Monday, April 12, 2010

How to Hold Things Up

UPDATE: This recent article by Charles Hugh Smith dovetails well with this post: China's Towers and U.S. McMansions: When Things Fall Apart (Literally)

I've been pondering what to write up next. I have a series of half-written blog posts, but none ready for prime time. In short, we are in another limbo period, in my opinion. Mass mood seems frozen in some sort of delusional optimism - an entire society wishing away the avalanche that is roaring down the mountain at them.

In such times, what is there to say, other than be prepared? Well, one thing we can do is review our preparedness and fill in any gaps in our knowledge or plans.

This week we will discuss a topic that could start off as one of those "occasional need" things and turn into a near full-time occupation if a combination of Peak Oil and the Great Collapse destroys the capital base so necessary to the upkeep of cities, suburbs and industrial parks in the U.S.

Keeping Things Standing Just Long Enough

A year or three down the road - after weather, storms and maybe an occasional earthquake, hurricane or tornado have taken their toll on buildings, how do you evaluate such a structure for:

  • Shelter
  • Low tech Vertical farming
  • Setting up hackerspace
  • Stripping out the copper, aluminum, steel and other useful materials
  • Rescue of friends or loved ones inside a building that has collapsed for some reason

Of course you would have already acquired the rights to the place before doing any such activities (or others) listed above...

In the current world you don't worry your pretty little head about matters of structural integrity. You call up a structural engineer who is a PE in your state and you have him or her evaluate the building in question, then a team of professionals comes in to repair, shore up or otherwise demo the place.

In a world where capital has been disintegrated, where the tax base has cratered into nothing, where local communities, co-ops and family corporations are left to act locally without global resources, then you may need to know how to shore up a wall or a doorway or a collapsed floor. You may need to know how to pick out at least the major warning signs of a building about to collapse. You may need to know how to tie a knot, work a pulley and use all that stuff they taught you in school about levers to do real work before your cousins rush in to strip out the copper or the fellow members of your co-op decide to relocate your inventory of farming support goods to an abandoned big-box store.

I suggest you do an inventory of your preparedness planning and see where emergency ropes rescue (for disaster situations) and temporary shoring systems fits in.

You may be planning to handle everything from economic collapse, to major storms, to attacks by roving bands of ex-mercenaries home from Afghanistan and eager to loot the area. All three of those can be hell on buildings and infrastructure. Knowing how to clean up in the aftermath, how to get to whatever "tribe" you'll be building and how to make salvage situations safer could be quite useful in the coming decade.

Action Items

Printable documents and some excellent videos are available at http://www.disasterengineer.org/. I strongly suggest reviewing the FOG and SOG manuals at the least and getting a feel for what kinds of issues professional rescue teams deal with.

An excellent source for high-quality supplies is Rescue Direct. Please note that this site is geared towards fire departments and FEMA Urban Search & Rescue teams and some of this stuff is high-end and expensive. That said, there is a lot of very useful equipment, books and DVDs to be had here. You can buy flip-over versions of the SOG and FOG manuals here. Well worth the price.

Learn to handle rope and tie useful knots. One site (among many thousands on the internet) to check out is http://www.firetactics.com/KNOTS.htm. YouTube is also a fantastic resource. I'd suggest searching under "firefighter knots." Knowing knots is a skill that is worth knowing no matter what happens out in the world.

Once you've acquired some basic equipment - and by that I mean rope, a few carabiners, maybe a pulley and some scrap lumber - get out and DO. Build a basic shoring system shown in the SOG or FOG manuals. Assemble a Z-rig system and pull stuff. If you have kids, this is a perfect way to get them out of the house and involved in getting ready for What Comes Next without being a total doomer.

Reading doesn't teach you much about anything. Reading informs you. DOING teaches you. If you have a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue squad that is headquartered nearby, inquire about volunteering for it. You will learn practical skills and make contacts with the kinds of men and women you want around when TSHTF. If things come apart badly at the federal level, funding for USAR teams might dry up - but the contacts you've made will still be there.

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