Always Protect Yourself

On January 2, 2014, I placed an order for a 3500 watt generator, a 10 circuit transfer switch kit, (includes the 30amp 240 volt locking cable and power inlet receptacle) and a nice lock and cable so all of it hopefully won’t up and walk away. It was scheduled to arrive on January 6th a Monday. On the 5th, Icemageddon turned into snowmageddon. We got 17” of snow. Turns out it was the 3rd highest snowfall amount in our areas history. Seems like I remember getting more snow than that but I guess it all happening in a short period of time made a difference. In the middle of the afternoon on the 5th, it was snowing so hard I could barely see the big honey Locust tree in our back yard. During the middle of the afternoon I saw our light blink three times. I’m thinking, Oh No; we are so close. IMG_20140106_125726_389 IMG_20140106_125648_653   I figured that UPS wouldn’t be able to deliver my item on the 6th and would have to perhaps wait another day or two. The next day I checked the tracking information and it was listed as out for delivery all day until about 2030, then they called it off due to bad weather. On the 7 th, early, it showed the packages out for delivery but they were cancelled due to the weather at about 0900. Even though my items are only about 5 miles from my home, it looked like old Jack Frost had put a hex on me. I called UPS and requested that I be able to pick up the items from their distribution center. They put in the order and scheduled that I could pick up the items on the 8th. Great now I can look forward to its arrival. I guess I should explain a bit about the problem. I told you about the 17” of snow. That’s a lot, but we’ve handled that before in our area. Not under our current circumstances. Our city, Flint, Michigan, is under state receivership and sadly laid-off a large swath of our work force. In the past if we had a storm of this magnitude, garbage trucks would have been equipped with snow blades and it would be all hands on deck for the sanitation, maintenance and Department of Public Works people. Well there were few hands to put on deck. Our garbage pickup has been outsourced. Many of the other departments were cut down to skeleton crews. There was no where to pull from, so it took forever for the streets to get plowed. For us it was 5 days. That’s five days with one lane ruts in the road from cars driving back and forth, which included many getting stuck. This is why UPS couldn’t chance coming into our subdivision. Heck my wife told me that a FedEx truck came to the house next door and got stuck and it took quite a while to get free. All of this I can understand. I’m just too close to having some peace of mind with this situation to have our items cooling their heels in some warehouse just a few miles from home. So Ashley and I went and made a pickup. As soon as we get there I figured I would give the guy behind the counter my papers with the tracking numbers. He asks, what is the name of the street. I’m thinking how would he know just by the name of the street. As soon as I tell him, he knows. He doesn’t even need to see the tracking numbers. Looking back, I imagine the amount of packages going through their place in the first week of January is significantly less than around Christmas. He’s like…Oh that package. “You got a…”. He’s snapping his fingers trying to remember. I tell him it’s a generator and it’s like a light bulb went off. He tells me to drive around to the front and he’ll bring them out. So we do that and load everything up in the back of the mini van. It’s time to take stuff home and make some room. I won’t bore you with a detailed story of installing the Manual Transfer Switch. It went well. One thing I will speak on is buying the generator. A couple months ago I had every intention of buying a gun safe. I had researched all the models that were in my price range and appeared to satisfy my needs. I’m not sure what I was waiting on— but I’m glad I did. This experience changed my priorities completely. I still plan on getting the safe, but the generator/transfer switch became my new high priority.

Anyway back to buying the generator. As I said before I placed an order with Amazon.com and we picked it up from the UPS distributor. I set it in the garage for a couple days until I would have a chance to look at it on the weekend. It’s Sunday morning and I open the generator box so I can install the wheel kit and put some oil and gas in and get it started. Once I unpacked it, I see a dent on the corner of the frame. The black powder coat finish has separated and is flaking off as well. I can also see that part of the frame is bowed instead of a straight like the other side. DANG. I remember reading that generators can’t be returned to Amazon. Now I’m wondering what to do. I figured at the least I’ve got to send them an email and tell them the issue. I’d hoped maybe they would refund me part of the cost of the generator and save me a few bucks.

So, I take a bunch of pictures and record a bit of video just in case they need me to send that to verify my claim. Email is sent and I continue working on the transfer switch. I come in the house after installing the exterior power inlet receptacle, when my wife tells me I have a phone call. It’s a lady from Amazon. She tells me that she got my email and apologizes for the damage to the unit. She says she will place an order for another generator and have it to me within a couple days. I’m quite pleased as this is much more than I expected. Then she blew me away. As we were finishing up, I realize she hasn’t said anything about the other generator. I assumed she would want me to box it up and perhaps send it when the other one is delivered, but she isn’t saying anything. So I ask her what should I do with the old one. She tells me that since a generator is considered a hazard it can’t be sent back, so I should fix it, sell it or discard it, but they can’t take it back. WHAT!

Now I have two generators. I’ll probably sell one of them on Craigslist. Now that is some customer service from Amazon.com. Let me offer a suggestion to anyone reading these words someday in the future. Don’t try and take advantage of this type of event with Amazon.com. Without her explaining it to me I’m almost certain that she did a little research on my purchase history and saw that I hadn’t done this before. So lets not be ridiculous.

I appreciate them taking care of the customer. I wouldn’t have gotten that response at a local store. Apparently Lowe’s, Home Depot and other big box stores have figured out what people do during natural disasters. They often go out and purchase a generator, “Just in Case”, they need it. Once the disaster is over, droves of people begin returning these machines. Actually I was hoping to get one like that after the storm for half price or so. No luck. All the stores had up signs saying they wouldn’t take them in return. So if I would have bought one in a box and it had the same type of damage; I would have been SOL. I figured if Amazon wouldn’t do anything, I would just deal with it. I would paint the damaged portion of the frame. No big deal as the damage appeared to be all cosmetic. Now I have another problem. But it’s a good problem. If I sell this generator, I could in essence have gotten a generator for free.

The other thing I’m considering is getting a tri-fuel kit so I can use, natural gas, propane or gasoline in the generator. When I first heard of the tri-fuel kits, I thought what difference does it make? As I studied further, it makes a lot of sense. If power is out in my city or area or even the region, gas stations lose power as well. If they aren’t powered the gasoline doesn’t flow. Having an option of natural gas or LP propane gas might make a lot of sense. The other thing that I like about propane is it doesn’t go bad. From what I’ve read it seems to last indefinitely. Even gasoline will only last about a year or so with double the fuel stabilizer added. That seems very appealing. If I’m able to tap into my natural gas line, that could potentially offer an unlimited fuel supply as long as the source isn’t stopped due to contamination or worse.

Until next time Constant Reader…Never Quit Ever.

 

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December 24th, 2013. Christmas Eve. Already it feels colder than yesterday. I get the kids up at dawn and we do what we can. I stopped going outside to work on the generator as that was becoming a disaster and it is real hard to work in the cold when you have no where to temporarily warm up. The last thing I need is pneumonia.

Amy did something this morning that was phenomenal. The day before, she figured how to make an indoor cooking set up. She had two small aluminum loaf pans, a cooling rack over them and 3 or 4 buffet burners. It was a make shift stove. Now Amy was formerly the makeshift princess, but the following upgraded her to makeshift “Goddess”.

She starts pulling out some food on this “stove” and starts making breakfast. She cuts up smoked sausage, grits, scrambled eggs and butter toasted bread. Looks ambitious. It takes a long time, about 2 hours, since the burners will only heat to what would be a low setting on a regular stove. To my amazement, it’s coming together and smelling good. Wouldn’t you know when all was said and done, she prepares all this stuff and times everything so that it is all warm at the same time when we are ready to eat. It’s hard to cook and have everything warm at the same time under normal circumstances. How she did this, who knows.

While Amy is cooking, I tell her about the room and that I can’t cancel the first day. I suggest she consider her and the kids staying at the hotel and I’ll stay at home and watch the fort. She suggests we discuss it with our kids over breakfast.

We sit down, and eat this wonderful meal and the mood is quite somber. I think the changes to our holiday and the cold are beginning to get to us. We ask the question just as we did the day before about should we stay at home. This time…silence…crickets. As it gets colder it seems less likely that we can stay here. I told everyone that walking around in our darkened, empty house is like watching scenes in the movie Titanic. As the camera passes by each room, rooms that people lived in, you can see that there was a presence of energy there but it has vanished. Left behind is this hulking monolith called a home that isn’t able to take care of us any longer. We make the decision that for the remainder of the afternoon, we’ll get clothes and things together and go to the hotel. For my family I’m relieved. I can stay there, but I’ll have less worry if they are in warmth.

Why would I stay in this frozen home, some might ask? To protect it of course. At least the best I can. We have lived in this home a number of years and I’ve been a police officer even longer. I know that the opportunity of empty dark houses can be tempting to your average thief. I figured I would stay at the house and give any potential intruders something else to think about. I’m no Superman, and material possessions don’t really matter, but after all that’s going on with the power outage, the last thing I want to add on to that plate is coming home to a broken in and ransacked house.

So off to the hotel we go. As we are leaving I grab a small set of Christmas lights that were sitting on a shelf in the garage. They’ve been there for a couple years but for some reason today they caught my eye and seemed like a good idea. Our room wasn’t ready yet so we drive around for a while looking at the beauty that has caused so much damage. There are so many trees and branches down. Beauty and Braun are everywhere.

One thing that was so nice while we were riding was hearing the voicemail messages from three of our family members that heard that we were powerless and they opened their homes to us for food on Christmas. My mother even said that if we couldn’t stay we were welcomed to take some plates and eat them later.

Once we check in and go to our room, we quickly remember the benefit to having a warm place to stay and sleep. Tonight we relax, watch a little TV and eat pizza together. Later on I go home for the next evolution. Before I left for home I take out the string of lights. It looked a bit pitiful, but I’ll have to admit it lifted our spirits about Christmas just a little bit. I’m glad everyone liked it.

The next evolution makes me think about the movie Home Alone, you know the first one, where the kid is rigging his home to fend off the burglars. I wish I could do that but in this day and age, I would get sued 20 times over for half of the stuff he did. I did put together some makeshift weapons; made our bedroom into the “Panic Room” and fortified every entry point I could. I couldn’t do like the movie and actually hurt an intruder with, ornaments, or a barbecue grill heater, but I could make sure they made a hell of a lot of noise.

Up next in the evolution…Christmas Day.

Will it be Merry–come back and see Constant Reader.

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December 23, 2013. Daylight comes about 0800 and we wake the kids. I figure this is like pioneer days and we have to use all of the daylight to get any work done. No sleeping in for the children, early bird gets the worm.

I get back to work with the generator. While outside, I see my next door neighbor who has been running his generator next to his garage. I go by and ask him how he has it set up. He tells me that he has it hooked to his furnace and has heat. Whaaaaaat!!! My head tilts to one side like a puppy and I ask him how so. He offers to take me in and show me.

He has a few extension cords running through his attached garage. One cord goes to his furnace/hot water heater closet. The end has been cut off and it has been wire nutted to the wiring of the furnace. AMAZING I thought. Now my head is reeling. He says he has his refrigerator, furnace, tv and a few lamps hooked up. I thought that maybe he has a very big Honda generator. Looks like one from far away. Upon closer inspection, he has a Coleman 1850 watt generator. This is just about the same size as the one that I have. All sorts of ideas are going through my mind now. I go back to my generator with a renewed vigor. I didn’t know you could have a generator run the furnace unless it was hardwired like a whole house generator. If I can get it to run, can I actually run my furnace? I fervently go about checking this out. Even if I have to get another cord to bastardize, it might be worth it.

For breakfast on this day Amy rigged up a way to make a stove out of buffet pan burners, cooling racks and loaf pans. She heated up some water and made oatmeal. It was warm but that is about the best it got. I like to cook the oatmeal in the water, like the directions suggests. Rarely do I pour hot water over the Quick Oats. I guess these are rare times. Even though I didn’t like it, I toughed it down, because I knew I would need the calories.

Something in the back of my mind troubled me, though. I’m not an electrician but I know that cutting an extension cord and jury rigging it to the furnace isn’t anywhere up to electrical code. What type of circuit breaker protection is there? Will I void the warranty on the furnace that we got a year ago if we do this? None of it matters if the generator is doing what it did yesterday, cutting of after ten seconds of being hooked up, so I get back to work. Wouldn’t you know it…the same results. Here comes that despair monster again. I tried so many different things but I couldn’t keep it running. So much for a chance of heat; I probably should have talked with my neighbor and got some tips fromhim.

While I’m going back and forth in the house I check the website for our power company. Around here we call it Consumers Energy. I check the outage map. There are outages everywhere! When I check the estimated restoration link, it shows power estimated restoration 2330 on December 28th, 2013. That is 6 days away with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day smack dab in the middle. I knew it was bad but not this bad. I’ve been through your occasional power outage. I think 3 days was the longest and it was during warmer months. According to our energy company, this is the worst storm in their 126 year history in terms of damage it caused. I drive around the neighborhood hoping to see some activity with the Energy workers. Nothing. I even see a couple houses with downed power lines that were roped off. I figured if downed power lines aren’t getting any attention yet, we were definitely in for a long haul with this ordeal. One benefit to being able to check things on a smart phone is that you can see what the newspaper is saying. This outage is so widespread that they have put a call in for mutual aid assistance from other states. Even as far as Washington D.C. WOW. Although I’m glad to here reinforcements being called in I also know that they will take a while to get here and set up. Friends all over the area on facebook are reporting the same. Not looking good at all.

We also got about 15 bags of ice to pack in the refrigerator and freezer to hopefully keep as much of our food as possible. I’ve heard many stories of people losing an entire refrigerator and freezer of food. A couple months before all of this my wife’s parents had a 3-4 day power outage. We were trying our best to help them and Amy came up with the bags of ice idea. It worked great for them. I don’t think they lost anything of significance.

I called the hotel where I made the reservation at their local number and couldn’t get any answer. I call the toll free number for the hotel and they had no information either. Now I’m starting to think that the hotel might be out of power as well. I call another hotel close by, nothing again. Not good. I’m a little panicked as that great idea may have backfired on me. The hotels might be all filled up. CRAP. I get back in my cold truck where I am charging my phone and start looking. I find a Comfort Inn about 2 miles from our home. It’s available for the next four days so I book it figuring we will have up to 6pm each day to decide if we want to use the room. Around 5pm I get an email, confirming the reservation and stating that the point to cancel has already passed. WHAT!!! I thought I’d read it wrong. This can’t be true. Usually there is only advanced cancellations at vacation spots. Right?? Wrong. After looking again and calling the local hotel, I am informed that there is a 24 hr. cancellation policy. I’m dejected. It felt like it couldn’t get any worse. It’s Christmastime. We’ve spent a bunch of money on gifts and food and now on top of that because I wasn’t paying attention, we are on the hook for a room that we might not even use. Well back to the grind.

Around the same time I bought the generator I bought a double burner propane stove that hooks to the little green 1lb. propane bottles. I never tried this thing either, but I was determined to get something working on this day. I hooked it up on a table at the front of my garage and turned it on. DANG, now that’s a fire. I told Amy to pull out the hotdogs. We were going to have hot food tonight. She even put some baked beans in a pot. She had it sent out with the top on so the outdoor cooties couldn’t get in. As fast as this thing was cooking that wouldn’t be a problem at all. Good Eats. I also wondered if I could cook inside with this thing with enough ventilation. Millions of people around the world cook with propane indoors. Something else to research.

Tonight a little change to the sleeping arrangements. It was getting cold in our bedrooms upstairs, so we all slept on the first floor. Amy and I were in the living room and the kids in the family room. It was cold but we made it work. Earlier today we asked the kids if they thought we should get a hotel room. They all believed we could tough it out. Internal temperature of the house: Approximately 55 degrees.

Next…Christmas Eve. The holiday season begins. See you then Constant Reader.

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I’ve been in Law Enforcement for more than 26 years as I write these words. In all that time I’ve only responded to perhaps a dozen or so calls for service that were still occurring. Over the years I’ve probably responded to literally thousands and thousands of calls and most of the time the incident was long over upon my arrival. At times with catastrophic results to those involved.

As we receive the call from the dispatcher, we immediately begin responding to the call. If the call is in progress while we are enroute and the dispatcher is still on the phone with the caller/victim, we get periodic updates via  our radio or computer of what is going on.  Often I can imagine what carnage or unspeakable violence is going on while we are rushing to the call.

Like most police departments in urban areas; our response times vary widely from probably around two minutes at its best to who knows how long after all the cuts to so many departments around the country. Two minutes…seems like a short time doesn’t it? I imagine it feels like two hours to the people waiting.

I write these words because in my experience the police will rarely and I would imagine never be there exactly when you need them. The saying that the police are only minutes away when you need them in seconds.

This is no slam against the police. Hell, most of us, the police I’m speaking of, want to help and be there quicker, because this is virtually impossible. Why? Because police departments are inherently reactive. Sure there are some aspects of police work that are police work that are pro-active. Officers around the country are always busy making traffic stops, doing investigations, initiating good quality police work that makes our communities safer every day. An officer might be in the right place at the right time and be able to stop the crime while it is happening, but this is soooo rare. Rare enough it can’t totally be depended on.

What I’m speaking of is calls for service. The whole thing is a process with delays in each step. The delays might only be seconds in the best of circumstances, but when seconds count minutes are too long.

This takes me back to the title of this text, ” You are the true First Responder.” This could be in your home or elsewhere. The police and the system they work in are not built for quick response in literal terms. they have many lags in the system and process that will delay their response.

Now…if the title is true, are you ready to defend and protect yourself and your family? Are you carrying concealed? Do you keep a secured but accessible firearm in your home that you can use to defend yourself with? If you do carry concealed do you still carry when you are at home.

I think these are questions we need to ask ourselves. Years ago when the economy around the country was flourishing I still heard rumblings of complaints of police response times. With the so-called “Tough Economy”, for the last half dozen years or so, what has happened to your police department and sheriff’s offices. In most areas of my state of Michigan, there have been cuts in personnel across the board. Less police to serve the public. Mind you, I said serve and not protect. Look up Warren v. District of Columbia for more on this.

It is your responsibility to protect yourself. It is your God given or natural right to protect yourself. No one has that responsibility for you, more than you. I encourage everyone reading these words to do all within their power to assure yourself that you can protect: You and your family.

 

 

 

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On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, I attended my first rally at the state capitol building in Michigan. I’ve been to rallies before but never here. This rally was for the support of the 2nd Amendment and against any infringements being proposed.

Initially there was a march for several blocks before the rally started. By my estimation there were several hundred people in the march and even more when we arrived at the Capitol and began listening to the speakers. After all was said and done there was an estimate of 1100 in attendance. Not bad for a briskly cold day on the first day of Spring.

There have been a couple of rallies in the past two months. I had every intention of making the last one on February 8th. I took the day off and everything. Only one problem, six (6) inches of snow started falling at about 7am that morning, right around the time I need to get going. I wanted to go and even got on the road and headed that way. All was good for about 5 miles then, I started seeing nothing but white-out conditions with the snow blowing across the expressway. Just a few days before this there was a big multi-car pile up about 20 miles from my home due to a white-out. I stopped, called my wife  and told her I wasn’t going to risk it and went to Gander Mountain to look around a bit.

Well back to the rally. It started out with a short speech by one of the organizers. This rally was more than just us getting together and voicing our feelings on the particular subject. All along it was planned that we would not only meet but would go and speak to our respective legislators in the State House of Representatives and State Senate. We were essentially dismissed and suggested that we go to the offices of our state representatives and speak with them about our feelings on subjects related to the 2nd amendment.

I was planning to go to my vehicle that was parked in a local garage and didn’t expect many to go to the offices to speak with their representatives. Going to the garage happened to be passing the same way that the offices were located. I was shocked. Not only did a few people from the rally go to the offices, a LOT of people went. I found myself, jumping in line and going in as well. We packed the joint. There were so many of us that it took seemingly forever to get on the respective elevators to go to the floor that one might need. It was so ironic all these men and women,  many carrying openly either a pistol on their hip or a long gun of some sort across their back. Personally I had both.

My representative wasn’t in, although I wasn’t surprised because he is slanted for gun control. I did meet a guy that lives near me. We picked up on a bit of conversation and not surprisingly had many things in common regarding this issue.

Afterwards we all returned to the rally and listened to a plethora of speakers. The thing I found ironic was being in one place with so many people open carrying, pistols and rifles. This was my first experience with that. I didn’t feel nervous. On the other hand most everyone was overwhelmingly kind and respectful. Reminds me of the saying about, “An armed society is a polite society.” A running joke among the rally participants was that it was amazing with all those scary “Black Rifles”that we didn’t all kill each other.

During one of the breaks, a guy asked me and a few other guys if we wouldn’t mind taking a couple pictures in front of a few statues on the property of the capitol. The guy that took the pics and asked us to pose for them is a new friend of mine, Max Dollarhite. Here is a pic of him. If you haven’t guess it yet…I’m the black fella.

I had a nice time meeting all of the folks there and I look forward to participating in the next one.

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