Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Drill Your Civil Defense !!

For the past ten years since I first put in my diesel store, I have been telling people that I have enough fuel to last twenty years on electric generator power alone, right through a nuclear winter where the sun doesn't shine.

Now that I finally got some of my embedded power management system working correctly for my setup for the first time in ten years, I have had a chance to test my system with live loading on a real generator around the clock 24/7 just as I would do during full time inhabitation.

I cannot emphasize how important this is to do in peacetime, rather than discover for yourself in wartime. It is better you get the shock of reality now rather than later when you are least able to cope with it because of all the other stresses on you.

By my computations, if I had to survive on diesel/biofuel alone, my current reserves would provide me with enough to last just under a year and a half of electricity. It feels good to know something for a fact for a change instead of just guesstimating and hoping for the best. It hurts to be disillusioned by the results considering what I previously believed to be the situation but it feels good right afterwards to think that at least I know now what the problem is and how to solve it.

With a 6KVA generator charging two alternative 100AH 12 volt marine gel batteries for 12 hours of runtime a day, I would go through my fuel reserves in 18 months.

This changes drastically if we factor in solar power, wind power and especially manual pedal power on a reclining bike.

With just 30 mins a day on the exercise bike, that figure becomes 4 years. With solar power or wind power providing the charging capacity for every other third recharge, that figure becomes 12 years. Much better thinking about it that way.

The problem, of course, is that generators can fail. Batteries can fail. Bikes can fail. Solar panels can fail. Wind power can fail. Especially in freezing weather like that seen in arctic conditions.

The only way to prepare for this eventuality is to store replacements and parts for everything with enormous redundancy designed into the entire system.

I have found that the best redundancy of them all is to design your system to be capable of accepting something so common that millions of them would be available after a nuclear war. Like automobile lamp bulbs or x86 computers. This is the best kind of redundancy of them all.

The honest truth is that it required the situation to get this bad to give me that push I've been needing to turn my shelter from a dark, damp, fungi-ridden expensive hole in the ground into a high-tech fortress that is increasingly looking more like the deck of the Enterprise. I've probably made more progress in the past three months than the past three years in pulling my preps together. For the longest time I have been seriously demoralized by my problems with humidity in the shelter and the enormous challenges of designing a power manager to drive the computer system which in turn would keep the shelter on top of the game all the time around the clock. Given what I had already spent on my learning curve to find out what didn't work, I was starting to think it was going to cost me a million dollars to get Firehold Bravo functional as originally planned. The fear of what has been happening in the world really put the boot into my ass and gave me the motivation to just buckle down on it and finally I seem to be getting on top of it without throwing money at the problem.

It's hard to work at a job five days a week and simultaneously do all the necessary work to bring your vault up to scratch but I think most people can do it when they know it's do or die.

A week from now I will be tightening the bolts of the first permanently mounted Vault-OS ThinkBoy inside the shelter that will never shut down, never turn off and never sleep. If I am successful in keeping these plates spinning I will have accomplished a goal I have been working towards for ten years solid.

Three important things to tell you here:

1. More people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the world so far than nuclear war. You must have proper ventilation and gas detectors in place to guarantee the exhausts from a generator exit the shelter safely. This is not an area you want to skim over, trust me. My setup had to be arranged four times before I was getting the correct venting with the right blast protection.

2. You must not use standard automobile lead acid batteries because the fumes will either kill you through asphyxiation or else blow up your shelter. Only use marine gel sealed batteries with no offgassing. A detector here comes in handy as well to make sure nothing is being offgassed when they are being charged.

3. Always set your system up in such a way that there is an alternative on standby at all times. I have a smaller diesel generator hooked up to a serial port relay that can be turned on if the main generator ever fails, in addition to alternative batteries in reserve if the existing battery system should suddenly fail.

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