minimize dead branches that can be easily blown off and end up as additions to your picture windows.

Your house can be fitted with hurricane-proof (almost) windows, doors, and roof. True, this can be expensive, and we here at DeMarSouthard.com don’t recommend dealing with government when not absolutely necessary (like Steven Seagal movies and rabid dogs, governments are things best avoided), but there are government financial aid programs to help with expenses like this. If you have the patience and stomach for it, these programs might be worth checking into.

Before the hurricane hits, if you have storm shutters close and secure them. If not, cover your windows with ⅝” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape will not keep your windows from breaking, but can at least lessen the amount of shattered glass on the floor if it does. Use alligator tape rather than duct tape; it’s easier to remove.

Your emergency kit should have at least three days’ worth of food and water for each person in the household. High-quality coolers will keep meat and other perishable foods cold for a few days. Anything that stays in the refrigerator might be protected from spoilage by turning the thermostat to its coldest level prior to the possibility of losing electricity and then leaving the door closed. Along with canned goods for your human family members, make sure you have food for pets. For a water supply, consider a Water-Bob for your bathtub. This clean liner will ensure you have plenty of water for drinking and cooking for several days.

If your house uses propane, turn off the valve at the tank.

Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts to prevent misdirected flooding.

Check that your garage doors are completely closed and secured.

Keep articles in your basement elevated to avoid damage from even minor flooding.

Have cash available. ATMs may not be available in a power outage and may not be stocked with cash.

Surviving the storm

The safest place for you and your family during a hurricane is nowhere near it. If at all possible, secure your property and leave the area until the storm has passed. And it goes without saying, leave earlier rather than later. Once it becomes imperative to evacuate, it may be physically impossible to do so due to heavy traffic and the inevitable accidents that will block roads. Help to minimize traffic by keeping your family together and traveling in one vehicle if possible.

Leaving your home is especially important if you live in a mobile or manufactured home, even one built after 1994 and securely tied down. These structures can be destroyed even in a category one (the smallest) hurricane.

If you can or have to evacuate, a well-equipped bug-out bag will save you from surprises and the headache of not being prepared. Necessary contents for a bug-out bag depend on personal circumstances, but a list of items is included in this Disaster and Emergency Preparedness document (MS Word format or PDF). Your car’s gas tank should be full, but do not try to carry spare cans of gas in the trunk of your car. Keeping your vehicle in good working condition is a matter of safety for you and your family, especially in times of emergency. A list of maintenance items to check is included in the Emergency Preparedness Guide.

If you must stay in your home during the worst of the storm, go to an interior room with strong walls and no windows. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, consider having a safe room built in your house. This is an interior space built to be reinforced specifically for the highest winds of a category 5 hurricane. If this is not possible, an interior bathroom without windows or a closet can suffice.

If you go to a community shelter during the storm, have an emergency kit with you that includes not only food and water, but also medications, insurance and other vital legal papers. Your bug-out bag, or bags for multiple family members, properly stocked, should make this experience tolerable.

Stay inside until you’re sure the storm has completely passed, even if the winds seem calm. The weather in a hurricane can moderate and worsen quickly, especially if you are passing through the eye of the storm.

Keep away from windows, skylights, and glass doors. The biggest risk in a hurricane is from flying debris or broken glass.

Turn off the main breaker to your house and shut off major appliances if you lose power or are threatened with flood water.

If you’re in immediate danger call 911 but expect that emergency workers will be overwhelmed and may not be able to get to you. Also, bear in mind that phones, even cell phones, may not work.

After it’s over

Be sure it’s safe to leave your house or shelter. If the eye of a hurricane passes over you the air will suddenly be calm, but it will be followed by another round of ferocious wind. Don't leave your shelter until you get the official “all-clear” from NOAA.

The storm will leave hazards everywhere, such as downed trees and power lines. Stay away from these and flooded areas. If you must enter a flooded area, be aware that hazards will be hidden by the water. The water can be contaminated and pose a health hazard all by itself.

Take extra care when entering buildings. Structural damage may not be immediately apparent. Leave a building as quickly as possible if it shows any signs of severe damage.

Stay away from downed power lines and flooded areas. Damaged buildings may contain broken gas supply lines. Be aware of the smell of gas and use a flashlight and other battery-powered lights rather than candles, matches, or lanterns.

Do not try to turn on the electricity until you’re sure all is safe. If you have turned off the gas to your house prior to the storm, have it turned back on by the gas company. After a major storm this could take several days. Your emergency kit should be able to get you through at least three days without gas and electricity.

Clean and disinfect everything that might have come into contact with sewage, bacteria, or spilled chemicals.

If you have a septic system, have it inspected for damage as soon as possible. If you have a well, have it checked for contamination.

Wet drywall and carpet can be an excellent breeding space for mold. Even after they’re dry, mold still behind walls or under floors can become a major health hazard. If your house has been flooded, contact your insurance company and make arrangements for repairs as soon as possible. Immediately after making sure you and your family are safe, start a list of damages for your claims. Take photos and videos to document any damage, and keep receipts for repairs and hotel costs.

If you have a basement and it has been flooded, try not to enter it without proper protection; flood waters can be contaminated with bacteria and raw sewage and can hide dangerous debris. Rubber boots or hip waders are a good thing to have if you live in a hurricane or flood-prone area.

Normalcy Bias

I read an interesting article the other day that addresses one of the main problems with, first, preparing for an emergency situation and, second, actually responding when we're in one. That's a thing called “normalcy bias.

We operate mentally, psychologically, and physically in an assumed state of normalcy. Well, sure, of course we do — that's the definition of normal. We could not function in a constant state of stress, of being prepared for attack or disaster. We have to have a normal, daily routine and we have to be able to assume for the most part this is how life will continue. We are “programmed” this way by our DNA, so to break out of this mode of thinking is difficult. The problem occurs when our internal bias toward normalcy causes us to underestimate or misinterpret danger signals. We do not adequately prepare for emergency and disaster situations, and when warned of an impending emergency or disaster situation we tend to interpret those warnings in an overly optimistic way.

Because we're not psychologically and mentally prepared to deal with an emergency, unnecessary hardship and death results from what would otherwise be a very manageable situation. Lack of preparation for disasters often results in inadequate shelter, supplies, and plans to manage the situation. Even when all these things are in place, normalcy bias can impede taking proper action at the when required (which is usually immediately).

Normalcy bias can also cause people to drastically underestimate the possible effects of an emergency situation or disaster. Normalcy bias inclines a person to believe everything will be all right, even while information from public media or neighbors should give them reason to believe otherwise. The normalcy bias creates a cognitive dissonance that they then must work, mentally and psychologically, if not physically, to eliminate.   Some manage to eliminate it by simply refusing to believe warnings, refusing to take emergency action. (This is the ostrich head-in-the-sand approach.) Others may eliminate the dissonance by escaping the danger. The refusal to accept reality and react in an appropriate manner not only causes problems for the subject individual, but also for others in the situation, such as first responders who must devote extra time and energy to the non-responsive person.

The effects of normalcy bias can be reduced by allowing yourself to consider various disasters that might occur and mentally (if not on paper) list actions you would take should that event occur. (Click on the link to download a free disaster preparedness guide.) We spend so much of our time in a normal state that it becomes difficult to think of any other state of being. Being prepared, as we've mentioned in an earlier article, doesn't necessarily mean moving to the mountains and growing your own turnips. In fact, there is a wealth of information available on “urban survivalism.” I've pinned and linked a number of images and sites concerning that here. Just for fun, I created a blog post dedicated to knot tying. Yes, really. In an emergency situation knowing how to tie the right knot can be a life saver.

So here's the bottom line: Normalcy Bias is useful and even necessary for 99.99% of the days of your life. But that one time when it's not, it can endanger your life and the lives of our loved ones. Considering and planning for a time when things go sideways, when the sh*t hits the fan doesn't make you a prepper or a conspiracy theorist. In fact, having a plan and being prepared can make you the hero of the day. If the time comes when extra food, first aid supplies, and a plan to survive a sh*t-hits-the-fan situation is the order of the day and you're the person who has these things, plan to be needed.

Until next week,


Could You Survive a Tornado?

You may not live in Tornado Alley, but don’t think it can’t happen to you. Tornadoes have occurred in all fifty states of the United States. However, when considering what types of weather and other natural disasters to be best prepared for, those who live in the part of the United States where tornadoes happen most often should, of course, seriously consider tornado preparation as imperative. Tornado Alley is formed by the central region of the country that begins in central Texas and runs north through Oklahoma, central Kansas, Nebraska, and eastern South Dakota. Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana are less prone to twisters than those first five states on the list, but are also included in this zone.

A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air that descends from a cumulonimbus cloud or, in some cases, though rarely, a cumulus cloud. According to Wikipedia, most tornadoes have wind speeds less than 110 miles per hour, are no more than about 250 feet across, and travel only a few miles before dissipating. At the extreme end, though, tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 300 miles per hour, can span more than two miles at their base, and can wreak havoc for dozens of miles along the ground, and can be powerful enough to lift vehicles off the road.

The high wind and blowing debris is only one of the dangers of a tornado; they are usually accompanied by lightning, hail, and heavy rain that can lead to flash floods.

As I write this, early in the month of March, we’re coming up to the worst part of the year for tornadoes.

Warning signs

Your first indication that conditions are right for a tornado might be the issuance by local weather services of a Tornado Watch. When you hear this, it means tornadoes could form in your area, but at this time one has not been sighted.

When you hear a Tornado Warning, one has been sighted and it’s time to take immediate action. A particularly high death toll in 2011 from a tornado in Joplin, Missouri was made worse by many people not heeding a tornado warning.

Typically, tornadoes occur in the afternoon so you’ll be able to see or hear the warning signs:

  • Dark, green-tinted clouds.
  • Whirling dust or debris under a cloud base.
  • Extremely loud, roaring noise.
  • A wall of clouds where the base of a thunderhead appears to be lower than others.
  • Funnels or rotating cloud formations. But be aware that sometimes tornadoes have no funnel or they occur in an extremely heavy rain so the funnel isn’t visible.
  • Debris and dust walls.
  • Hail or heavy rain, flowed by either dead calm or a sudden, intense shift in wind direction.
  • At night, the first visual indication may be small, bright blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm indicating power lines are being downed. Also watch for lowering of the cloud base. You’ll only see this at night if the clouds are illuminated by lightning.

The biggest danger in a tornado is the flying debris propelled by extremely high winds. Getting sucked up, a la Dorothy Gale is rare. But debris can be hurled at over 200 MPH. Tree limbs, rocks, patio furniture, bricks from a chimney—anything can be turned into a deadly missile.

What to do when a tornado is approaching

  • If at all possible, go to an underground shelter.
  • If a tornado shelter is not available, go to the basement of the building you’re in or one you can get to quickly.
  • Get underneath heavy furniture that can protect you from falling debris.
  • Cover yourself with a mattress, sofa cushions, etc. Use anything that can protect your body and head from injury from flying debris or anything that might fall on you should the building be damaged.
  • If going underground is completely out of the question, go to a windowless, interior room on the lowest floor of the building. This might be a bathroom or a closet on the lowest floor of the building. Be aware of what’s above you. Don’t go where something heavy, like a piano, might come crashing down on you.
  • Crouch low to the ground, face down, and cover your head with your arms and hands. If you have a motorcycle or bicycle helmet, use it. As much as possible, protect yourself from head injury.
  • Do not use an elevator. A power outage could leave you trapped.
  • Back in the Stone Age, when I was a child, school teachers told us to open all windows to allow air pressure to equalize. Otherwise, the drop in outside air pressure caused by the fast-moving winds could cause the house to explode. Apparently, now in the 21st century, we’ve realized that there is no evidence to believe this may be a serious danger. On the contrary, the time spent opening windows rather than immediately seeking shelter could be the difference between life and death. Your house won’t explode. Get to shelter.
  • They also used to say that you should locate yourself in the southwest corner of whatever room you go to. The logic was that tornadoes usually come out of the southwest and blow debris to the northeast. Someone forgot that during a tornado, winds blow in every direction. Get yourself to the safest location possible according to the structure of the building.
  • If you’re in a car, proceed to the nearest shelter if that doesn’t put you in more danger (as in, driving toward the tornado).
  • If it’s impossible to get to a safe building, don’t try to out-race a tornado. The Red Cross recommends you stop your car off the road and stay inside. Leave your seat belt on and duck down below the window line. Cover yourself with a jacket or blanket if possible and cover your head with your arms and hands. It’s a rare tornado that can pick up a car. (Sure, it happens, but you have to play the odds in these circumstances.)
  • If you find yourself outside and can’t get to a building, find a low spot—a depression in the ground or ditch—and lie down. Cover yourself with anything available to protect your body from debris.
  • If you’re in a boat in open water, move perpendicular—at a right angle—to the direction of the tornado. Don’t try to outrun it by moving directly away.

If you’re in a car

  • Proceed to the nearest shelter if that doesn’t put you in more danger (as in, driving toward the tornado).
  • If it’s impossible to get to a safe building, don’t try to outrace a tornado. The Red Cross recommends you stop your car off the road and stay inside. Leave your seat belt on and duck down below the window line. Cover yourself with a jacket or blanket if possible and cover your head with your arms and hands. It’s a rare tornado that can pick up a car.

If you find yourself outside and can’t get to a building

  • Find a low spot—a depression in the ground or ditch—and lie down. Cover yourself with anything available to protect your body from debris.
  • If you’re in a boat in open water, move perpendicular—at a right angle—to the direction of the tornado. Don’t try to outrun it by moving directly away from it.

Where not to seek shelter

  • Do not remain in tall buildings, open rooms with windows, and buildings with flat wide roofs, such as “big box” stores (Home Depot, Costco, etc.), gyms, and schools. And for heaven’s sake, get out of a mobile home. Statistically, people are fifteen times more likely to die in a mobile home than any other location. Better to be outside in the lowest area available than in a mobile home.
  • If you’re driving and a twister is approaching, don’t stop under a bridge or underpass. This area can become a wind tunnel and make the danger from flying debris even worse.

After the tornado has passed

  • Stay in your shelter until the danger of tornado has passed. Be aware that multiple tornadoes can form in an area when the conditions are right. If at all possible, listen to weather radio to be sure the danger has passed before going out.
  • When you do leave the shelter, tread carefully. Wear shoes! Watch for sharp debris and fallen power lines. Extremely heavy rains common with tornadoes can bring flash floods, so be vigilant of your surroundings.
  • Avoid fire until you can be sure no gas lines have been broken.
  • Do not enter a damaged building.

Preparation for a tornado

  • Everyone in the house, all family members, should know exactly where to go ahead of time. If you cannot store emergency provisions in that location, at least have them located where they can be retrieved quickly. (Download this Emergency Preparedness Planning Guide to help guide you through planning for the unexpected.) It’s common for electricity and gas to be unavailable for hours or days after a tornado. Your supplies should be able to get you through a three-day outage.
  • When you’re out shopping or at a restaurant, be aware of your surroundings and know where to go. This might be a bathroom, a shelter if available, or an interior stairwell.
  • If you have time after a tornado watch, clear the outside of your house of anything that can be blown around – lawn furniture, gas grill, lawn decorations, etc. If you’re under a tornado warning, forget this step and get yourself to shelter.
  • Consider building a tornado shelter if you live in a high-danger area.
  • Consider downloading an app to your cell phone from the Red Cross that will send emergency warnings to you and your family. http://www.redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/mobile-apps

Disaster Preparedness for Your Pet

You’ve probably got your disaster plan written and supplies in place and you’ve gone over the plan with family members and you’re feeling pretty well prepared.

But what about Fido?

If you have pets and have not given their safety the same consideration as the rest of your family, you are possibly putting yourself, your pets, and first responders in danger. Even if you have prepared a safe place for them, pets left behind during a natural disaster may be injured, lost, or killed. If you’re a pet owner you have a responsibility to educate yourself on what type of shelters and assistance are available in your area that will accommodate pets during a disaster. Your disaster preparedness plan should include all animals and pets in your care.

The top priority is to ID your pet. Chips are great, but most people don’t have the ability to read one. An old-fashioned collar and tag is your best defense against losing your pet any time, and especially during times of natural disaster. A tag should include your phone number and, if possible, the phone number of an out of state contact. This applies to cats kept indoors—in case of natural disaster cats can easily get out of the house.

Make sure your pet’s chip is registered in your name and include a backup contact. If you move or change phone numbers, have the chip information updated.

Well in advance of any need, know where you can go with your pets. Many shelters won’t allow pets. Local and state health and safety regulations do not permit the Red Cross to allow pets in their disaster shelters. The first point of contact for this information is your local office of emergency management. They should be able to tell you where pets will be welcome. However, even if pets are allowed, make sure you verify any restrictions on number, size, and species. And even if pets are not normally allowed at a motel or shelter, find out if pets might be allowed in an emergency.

Have the address and twenty-four hour phone number of veterinarians and local boarding shelters. Have plans for where you might go outside of your immediate area, should the need arise, and have veterinarians and boarding shelter addresses and phone numbers for them also. If you pet does get lost during a natural disaster, you may very well find him or her in a local shelter or pound. Know the location of all animal shelters in your area.

Ensure you have a pet carrier for each pet labelled with the pet's name, your name, and contact information. Part of your plan should be to familiarize the pet with the container. Trying to get Rover into an unfamiliar crate with a tornado approaching is the kind of excitement nobody appreciates. Your pet should be comfortable with being inside the container in whatever method of transportation you will use in case of an emergency.

Disaster preparedness is not just for earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

You may find your home inaccessible with pets uncared for simply due to a winter storm, icy roads, or health emergency. Your emergency preparedness plan might include an arrangement with a neighbor who also has pets to exchange emergency care.  Make sure the pet is familiar with and comfortable with the caretaker and that the caretaker knows your pet’s feeding and medication schedule and daily routine. If you have a relatively large number of pets, they may need to be split up.

Blackouts or brownouts during extremely hot or cold weather can also be dangerous for animals, just as for humans. Just because your pet has fur doesn’t mean it can survive extreme cold or a shut-up house in hot weather. If a power loss forces you from your house, take your pet with you.

If you are able to remain in your home during a disaster, ensure you have a safe space for an extended stay without access to outside food, water, or medications.

An interior room without windows is best. If there are windows and there is a possibility of air contamination from outside, be prepared with plastic sheeting and duct tape to secure the area. (See our previous article on preparing for volcanic eruption.)

Remove any toxic chemicals or plants or other environmental hazards, and have enough food, water, medication, cat litter, and plastic bags (for excrement) to last at least a week.

A frightened or nervous cat can find itself in a confined location (inside air vents) from which it could be very difficult to extricate. Close off small areas to avoid this.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, and strong winds can take out fences and external shelters. Include a plan for temporary accommodations if these are part of your pet’s normal environment.

When disaster strikes–

If disaster strikes and you have to evacuate the area, leave as early as possible. Don’t wait for an emergency evacuation order. By that time you may be forced to leave your pets behind and you may not be able to get back to take care of them. Emergency conditions and rescue activity may make it impossible to get your pet to cooperate with rescue workers, or even to get into a crate or car. In an emergency situation when human lives are at stake, rescue personnel may not be able to pay attention to your pet.

After the emergency familiar sights and smells in your pet’s environment may have changed, making it easy for your pet to be disoriented or lost. Your pet will need some adjustment time and may show behavioral problems.

When returning to your home, verify that no wild animals, also trying to escape the disaster, have taken residence in your home or surroundings. They’re not only dangerous to you but can be dangerous to your pet.

Pet Emergency Kit

  • Have a supply of food sufficient for one at least one week. Keep it in a sturdy, easy to carry, watertight container. Ensure dry food is kept fresh by rotating it with your pet’s daily food. Canned food should not be used past its expiration date. If you use canned food, make sure you have a manual can opener in your emergency kit.
  • Fresh water sufficient for at least a week. If your water supply is declared unfit to drink, it’s also unfit for your pets. Follow American Red Cross guidelines for storing emergency water for your family and your pets.
  • Cat litter and pan.
  • Select toys and a bed, if your pet is used to sleeping on one. Familiar items will help your pet feel more comfortable.
  •  Medication. Plan on medications being inaccessible for at least a week. Make sure any medications are current (not expired).
  • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets, or if a neighbor should be taking care of them
  • Current vaccination and other medical records
  • Photographs of you with your pets to prove ownership
  • Photographs of your pets in case you need to make “lost pet” fliers
  • Your plan includes a location you’ll go to in case of evacuation. Have ID tags prepared for the new location.
  • Carrier or leash for each animal. Cats or other small animals may benefit from an EvacSak.
  • Place a pet rescue sticker on your front door to let emergency workers know there are pets inside. Number and type of pets and vet number. If you have to evacuate, make sure you write “EVACUATED” across the sticker to let rescue workers know.

What if you and your pet are separated?

  • First make sure your family members are safe and secure.
  • If you have relocated to a shelter inform a pet caretakers at the shelter if there is one. Give the pet caretaker your pre-made missing pet handout.
  • Contact the local animal control authorities and give them information about your pet.

Web sites for pet-friendly accommodations

Links below will give you some good information regarding traveling with your pets. I recently received a comment from a reader who suggested I also add a link to a site with information on air travel with a pet. (Emergency or not.)

This article at CreditCards.com is full of good tips to keep your pet safe and comfortable as he or she travels through airports and in the air with you. (I had no idea you could get frequent flyer points for traveling with a pet. Who knew?) Thanks, Julia!









Could a Knot Save your Life?

Why Learn Survival Knots?

Can something as simple as a knot save your life? In the right situation, the simple answer is yes. No one is so insulated from the exigencies of life to such a degree that they can say unequivocally that they will never be in a survival situation. When that time comes, being able to tie a secure knot may mean the difference between life and death. For example, if you have to traverse difficult terrain while carrying supplies, some knots will be useful while others will not only be useless, but may make matters worse. If you’re lost, the right knots for fishing and trapping game can keep you from starving. There’s a reason firefighters and Coast Guard rescue crews are experts in tying survival knots: In a life or death situation, a secure rope can save someone from a burning house or a furious storm. Fire, flood, and other emergency situations occur in the backcountry as well. Plus, knowing how to erect a reliable, sturdy shelter to protect yourself from the elements invariably involves tying some knots. (You do carry paracord and good tarp with you in all backcountry situations, right?)

There are many survival skills that take a lot of time to learn and master, many of these skills require purchase of equipment that most people don’t normally have on hand. And there are a lot of survival skills that some people simply choose to forego; skill with a firearm comes to mind. But learning the skill of tying the right knot for a given situation in the right way is something so basic, so simple, and so necessary that no one should be ignorant of at least a half dozen tried and true knots—their best use and how to tie them.

The more of these dependable survival knots you learn, the better off you’ll be when the poop hits the fan and you’re under extreme pressure to perform. Knowing how to tie several multiple-use knots is an invaluable skill not only in wilderness survival situations, but will be a useful skill around the house, while camping, or participating in many weekend outdoor activities such as putting up a volleyball net or securing a tarp over the bed of a pickup truck.

There are more knots to learn than Carter has little pills (as my father used to say). With so many to choose from, you might find it hard to decide which ones to learn first. Most outdoor experts, boaters, and sportsmen would agree that the knots listed below are probably the most useful in most situations you’ll encounter.

Whether you’re an avid camper, a wilderness explorer, or just someone who likes to get out of town for a pleasant hike from time to time, being able to tie the right knot and tie it well is a critical skill you need to have in your repertoire.

Here are the top half dozen survival knots everyone needs to know:

• Figure Eight Knot
• Bowline Knot
• Clove Hitch
• Sheet Bend
• Taut-Line Hitch
• Power Cinch

Rather than try to explain how to tie each knot and introduce graphics of the stages of the rope from start to finish, we’ll use the magic of the internet and link to Youtube videos. (If I had had Youtube when I was a Boy Scout I may have learned my knots better! Who knows? I could have made Eagle!)

Figure Eight Knot.

The figure eight knot is a type of stopper knot and is used extensively in rock climbing as a method of stopping ropes from running through and out of retaining devices. It may also be used to create hand-holds along a length of rope to ease climbing. The overhand knot may also be used for this purpose, but the figure eight is easier to untie after it’s been under pressure, saving the rope from having to be cut. Further, the figure eight does not injure the rope fiber as the overhand tends to do.

There are three main variations on a figure eight knot: the simple figure eight, figure eight follow-through and figure eight on a bight. Let’s take a look at the basic figure eight knot.

While the simple figure eight is used as a stop knot, a variation, the threaded figure eight, also called the figure-eight bend knot, is useful for joining two ropes of equal or different weight. The procedure for creating the first figure eight in the following video is slightly different from the method in the first, but the result is the same and the method may be more practical in some situations.

Any bending or knotting of a rope will necessarily weaken it, but the figure eight allows the rope to maintain up to 85 percent of its strength.

The figure eight follow-through is one of the most useful types of knots for climbing. One reason for this is that you can make a secure loop at the end of a rope with it — an advantage when someone needs to be hauled up safely.

The figure eight on a bight creates a strong loop at the end of the rope that can be clipped onto an anchor. You can also create stable loops in the middle of the rope to use as handholds or footholds. A feature of this video I like is the discussion on dressing the knot. I’ll leave the definition of this and why it’s important to the video.

Bowline Knot

Like the figure eight knot, the bowline is easy to tie. You can trust it not to slip and it can be easily untied after use, even after being subjected to a heavy load. The bowline is versatile and may be the most dependable of all the survival knots you’ll learn. The knot is used to form a fixed, reliable loop at the end of a rope and commonly used to attach a line to the head of a sail on a boat. A feature of this knot is that it becomes tighter as more pressure is applied to the loop. It’s important to note, however, that pressure should be applied to the loop in a direction away from the line from which it’s made. Pressure applied from another direction can result in the knot becoming untied.

This knot is famous for being able to be tied one-handed. Take a look at this video to see how. (Pay no attention to how the instructor pronounces the knot; it’s not a bow-line (as in bow-wow) it’s a bowlin (bow as in ‘bow’ tie, lin as in ‘lun’).

Clove Hitch

A hitch is a knot that connects a rope to an object; think of a hitching post. The clove hitch is another very simple but vitally important survival knot. While not as strong as the figure eight or bowline knot, it won’t loosen or slip under pressure and you can lengthen or shorten the rope without untying the knot.

A clove hitch is mainly used for anchoring. Since it can be adjusted without untying, you might find it useful for lowering heavy objects or moving them to a higher spot. While it maintains its grip under pressure, the opposite is also true; a line that may go slack from time to time, such as under windy conditions if tied to a small tree that may bend in the wind, can cause the knot to loosen and fail. By the same token, the clove hitch is not the knot to use if the attachment point can rotate. This will also cause the knot to loosen and fail.

Sheet Bend

A bend is a knot that ties two pieces of rope together. If you need a longer piece of rope than you have available, the sheet bend will allow you to safely tie shorter pieces of rope together. The sheet bend is normally used when the ropes to be joined are of different weights and made of different materials. The sheet bend isn’t one of the stronger knots, reducing the strength of the line to only half its unknotted strength. It’s also more efficient with heavily-textured rope, such as hemp. Smooth-surfaced lines can come untied, especially if the tension on the knot is not constant.

For joining two lines of the same weight and material together, the double fisherman’s knot is preferable to the sheet bend.

Taut-Line Hitch

When you want to have the advantage of adjustable tension for guy lines on a tent or tarp, the taut-line hitch is the go-to knot. Another advantage of this simple knot is that it’s so easy to untie when no longer needed. However, keep in mind that this knot is for light duty and needs to be monitored and adjusted often.

Power Cinch

Another little known and underrated knot is the Power Cinch. Another great way to add tension to a line without the possibility of it slipping loose like I’ve seen Taut-Line Hitches do, yet very easy to pull down in a hurry. This is what I use for any kind of trunk line while I’m camping or putting up a shelter. Tensioning knots are something you should know so I’ve included two of them in this list. I always see people over-tying objects in the back of a truck or in many situations where all they’re doing is trying to secure a load. Regular half hitches work fine, but that extra effort both in tying and removing all those knots simply isn’t necessary if you know the right knots to use in the first place.

A taut-line hitch is what you use when sheltering under a tarp. Stringing a rope between two trees and laying your tarp over it is the first step in creating a buffer between you and the elements. To make the tarp into a shelter, you need a firm, tight rope to hang it from.

The taut-line allows your loop to slide and grip, making it the ideal knot to use when staking a large tarp. But this knot won't work well for getting a rope tight and keeping it that way. It’s best for easy duty and needs to be adjusted often.