Author Archive | Jon L

Generators as Home Auxiliary Power Source

This summer I have experienced two extended power outages and have used my generator as an auxiliary home power source. This created the opportunity to learn some good lessons and evaluate my electricity back up plan. Because I am not an electrician I will focus more on the general setup/lessons learned and will not attempt to explain any technical details. I’m sure some readers have invested in this equipment and I hope my experiences will help you maximize your implementation plan.

Many people may have a generator as part of their back up plan, but most generator owners don’t have a good way to utilize it except through a rat’s nest of extension cords. A well made, reasonably powerful generator should be able to power most important things in the average home such as lights, fans, well pump, refrigerator/freezer, sump pump and etc. However, to properly harness this power the extension cords aren’t going to cut it.

My Setup

It is very important to use a licensed electrician for any modifications to your home’s electrical system and I would highly recommend consulting with one before attempting any of the steps discussed below.¬† I had a licensed electrician install a power bypass system in my home that allows a generator to provide power directly to my circuit breaker box. It is a nifty setup complete with concise breaker box mounted sticker instructions and a sliding cover that ensures power is only entering via the generator or the normal main line. This is extremely important as an error in configuration here could easily cause a house fire or a fatal electric shock.

My electrician friend recommended a Honeywell HW5500E portable gasoline generator that puts out 5500 watts as a good choice for backup home power. I’ve had it for about a year and a half now and so far it’s served me quite well. He made a heavy gauge cord that connects the generator to an outdoor outlet. Once the breaker box is set, the generator is running and properly grounded (to a 6′ ground rod), you’re in business!

In Use

I have each individual circuit breaker labeled so that I know what it controls and then have further marked each one that I can use with generator power only. This saves a lot of time and frustration in the dark when switching over to auxiliary power. My generator will run just about everything in the house except the A/C, although if using the electric stove I would probably need to turn everything else off. While running most of what I listed above I was able to get over 12 hours of generator use with the integral five gallon gas tank.

It was hot during the recent power outages, but fortunately it wasn’t the brutal, searing heat that’s been with us for most of the summer. Regardless, our home was pretty uncomfortable inside even with multiple fans going. However, despite the discomfort the main benefits were being able to see, take a shower, flush the toilets, and keep the food in the refrigerator and freezer from spoiling during the power outages. Each homeowner will have to decide if the expense and maintenance of a backup system is a worthwhile investment for a (fortunately) infrequent need.

Thoughts on Generators

First of all, if you want your generator to work when you need it you can’t just leave it sitting around. I run mine monthly for about 10-15 minutes (same time I make the house payment and change the furnace filter so I don’t forget) and change the oil about once a year since it’s not heavily used. Someone I know who doesn’t do that had a very hard time recently starting their (cheap) generator and then it gave up the ghost after only a couple hours of use. Some rules never change.

A pleasant byproduct of the power outage was getting to know some neighbors better. With our temperature controlled cocoons and various electronic pacifiers it’s pretty easy to spend a lot of time indoors. However, when that’s taken away a lot of people found themselves outdoors getting reacquainted.

Conversely, generators are a major security risk and could attract unwanted attention. When it’s suddenly country dark and quiet outside the droning of a generator (and even interior lights) could easily make you a predator magnet. Also, even though I was pleasantly surprised by the run times and power output mine produced, generators are horribly inefficient. Gas for just a few days worth of use without resupply requires some planning ahead.

The above experiences helped cement the reality in my head that a generator would be of pretty limited usefulness in a prolonged, grid down situation. Fuel supplies and security alone are formidable barriers to success. A vastly superior system is an inverter and an array of deep cycle batteries powered off solar/wind with a generator as a backup way to charge the bank. This way running the generator for a short amount of time could provide day(s) of power.

However, the cost of the above would not make any sense in my current suburban location. Maybe someday I’ll be able to better position myself. Despite the cost and maintenance, I found a generator backup system to be quite useful for a short term power outage. Beyond that, don’t kid yourself and plan accordingly!

Building Your Mindset – Craigslist Robberies

Craigslist can be a useful way to turn unwanted items into cash. However, caution is in order here as criminals are increasingly using this site to snare unsuspecting victims. As a point of clarification this post is directed at legitimate  sales activity. If you peruse the erotic section for hookups with strangers, escorts, and etc. nothing I say will be of any assistance.

I point out the above only because, at work, I keep running into head shaking incidents where somebody’s complete lack of judgment put them into a situation that had a very bad ending. Less frequent, but worth mentioning are incidents where real unsuspecting victims fell into a trap. Below are some helpful hints to guide your way.

One of the biggest risk factors in a Craigslist meet up is the type of item that is being bought or sold. For instance, if you’re buying some used “Thomas the Train” toys from (presumably) a mother whose children has outgrown them you’re probably pretty safe. However, things like cars, or anything else that is more expensive carries a significantly higher risk factor.

The location for the transaction should be chosen with care. If somebody wants you to come to an unfamiliar place, do your homework before agreeing. Residential/apartment complex meet ups in questionable parts of town are always a risky idea.

A large public parking lot outside a well known business is a much better choice. This is true if you’re the seller as well. Why invite a stranger to your house? Anybody who doesn’t want to meet in a place like this should be avoided.

Regardless of the above advice, meeting strangers off the internet for a cash transaction carries some amount of risk. Be armed, alert, and early so that you can observe the area and the other party as they arrive on the scene. This is especially true for you ladies. If the arriving party just doesn’t look right then don’t be afraid to abort the transaction and make a hasty exit. You don’t owe anybody (especially a stranger) an explanation here and not wanting to appear rude in the face of an uncomfortable or threatening situation is a good way to end up as an ugly statistic.

Finally, take a trusted person with you whenever possible or at least let a loved one know the time and place of the meet up. It maybe crucial information if something goes wrong. If worst comes to worst, take the appropriate measures and make a lot of noise. The only thing a robber/rapist/murderer hates as much as an armed citizen is loud sounds like a woman’s scream.

As always, situational awareness is number one. Happy hunting for those great deals!

Building Your Mindset – Street Robberies

A phenomenon happening in many US cities today is the ghetto encroaching into the suburbs and “urban pioneers” are moving into blighted, inner city areas for a variety of reasons. Sociologists may have an opinion on this at some point, but in the mean time a byproduct is that human prey, at least anecdotally, seems to be having more regular contact with human predators. One of the most common ways that problems occur here is through the common street robbery.

First of all, regardless of how bad things have gotten in some corners of America, it is still an absolute fact that most crime is circular in nature. The vast majority of people who find themselves robbed, shot, murdered and the like did quite a bit of legwork to put themselves in a compromising position. Crime victims are often criminal aggressors in another recent circumstance or those who have let some kind of life dominating addiction over ride all judgment. If you avoid either of these or other hazardous lifestyles you are likely to live most of your life in relative peace and security.

When I come into contact with people who have just been victimized in some way and hear their stories I am often shocked at what they missed. If a person, especially a female, walks home alone after heavy drinking, many bad things can happen even if in a great neighborhood. Many robberies start off with a person being approached by a stranger and asked some ridiculous question such as, “Can I use your cell phone?” or, “Do you have a light?” or even, “Come back behind this building with me and I’ll sell you ______ for such a great price!”

It may seem obvious here on the computer screen, but people fall for this stuff all time. The only purpose of this type of question is to size up a potential victim. If you start to comply with the request, you’re about to become a statistic. However, if instead you scowl rudely, make some noise, move aggressively, or basically show back bone in a way fitting the situation you’re much more likely to be left alone while the creep seeks out an easier target.

Even better is to work towards carrying yourself in a way that exudes quiet confidence and alertness. The guy with his head on a swivel and who has a strong posture is going to be ignored while the parking lot parasite looks for the person fooling with a cell phone or is in some other way communicating their oblivious mental state. Remember and practice Col. Cooper’s “color codes” whenever out in public.

A little game I play with myself is to try to make it a habit to see a person I know before they see me whenever I’m out and about. If I’m used to looking at my surroundings in this way, maybe I’ll see something else that’s a danger sign. Situational awareness is likely your most powerful weapon.

Finally, whenever possible be armed because the actions above will not always be enough. Build good habits, cue off danger signals given by others and react forcefully and appropriately as needed. Most “good” Americans are so timid and obliging in the face of clear warning signs of aggression that it can be their undoing. Discipline your mind/body so that you can properly diagnose your surroundings and take the steps necessary to protect yourself.

Building Your Mindset

Some jobs have side benefits that aren’t deducted from your paycheck. For instance, when I worked on a carpentry crew framing custom homes, instead of health insurance we received suntans, a great sense of balance, and all the strength training that could be handled during a work day. It seemed like a great deal at the time and I really enjoyed that line of work. Being a police officer is no different in this respect.

One of the largest “non deductible” benefits to this job is developing a strong sense of situational awareness. My work environment brings regular exposure to dangerous people, vehicle/foot pursuits, fights, robberies in progress, shootings, and more. This is what has become of most large American “inner” cities. Functioning well under these conditions will inevitably help build a strong mindset.

The average guy, who wants to be alert and prepared, most likely doesn’t have the opportunity to function often in these types of circumstances. That’s a good thing or we’d already be living “Mad Max.” However, without some real life experience and time/stress training it is difficult to fully develop your mindset. I want to start an occasional series of entries to share with the readers some of the things that I’ve learned along the way and hopefully help with that development.

Of course, I don’t even come close to knowing it all and I approach each new shift at work as a student of the harder side of life. Unfairness, sudden calamity, life changing mistakes, and a myriad of other dangers wait daily in the wings for the right opportunity to swallow the unwitting and the experienced alike. No man is ever able to rise above these facts and can only maintain his relationship with God and run the race of life to the best of his ability. I hope that in these following articles the readers will find at least a few nuggets to help guide the way should any treacherous situation come along.

Why We Train: Elderly Man Stops a Robbery

I always love to hear or read about common citizens who stop crimes in progress. These brave men and women take the initiative to prepare and equip themselves to defend the lives and property of themselves and others. Many good examples can be found in “The Armed Citizen” section of your monthly NRA magazine. The police can’t (and shouldn’t) be everywhere and, most of the time, we investigate the aftermath of a crime instead of preventing it.

Most likely the prepared citizen will rarely, if ever, be forced to use a firearm to stop the commission of a forcible felony. However, many hours of training and preparation can all of a sudden become one of the most important things in the world when called to put your skills into action for just a few seconds. This video is one of the best recordings I’ve seen of a regular Joe using his weapon to stop an armed robbery. We’ve all heard that, “God created man, but Sam Colt made them equal” and it’s never more true than right here.

Watch as two young thugs brazenly attempt to rob a Florida business but an elderly man, who likely appeared harmless to these brigands, sends them fleeing with some very discouraging fire from his pistol. I found a lot of satisfaction watching this man “equalize” and then conquer his opponents. America is in desperate need of more men like this who rise up and valiantly confront evil when called upon to do so!

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