Water treatment made simple - purifying water in survival situations

CarolinaFireJournal - By David Pease
By David Pease The Reds Team
07/05/2011 -
As I sit here and write this column, I ponder what happened to Spring . Our days have been in the upper 90s and we are just moving out of June. If this is any indication of how the summer is going to be, “Katie bar the door,” it is going to be a hot one. I have been able to evaluate some good equipment and will be presenting it to you over the course of this year. Some things like the Con-Space hardwire communications system for confined space rescue, the Skedco tripod and SKED stretcher, some LED grill lights, along with some survival and useful wilderness items. I also had a chance to see the new RIT airpack system from Scott. All will be forthcoming. image

Photo by Angie Coffey

Those that know me are aware that I spend time in Guatemala every year heading up a mission trip that involves training fire and rescue personnel over there. A couple of years ago I spent time in the jungles of Costa Rica on a search and possible recovery mission that I was asked to be a part of. This March I returned to the jungles of Costa Rica to participate in jungle survival training and working with some of the finest K-9s in the country. I also had a chance to use and evaluate several things that aided my training there. One of these items was a device for purifying water to make it drinkable.

Now there are numerous ways to purify water when in survival situations. The old stand-by method is to use iodine tablets or other commercial tablets for water purification. However, this can leave the old stomach and intestinal tract a bit messed up. The original way we purified our water was to boil it. I always recommended doing that even when you use the tablets. It helps to minimize the stomach thing.

The drawbacks to boiling are it takes a fire that has to be made; a container for your water that can be heated to 200 plus degrees, and it takes time. These are also a wide variety of filters you can use, which usually involve pumps and tubes.

Some years back they discovered that UV light rays were an excellent way to neutralize bacteria in water, and water treatment facilities starting going to this type of water treatment. If it works for municipalities for their drinking water, why would it not work in search and survival situations? Along comes SteriPEN. This small and handy device will do what the treatment plants do, purify your water for drinking. No metal pots for boiling, no fire building, and no tablets. The SteriPEN is a compact unit that will easily fit in your pocket, vest, pack, or on your belt, as it comes with a pouch. There are several models to choose from, depending on your needs, but I used the Adventurer Opti. Without mystifying you with a lot of technical data, I will keep the pen’s operation somewhat simple. Besides, if it was too complicated, like all the new Ipads, I wouldn’t be able to use it.

Let me give you the down and dirty on this neat little device. First your water will need to be in a container, the plastic bottles work really well. This model is only six inches long, 1.5 inches wide and about one inch thick. It uses two CR123 disposable batteries that will do 100, 16 ounce treatments before having to be replaced. The UV lamp will do 8,000 treatments, more than most will ever come close to in a lifetime. The pen uses an optical sensor that will only activate the pen if it is correctly submerged in water. It will deactivate if not completely submerged and if it does not detect water, it will turn off in 15 seconds. Nice safety feature to have. The other cool thing about the optical sensor — it will double as a LED flashlight when not treating water to drink. This is a must to have in your search pack, especially in wilderness situations that could leave you with the need for good clean drinking water.

You can find out more about the SteriPEN at www.steripen.com.

I was contacted by a gentleman from England by the name of Andrew, who wanted to show me a system he had for dealing with glass during vehicle extrications. He flew in to Charlotte and I met him in Concord for lunch so he could show me what he had. First, he had me watch a video that showed the system in use and demonstrated how it was used. We then went outside and he showed me how to apply the film on my truck. Of course breaking the window was out of the question, but he did show me how easy it could be applied. Over the course of the next few weeks, I was able to apply the film on some vehicles that were being used for training and demonstration purposes. I owe a big thank you to the fire departments that allowed me to do this.

I have seen and evaluated several window film products in the past. Most of them were either hard to apply, very time consuming, or just not cost effective. All of the products worked, but then riding a camel to work everyday would work, but how feasible is that. The Packexe Smash is an easy system to apply, that uses an applicator with rollers that give you a much better application. The film is perforated every six inches so it separates very nicely after each application. In less than a minute you can have a window covered and ready to either break or not. One of the things I really liked about the system was you can cover a window, then remove the door and the film will keep the window intact. Why remove the window if you don’t have to. The film provides an excellent barrier and protection for your patients.

The system also comes with a roll of non perforated film that can be wrapped around the front windshield when cutting out the front window. This will prevent glass from falling into the passenger compartment and again protect your patient. The system comes with the applicator, a roll of perforated film for the applicator, a roll of non perforated film, and cutting knife, a squeegee, a cloth and carrying bag.

The film will stick to glass that is damp and only needs the heavy water residue wiped off in rainy conditions. Another added feature is this system can be used for forcible entry to again manage the glass that has to be broken. This lessens the possibility of a firefighter being cut by the glass that was just broken.

This system is another good item to be added to your cache of rescue equipment. It is also being used by international vehicle extrication competition teams.

To find out more on this glass management system, go to www.packexesmash.com.

Stay tuned for upcoming issues and more innovative and life safety equipment. Be safe and always do your research before making that purchase.

Allison this is a photo caption

Photo by Angie Coffey

If you have any questions or comments e-mail David Pease at
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