This past week I had occasion to speak with two different groups about preparing for an emergency. With winter storms now a holiday reality, I encouraged everyone to stock up on mylar survival blankets. Very few people are really familiar with all the uses for these compact, lightweight gems and as I listen to report after report of hikers lost on mountain trails and motorists stranded on closed highways with falling temperatures and heavy snow, it seems even more urgent.
Metallized plastic films have been produced for decorative purposes, on a small scale, beginning in the 1950s. Once NASA took an interest in this odd material, research took off. Researchers soon developed a double-sided fabric for the space program that became NASA's most widely used insulator. The first large-scale application of this technology was on Echo I, in 1960. Echo, the first passive communications satellite, was basically a huge balloon of Mylar polyester film. This technology was designed to protect against the intense heating of reentry, but was soon used on satellites in orbit, in space suits, and around delicate instruments.
Back on earth, new applications were rapidly developed, including, the "space blanket". These blankets weigh a few ounces and reflect and retain 90 percent of the user's body heat. When folded, it is the size of a deck of cards. Single-sided metallized tear-resistant fabrics, are used for all-weather clothing, protective apparel for firefighters, insulation in everything from water pipes for sprinklers and irrigation to pizza-delivery boxes, in automobile firewalls, and in candy wrappers.
It’s amazing insulating properties can be lifesaving, and its small size makes it perfect for emergency kits, or to carry in your pocket when hiking or enjoying winter sports. Always store a roll of duct tape with your mylar blankets. It is best for adhering to mylar.
How can we benefit from a stash of emergency blankets?
· Warmth: Yes this is the obvious one so it is the best place to start.
o Mylar blankets retain 80% to 90% of your body heat. This, and their compact size, make them the logical choice for a blanket in a 72 hour kit, auto kit, or when hiking. Remember to really use your blanket, tuck it under your feet, under your sides, pull it up to your chin. And remember most of your body heat is lost thru your head so a blanket cannot keep you warm if your head is uncovered.
o Using duct tape, tape 3 sides together and create a sleeping bag for a child. For an adult tape two blankets together. This will keep out any cold drafts that may get under a blanket.
o Sleeping bag not warm enough? Line it with your survival blanket.
o After strenuous exercise wrap yourself in a mylar blanket to keep you warm, prevent chills, and help avoid muscle cramping.
· Insulation from the cold: In a cold environment, either camping in a tent, during a power failure at home, or when stranded in your car, cover the walls with the blanket, with the shiny side facing inward. This will reflect the heat from a fire or even body heat, back into the space. Tape the blankets to the moldings surrounding the windows in your home. This will create a pocket between the window pane and the walls of your room greatly reducing drafts.
· Insulation from the heat: At home, place the blankets in windows. You will be amazed at the difference this can make in the temperature inside your home. Power outages do happen during heat waves too! In a tent lay the blanket over the top of the tent, thus reflecting the sun. In a car place a blanket over the roof of the car and another one in the windows receiving the most direct sun.
Don’t let your loved ones be caught without an emergency blanket when traveling or camping. Take some time with your family to take out a blanket and practice using it. Teach your children the ways in which it can help them protect themselves in an emergency. Of course the best advice we can give is to find a safe area, preferably one where there is a small clearing by a roadway, and stay put. Wrap up in your blanket, use it to keep dry and signal and wait for help to come. Naturally, this is not the only element in a good survival kit but it is a great place to start.
I realize survival blankets can only be used a limited number of times and they sometimes tear, but they are lightweight, compact, and cheap, and for all these reasons, it is hard to imagine a car, a boat, a home, or a backpack without one.
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