Preps Dry Run: After Action Review (Part 1)
Well, my summer vacation has come to a close and Practical Prepper has returned to the classroom. Back to the old grind, I guess. As you can tell, I also took a bit of vacation from this blog, but it’s back to work here, too. My preps did not take a vacation though. Nor did my acquisition of goodies I’m just chomping at the bit to tell you about, but those posts will just have to wait for the ensuing days and weeks. Today, I want to get you caught up with how the Preps Dry Run went down back in July. Unfortunately, you will have to rely on my prose only as the video I shot on my little Sony Webbie HD was deleted when we downloaded video of my son’s wedding and somehow ‘scrambled’ the ProDuo memory card of the camera. All I get when I try to access my Dry Run vids is a ‘Format Error’ message. Until I can get that SNAFU righted, here’s my AAR on the Dry Run:
Morning The wife and I woke up in cool, air-conditioned comfort at 8:00 and, after pulling my shorts on, I went out into the back yard and threw the main circuit breaker for the house. We then opened up all the windows to let some light and air in before using our small, propane camping stove to brew up some potent ‘cafe cubano’ or Cuban rocket fuel. Miami residents know exactly what I’m talking about. The way I looked at it, it was more important to get a caffeine jolt and clear my head than to worry about the temperature in my fridge and freezers as they will be fine for a few hours at least. The wife and I had our ‘rocket fuel’ on the porch and discussed what we would be doing for the rest of the day. We decided that we would conduct the Dry Run as if some unnamed and unexpected emergency had occurred, rather than an event for which there had been sufficient warning – like a hurricane.
It was a sunny day. That was good, as my solar panel and battery array will be tested to the limit today. As per our discussion, the first thing we did was to fill several 5-gallon buckets with water from the backyard hose as well as our 2 solar-heated camping showers. We had this high on our priority list because if this had been a real emergency, there is no telling how long the municipal water supply will remain viable. If the water is still running, fill up everything you can get your hands on. We even simulated filling our Water BOB – a bathtub sized thick plastic bag that is designed to fill from your tub’s spout and hold roughly 40-50 gallons of water. It even comes with a plastic pump for siphoning out the water when needed. [See links at the end of this post for info on many of the products mentioned in this report.]
After attending to our water needs, the wife and I pulled down the ‘Bug-in Kit’, as we call it – a large lidded storage bin we store on the top shelf of our den closet. Among other items it contained, many of which we will discuss later, was a pair of very heavy 10-gauge extension cords, some power strips, and a pair of Kill-A-Watt electrical usage monitors – very handy devices to see the load being placed on your generator. While she untied the cords, I went into the garage and unlocked the Honda eu2000i generator and brought it through the house and onto the back porch which is covered by a metal awning. There was a slight SE breeze that morning, so I placed the genny in a position that would insure that the breeze would carry the exhaust and carbon monoxide away from the back door. After filling it and applying the choke, it started after the fifth pull. I let it run on the ECO (gas-stingy) setting to get up to operating temperature for a few minutes, then went inside to check on the wife’s handiwork. She had unpacked the cords and hooked them up to 2 heavy-duty power strips with a Kill-A-Watt device between the strip and the cord for each one. We then went into the garage and unplugged the upright and chest freezer from their dead wall outlets and ran extension cords to the power strips, but did not plug them in yet. I then went out back and plugged both 10-gauge extensions into the Honda’s 3-pronged 110 outlets. We then plugged in the freezers one at a time so as not to overload the genny and voila, the little Honda ran them like a champ, only surging occasionally as the compressor for one of the freezers kicked in, but returning to the low RPM ECO setting every time. Next, we did the same to our house fridge on the other extension cord. The Honda handled all three with aplomb. we then turned all three thermostats down to the coldest setting so they would remain colder longer when unplugged later that day.
The plan for the genny was to use it for 3-4 hours at a time to keep the freezers down to temperature, then shut it for an hour or two to save gas. With the generator running and our shower bags laying on the grass in the backyard absorbing the potent, south Florida sunshine, we had some cereal and milk for a well deserved breakfast. The wife reminded me about locking up the generator when we had it outside, so I retrieved the chain with which it had it secured to a large water pipe in the garage and secured it to the steel awning post.
Light in the house was supplied by the solar system running CF bulbs, as was power for the home alarm system, the perimeter security system, and a few small fans.. Gotta love solar power. The rest of the morning was spent cobbling together a small, 5″, battery powered, black and white TV to an digital to analog signal converter so we could watch some TV during our simulated emergency. After several pauses to hunt for the right wiring and connectors, it worked like a charm – albeit with only local channels. Our Battery powered AM/FM radio, a Uniden scanner, and Icom ham radio HT (all useful in a real emergency) also shared the kitchen table with the cobbled together television. Do I really have to mention that a fully loaded 1911 also shared the kitchen table? After all, this was a simulated emergency and nothing says home security like a .45 caliber hollow-point.
Note to self: The television system should have been cobbled together and stored away ready-to-go instead of having to do it in the midst of a real emergency. THIS is why we do dry runs, though, isn’t it? To find stuff like this out.
Afternoon Lunch consisted of tuna sandwiches and some chicken Cup-O-Soup washed down with iced tea, then a dip in the pool to escape from the 90+ degree heat. The 1911 and three radios followed us out to the backyard. The pool is an important part of our preps. In a real emergency, it will supply water to wash with and flush the toilets (we have a septic system and don’t have to worry about backed up city sewer systems if the SHTF), as well as keeping our morale up during hot, summer days. We keep several weeks worth of chlorine and ‘shock’ to keep the water as clear as possible for as long as possible, but even green water will flush a toilet.
A chat with our neighbor two houses down (the guy who built the tall wooden fence in his backyard) and some instant coffee brought us nearly to dinner time. He was curious about why we were running our generator when it seemed like everyone else on the block had power. I explained the Preps Dry Run idea to him and he liked the idea. I suggested that we do it together next year and he seemed agreeable to the idea. Cool.
At about 5:00 PM, we shut the generator (for the record, that was about 7 hours of constant use on less than a gallon of gas. Sweet.). The two freezers were reading temps of -10 F or so and we decided that they weren’t going to get any colder. The Honda is so quiet, we often forgot it was even running most of the time. About an hour before shutting it though, I took out a ‘6-pack’ of Nathan’s hot dogs I had repackaged with my vacuum sealer from a 40-pack I bought a BJ’s a few months back and put them in a pot of water in the sun to thaw. I lit some charcoal using newspaper and one of those devices that looks like a big coffee can with holes in the bottom and poured them into my grill when they had started to burn. We opened a can of baked beans and heated them along side the hot dogs on the grill when the coals were good and hot. Hot dogs smothered in baked beans on paper plates (another item stored in the Bug-In Bin) , some potato chips, and two beers from the generator-powered fridge nicely ushered in the evening. On the table with us, the battery powered TV gave us the evening news.
Tomorrow: Part 2.
Be safe. Be Prepared.