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Influencer II

CoVID-19 disaster prep in isolated communities

You are worried about the CoVID-19 pandemic.  You are living in an isolated community.  You have limited access to medical facilities or supplies.  What can you do?


Quite a lot.


(Or, you don't live in a small community, but you have friends or relatives who do, and are worried.  Send them this.)


First off, remember that the right thing to do is NOT to blockade the roads into town and send out a ring of paranoiacs with rifles and pitchforks to prevent anyone from getting in.  (For detailed information on the shortcomings of this approach, see any zombie movie or this epidemiological study.)


As any business continuity/disaster recovery person can tell you, the best time to plan for a disaster is in advance.  If you have no cases in your community (yet), you have some time.  Use it wisely.  Start now.


This can be an individual or team effort.  Anything you do, by yourself, may possibly be useful.  But it's probably better to coordinate with a variety of people.  The team will have different interests and skills.  Different mindsets and perspectives will provide a self-audit capacity.  Assigning tasks is probably best done on a "who wants to do it?" basis.  You will probably never fill every gap, but you will certainly fill many.


(Oh.  And remember to get any old professionals who may have retired to your isolated community involved.  Being careful not to infect them.)


So, in no particular order (pick and choose what interests you):


Go out on the Internet and find some of those $100 ventilator plans.  Build one.  Or more.  OK, maybe it's not certified.  This is an emergency.  Remember, in a lot of cases in an emergency, the best is the enemy of the good.  Be careful and prudent, but don't NOT do something just because it isn't perfect.


Bauer (yes, the sports equipment company) has posted plans to make face shields.  They are free to use.


If you can sew a shirt, you can make an iso gown.  It's just a big, oversized, backwards shirt, with ties instead of buttons.  OK, you'll need to do something about tightening up the ends of the sleeves.  If you're not good with cuffs, duct tape is your friend.


I am not a big fan of the policy of deluding people that masks, for those in public and not in a high-risk medical situation, are a protection against CoVID-19.  But medical personnel will need them.  N95 is the best (though not perfect), but fabric, in an emergency, is better than nothing.  Many of the patterns doing the rounds are too small.  Remember that the mask, when worn, needs to cover from throat to eyes, and the cheeks right back to the ear.  Natural fabrics are better than synthetic.  Multiple layers are probably good.  Make some testers (in advance) and check for fit, coverage, and breathability.  And remember that one of the advantages of a cloth mask is that, in case bleach, lye, soap, and/or alcohol run short, you can boil the [pr0n filter] out of it.  (Same goes for iso gowns.  Make lots, so they can laundered after each use.)


If you want to try and make your own N95 masks, you can have a go at boiling down some newspaper into pulp (remember to add some lye to the water/newsprint strips mix while boiling it).  Make a slurry and then have a try at making a face-fitting mesh screen and using that to make masks from the pulp.  You'll need a lot of experimentation on thickness and breathability.  You may need a fabric mask to hold the end result in place.  It won't be pretty.  Or certified.


(You will notice that I am not mentioning stocking up on food or toilet paper.  You moved to a small town so that you could go out into the woods and shoot a moose, or very large squirrel, and feed your family for two weeks.  You can also go into the woods and do your business (watch out for bears on the same quest) and clean up with leaves.  (Don't use burbock.  Trust me on this.)  You've got that covered.  Back to the real plans.)


It there is a distillery in town, they have, either as a toxic by-product, or in slow or double distilling the end product, access to acceptably concentrated alcohol for cleaning.  (This is also true if someone in town makes their own bathtub gin.)  Liquid alcohol is possibly not as useful as the gel versions, but it is acceptable as a sanitizer, in a pinch.


I can't really help you with gloves.  But, remember, latex gloves are great, vinyl gloves are OK, rubber dishwashing gloves may be better than nothing.  (ANY gloves need to be donned and doffed carefully and properly.)


If you have access to used medical supplies, find ways to sanitize them, even if time-consuming or awkward.  For example, you can take N95 masks and (carefully) place them in direct sunlight on a windowsill.  Leave them all day (or at least four hours).  The next day, do the other side.  Ultraviolet light from direct sunlight kills CoVID-19.  Building a large, airtight box or aquarium, and then mixing bleach and ammonia in it, will release chlorine gas that can be used (with time) to sanitize fabric or other porous materials.  (It'll probably also bleach them.)  There are other possible options in this regard.  (Get a friend with a chemical or biochemical background to explain why sanitizing latex gloves with alcohol is probably not a good idea.)  Do remember to be extremely careful when handling used medical supplies, and also remember that CoVID-19 is not the only bug on the block.


Who knows.  When all this is over, and everyone is trying to get the economy back on track, you may have a new business or industry for your small town ...


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1 Reply
Community Champion

Thanks for the "wilderness thinking".  Even us urbanites need to be working on the plan-B's and C's.  


One thing to consider is that most glass filters out UV-B and UV-C, and the atmosphere filters out Sol-generated UV-C.  It is UV-C that is used for sterilization, so "leave it on the dash" will not UV-sterilize. In spite of that, leaving it in the car is a pretty good idea because the mask is not in your house and because elevated temperatures cause the virus to "die" quicker.


Another approach is to rotate masks.  The virus has a half-life, so time is your friend.  The important part is to keep each mask in its own cardboard box or paper bag because the virus has a lesser half-life on these surfaces than it does on the mask.  This will keep the storage container from recontaminating the mask.


One study reports the the virus can live up to 3 days on plastic, which happened to be the longest of any material tested, so that is probably a pretty good number to use for a rotation goal.


The study additionally reports the half-life on plastic is 7 hours, which conveniently works out to about one "9" per day (90% dead after 24 hours, 99% after 48 hours, 99.9% after 72, etc).  From this, we know that 3-nines is the headline compliant threshold.  


As a side note, I learned that car windows filtered UV shortly after getting my photochromic glasses.  Turns out they are actually UV-B detectors.


Now off to Netflix to "research" why pitchforks are not a good defense :-).