Family First for Peace of Mind - Tactics and Weapons -

Family First for Peace of Mind

Planning & prep for a major emergency

Jeff Chudwin | From the November/December 2006 Issue Wednesday, November 15, 2006

When large-scale emergencies arise, natural or man-made, citizens rush home to their families. Police officers are expected to do the opposite and report to their job. Faced with the same concerns citizens have for their loved ones, officers should not have to choose between staying home and reporting for work due to a lack of preparation and planning to protect them. If forced to choose, it takes little imagination to forecast the outcome.

Through preplanning and preparation, officers can avoid or minimize this issue. Some may view such efforts and financial expense as unnecessary. I strongly disagree and suggest they attempt going without power and heat for four days, as happened in the south suburbs of Chicago in March 1998 due to an ice storm. What if terrorists attempt to disrupt basic services, or another major hurricane strikes the mainland? The loss of power for any extended period of time has life-threatening consequences if you have to do without heat, light, telecommunications, refrigeration, food, water, transportation, sanitation and more. Surely no one has forgotten the hard lessons served up by Hurricane Katrina.

The following suggestions are steps you can take to provide basic life-support systems for your family during a disaster.


Our daily existence depends on electrical power. If the grid goes down or local service is disrupted and you don t have a backup, you re in a tough spot. Backup power can be provided by purchase of a backup generator for home use. While you can make use of smaller generators and output, the typical home requires a generator that can provide 4,000-plus watts. Larger-watt units allow you to power more items and circuits, but the larger and heavier the generator, the greater consumption of fuel and lesser mobility.

The majority of smaller home generators (3-6 kW) use gasoline, but you can find models that use propane or natural gas. Tri-fuel generators can make use of all three fuels. The changeover process does require some expertise.

Propane-fueled generators are clean burning, and fuel storage is relatively safe. You can fuel one with the same 20-lb. tanks you use for your home barbeque grill.

Diesel models are the most efficient but are usually large and expensive. Diesel fuel is much less volatile than gasoline, but it will burn and remains a fire hazard if not handled with care. Natural gas typically fuels large non-movable units as found in commercial units but can be found in home units.

If you decide to purchase a generator, recognize that it only has value if you have fuel. Long-term storage of gasoline requires a fuel stabilizer such as Stabil, produced by Gold Eagle Co. (800/621-1251, The danger associated with storing gasoline is well documented. Storing it in your home or attached garage may void your homeowners insurance in the event of a fire, and worse, it may kill you and your family. If the only place you have to store gasoline is in your home, don t purchase a gasoline-fueled generator.

Electrical circuits to power with the generator can include the furnace/ HVAC, sump pump, refrigerator/freezer and lighting. To avoid the disaster of having the generator and your main power feeding the same circuits when the main power comes back online, you ll need a transfer switch. An electrician can wire a transfer switching box into your main service panel. For more information on the nuts-and-bolts of connecting a generator to your house, go to your local library and look up the article in the March 1998 Popular Mechanics titled Installing a Backup Generator.

Finally, solar power chargers have evolved tremendously over the past few years. They can charge 12V batteries during the course of the day, not to mention cellular phone and portable equipment batteries.


After much research, I suggest contacting Mayberry Sales and Service (800/696-1795, for generator information and needs. They are the largest Honda generator dealer in the country and have a wealth of information on the subject.

For tri-fuel generators, try Northern Tool + Equipment (800/533-5545,

For a transfer switch box (and generators), try Menards, Home Depot, Lowes or a similar major hardware retailer in your area. These stores carry a four-circuit transfer switch box with a 25 heavy-duty esso cable to plug into your generator.

Heat & Cool

In very cold weather, you may have to abandon your home if you lose heat for an extended period of time. Fortunately, several backup heating sources exist, such as kerosene heaters. These devices deliver up to 23,000 BTU, burn for up to 16 hours on 1.9 gallons of K1 fuel, are portable, have an automatic safety shutoff and can be used indoors so long as you maintain proper ventilation. The downside: They smell when ignited or extinguished, and they require liquid fuel, a potential fire hazard and storage problem. (To get around the smell, you can turn the unit on and off outside.)

Blue-flame convection heaters burn propane or natural gas. Hooked up to a natural gas line in the home (either a dedicated black-pipe hookup or, in an emergency, a fireplace log igniter or dryer line), these units can keep your home livable, and they don t have the liquid fuel problem. You can attach an air blower to these devices, but this requires 110V power. To make a fan unit to push the hot air, you can purchase a 12V fan from Northern Tool and power it with a 12V deep-cycle marine battery. Recharge this battery by attaching it to your automobile in place of your car battery.

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Jeff ChudwinJeff Chudwin is the 2009 Law Officer Trainer of the Year, serves as chief of police for the Village of Olympia Fields, Ill.


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