Most people feel safe and secure in their own homes. In their neighborhood they live in. In fact 81% of all Americans live in cities or suburbs. Nothing wrong with that, I live in a suburb myself. That being said, what kind of dangers are lurking in your backyard? I’m glad you asked. Let me start with a few things. I am a 12 year veteran firefighter for a suburban/rural fire department. Full time and I love my job. When I started I was young energetic and wanted to do everything I could. So after Fire Academy I asked to go to the Rescue Company. Lots of extra training in all manner of rescue disciplines, rope, confined space, trench, and the biggest and most important in my opinion; HAZMAT. Why is this so important? I’ll give you this piece of information from The Office of Hazardous Materials Safety Research and Special Programs Administration U.S. Department of Transportation Washington, DC from October 1998.
“The Office of Hazardous Materials Safety presently estimates the number of hazardous materials shipments in the United States at more than 800,000 per day. Approximately 500,000 daily shipments involve chemical and allied products (SIC 28); about 300,000 involve petroleum products; and at least 10,000 other shipments involve waste hazardous materials, medical wastes and various other hazardous materials. Shipments are defined as equivalent to deliveries, and in most instances may be distinguished from the number of movements, trip segments, or other measures. The estimated number of movements associated with these shipments exceeds 1.2 million per day” (source)
This was in 1998. I expect that today it is quite a bit more. How does affect me living in the suburbs, or in the city? In every way imaginable. These shipments are carried and moved through cities and suburbs by truck and railroad. So ask yourself, how close am I to a rail line? Or a major interstate or highway? Then ask yourself this, how close am I to a processing plant for these chemicals? Probably closer than you think. Now that we are aware of the presence of HAZMAT driving through our cities and suburbs, what is the harm?
Typically not much if everything goes right, yes there are strict safety standards on the containers these chemicals are transported in. There are also regulations on how much of certain chemicals can be transported at one time. So how does this affect me a suburban prepper? Let me start with a few more questions. Do you know how to tell what chemicals are dangerous or how dangerous they are? Can you identify what is inside a rail car or tractor trailer by the placards and labels on the outside? Most people can’t.
Now no matter what kind of scenario you picture happening in a SHTF situation, in my opinion there will be several of the same outcomes. A popular scenario is a giant EMP. Another is an economic collapse, or a plague type situation. Take your pick, it doesn’t matter. Several things will happen in any of those situations. Now let me rephrase the following are my opinions. That being said pick your SHTF scenario. What are a few things that will happen? Generally speaking people will panic, people will leave their jobs and try to get home. Power will be lost, looting and chaos. So who is manning the computers and machines at that chemical plant that monitors the pressures and volumes? He quit and walked out to get home to his wife and kids, just like I would. Truck drivers have unhooked the trailer From theirrig, on the side of the road, turned around and are driving like mad to get back home. As you can imagine there is going to be chaos, etc. in the streets, police and fire will be overwhelmed, and these abandoned tankers and chemical facilities will be a secondary thought. If a calm cannot be restored in a timely fashion, you have lots of bad things waiting to happen. We have an acronym in the fire service for all these chemicals and HAZMAT. It’s MEBS, or Methyl Ethyl Bad Stuff. It covers everything that can be construed as HAZMAT. Eye opening isn’t it. I’m not trying to scare you to death make you sell your homes in the suburbs and move to the boonies. I am simply exposing a truth that most people are unaware of or just plain ignore. How do I educate myself, how do I know what is what? My advice for ay prepper is to first buy yourself a very good and cheap book to keep in your car and your BOB.
Go to any fire station and you will find this book in the office and on the Fire Engine. In our training this is the first book we use when we respond to a HAZMAT call. In our line of work it is good for the first 30 minutes of a HAZMAT scene. It can help you identify the type of chemical, the toxicity of the chemical, and what area of concern is the highest. Life safety, fire, etc. It is full of information that can help anyone as a prepper what to stay away from. The good news, ANYONE can buy this book. I found it at Amazon.com, with free shipping for PRIME members. What a deal.
Now let me also open your eyes to another facet of HAZMAT. The EPA did not restrict the dumping of HAZMAT into landfills or control how HAZMAT was stored and disposed of until 1965. Then it was updated in 1976 with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act or RCRA. Once again why is this so important? It is important because up until 1965 and even through 1976 companies could dispose of HAZMAT in just about anyway. We’ve all seen the stories of toxic landfills or dumps being found or companies finally getting around to cleaning them up. So where have all these nasty chemicals been going in that time? It’s in the soil and the water tables. Don’t believe me? Do some research. First find a chemical plant near you on a map that has been in operation since the 60’s or 70’s. Then look at the terrain and see where runoff from that area travels. Then go to your states Hunting and Wildlife website, and look and see where it tells u not to hunt or fish. You will be surprised. In my area, we have a well-known and very large chemical plant. It’s been there for years. Several miles away there is a few large creeks and some marshy areas.
Now this area is only a few miles outside of the city limits of a very populous city. I went to this area hiking and just getting out in the woods without having to really get to far away from home. While I was there I saw signs like this:
This particular area is an area where runoff from the chemical plant has tainted the soil and groundwater. This is a major survival issue for me due to the fact that if the SHTF, and I, or you, are in a living off the land scenario, this is an area to avoid. You can’t eat the game or the fish from these areas, because the animals are carrying large amounts of toxins. Have been for years.
You will hear the argument against the old adage “knowledge is power” some disagree and I see both sides of this argument, but in this case I believe it to be true. Knowledge of your general area and the X-factors that affect them is a great tool and key to survival.