Thursday, May 8, 2008

Air and the importance of breathing.

No, not kidding. :)

In the strict sense of the word, survival means staying alive, and that can be summarized in the “rule of threes”:
You can’t survive;
3 minutes without air.
3 hours of exposure to low temperatures.
3 days without water
3 weeks without food.

Give or take a bit, that’s pretty much it in terms of minimums for keeping you alive.

Food, water and shelter I’ve discussed, and its air, the most precious need, that I’ve overlooked.

Most of the time hard core 80’s survivalists can be seen with a gas mask and chem suit near by.

My actual location not being a place a nuke or chemical bomb would be dropped on, I thought that worrying about that mad little sense.

Yes, stupid me.
No matter where you live, you need air, and it is air (water being a close second) the most overlooked point in preparedness.

Due to resent events, the importance of air has hit me like a ton of bricks in the last few weeks.

In lest than 60 days, millions in my country understood the importance of breathable air, due to two non related, mayor events.

The first incident occurred as a result of the tension between the farms and the government here in Argentina.
Right in the middle of the negotiations between the two, after 30 days of strike by the farmers, The city of Buenos Aires was covered with a thick mantle of smoke, that came downwind from a strategically calculated series of bush fires, over 400 spread through half the province of Entre Rios and the Delta Islands.

Most of us think that these fires were cause the supporters of our president, to create tension between the population and the farmers, since they found out that city dwellers didn’t blame the farmers as they expected, but took sides with them against a government that by now has clear signs of dictatorship.
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People in Buenos Aires, trying to get by as they go through their day.

The smoke made it very hard to breathe for weeks, and even though you still go on with your life it was hard on your lungs, eyes and skin, some days it is still a problem today in the capital district.

The second incident started just a few days ago in Patagonia, due to a supposedly inactive volcano in Chile(right next to us).
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Chaiten Volcano. Spreads ashes from Chile to the Atlantic, all across the continent.

The towns nearby didn’t worry about the thing, mostly due to it being sleeping without any signs of activity for over 7000 years.

Then came Murphy and his ironic laws and…

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People from Futaleufu evacuating the region

It’s the end of the world as they know it for these people. Not only do they have to evacuate the towns.
Their animal will die, along with most crops, and it will be along time before they can go back.

The toxic ash in the air forced them to evacuate quickly, many just leaving with the clothes on their backs and leaving the rest behind. Probably to be stolen by a few opportunistic looters.

Water became toxic and bottled water has now sold out in the region, a single liter costing several times what it used to.
Same for disposable surgical masks, like the ones doctors use. They went for 0.75 cents before the volcano erupted, now they cost 5 bucks each.

To avoid even greater problems, they will deny the toxicity until the smoke dissipates.
They did that with the bush and garbage smoke in Buenos Aires and they are doing it again with the volcano.

So yes, you need to do something about it.

What to do?

Your Air Purifying Arsenal

The disposable masks are what I saw most often. They don’t offer much protection but they are better than nothing I suppose.

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3M masks, your bare minimum

At least, try buying the best ones from 3M, they offer some with small carbon filters in the middle that should be better than the regular ones.

The best thing would be a full face mask, with disposable filters ( keeping some filters in stock) that offer eye protection too.
The ones without the eye protection leave eyes exposed, so since you bother to buy the real deal, go all the way.
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Face masks with disposable filters. A much better option.

Keep in mind that small children need special masks to fit their faces. Make sure the mask fits every family member.

Another great piece of equipment to have is a home air filer-purifier.
The important part is the filter here, you want a HEPA filter to get most of the stuff out.

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Inexpensive air filter-purifier with HEPA filter.

Now, the best thing would be a to have an air filtering system installed.

Someone that knows about AC can get it done for you, and while not cheap, it’s less expensive than most people believe if you look around and buy the components yourself.

You’ll be needing a ventilator that provides 20 renovations per hour, and the frame where the filters are installed. A metallic air duct may be necessary to reach the house.
This works by keeping the pressure inside greater than the one outside, so the particles don’t get in through doors, windows and other cracks or vents.
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HEPA filter

This may sound like a bit too much, but if you are building and have the opportunity to do it, it may be worth it.

Fires, natural disasters, terrorist attacks… and yes…dumb politicians messing with people or a darn volcano going off. :)
It can all affect the precious air you breathe.

Grated, the chances of you needing food and water are greater than the ones of you needing to purify air.
Still, remember…
You can go for 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water
… but air…



Anonymous said...

Good stuff, largely overlooked by most. Volcanic ash is particularly nasty as it gets into your lungs and then hardens up like the instant concrete patch/plaster you get at the hardware store. Instant emphysema. Industrial or wood smoke can bring on all sorts of asthematic type issues even in people who don't have that illness. Great post, keep 'em coming! THX.

PS: Any words about the petrol shortages? (http://www.losandes.com.ar/notas/2008/5/6/economia-357374.asp) (mosby43 / gmail) if you like.

Ryan said...

Interesting. If a nuke/ NBC goes off a mask won't help much or for long. Volcanoes could be an issue in some places though. Not something I will add to the collection but worth thinking of.

Anonymous said...

excellent post FerFAL.

you have moved this worry from the back of my mind to the front. the rubicon guys have a filter system they call "fan in a can" that addresses the positive pressure aspect, for the home system. (if you have alternative power to keep it operating.) very small children may sufocate if they use an un powered mask, they need a powered filter with a "tent".

now i need to make room in my get home bag for a gas mask and tyvek suit.

Anonymous said...

irishdutchuncle adds...
OBTW, anyone who is not scrupulusly clean shaven will not get a good seal between his face and the gas mask. (maybe the N95 paper masks could be secured with surgical tape in an effort to maintain a seal. i've never done this myself so i can't prove it would work.) (only asbestos could be worse than volcanic ash i hear... except for radionuclides and chemical agents.)

Anonymous said...

This is also known as the "tragedy of the commons". For example, the air we breath is in the "commons", which means it is freely available to all - but is also means it is free available for abuse.

I live near the east coast of the USA. The air flows naturally from the western USA to the eastern USA. Along the way coal fired plants that produce electricity spew out tons of mercury containing gases. When it rains in my area in East, the water droplets contain this mercury which then gets into lakes and streams.

The tragedy is that this air we all share is now polluting our water supplies so much that in many areas the fish are contaminated with mercury and dangerous to eat. There are signs posted near many bodies of water warning of this danger.

No doubt this mercury is circulating through our food supplies and body, causing untold damage.

So much energy is being wasted in this country, be it heating and cooling McMansions to running outsized SUV's and the result is massive environmental degradation.

The tragedy of the commons.

The Urban Survivalist said...

I keep a high quality promask in my car. They may not protect you in all situations but there are enough scenarios where I can see them coming in handy that I could justify the cost. A lot of people that worked near the WTC are seeing extremely serious side effects from being in the general vicinity days, weeks and months following the attacks. It might not protect you from a full scale nuclear blast but in the case of a dirty bomb you're more likely to have side effects from inhaling the contaminated air. If there's a major disease outbreak I'd feel a lot better about going around other people if I had a good mask.

Anonymous said...

As always great post FerFal.

Up here in Western Pennsylvania, I previously obtained some Canadian military masks with larger eye windows and left side NBC filter, so use of a rifle is still possible. Also, some commercial (hardware store) nose/mouth covering masks with two particulate filters (good enough to stop dust headaches when running the carpet sweeper). Also N95 dispo masks; I wonder if they will become fashionable for air travel, when folks figure out anyone on a plane with a cold virus will infect quite a few others. The wife and I have the commercial double-filter masks in our cars. My Ford SUV also has the capanility for a passenger compartment air filter (mounts under the cowl), and one installed 20K miles ago still works fine - this would be a help in a situation such as yours, assuming auto travel is frequent. I have a room HEPA air filter, and have thought of making custom ducting to locate the unit in outside air to blow clean air into (positive pressurize) the retreat cabin, in case on an air-quality event. This of course requires 120 VAC.

PS: FerFal, what mfgr and level bulletproof vests did you wind up getting? Any advice? They don't appear to be cheap in the States any more, running $500 and up...


Mojo+ELvis=MELvis said...

I bought the canadian unit a few years back as well. I have some of the israeli units for family and friends, but you can't shoulder a weapon with them, so I got a military unit that works great.

As for as Kevlar vests, you might look at bulletproofme.com as they get some used units in for a great price.

FerFAL said...

RedFox, I have a level II kevlar vest ( Paca )

Of course I don’t wear it all the time, just on occasions when I have to go places or meat people that might be dangerous, but still situations I can’t avoid.
Just a bit of extra insurance.

I'd get a concealed BA vest ( level II) for each memeber, and as money allows get rifle plates two with an extra set of plate carriers.

For people that envision the use of firearms for self defense, body armor makes a lot of sense.

Bulletproofme.com, good people there.


Anonymous said...

Anything on coping with petrol shortages? (which will happen here soon enough)

Anonymous said...

Dear FerFAL, did you manage to write a book you were going to about the story of you life and survival? I'm sure in Russia it would be a bestseller, people here know what a crisis looks and feels like, what you describe is very recognizable.

Good luck to you and your family

FerFAL said...

Hi Mosby,
We’ve reached rock bottom years ago. Most people here simply cant afford gasoline, that’s why most cars run on natural compressed gas (GNC).
I have GNC installed in my Daewo and only fill the thank with regular gas once a month or so. The rest of the time I run it on GNC which is pretty cheap (100km for 3 USD) , while keeping the gas tank full in case of an emergency.

Hi Vadim,
I have several chapters written and write when I have time.
I contacted some editors but there’s little interest. Seems that most want a watered down version and that’s something I wont do.

I suppose that I’ll eventually find someone interested in publishing it, or publish it myself for those interested. We’ll see.
Take care guys.


Anonymous said...

There's a Western Union agent in Buenos Aires:
- so I can send money from Moscow to BA.

As soon as you have your book printed/published/in PDF/whatever - I'm the first in line to buy the autographed copy, please remember :)

FerFAL said...

Ok Vadim, I'll keep that in mind. ;)


Anonymous said...

"I have GNC installed in my Daewo and only fill the thank with regular gas once a month or so. The rest of the time I run it on GNC which is pretty cheap (100km for 3 USD) , while keeping the gas tank full in case of an emergency."

Interesting, didn't know you could run dual fuel like that. THX

Anonymous said...

Argentina is defaulting on its sovereign debt again.


Anonymous said...

FerFal, get in touch with John Ringo, David Drake, and Eric Flint. They are major players in survivalist* (military, etc) fiction/science fiction, very anti-big-publisher ..



DO IT! They are your kinda people. It's a match made in heaven. PLEASE.

FerFAL said...

Hi anonymous from Chile,

I was speaking about what happened in my own country, though we did get some footage and reports from Chile and it's nothing like the situation you describe.
People could hardly breathe, and reports said the carabineros evacuated most of the town in the area.

In my country gas masks where sold at the price I said and the situation with potable water was the one I described, same with lootings.

If you truly are form Chile and not another spammer, I congratulate you for the way you handled things over in Chile, the way you people behaved so charitable among each other.

Would have been great to see some of that charitable side when you sold us out to the Brits during the Malvinas war, and how quickly you people forgot that we were the ones that crossed over the Andes and freed your own country from the Spaniards.