Six Things You Should Know How To Improvise

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In the technological world we live in it is very easy to lose that capacity in a severe disaster. Our ability to use technology to leverage our resources and make informed decisions gives us a decided edge during disasters that improves our chances of surviving. When disaster strikes our ability to make certain things from scratch allows us to maintain some capabilities and overcome the problems we face.

Refrigeration –

When technology fails the need for keeping foods and medicines cold are still present. Those that have absorption units and a good supply of fuel can maintain refrigeration, but most of society will lose that ability. In an emergency situation where refrigeration is a matter of life and death you need to have a reliable backup system to employ even if only for temporary periods. One possible backup system can be the use of CO2 fire extinguishers to produce ice for cooling. By “hosing down” a container of water with an extinguisher you can produce ice that can be used for keeping coolers or refrigerators cool inside for short periods of time. This may enable you to preserve some foods and medicines until other systems can be repaired or replaced. This type of cooling effect is due to the compressed gas in the container. When it is released and expands it creates a cooling effect. This is true with many compressed gasses such as Freon. A CO2 extinguisher works great for icing down a 6 pack when you are in the middle of the desert. This type of system is messy and should be used outside.

Canned Heat –

Canned heat, more commonly referred to as sterno, is an ideal substance to provide cooking ability and limited heat during a crisis when other forms of heating are not available. This substance can be made by utilizing a metal can and dissolving Styrofoam into different types of petroleum fuels. This causes the fuel to become thickened forming a gel. This type of fuel is more stable and safer to use than pure liquid fuels. Other types of liquids can be used such as alcohol. The following link provides one way to make sterno for emergency use.


The ability to navigate from point to point following a disaster may become necessary to get to a safe area. This is not as difficult in a city environment as it is in open country that you are not familiar with. When you must travel long distances cross country and only have a general direction to your destination it is helpful to know what direction you are moving in. It is very easy to get disoriented in woods or mountains causing you to stray off course and get lost. A simple way to keep on course is the use of an improvised compass. The following link explains how to make a simple compass. This should be practiced before you actually need it to familiarize yourself with how it works.

Radiation Meter-

During times of nuclear war or nuclear hazards such as the continuing Fukushima disaster it is important for you to know how much radiation you are being exposed to so that you can make informed decisions and take the appropriate actions to preserve life and health. It is easy to buy a radiation meter, but it is a piece of equipment that is relatively expensive and may not be used very often making it a luxury that many average people cannot or will not purchase especially during times of financial difficulty. Because of this and the fact that many people will not see a need for this type of device until something has already happened, making acquisition of such equipment impossible it is good to know you can make a reliable radiation meter from household materials. The following link will allow you to make a meter from scratch.


When something severe such as an EMP or solar storm takes down the normal technology that we use, information will become very important. Even in the most severe cases it is likely that some transmitters will be restored in short order to transmit information. This will not matter to you unless you have receiving equipment to pick up the signal. The use of solid state devices and chips will render most if not all civilian receivers inoperable in such a disaster. Even if you have a functional unit you will also need power to operate it which will be difficult to produce under these circumstances. The ability to build a basic receiver from household materials that requires no power source will enable you to stay informed in the most severe circumstances which will help you stay ahead of the survival curve. The following link provides good information on building such units.

Clean Water –

The ability to produce clean drinking water has allowed modern society to control many diseases and keep people healthy. In a severe disaster you may be confronted with the specter of contaminated water. The ability to produce clean water and remain healthy when medical resources are limited will help provide an edge during disasters. The easiest way to purify water is to boil it killing all harmful organic organisms. This is something many do when water supplies are suspect. In a disaster this may not be enough. Organic threats are only one problem. Disasters can unleash chemicals and harmful particles into the ecosystem that cannot be made harmless by heat. Many of these threats may not be known by you until they accumulate in your system, and suddenly cause disabling affects. The ability to construct a filtering system from locally available materials will give you one more wall of defense against unnecessary sickness. The following links provide a good starting point for making your own filters.

Many of the things we use today are taken for granted and we do not realize how dependant we are on them until they no longer work. The fact that basic science has been so politicized today and schools are dumbing down society means that many people do not know how many basic things work. Learning how things work is one of the best ways to combat the dangerous situations we encounter when disaster strikes. A little knowledge can go a long ways when things fall apart without warning.

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Contributed by Tom Chatham of Project Chesapeake.

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  • moovova

    I bought one of those shiny, stainless steel Berkey thingamabobbies…but will definitely be putting together one of the water filtration systems mentioned in the article. There were good reader comments on improving the system too. Lowe’s actually has food grade buckets for around $3-4…tops about an extra dollar.

  • Dustin Tarditi

    Evaporative cooling is also a technique to learn… swamp coolers zeer pot coolers, etc.