How to Prevent Generator Breakdowns Before it’s too Late


Generators are an emergency power source that can provide electricity when the power goes out. They’re handy to have around, but they need proper maintenance in order to keep running smoothly and efficiently.

How to maintain your emergency generator

Regular maintenance is the best way to keep your emergency generator in tip-top shape and because they are not used every day are fairly easy to maintain.

It is best to have a written maintenance plan that can be followed on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. The generator owner’s manual will provide detailed information regarding the generator you own. If this manual does not provide enough information regarding services and repair work you may want to consider contacting a generator repair service professional.

Some common maintenance tasks include making sure it uses a battery to start that it is charged. You might want to consider using a battery maintainer to keep it topped up.

Check the air filter, make sure it is clean and free from debris including animal nests.

If you have a gasoline or diesel powered generator it is usually recommended to empty the fuel between uses, although some manufacturers say it is safe to store fuel in the tank this is probably a case of better safe than sorry. If you do keep fuel in the tank make sure it is stabilized using products like Sta-Bil Fuel Stabilizer. Same goes for any extra fuel you keep on hand.

Make sure the engine oil is clean and free from contaminants. Oil change periods can vary between generator types and the environments they are operated in, for example dusty environments require more attention, so consult your owners manual for specifics, but most experts recommend you change the oil every 50 to 200 hours or every 2 years.

Run the generator monthly for about 30 minutes to make sure that the engine stays lubricated, fuel is circulating though the system, and if equipped with an electric ignition the battery is charged and the ignition system is working. During your monthly startup you should also test the generator under load to make sure it is producing the output that it should.

When your generator is not in use, the best place to store it is inside of a shed, basement, or garage. This prevents weather related damage and keeps animals from nesting or chewing on cables. However NEVER run a generator in an enclosed space. If you decide to keep it outside make sure you cover it up, this will minimize damage and extend the life of the equipment.

Keep the generator clean. Because most emergency generators sit for long periods of time, tucked away, they can collect dust, spider webs, and other debris. This buildup over time can cause problems with operation. A good way to clean everything out is to use compressed air and or wipe everything down with a damp cloth.

Warning signs that indicate the emergency generator may need service or repair work

Prevent breakdowns by understanding any warning signs that may indicate your generator needs service or repair work.

Warning signs that may indicate the generator needs service or repair work are when it starts to make unusual noises. This includes grinding, squealing, or anything else that is not typically part of the initial startup. If you observer any of these signs the generator should immediately be shut off to prevent any further damage being done to the generator itself.

Another warning sign that emergency generator may need service or repair work are if you notice any puddles of liquid . This liquid may be coolant, oil, gasoline, or anything else that could cause damage to the generator. If any of this occurs inspect for damage and make any necessary repairs. Make sure the generator is clean and dry before restarting it.

In Closing

Emergency generators are an integral part of emergency preparedness. If you don’t conduct proper maintenance, the generator could break down when your home needs it most, during a power outage or hurricane. To avoid this problem, make sure to maintain your generator by following your maintenance plan and all maintenance guidelines. Pay close attention to any warning signs that may indicate the generator needs service or repair work. By keeping up with routine inspections and maintenance before these issues arise will help extend its lifespan so it is always ready for emergencies!


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Survival Beekeeping Part 1-Introduction

hivesI became interested in beekeeping four years ago when I lived in Denver. It is a popular hobby and there is a great community there for beekeepers. Apiculture is the study of beekeeping. While these articles will cover some highlights, there are dozens of beekeeping books and online resources available to the average person with a local library or internet connection. The greatest resource is a local beekeeper or guild. From a survival or self-reliance perspective, bees produce a number of excellent products with very little effort on the part of their human managers. This concept passes the Rule of Survival Thermodynamics, a term coined by Ragnar Benson in Urban Survival. In a nutshell, Survival Thermodynamics is a critically important rule to remember: never burn more calories than you receive from your food gathering efforts. It emphasizes trapping and gardening rather that hunting or foraging to maximize the return on caloric investment.

Without bees, the world dies. Their pollination activities prevent the complete global collapse of agriculture. Commercial beekeepers rent and transport thousands of beekeeping hives to California’s central valley and other regions to feed the world. While honey collection has been documented for 15,000 years, efforts to domesticate bees can be documented as far back as the ancient Egyptians. This domestication made a huge leap forward by the achievements of Lorenzo Langstroth, an American pastor and apiarist, who invented the Langstroth hive. This allowed the mass production of hives engineered for a higher degree of successful colony establishment.

Successful beekeeping is part science, part art, and a good deal of luck. For me that is a big draw to the hobby. No matter how knowledgeable and hard you work at it, the bees can still surprise you. It requires an estimated 40 hours of maintenance work per year on the hives. While learning about beekeeping, there are a few quotes that I would like to share at the outset:

“Ask two beekeepers the same question and you will get 4 different answers”

“No one knows more about beekeeping than a two year veteran.  Just ask him/her”

“People get into beekeeping for the bees and get out of beekeeping for the honey”

This last point should be emphasized. If successful, you will be harvesting a lot of honey. Potentially 150 pounds of honey per hive per year.

What does a hive produce? The most common response is honey. It never spoils and produces 304 kcal/100g. Beeswax from the melted honeycomb can be used to produce beautiful candles, balms, and lotions. Propolis is the glue that bees use to seal up the hive. It is used in tinctures and has both antimicrobial and anticancer properties. Pollen can also be harvested as a protein substitute. People use all these products for food, to combat allergies and burns, and numerous other applications.

I’ll cover hive designs, expectations, urban considerations, pests, and gear in the next article: Survival Beekeeping Part 2. Stay tuned.


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How Does Your State Rank in Natural Disaster Risk?

asset_upload_file327_26909CoreLogic recently released a risk analysis ranking “US States at Highest Risk of Property Damage Loss from Natural Hazards.” These hazards included: flood, wildfire, tornado, storm surge, earthquake, straight-line wind, hurricane wind, hail and sinkhole. Where does your state rank?
























































































































































Source: CoreLogic 2014

* AK and HI were excluded in the ranking due to limited natural hazard risk data


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Survival Story: Captured by the Enemy

These stories always amaze me.

There were times during their night marching when Crowson remembers being walked, under heavy cover, right near his fellow U.S. soldiers, not being able to scream out in fear of being shot by his captors. He remembers clearly seeing soldiers chat on the tanks amongst one another and was even close enough to smell their cigarette smoke but couldn’t yell out for help.


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Man Tracking Basics

As with all worthy endeavors in life, the time and practice necessary to master any skill is measured in hundreds if not thousands of hours of practice. Any weekend “training”, regardless of the topic or instructor can only introduce the participant to the most basic of skills. Without continuous reinforcement, these skills will be lost. This is a quick summary of a short class I attended in 1996. If I forgot something, please forgive me since it has been 18 years.

This article is for entertainment purposes only. If you break the law, fail to evade capture, and spend the next ten years behind bars, it’s on you. I don’t want to get an angry email blaming me for your predicament. I do not claim to be a master tracker or even a practiced novice tracker. I just enjoyed the brief orientation our class received on the subject and wanted to share the highlights with interested readers since it is a unique topic.

Tracker vs. Tracked

There are two sides to every coin. On one hand, there are the tracker teams and on the other, the target. The tracker team is well rested, well fed, and well hydrated. Usually there is more than one team and they are professionally coordinated and in constant radio communication with each other. When working in concert with other teams and resources, they are almost unbeatable. However, the tracker teams are just doing their job. The target is highly motivated and fueled by a cocktail of fear and adrenaline. Food and water may be nonexistent. The longer the chase, the greater the affect on the target’s decision making. If the target is smart, the target will be headed toward something even if that is as simple as a cardinal direction representing a friendly border.


Your goal should never be to wear out the dogs. That is nearly impossible, especially if run by professional handlers with teams changing out to stay fresh. You want to wear out the handler. If you wear out the handler, the dog/handler team needs to swap out. If a Tier 1 handler that runs 1/2 marathons every weekend is on your scent, I wish you good luck. However, there are couch potatoes and wannabee warriors in every county and country so don’t give up just yet. Maybe you will get lucky.

Contrary to popular culture, you will not hear the mournful barking and howls of bloodhounds as they close on you. Like the K9 units at airports, when they smell undeclared produce trying to sneak into the country they simply sit down next to the target luggage. Professional teams communicate with one another by radio and you can expect the dogs to be silent in their pursuit. You will not know you are being tracked until you see them and by then it will be too late.

Abandon the fallacy that crossing a river will cause the dogs to lose your scent. If you cross a river or body of water, the tracking team will simply move up and down both shores until they reacquire your track. The action might buy you some time and it is not a bad idea, but don’t expect it to work magic. Likewise, weather conditions can be your friend in evasion. They won’t necessarily wipe out your scent but cruddy weather and long tracking missions can wear down the morale of the handlers making them lose focus and become more easily distracted.

No Dogs

Tracker teams without dogs are a special breed. It takes a keen eye, incredible patience, and a focused mind. I have none of these traits but I admire folks who do. To the trained and practiced eye, the signs and spoors standout like a neon sign in the wilderness. Their tools are simple: a tracking stick, plenty of water, and a radio. They are tracking the target by looking for two key features: Disturbance and Transference. To see what I mean, just walk through the woods and occasionally stop and look behind you. If you look carefully where you just walked you will notice all the little signs you are leaving behind: twigs broken, little rocks that scrape the ground under your boot, dirt on top of rocks that fall out of the treads of your shoe. Examples of disturbance are broken or crushed vegetation and rocks/debris that have been displaced or flipped. By flipped, I mean the sun-bleached side is flipped onto its belly and the damp or dark underside is now on top. Transference is what happens when the treads of your shoes or body pick up sand, little pebbles, dirt, etc., and then deposits them where they shouldn’t be naturally. Examples of this is sand particles on leaves, grass, asphalt, etc.

Foreign Debris

Albeit a rare treat, if the target doesn’t realize a tracker team is in pursuit, certain “items” may be left for you to find. Cigarette butts, soda cans, chewing gum wrappers, etc., are examples. All these items “age” when exposed to the natural elements of sun, rain, and other weather.  In order to know if the foreign debris you discover is from a legitimate hiker from three weeks ago or your target from three hours ago, you need to become familiar with what common debris looks like as it ages outdoors. You can learn this by creating a Debris Garden in your backyard (see below).

Make a Tracking Stick

Thin wooden dowel about 3/8″ thick. You can improvise a hand-guard by wrapping one end with 550 cord or electrical tape. Slide two different colored rubber bands over the dowel and loop each several times over to make each one tight. I would recommend red and green because they are standard colors in my mind. Red is left or “port” if you are on an airplane or ship. I use the mnemonic “in the old days, ships brought red wine into ports”. Green is right or starboard. The rubber bands can function as a left or right foot identifiers of the target or the target’s walking and running stride length, whichever works best for you. You will use the rubber bands to draw your attention and focus to the radius around the last spoor. A spoor is the last definite mark or track signified by transference or disturbance.

Make a Debris Garden

Making a debris garden is an easy way to see the effects of time on foreign objects in nature. Mark off a 4×2 grid in your backyard with tape or twine (size doesn’t matter). Pick several common items you might find in the woods that people leave behind intentionally or unintentionally: cigarette butts, receipts, loose change, plastic bottles, soda cans, gum wrappers, etc. Each day place one of each of the objects in a grid square and note the date.  After a week you will have a seven day visual diary. You can keep it going for as long as you want.

You can try out tracking with friends and family. It can be a fun experiment. However, the preparation-minded folks have thousands of skills to practice and this is definitely a niche-skill so don’t have too much fun. Happy tracking!


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5 to Stay Alive: Tips for Stealth Camping

What the hell is stealth camping you might ask? Well depending on who you talk to, you’ll get different answers, but in a nutshell it’s camping in a spot so as not to be seen by others and leaving no sign that you were ever there. Stealth camping can be in an unauthorized or otherwise non-permissive area, might be on private property, or in a legitimate spot just away from other campers because you want some peace and quiet or maybe you’re anti-social, like me.

Here are 5 tips to help you stay hidden.

Beware of the road not taken

…or less taken, most definitely the road often taken. What I’m saying is stay away from the damn roads, as well as trails, paths, streams, ridgelines and any location people use to get from one place to another easily. In the military these areas are called “natural lines of drift”  You need to find that spot that’s thick and nasty the place no one is going to waste time going through. When you do find it, take your time getting in and cover your tracks so as not to leave an obvious path.

Shhhh! The squirrels are listening

How often when walking along a trail do you hear things long before you see them? Especially while in clear forest or open terrain, and even more so at night. This should go without saying but be quiet. No clanking pots and pans or chopping trees. Keep you movements deliberate and pay attention to what you’re doing. Oh, and by the way, all that dense foliage will also help dampen sound.

She blinded me with science a 200 lumen headlamp and a fluorescent pink backpack

Save the space station signaling devices for use in “normal” camping situations or emergencies. Not only will the bright colors and lights give you away, it will also kill your own night vision. If you do need to use a light source keep it low and filtered (more about night vision and filtered light). Forego the campfire, if you have to heat food, use a small backpacking stove, and cook while it’s still light out. Daytime is no exception. Reflecting sunlight will catch someone’s attention at a good distance.  Beware of the location of the sun and any reflective items you might have exposed.

Damn, you stink!

Just like light and sound, odor travels. There are lots of stories of the Viet Cong being able to smell U.S. soldiers in the jungle and vice versa due to their difference in diet. Back in my Recon Platoon days, I remember being able to pick up on cigarette smoke (I’m a non-smoker) quite easily. In the morning during traditional “hygene time” a platoons worth of deodorant, shaving cream and baby wipes travels a mile.  Now admittedly this is a bit on the extreme side, but don’t make it obvious. Beware of the wind direction (affects sound too) especially when cooking. As mentioned before, no campfires, minimize the cologne and perfume (chances of getting lucky are slim anyway). Don’t smoke, but If you have to, mind the wind direction.

Keep it on the down low

No, not that kind of “down low” (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I mean keep a low profile. There’s no need to be building the Taj Mahal of shelters. You want your tarp, tent or hammock low to the ground. Don’t silhouette yourself against the skyline, stay in the lower areas but beware of possible flooding.

Now I’m not saying go all Rambo the commando when you hit the trail, you’re just gonna freak people out and look like a moron.  I tend to use gear and clothing that are earth toned. not only does it allow me to blend in, it also brings out the color in my eyes, but I digress. That’s not to say everything I own is olive drab and khaki, but if I know I might need to pop off the trail before I get to the designated camping area, I’ll pack accordingly.

One final note, and I didn’t include this in the list but it needs to be mentioned, leave the area the way you found it. “Leave no trace” applies just as much, if not more to stealth camping as it does to standard backcountry camping.

Not good
Not good
keep trying
Getting better, but needs some work.
There you go!
That’s the idea


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Practical Preparation and the Survival Spectrum

There is a spectrum of self-reliance and preparedness examples in our world today. On one hand, there are people who feel it is unnecessary or even foolish to put resources such as time and money into such endeavors. On the other hand, some folks spend tremendous fortunes on building survival retreats, acquiring firearms, and training at weekend survival camps in preparation for the apocalypse. What is the rational, reasonable middle ground based on the trends in our world?

Whatever the future holds, we can make some basic assumptions that the world in twenty years will look nothing like the world today. Twenty years ago the United States was emerging from a long Cold War. Companies still had pensions. Cell phones were toys of the rich and powerful. Televisions and home phones were analog. Electric cars were only found on golf courses. Many home televisions only had four basic channels (or maybe this was just a Midwestern thing).

It does not take a crystal ball to see that we can expect national and even global stress in several areas: electrical power, severe weather, food, and water. As populations grow, we can expect to see shortfalls in electricity despite our best conservation efforts. Yesterday’s extreme weather is now the new normal. In many states, we will see drought conditions that affect crops, tax water reserves, and create a recipe for wildfires. Globally, fresh water reserves will continue to decline in many desperate areas. Other states will find water plentiful from harsh winters, but could create the conditions for flooding along waterways. Severe weather will continue to impact the aging power grid with downed lines that affect large regions from wind, ice, and snow. 

On the Survival Spectrum, as we discussed in the first podcast, the individual needs to conduct a risk assessment for themselves and their family. This assessment should take into account geography, weather patterns, historical data, special needs, education/training, unique threats, and personal budget. This risk assessment should help differentiate possibilities from probabilities. Although entertaining, most low frequency and high magnitude events are best left for Hollywood.  Many of the basic skills and preparations for a two week disruption in basic services would serve the individual and their family well regardless of where the event falls on the Survival Spectrum. 

Survival Spectrum
Click to view larger image


Although we do enjoy the mental exercise that extreme survival scenarios can encourage, the most important concept is Practical Preparation. Although researching basic hygiene topics and attending a free first aid or CPR class from the Red Cross may seem boring, these are the skills that will serve you most effectively in a disaster. Your investment will also cost practically nothing. When it comes to you and your family, leave the Hollywood/Rambo garbage for the movie theater. Instead, teach your family how to turn off your utilities in an emergency and start using the checklists found here.


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First Impression: Condor Summit Softshell Jacket

summitEveryone has an opinion when it comes to gear.  I have been looking for the wearable equivalent to a Bug-Out Bag that I could test out.  I was less concerned about fashion and more about function.  Mike R. has an upcoming article about avoiding the Tactical Tuxedo which will cover some of these topics.  I plan to “Bug-In” during a disaster and the most likely events in my geography are droughts and earthquakes.  Droughts significantly impact quality of life but they usually don’t disrupt or shatter basic services.  Earthquakes, however, cannot be forecast and are incredibly disruptive to services.  I started looking into where I might be if such an event happened.  There is a 50% chance I will be home, making it easy to “Bug-In”, and a 50% chance I will be on the road or at work somewhere.  That means I will have to get back home to “Bug-In”.  On good days, traffic can be tough in my area so odds are high that my best bet is walking.  This means comfortable shoes or boots, clothing that can handle dynamic weather conditions, and water.  With that it mind, I bought a Condor Summit Softshell Jacket on Amazon.

Cost: $86


Taken from the Manufacturer’s website:

Specifications – Lined stand-up collar
– Stow-away hoodie
– Two shoulder pockets
– Two 4″ x 4″ shoulder patch panels
– Two internal pockets
– Two highrise slash chest pockets
– Forearm pocket
– Double zipper back pocket
– Underarm vent zipper
– Double layer reinforced forearm
– Drawstring waistband and hood
– Adjustable wrist cuff
– Full front YKK zipper with double zipper pull
– Import
Color MultiCam, Olive Drab, Black, Tan, Navy, Foliage
Notifications Material
– Outer Layer: 100% polyester, 4-way elastic, high density fabric with Teflon Coating.
– Mid Layer: breathable film membrane.
– Inner Layer: 150 g/m² 100%  fleece.
Care Instruction
– NO Bleach, NO Iron, NO Dry Clean
– Wash inside out in low temperature
– Tumble dry in low heat
NTOA Approved

The order came quickly and my first impression was how light the package was.  The jacket weighs less than a pound.  Unpacking it, the jacket arrives in a plastic sleeve.  All the manufacturers tags are on it and it has that “new clothes” smell.  There are no accessories to worry about for this item.  I had read that sizing was on the small side so I went with an XL to allow for layering.  I will put this jacket through its paces and let you know what I think in an upcoming review.

You can find it on Amazon HERE.


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Driving on Snow and Ice

Yesterday morning I received a call from a good friend and hopefully future SA contributor, who after seeing the insanity taking place in the southern states suggested an article on driving in the snow and on icy roads.

Having grown up in New England, driving in bad weather is a way of life. While we don’t get an outrageous amount of accumulation here, we do get plenty of the crappy wet snow, freezing rain and ice storms that just hit the southern states, not to mention the black ice that will make your heart skip several beats when you vehicle suddenly goes sideways on you.

So for those of you that aren’t quite experienced in this type of environment or just need a little refresher, here is a list of tips for driving in the snow from the AAA Website:

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.

One thing brought up by my buddy in our conversation is that many people tend to freak out when their anti-lock breaks start to do their thing. They are designed not to lock up so they will pulse when you stomp down on them this creates an unusual noise and vibration in the brake pedal. This  keeps the wheels turning in short increments and while it might not decrease your stopping distance on slippery surfaces it will allow you better control of the vehicle.

Another useful bit of information also published by AAA:

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Finally, in the event you find yourself traveling to Alaska during the winter months I’ll offer this bit of information. Way up north they have some interesting road maintenance techniques, they only treat the roads with sand and gravel and don’t really plow down to the pavement. So the gravel embeds itself into the the hard packed snow and creates a sort of second pavement. Kinda.

Where it really gets bad is at intersections which are basically just sheets of ice. While in most places in the lower 48 a green light means GO! In Alaska a green light means wait for the car sliding through the intersection and then the other one behind it, he may or may not be able to stop. Oh and all that sand and gravel I talked about, lets just say your daily driver will have a cracked windshield and chipped paint, of course only to be seen in about May when you can actually wash the 3 inches of crud off without fear of freezing your doors shut.

Stay safe out there.


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