08 June 2024

Cold Steel Sheath Mod

Winnipeg River (photo by V.A. McMillan, 2024)


Title: Cold Steel Sheath Mod

June 2024

Been quite some time since I have posted a gear modification type project. Let’s correct that, shall we…

Cold Steel makes some great knives…and Lynn Thompson (owner of Cold Steel) is a wise businessman…not only does his company create good knives; by using different steels with different qualities, he can provide a product line that meets many of the budget constraints of his customer base. Top of the line San Mai to the more budget conscious products produced in Taiwan or India.

Cold Steel Recon Tanto (left) & SRK (right)

Last year I purchased a couple Cold Steel budget friendly knives from KnifeCenter (https://www.knifecenter.com/). One was a Recon Tanto, and the other was a SRK (Survival Rescue Knife). Both have long lineage at Cold Steel and are battle tested designs. But we are not reviewing the cutlery today, we are going to look at the rugged plastic sheaths…when you are at a lower price point you cannot expect to get all the features of the higher-grade versions, and I am sure that extends to the sheaths.

Top Sheath Has Been Modded

The provided sheaths had two items of concern for me…first I prefer the retaining strap for the knife handle to be a thumb break that opens by pushing my thumb across the snap and to the right. The sheaths arrived breaking to the left, which might work for some users. The second preference is for the retaining strap to not interfere with re-sheathing the knife after use. The sheath arrives utilizing a single bartack on the centreline…which a correct technique for fast manufacturing and it does function for extra security preventing a knife from falling out of the sheath. However, when two bartacks are used the strap stays open allowing for fiddle-free re-sheathing of the knife.

Both Modded to Break to the Right

First step was to unscrew the webbing from the plastic body of the sheath, then carefully cut the threads of the bartack to remove the retaining strap. Last step is to flip the retaining strap to break to the right and sew it back on with two bartacks which are about as far apart as the width of the knife handle.

Note the Higher Location on the Bottom Sheath

One for two…one Mod went well and the other one I accidently cut through the webbing while trying to cut the threads…remember to take your time and if cutting the threads with a very sharp Recon Tanto, ensure you are cutting the threads not the webbing. Oops. Thus, one retaining strap is higher than the other (see photo above)…that was a result of having to put the strap in the same location to cover the hole in the webbing behind the strap. Yes, I did use flame to seal the webbing from unraveling.

Until next time…do not be afraid to purchase affordable gear, 

                            even if you need to mod it to meet your needs!




Project photos by V.A. McMillan.

10 May 2024

First Folbot Paddle of 2024

Winnipeg River (photo by V.A. McMillan, 2024)

First Paddle of 2024

May 2024

After much too long, I finally got the Folbot out on the water again. This folding kayak is a circa 1967 Folbot Super Sport (16’6”) two-seater, with a wood and aluminum frame and a Hypalon hull.

Folbot Super Sport (photo by V.A. McMillan, 2024)

Yesterday I had to do some overdue maintenance and a coat of glue was needed on a couple of the plywood parts to get them ready for the water. A few of the brass parts need some attention, too. Today’s mission was to get the Folbot setup and back on the water, where it belongs. Assembly took more than half an hour, but it went together on the first assembly. Water conditions looked good from shore, but the wind was the variable I was not as sure about. With only one paddler in a two-seater can be tricky in windy conditions. One other thing I should mention is this Folbot does not have a skeg nor a rudder, so steerage is achieved by paddling or leaning. More about that later. The trip I wanted to achieve was to circle Hind Island in the Winnipeg River.

Map from Google Maps (2024)

The route around Hind Island is about 7.5 km, unfortunately the wind was so strong on the far side of the island that I only made it 3.63 km, before I was forced to return the way I came. I also learned that Sharkey’s Channel has a rock weir like structure that prevents large vessels from traversing the channel. Thankfully, the kayak has a shallow draft and 6” of water over the rocks was more than enough to float over. Here is a picture on the outbound trip:

Sharkey's Channel Looking East (photo by V.A. McMillan, 2024)

While these pictures captured the moment, they certainly do not share how windy it was. Of course, in the windiest places I was too busy paddling to stop to take pictures. Another point to share, was the photos were taken with a cellphone camera, not my good camera. First voyages and risk assessments don’t take the good camera without a dry bag or floating camera bag…until you know the vessel is still serviceable.

Parking on Sharkey's Channel (photo by V.A. McMillan, 2024)

Looking West to the Main Channel (photo by V.A. McMillan 2024)

I did take a few breaks to walk on terra-firma trying to wait out the wind. Here (above) is a nice parking spot for the Folbot. The next image is looking from Sharkey’s Channel west towards the main channel. My route takes a right turn onto the main channel, but the wind was harsh. With no weight or a second paddler, when traveling bow into the wind, the kayak gets pushed all over the place. So, to get back I spent a lot of time back paddling, leading with the stern. This caused a couple of moments of concern when a wave or two broke over the stern and some water got inside. Not enough to bail out, but I was paying attention.

There was plenty of wildlife to watch…geese, ducks, hawks, even a Bald Eagle. The interesting critters included a pair of King Fishers, a beaver, and a few turtles. Some of the lakes I paddled as a kid had turtles, but they were pretty elusive. So, it was great to see some turtles today in the natural element.

Turtles on a Log (photo by V.A. McMillan, 2024)

Until next time…whether you are paddling your favourite 50-year old kayak or a shiny new craft…

Get out there and have a great time!



NB. Click on the pictures to see a larger version.

13 April 2024

Emergency Management (EM) Degree vs EM Role Specific Training - A Cost Benefit Discussion

Mountains (photo by V.A. McMillan)


Title: Emergency Management (EM) Degree vs EM Role Specific Training – A Cost Benefit Discussion

Very recently I completed an emergency management role specific training program for the Planning Section Chief role. Also, in the not-too-distant past I completed my Emergency & Security Management Degree from the Justice Institute of British Columbia. So, I find myself pondering which training was most valuable to get into a paying EM job and which type of training is providing the most impact for an emergency management career…

Here's what I had to say about the Planning Section Chief course on my blog post at The GOOD Plan Blog (https://thegoodplanblog.blogspot.com/2024/04/planning-section-chief-course-review-02.html): The Town of High River with the High River Fire Department hosted the Planning Section Chief course delivered by Daryl Black of Exigent Academy (https://www.exigentinc.ca/43055/academy/). The program was delivered at the Memorial Centre in High River, Alberta between the 2nd and the 5th of April 2024. The Alberta Emergency Management Agency was also present to ensure their endorsement was not misplaced. The program had other ICS role specific training – Incident Commanders, Operations Section Chiefs, Logistics Section Chiefs, and Task Force Leaders/Strike Team Leaders. In all, over 100-students received exceptional training in their specialty.  

For many who take ICS (Incident Command System) training, there is little opportunity for enhanced training beyond the ICS-100, ICS-200, ICS-300, and ICS-400 courses. Thankfully, organizations like Exigent Academy are stepping in to fill this knowledge gap. The first operational period should NOT be the place where you learn about the role you need to fulfil. Daryl Black and his team of instructors did a fantastic job of sharing their personal experiences and knowledge of ICS and incident management. I did not encounter any student who expressed any displeasure with their learning experience. Kudos, Daryl!

So, what did it cost, you ask??? Each role specific training cost $875 and that included access to digital student manuals and the catered lunches. In my biased opinion, it was a good value. For those considering getting onboard for the next training opportunity, just know that ICS-300 is a pre-requisite. So, not including the cost of the ICS-300 course, to get all the training from Exigent in this program would cost about $4400 ($875 x 5 = $4375) and take about a month (4-day x 5), if back-to-back courses were available. So, to take Basic Emergency Management, ICS-100, ICS-200, & ICS-300 to have your pre-requisites taken care of, let’s add another month. So, total investment less than $6000 and less than three months. Could you get a job?? From what I have learned in the last year and a bit…I would say probably. The BC Wildfire team needs qualified members for their Incident Management Teams (IMT) and wildfire seems to be a growing business. The season is longer and the fires more numerous and more intense. That means IMTs rotate through more cycles per season. Without adequate depth, there is real possibility of burning out your IMT staff. However, other employers do not even look at resumes or applications if there is a lack of a degree…Parks Canada, for instance is very particular about a degree being present.

According to the JIBC website (https://www.jibc.ca/areas-of-study/emergency-management/emergency-security-management-besms) it cost approximately $22,500.00 for the four year Bachelor of Emergency & Security Management degree. Which is likely time well spent if you are pursuing emergency management as a twenty-something or thirty-something. As for those in their fifties…time is running out to secure meaningful employment before forced retirement. So, 40-courses breaks down to about $563/course ($22,500 / 40 = $562.50). Four-years and forty courses, that is a major commitment when changing careers and at end of career timeline. Now the degree has opened doors for me, but I would be amiss if I said my degree has fully prepared me for the work.

My current job requires me to function as the Planning Section Chief or other Planning roles in our Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), when responding to an onsite or offsite incident. It is my opinion that the recent four-day course has done a better job of preparing me for the Planning Section Chief role than my four-year degree program. However, my position is not limited to the EOC. For the full depth of my roles and responsibilities, I am confident that my degree has prepared me very well for conducting research and writing the required reports to support administrative and operational decisions being made in our emergency management department.

So, what is the bottom line? In my opinion, since emergency management is the calling for those who want to help others, and there are many paths that lead to achieving that outcome…follow the path the feels right for you. I have grown up being told I was a jack of all trades but master of none. On reflection, emergency management IS the mastery of the jack of all trades. Problem-solving, which is a core function of emergency management draws upon so many other disciplines that to be master, you must have a very wide breadth of knowledge. You do not need mastery of all those different fields of study, but you do need to know where to draw knowledge from to be successful in emergency management. And it does not matter how you acquire the knowledge, in my biased opinion, all sources offer value – volunteering, working, or going to school. In fact, you need a blend of all three, because at some point in your career you will need to communicate with someone from those other fields to achieve your mission. Communication is easier when you understand the language and culture.


Until next time…Get some training!

And make the most of what you learn.



01 March 2024

Collective Capitalism Re-Visited...I Was Wrong!!


Fire in the Sky (photo by V.A.McMillan)


Title: Collective Capitalism Re-Visited…I Was Wrong!!

In the original article https://mtnmanblog.blogspot.com/2019/05/collective-capitalism-concept.html I fell into the trap of manipulated lexicon or vocabulary. I assert I am not an economist, political scientist, or investment manager. I am just a person who has questions about the world we live in. So, this blog post I would like to re-visit my previous blog post and make corrections.

Let’s us start with that vocabulary or lexicon issue. I used the word capitalism to describe an economy. This was a conditioned response…I was not paying full attention to the words I was using. My bad. The word I should have used to describe what I was envisioning was FREE MARKET ECONOMY. I, like many from GEN X, have been subtly manipulated through the education process to believe that capitalism and free market economy are the same thing. A simple exchange of words that on the surface do not seem to be much different. Much like what we see going on around us, today. Subtle substitutions of language to manipulate future outcomes. That Karl Marx guy was very cleaver…a subtle, malevolent ideology to undermine and collapse the Industrial Revolution. Seems Marx’s infiltrate, subvert, manipulate, and overthrow strategy still works today. Capitalism and Communism, Marxists constructs to undermine, are the same outcome, only at different ends of the same continuum. Capitalism on the right and Communism on the left.

As I have mentioned repeatedly, I am not an economist. In my limited understanding on this topic Capitalism has the end goal of corporate rule – of the economy. Remember that childhood board game – Monopoly?? A simple game, roll the dice, move your marker around the board, buy properties, utilities, and avoid landing on spaces owned by others or going to jail. Pass Go! And collect $200. Add houses and eventually hotels to your property and in no time, you are a tycoon! The end goal is to be the one holding the “monopoly” (sole ownership of the whole board) and have everyone else indebted to you or bankrupted off the board. Indoctrination works by subtly switching good for bad – in simple moralistic terms. A child’s board game as a weapon of subversion???

At the polar opposite end of this continuum is Communism…a system of governance where some self-appointed ruler believes they have a better understanding of life and they should centrally control all aspects of life, starting with the collective production of goods for the economy. The central control decides what needs to be grown in the field, harvested from the forest, produced in the mills, build on the assembly line, AND what the common worker should be allowed to purchase and when. However, Communism is not marketed and sold for the oppressive central control…no, no, it is sold as working together to achieve common goals to the betterment of the society or community… under the yoke of tyranny cooperation. [Too subjective??]

Now let’s get back to Free Market Economy a system of economy where the market (as in community marketplace) determines what is produced, in what volume, at what price, and for how long. This is the system advocated by Adam Smith in his lengthy book The Wealth of Nations (1776), yah, yah, yah…I know that is not the proper full title – An Inquiry into the Natures and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) Volumes I, II, II, IV, & V. You can get your PDF copy online, free for the downloading from many websites. I have made it a few hundred pages into the 1204 pages, it is written in an older writing style and vocabulary, which does not make this a light or easy reading tome. However, the ideas suggested are more in line with what most folks think when they use the word capitalism in place of free market economy.

In my understanding, free market economy is the actualization of the demand and supply model of innovation, production, and profit. One person needs a “widget”, another person is capable of making and motivated to make the “widget”. Now you have a market – supply someone’s need. A little while later a new person says, “Not only can I make the “widget”, but I can also make it from superior materials, faster, and more affordably.” Now you have competition. If both parties are allowed to sell their goods at the market uninterrupted by trade guilds or governments, and the buyer exercises their “free-will” to purchase the “widget” or support the “widget” company they chose; then, you have a free market economy. Unlike, a purely Capitalistic economy model motivated towards monopoly; the free market economy is motivated by producers meeting the needs of end-users. There is no need to produce goods no one needs and then have marketing companies brainwash you into thinking you “NEED” that useless product.

So, if I was to return to my original idea…I guess what I wanted to convey, was an ethical, moral marketplace where goods are produced of superior quality, in the local economy, would pay back dividends to the community by being a strong partner with the community. Innovators and entrepreneurs would be free to design and develop what the community needed and would be motivated to generate a reasonable return or profit. Communities, and I guess by extension, economies that are either oppressed or suppressed by government or corporations that are immoral and unethical will stifle and eventually kill the market, economy, and the community. Too bad humans are most inventive during times of conflict, it seems some folks are genuinely motivated to keep a climate of chaos and crisis perpetuating. Maybe one day we will see the silver lining of all this conflict.  


In my humble opinion, we, Earthlings’, would be better off working together to achieve mutually beneficial goals.

Until next time…solve the problems you can.



11 February 2024

Trying to Understand Meta-Data & Targeting Individuals


River Winter Scene (photo by V.A. McMillan, 2024)

How exactly do you explain meta-data…you know those little tags attached to all those electronic devices that travel on the interwebs. Some meta-data is created by your internet service provider (ISP) and others get attached to your computer, phone, or tablet by online merchants who want to ensure that you receive quality services…those cookie things. Well, today we will try to get a grip on meta-data and how you can be targeted even if you do not login or have a profile on a specific website.

This is a slide deck I created to try to explain this topic to myself. I guess this will be a thought exercise type blog post.

Before we delve too deep into this subject, let me disclose that targeting of individuals is not necessarily nefarious. Occasionally the algorithms get it right, and you receive targeted advertisements for things you actually need at the time you need them. Of course, becoming the subject of a targeting does not always mean a positive experience…spam, phishing, hacking, or becoming persona non-grata (PNG)…wait, I am getting ahead of myself.

Let us look at how the intelligence community gathers and maps data, then we will explore a few means of generating meta-data, and how that can be exploited by others. Next slide, please…

Intelligence…Intel…INT…the gathering of information for the purposes of gaining an understanding of a situation, event, incident, group, purchasing habits, or connections between groups. There are many disciplines inside the intelligence world that are colloquially referred to their different INTs. HUMINT is human intelligence…that would be the James Bond type spying on people. COMINT & SIGINT would be communications intelligence and signals intelligence, that is conducted by the NSA in the US or the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) in Canuckistan. If it travels over the airwaves, through a CAT5/CAT6 cable, or via Wi-Fi, you can bet your last dollar that it is being monitored and possibly recorded for future retrieval.

The image on this slide is a screenshot captured from A Thousand Pieces Documentary (2023) still available on Rumble (https://rumble.com/a-thousand-pieces-documentary.html), which succinctly explains many of the common INTs. This is important because humans are creatures of habit…we leave breadcrumbs everywhere we go that can be followed back to our nests. So, knowing what type of breadcrumbs can be followed may assist in reducing our footprints across the electromagnetic spectrum and in the physical world. Enough spy vs spy for the moment. Next slide…

Back to meta-data. We need to understand the term – node. In a network, any location which receives or transmit data is a node. This can be a phone, laptop, motion sensor, CCTV camera, or a person. Depends on the network being described or monitored.

For the purposes of our discussion each node will be associated with an individual and it can include their phone, their laptop, tablet, or swipe/prox access card (credit card, debit card). In the diagram on the slide, you will notice some nodes are smaller, some are coloured, and there are lines connecting nodes in their network. These are very simplified to show the interconnectedness of the networks in our lives. In the real world these connections and networks would be more numerous and more complex to map the actual transference of information.

Each network has the same-coloured lines of communication. If two-colours exchange between nodes, then two streams of information are being transmitted. What is not shown on these network maps is the direction of information sharing. If a node is coloured, they are an influencer, with at least four-connections inside their network. An influencer implies some sort of hierarchical structure, whether it exists or not. Marketers like roping in influencers…if they (influencers) will buy the product being sold by the marketer, they (marketer) know that by peer pressure or influence others in the group will also buy. This is a reason why targeting ads are so important to sellers and marketers. There is another important node on the map…the bridge node, who connects multiple networks. This person is also an important target for marketers. Through a bridge node, a marketer could find another influencer. There is one more important node, but we will get to that soon…

Yes, this is the same network map; however, we are now going to identify what were mapping. This is an email network map…who is included is not even important at this stage. From this map of email patterns we see some interesting developments, first the orange cell is a centrally controlled network. Individual nodes all communicate through the influencer node. Also note, that the only external email connection is also going through the influencer node.

The red cell and the blue cell are both tightly connected networks but lack a central influencer. This could mean that these networks are highly co-operative or collaborative, but it also could indicate a lack of leadership – good or bad. The red cell would also have a tighter control over who makes contact with outsiders, at least via email. The blue cell seems to limit external connections but has more than one external connection to gather information.

The blue and green cells share similar characteristics, except the green cell is larger and has an influencer but not centrally controlled. Which brings us to the yellow cell…according to email traffic patterns it looks like there are two newer nodes. The newest node only has contact with the influencer and one other yellow node. We also notice this newest node has a very unique signature; they are the only node with connections to all networks on the map. This could be an information broker, a plant, a spy, a mole, an infiltrator, or an agent provocateur. This one node is both very powerful and very dangerous. Information seems to be flowing in only one direction, that is to the node…at least by email.

On this slide we see a social media network map. As can be expected, the influencers are active across multiple platforms. There are also some other nodes connected to social media. So, the marketer who connects with an influencer on social media may only be aware of a limited network of connections, if the marketer could also see the email network map, they would know these influencers have a large sphere of influence and are worthy of pursuit. Next, we will review the network map for text messages…

Here we see that the cells in these networks are more connected than was previously known. From the network connections between nodes, especially outside the cells we see that they are using the same device to connect inside their network. So, far we have been concerned about protecting our identity from marketers trying to exploit our networks to the marketers’ benefit/profit. There are other threats on this electronic battlefield. Pesky spammers, profit if they can secure your email list or contact list from your phone. Hackers using ransomware can be more harmful - either by extorting a ransom or more likely by denying you access to your device or data. Unfortunately, not all hackers are living in the basement of their parent’s home addicted to Cheetos, Jolt, and Mario Cart. Some are agents of the state, and if they have decided you are interesting things are about to change…

While meta-data does not connect a name to a node, it does not need to…the mapped connections is far wider reaching than one might expect. If you have somehow shown up on the radar of the state, they have far more resource to discover all the nodes on the map. It only takes one piece to back track to a specific node. Cookies implanted in your computer device by well meaning marketers, are like any other tracking device, they positively identify the target. Cleared your cache memory recently?? Yah, me either…

If you become a target, the digital mapping will now be compared across multiple sources, this will either disengage their interest or intensify it. Remember, they only need one piece in the real world to back track to their actual target. You could be seen as the weak link and easily coerced by their state wielding power to cough up those in your network. However, before contact is made, HUMINT may be employed to ensure they are targeting the correct node. Like the digital, in the real world we all leave breadcrumbs of our daily activities…we have patterns. We shop for groceries in Town A or CITY B. We refuel at Station A but never Station C. We get coffee at 0600 every Saturday. Go for a beer with the boys on Friday night. The girls have a winefest on Saturday afternoons will playing Bridge or Canasta. Each event/location/time is a node. When being surveilled someone(s) are watching and plotting your physical network map. Each of these nodes might intersect with the network of another target. Depending how much interest you have attracted, the resources dedicated to hunting you can be overwhelming. Or maybe that is just the movies…

When HUMINT and the meta-data is mapped and overlayed…if the patterns match, a digital fingerprint is confirmed. If no match, they might let their fish go back to the pond. Otherwise…

If you have attracted the wrong attention and they seem convinced you are their target you will become PNG – Persona Non-Grata, that’s right you are now an unwanted person. Now life gets real. Credit cards and debit cards and bank accounts can be frozen by the state. APBs (all points bulletins) for your arrest and detention could be sent to all police services. Oh, yah, that passport might get flagged…so flights, roads, rails, or waterways might become the ways they capture you. Do you have an I.N.C.H. Plan?? Right, I have not written a blog post about this yet. INCH = I’m Never Coming Home. The most extreme evacuation plan ever. It means evacuating who you are and who you were…forever. Activating your INCH Plan means immediately walking away from the life you have lived up until now. You go on the run…if you became PNG would you have somewhere to go?? No, you cannot go to your buddy’s place, they will be waiting for you there. No, you cannot go to your relative’s place…not even the relative three provinces away. You cannot go anywhere you are known or were known. You must become anonymous, the true greyman.

If you have really pissed off the state, they will label you as such. As Enemy of the State, staying in your own country will be risky if not downright dangerous. You stay on the run but know that if captured you will spend your time in the crowbar hotel. If they really, really don’t like you…you will be taking a nap in the Kirk Garden with a stone head rest.

Of course, this is an extreme tangent of why you need to be aware of meta-data and how meta-data can really screw up your plans. What could prevent going down this rabbit hole????

I am sure the state would not come hunting you just because you visited that one questionable website…well, probably not. You said it was only once, right??

I would not identify a problem without offering up a strategy to mitigate this type of situation.

First get situationally aware. I have shared on the blog previously on developing situational awareness. (https://mtnmanblog.blogspot.com/2018/03/safe-level-one-lesson-plan-part-1-of-5.html Part One of Five Parts.) You need to be aware of what is going on around you – in the physical world and online. The times, they are a changing…things that were non-issues in the past have become lightning rods with this new world order. Speaking your mind, is almost a crime…freedom of expression is no longer free.

Next if you suspect you are networking with folks who others might hold a grudge against, protect yourself and this network by being very conscious of your behaviour, locations, types of communications, and who might be watching. Separate means of communications for each network. Be mindful of what you post on social media.

Behave like you are always being monitored – digitally and physically. Whenever possible behave above reproach. When confronted with a dilemma, always try to select the option with the highest moral fibre.

Groups and networks are encouraged to vet members. Why is this new node trying to connect to the network right now? For your benefit or theirs?

From an electronic protection point-of-view…keep your virus protection up-to-date, same with operating system updates. Use a VPN to shield you from malevolent watching eyes. Clear your cache memory of cookies…daily. Determine the best payment method for your online lifestyle and understand this could have negative results.

From a physical protection point-of-view…understand you and your data are valuable to someone. Determine is reward points are worth losing your identity? Credit cards and debit cards allow others to track how you spend your money. If at some point, someone does not like what you purchase, you could receive negative attention.

Finally, make a determined effort to break your patterns, from time-to-time. Become unpredictable!!


Until next time…ponder how things are connected!



27 January 2024

Modifying the Elm Grove Cottage, Star RTM Homes Floor Plan


Star RTM Homes Website Screenshot

I am a bit tardy getting a new post out in 2024. This time I thought it might be fun to modify a floor plan for a small cottage. One such floor plan that caught my eye is from Star Ready to Move (RTM) Homes, based out of Winnipeg, MB. The Elm Grove is a cozy 720 square feet with an inviting front veranda…thus, my selection for a header for this blog post.

If the Elm Grove is a cottage that meets your needs give Sean or one of the other helpful staff at Star RTM Homes a shout at (204) 669-9200. No, I do not get any sort of remuneration for mentioning this company. They have a quality product and I want to modify one of their designs to potentially meet one of my future housing needs. Shall we begin…

Here is the original floor plan of the Star RTM Elm Grove cottage (https://www.starreadytomovehomes.com/rtm-homes/elm-grove):

Original Elm Grove Floor Plan from Star RTM Homes

I like the clean lines and authentic cottage appeal of this design. However, to meet my needs I would make a few modifications. Before we go further, please understand these RTM homes require a foundation either over a basement or crawlspace. They are not designed to be set down on a flat concrete slab. For this post I am only looking at the space of the main floor.

Here is what the floor plan would look like after I have made all the changes I would like. I will delve into greater detail below the modified floor plan…

Modified Elm Grove RTM Cottage Floor Plan

The first changes I would be making would be the location of the entrances into the cottage. I would remove the sliding patio door unit and replace that with a gas fireplace. I would replace the windows on the feature wall with single garden doors. Jen Weld and other door manufacturers build an assortment of 36” x 80” exterior doors with window inserts. I like having between 12-lite to 15-lite. Although the website for Pioneer Windows and Doors (https://www.pioneerwindowanddoor.com/products-services/doors/) had a 4-lite door unit that looked intriguing…same amount of glass as a 15-lite panel, but with less dividing bars.

Next, I would move the side entrance to the back. With a steep pitched roof, I prefer not entering or exiting in a location where I can get drenched by the rain or buried in a release of snow. This change was not as easy as remodelling the front feature wall. Back door requires a hallway…I know, I know…hallways are wasted space, unless it connects multiple use areas efficiently. And before going further, I would also add an 8-foot veranda to cover the back door, providing more covered outdoor living space.

Let’s work from the back door to the great room / kitchen. I removed the second bedroom and converted it into an office, with a window for looking outside and an interior window looking into the hallway to add more natural light. The office door would use a frosted glass insert, again to add light. Next the former main bathroom would be converted to a half-bath, and the washer / dryer laundry units would be stacked to save space. The water heater would remain in its location. The slight alcove in the hall would accommodate a coat rack and bench. Across the hall the bedroom would have a window looking outside. The sleeping area would remain about the same as the original design, however, the closets would be removed, and walls would be adjusted to allow the placement of an ensuite and a walk-in closet.

In my biased opinion, having a full ensuite and walk-in closet off the bedroom would be a layout that would appeal to homeowners who do not get many guests.

Moving forward to the kitchen…I would remove the pantry unit and move the stove to the outside wall. I would replace the electric stove with a gas range with front controls, like this one from Frigidaire (https://www.homedepot.com/Frigidaire). This makes venting to the outside easier. I would then move the fridge to the area where the electric stove originally came from. I would leave the microwave in the original location. With multiple kitchen users, separating the microwave from the stove allows concurrent activities without getting into each other’s way. The sink and window would stay in the same location. I would have the second garden door with a righthand inswing, allowing for easy access to the veranda, where I would locate a BBQ.

Moving into the Great Room…with the patio door unit removed I would put a gas fireplace that uses a nice mix of river rock and timbers or logs for the mantel. This design looked good (https://i.pinimg.com/originals/).

In keeping with my recent research, I would want the following features:

  • Steep pitch roof (at least a 4/12 pitch) with metal roofing. This is a cottage, so green or red would-be appealing colours for roof metal and doors.
  • Thus, complimentary fire or storm shutters in matching green or red for the windows would be FireSmart and recommended for windy areas.
  • Storm doors would also be worth adding.
  • Insulate with Rock Wool mineral-based insulation, which is fireproof would be my first choice (https://www.rockwool.com/north-america/).
  • Fire rated (FR) Gyproc interior boarding would go without saying. 
  • The exterior would be finished with Hardie Shingle board, with the staggered edge to look more rustic and painted in shades of cedar. Exposed beams would be covered with Hardie Plank with cedar grain. (https://www.jameshardie.ca/products/hardieshingle-siding?loc=refresh#)

That is basically it. I wouldn’t change things too much, just modifying from the needs of a two-bedroom residence or recreational property to the needs of a couple, with one working from home.

I hope this gives you ideas, too!


Until next time…take a good idea and make it fit your needs better!



Link to my research poster which has a few more ideas to consider to reduce the impacts from wildfires, floods, earthquakes, or wind events: 

29 November 2023

Capstone Research Project - Houses of Straw, Sticks, & Bricks...and the Big Bad Wolf (10 July 2022)


Iceland Coastline (photo by V.A. McMillan, October 2023)

Houses of Straw, Sticks, and Bricks – Increasing Disaster Resiliency to Wildfires, Floods, Earthquakes, Wind Events, and the Big Bad Wolf 


V. Andrew McMillan

Justice Institute of British Columbia

ESMS-4900 Capstone

Instructor: Beth Larcombe

Advisor: Bettina Williams

Due Date: 10 July 2022

The submission confirmation number is 6eb0bc84-f685-440e-934e-2c698eee4225. 




 Ongoing disaster level events impact the built world and citizens, alike, in a trend that does not appear to be abating any time soon. However, if the structures of the build world were resilient to the forces of wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and wind events (known in this research as the quadruple threat), by being designed and built with that purpose, then, citizens and communities could weather the extremes with confidence. This research explores what is currently known and recommended to enhance structural disaster resiliency of dwellings. These recommendations are captured and communicated using an infographic (Figure 4). Furthermore, a directory of research facilities (Appendix) is included to aid future research. Utilizing a systems approach, the findings support the interconnectedness of the dwelling components: (a) roofing system, (b) wall and floor systems, (c) window and door system, (d) the foundation system, and (e) utilities system; and how they must be designed to work together for a structure to survive the quadruple threat.

Keywords: built world, firescaping, quadruple threat, storm-proofing, xeriscaping

Houses of Straw, Sticks, and Bricks – Increasing Disaster Resiliency to

Wildfires, Floods, Earthquakes, Wind Events, and the Big Bad Wolf 

Between 2011 and 2020, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) (2021) records over $19 billion in catastrophic losses in Canada. The Canadian Disaster Database (n.d.) shows more than $12 billion in reported losses between 2011 and 2021, just from wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and wind events across Canada. That is 74 disaster level events that displaced almost 360,000 Canadians from their homes in only a decade. This capstone research project will explore solutions to enhance the resiliency of the built world (see glossary) by increasing structural disaster resiliency when encountering wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and wind events (tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones), henceforth known as the quadruple threat(s). 

Author Amanda Ripley, when interviewed by NPR’s podcast host Neda Ulaby (2008, 22 July), explains it is in everyone’s benefit to become more disaster resilient, especially those who prefer to survive disaster events. One way to achieve disaster resilience is to build homes that are designed from the ground up with structural and materials choices based on resistance and resilience to the quadruple threats. This research will endeavour to compile the best practices for achieving success from current solutions. Then, critically appraise these solutions, before discussing a model solution, followed by exploring gaps, and, finally, determining where future research could further pursue structural disaster resiliency.

Disaster resiliency will take a systems approach to resolve, which will include social, economic, environmental, governmental, and structural solution components. However, this research paper will focus only on structural disaster resiliency solution components to the quadruple threat of wildfires, floods, hurricanes, and wind events. 

Background and Statement of Problem

Public Safety Canada (PSC) has a goal that Canada and Canadians will be resilient to natural disasters and human-caused crises by 2030 (Public Safety Canada, 2019). Similarly, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the United States of America, has identified (a) increase resiliency and preparedness, (b) breakdown barriers to information sharing, and (c) improve interdisciplinary research, as key national goals for improving resiliency in their country (Department of Homeland Security, 2015; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018; Obama, 2011). 

Resiliency to natural disasters or human-caused crises requires a systems approach including physical, social, economic, and environmental solution components. Additionally, these components have impacts at the individual, community, business, and governmental levels. Each time a disaster destroys a community the process of rebuilding begins again. When the built world is not destroyed by disaster events, the cycle of destruction and rebuilding is interrupted. 

Research Questions

  • How to improve the structural disaster resiliency to wildfire, floods, earthquakes, and wind events (tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones? 
  • What structural or material characteristics provide greater resilience to the quadruple threat? 
  • How does knowing which structural or material characteristics that can provide greater resilience to the quadruple threat, contribute to enhancing resiliency in the community of existing structures requiring retrofits or renovations? 


Taking a systems approach to resolving resiliency of the built world towards natural disasters and human-caused crises will require finding components from physical solutions, as well as social, economic, and environmental solutions. This research will focus on components that provide physical solutions to the quadruple threat to enhance the structural disaster resiliency to dwellings. The research questions will guide what is being sought and snowball sampling the literature will guide where the solutions will be found. To prevent falling into (and possibly being trapped in) a research silo, as cautioned by FEMA (2018), this research will cross research disciplinary lines within academic literature and beyond, to industry and agency grey literature to find concrete solutions. 

Search Strategy

Finding the Evidence

The purpose of this research project is to capture the best practices to ensure the built world can survive disaster events caused by fire, flood, earthquake, and/or wind. If built to this standard from the outset, communities would be more resilient and the most vulnerable in our society would suffer a little less. Further, if a community were to suffer a disaster event, building back better to a standard that would increase resilience of the built structures in the community would further contribute to future disaster resilience. Finally, retrofitting current structures to incorporate as many of the best practices found by this research will also aid in enhancing the disaster resilience of a community. The cost benefit analysis of what constitutes best practices will have to extend to include what is the best benefit of the community, not just the economic benefit of the land developer or construction contractor. 

Types of Evidence

Figure 1

Hurricane Ike 2008, Bolivar Peninsula, TX – Lone House
Note. National Weather Service, IMG_9179 (n.d.)

Figure 2

Hurricane Ike 2008, Bolivar Peninsula, TX – Hurricane “Proof” Houses
Note. National Weather Service, IMG_9195 (n.d.)

 An anecdotal claim could insist that all the houses in Figures 1 and 2, must be hurricane “proof” because they survived Hurricane Ike. 

Finally, theoretical evidence: evidence that follows a logical chain of association between known facts and postulates hypothetical solutions that “should” be true but have not been proven true via the scientific method. For example, in theory, if a dwelling is constructed of fireproof and waterproof materials, using correct building techniques the dwelling should survive wildfires and floods. Finding evidence from multiple sources, crossing research disciplines, and exploring expert, non-academic resources will all contribute to finding solutions that meet the needs of individual homeowners to mitigate the hazards presented by the quadruple threat. Furthermore, all information formats will be valid for exploration including visual, audio, video, and written. 

Literature Search

Figure 3 

Literature Search Sources
Notes. Blue – Grey Literature, Orange – Academic Literature, Grey – YouTube, Mustard – Blog, Violet – Books, Green – Images, Yellow – Chapters, and Maroon – Podcast. Created in Excel.

 Of the grey literature sources, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) proved to be an essential source hosting 12% of cited documents, followed by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) with 5%. Other notable sources included the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), British Columbia FireSmart, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), and the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) contributing 3% each. The grey literature focuses on solutions and real-world applications of the information to enhance structural disaster resiliency and proved valuable for this research. 

YouTube proved to be an important resource that both captured the information and allowed the researcher to review the experiments or field information and garner a deeper understanding of the subject material presented. For example, it is much easier to understand a firebrand blizzard or ember storm when watching the IBHS (2011) video when a full-size house is being tested in the IBHS Research Lab than to read about the concerns presented by firebrands or embers igniting debris in a rain gutter as in the Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD) manual (2022, p. 17). While YouTube may not be a prime academic source for research papers, YouTube does offer an advantage over reading written material by allowing the researcher to witness evidence for themselves, which enhances understanding and learning comprehension. 

The literature search led beyond books, reports, articles, and videos to a wealth of research centres located around the globe – Canada, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, even Nepal. Compiling contact information for these research centres will aid in future research (see Appendix). Natural Resource Canada (NRC) was a treasure trove find, with centres dedicated to forestry, geology, and hydrology. The same cannot be said for Environment and Climate Change Canada, whose web presence and resources were not up to the standard of NRC or other research centres, such as those under the domain of America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); such as, the National Hurricane Center (NHC), National Severe Storm Laboratory (NSSL), or the Storm Prediction Center (SPC). The IBHS Research Lab and the US Forest Service – Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory have both contributed greatly to understanding wildfire characteristics and how homes in the wildland urban interface (WUI) impact fire progress. Not to mention the excellent collaborations between academic institutions, like the Cyclone Testing Station (CTS) which is part of James Cook University (Australia), the Ark Flood Centre and University of Hull (United Kingdom), or the Wall of Wind (WoW) hurricane simulator at the Florida International University. There are also earthquake focused partnerships such as the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center between the University of Washington and University California – Berkeley or the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER) at the University of Buffalo. Suffice to say, each of these research facilities conduct experiments, publish research papers and reports, and advance what is known about these disaster hazards and how best to mitigate the effects. 

All in all, the quantity and quality of available research material was vast, partly due to the broad research topic including four disaster hazard events, and the fact that, each of these topics have been well researched to find answers to enhance resiliency and mitigate vulnerabilities. The selected items cited were chosen as they contributed to answering the research questions and offered credible solutions from reputable sources. Even the blog posts were of a high quality, written by knowledgeable authors. Follow-up research on this topic could easily consider three or four times the volume of sources to produce a thorough master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation. 

Critical Appraisal

Critically appraising the data found in the literature search will explore common themes, conflicts and alternate solutions to the hazard threats presented by each of the quadruple threats. Resiliency is a broad topic with many focuses. A good introduction comes from the Fitzgerald and Fitzgerald (2005), review of Bruneau et al.’s (2003) work with the MCEER framework for “the 4 R’s” of resiliency (a) robustness, (b) redundancy, (c) resourcefulness, and (d) rapidity, and the four dimensions of community functioning (a) technical, (b) organizational, (c) social, and (d) economic (p. 5). Fitzgerald & Fitzgerald (2005) adapt the MCEER concepts for earthquake resilience and apply them to their wildfire resiliency research. Additionally, Pinkus (2019) finds resilient designs rely on three key factors: (a) hazard mitigation, (b) passive survivability, and (c) adaption (p. 7). Furthermore, FEMA P-737 (2008) identifies four factors impacting a building’s surviving wildfire: (a) topography and weather, (b) defensible space, (c) building envelope, and (d) community infrastructure (p. 6). 


Fireproofing is not a new idea or concept, products made from the mineral Asbestos have been in use for more than a millennia and have been used for cladding and roofing homes since the early twentieth century (History Cooperative, 2016; InspectAPedia, n.d.). Unfortunately, airborne Asbestos fibres are carcinogenic when inhaled and only NFIP (2008), makes mention of Asbestos-cement board in classifying it as a good resilient material for wall or ceiling tiles resistant to flood conditions (p. 7). Fortunately, there are other materials to enhance wildfire structural resiliency. Current solutions will be briefly described, starting at the roof, and working down to the yard. Researchers and agencies alike, unanimously recommended Class ‘A’ rated roof claddings, including asphalt shingles, various metal products, slate, and clay or cement tile (CSFD, 2022; FEMA, (2008); Quarles et al., 2010; Smith et al., 2016; Syphard et al., 2017; UNR, 2020). 
Moving down to the leading edge of the roof, rain gutters, drip edge flashing, and soffit vents all present areas of vulnerability to embers and firebrand accumulations that could ignite and work their way into the attic space and burn the home from the top down (IBHS, 2011; IBHS, 2021; CSFD, 2022). Gutters need to be kept clear of leaf and needle debris to prevent providing ignition fuel to an ember storm. Consequentially, metal drip edge flashing should be secured under the roof cladding and extend down over the fascia and behind the gutters to prevent debris fires gaining attic entry via the leading edge of the roof (IBHS, 2021; Quarles et al., 2010). Soffit and attic vents should be covered with fine metal mesh (1/8”) to stop ember and firebrand entry (CSFD, 2022). Alternatively, fire shutters (that can be affixed over vents, windows, and doors) work well to protect homes from fire inundation through openings into a home, provided sufficient preparation time allows mounting and securing the fire shutters before arrival of the fire or evacuation of residents (FEMA, 2013). 
Similar to roofing, cladding for a building’s sides should be of non-combustible materials and constructed in a fire-resistant manner layering non-combustible materials on framing that is protected inside and out (BC FireSmart, 2019; FEMA, 2008; FLASH, 2021). A layer of fire rated (FR) Gyproc on the inside and outside of the wall framing would assist resiliency to fire. While adding a fireproof insulation, like Rockwool, would enhance the resiliency by another factor (Carr, 2020; Roos, 2019). Alternately, concrete provides a couple other fire resilient options, first, is the use of insulated concrete forms (ICF) (FEMA, 2008; Inside Edition, 2021). ICFs stack like Lego ® blocks to form foundation and above grade walls that are then filled with concrete and rebar to create the structure. The second option is pre-stressed/pre-cast concrete wall panels. These panels are poured and cured in a factory environment and then assembled onsite creating a concrete building (PCI Foundation, 2017). 
Other fireproofing mitigation innovations deserving mention include interior and exterior fire sprinkler systems (FEMA, 2008; NFPA, 2018), unventilated attic designs (FEMA, 2008), and the Firezat fire blanket house wrap (Case Western Reserve University, 2010; CNBC Television, 2021; Firezat wildfire, 2021). Sprinkler systems can be either automatic or manually operated and require a water source with sufficient water pressure and volume to be effective. Unventilated attic designs remove the opportunity for attic fires by removing the attic space. Although, condensation management concerns may restrict the use of this design in regions with humid climates (FEMA, 2008). The Firezat house wrap looks promisingly effective, despite a significant application period required to properly install and protect a home before evacuation from the wildfire (CNBC Television, 2021). 
Finally, effective wildfire mitigation requires the management of combustible debris on or around the home and the use of FireSmart or Firewise (NFPA, 2022) landscaping strategies and tactics (BC FireSmart, 2021; FireSmart Canada, n.d.; Firewise, n.d.). Both programs trace their lineage back to Dr. Jack Cohen, a wildfire researcher at the Missoula [Montana] Fire Research Lab operated by the US Forest Service (Berry et al., 2016; NFPA, 2015). The FireSmart program adopted in Canada has an individual homeowner focus, while the Firewise program in the United States promotes a community approach to wildfire mitigation. Both programs stress the importance of homeowner engagement and involvement. Success is ensured by implementing improvements within 100’ of their home, such as xeriscaping, landscaping, and firescaping (combustible debris management) (BC FireSmart, 2019; Ewing & Maier, 2016; Labossiere & McGee, 2017; UNR, 2011). 


While the threat presented by wildfire can be seen a homogenous force, flooding conditions can attack in multiple forms from slow, steady inundation right through to rapid, violent infiltration. As a result, structural disaster resilient solutions to flooding will be location dependent; since the solutions for flooding caused by precipitation accumulation in low laying areas will differ from areas that have flood water infiltration accompanied by current, flow, waves, or waterborne debris. These factors are further complicated as flooding is not always the primary threat and may only be a secondary effect of a hurricane, cyclone, or earthquake. Therefore, not all flood solutions will work in all environments or locales. Adopting a preparedness attitude, mitigating for the worse-case scenario should contribute to identifying the characteristics that carry beyond a single threat environment. 
For those who find themselves in an area with a flooding hazard there are mitigations that can be undertaken ensuring new construction (or retrofitting an existing structure) enhances the structural flood resiliency. Start by identifying which flood hazards are greatest and use this information to determine which foundation type should be used, such as a pile/pier/column permanent static elevation (PSE) for those in hurricane country or exposed to fluvial flooding with water flows greater than 5 feet per second (English et al., 2019; NFIP, 2008). Whereas those with seasonal or weather induced flooding resulting in a static body of water, an amphibious buoyant foundation, that rises and lowers with the flood waters may be the correct option (English et al., 2019; Piatek & Wojnowska-Heciak, 2020). When using a more traditional style foundation with footings and concrete or masonry block walls ensure compliance with local buildings codes, especially if the foundation is below the base flood elevation (BFE). Wet proofing the foundation will require flood venting enabling equalization of hydrostatic pressure on the inside and outside of the foundation during flooding and allow drainage when flood water recede (FEMA, 2011). The NFIP does not allow living space to occupy areas below the BFE nor dry proofing (NFIP, 2008). 
Localized flooding (pluvial) can also impact individual dwellings with the most common causes being backup of sewer lines into the basement or failure of the drainage system. Sewer backups can be mitigated with the use of a sewer backflow valve properly installed and maintained between the residence and the city sewer line. Failures of the drainage system can be prevented by ensuring the whole system was installed properly and maintained regularly eliminating build up of debris clogging gutters and downspouts. Metal drip edges, sealed roofing, flashing, and building wrap help prevent and manage moisture infiltration into the building envelope. Lot elevation should be graded away from the foundation and towards drainage swales or city storm water drains (FEMA, 2011; FLASH, 2021; IBC, 2016; ICLR, n.d.; Pinkus, 2019). 
Enhancing flood structure disaster resiliency, like other disaster hazards, requires a systems approach with complimentary components working together. In addition, to the items already mentioned here a few more components that will enhance performance: (a) mount utilities above the BFE, this includes wiring, electrical outlets, appliances; (b) landscape with multiple elevations that direct the flow of water away from the dwelling and towards storm water drains, including the use of swales, levees, berms, floodwalls, or dykes; (c) control water build-up in the dwelling and inner landscape with sump pumps that evacuate excess water outside flood protections; and (d) a backup power system to keep the sump pumps operational when grid power fails (FEMA, 2011; FLASH, 2021; IBC, 216). This contingency should be operational for a normal flood cycle of the region (four to forty days). Recognizing that failure of the pumps will result in water inundation. Liao (2012) cautions that dependency on flood defences leads to a false sense of security, and true flood resiliency is achieved by learning to live with the cycles of the river, including getting wet when waters rise. To do otherwise, invites greater impact to residents when flood defences fail, and they are not prepared for the resulting inundation (Journey et al., 2015). 


Duggal (2013) recommends earthquake-resistant designs include regular, monolithic design with same column spacing and sizing from foundation to peak. No tall stories, relative to other stories, or you achieve a soft storey and earthquake failure. The best design is a “strong column – weak beam”, because the opposite “strong beam – weak column” results in total structure collapse (Duggal, 2013). FEMA 232 (2006) supports this position when describing an earthquake resistant house as a simple rectangular shape; bracing walls distribute uniformly & symmetrically through whole house; no large concentrations of weigh; bracing walls directly above each other; bracing longer on lower levels than upper levels; no split-levels, or offsets (p. 29). Efficient earthquake energy transfers from foundation to roof, require all systems to be connected. 
Chiaro et al. (2019) provide an insightful solution to enhancing resiliency to earthquakes and repurposing recycled rubber products from old tires. The use of concrete-rubber blends for foundations and footings increases the elasticity allowing a return to the initial positioning once the quaking stops. Furthermore, when gravel aggregates and rubber are blended for the base below the footing and used to backfill the foundations and even greater capacity to absorb and isolate quaking motion is effectively achieved (Chiaro et al., 2019). This research shows strong promise and could have profound positive impacts for homeowners in earthquake zones. Homeowners in the greater Victoria, British Columbia area would benefit from this innovation as the 2016 seismic vulnerability assessment identified 65% of the housing stock could be “red tagged” and made uninhabitable in a worse-case earthquake (VC Structural Dynamics, 2016). 
ICLR’s QuakeSmart (2016) provides further suggestions for quake-proofing a home by (a) installing a seismic shutoff valve at gas meter, (b) upgrading windows to tempered glass or laminated glass, (c) bracing masonry chimneys and ensuring sleeping areas are not below fall zone of chimneys, (d) using anti-tip brackets/braces/straps/devices on utilities, shelving units, heavy appliances, (e) using lockable cabinet/cupboard doors to prevent contents from spilling out during a quake, (f) retrofitting cripple walls into existing homes, (g) anchoring home to the foundation, (h) using band/block/bridging on floor joists and roof trusses – aids in transfer of energy to the foundation, (i) using hurricane ties/straps to secure roof to the walls, (j) using structural plywood sheathing on the roof – helps strengthens the structure, (k) heavy tile & slate not recommended, as roofing can dislodge and fall during quake, and (l) dormers, skylights, complex roof structures are not recommended as they weaken the roof structure. 

Wind Events (Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Cyclones) 

Wind is a constant companion to all geographical locations, with many experiencing some form of severe wind conditions. After the 2013 Moore, Oklahoma tornado, building codes were adjusted from a 90 mph (145 km/h) standard to a 135 mph (217 km/h) standard (Stevenson et al., 2020). Similarly, the IBHS FORTIFIED home program enhanced building standards in hurricane country to a Category 3 Hurricane standard. Meanwhile, in Canada, Stevenson et al. (2020) are endeavouring to enhance the National Building Code of Canada to a wind standard (in windy areas) to an EF-2 Tornado (maximum wind speed of 217 km/h) standard. Preventing structure damage due to severe wind requires knowing the limits of the hazard. Hurricane researchers, Perez-Alarcon et al. (2021) share that by the year 2100, the Gulf of Mexico could experience proposed Category 6 Hurricanes with wind speeds higher than 380 km/h. That amazing wind speed was exceeded in 1996 when Tropical Cyclone Olivia slammed Western Australia on April 10th with winds of 408 km/h (Arthur et al., 2021)! If the challenges of designing and building dwellings to endure high winds was not difficult enough, most severe wind events are also accompanied by flying debris that strike stationary objects – trees, bridges, cell towers, power poles and buildings with devastating impact forces (FEMA, 2021; Ginger et al., 2021). 
Wind events in this research constitute two separate threat profiles – (a) wind and dry or (b) wind and wet. Tornadoes represent the first and safety in the form of safe rooms or storm shelters being built below ground, while hurricanes and cyclones represent the second and safety for those unable to evacuate harm’s way must be sought above expected high water levels. Multi-hazard safe rooms or storm shelters designs must assess real conditions and make decisions based on those facts (FEMA, 2021). Other approaches include designing and building the entire dwelling to a standard to survive an encounter with a wind event. Deltec Homes (2020) suggest fourteen components that make up the anatomy of a hurricane proof home, a few deserve mention: (a) use a steep roof with a 6/12 pitch which reduces lift, (b) use a round design to be more aerodynamic and offer less wind resistance, (c) use radial floor joists and roofing trusses, so no matter which direction the wind is coming from the force is distributed equally across the whole structure, (d) use 5/8” plywood instead of 5/8” OSB, (e) continuous metal strapping from roof to foundation to tie the building together, and (f) impact resistant doors and windows. 
Other considerations include using ASCE 7-05-2006 rated storm shutters over doors and windows (ensuring shutters are anchored to building framing, not just to the window); using ring shank nails to fasten roof sheathing; high wind rated vents for attics and soffits; avoid having skylights on the roof; avoid locating windows or doors on the corners, avoid complex roof systems; hip style roofs offers superior aerodynamics compared to gable roofs; locations near salt water need to use stainless steel fasteners, straps, braces, and brackets that are resistant to salt corrosion; and single storey dwellings are more resilient than either two or three-storey homes (FEMA, 2006; FEMA, 2011; FEMA, 2010; IBHS, 2022; ICLR, 2012/2018; Olson et al., 2022). Similarly, Garth (2021) supports the use of universal concrete construction in tornado areas and PCI Foundation (2017) members successfully design and build pre-stressed/pre-cast concrete buildings in both hurricane and tornado regions. Olson et al. (2022) reveal that edge mounted turbines effectively diffuse wind effects on buildings or roof edges. Finally, Sheng et al. (2022) and FEMA, P-499, (2010) agree that natural coastal landscaping plays a positive role in protecting homes from hurricane effects, and recommend leaving (even enhancing) coastal mangroves, marshes, and dunes. 


Despite the seemingly incongruent nature of the quadruple threats, six consistent recommendation emerged common to all disaster threats: (a) complex roofs which have skylights, dormers, or multiple levels are more vulnerable to disasters, (b) hip roof styles, with steep roof pitch are more capable of shedding wind and water, (c) continuous load connection from roof to foundation enhances structural resiliency, (d) debris management prevents adding to the scale of disaster, (e) shutters are an effective defence when deployed before the event occurs, and (f) using double or triple pane window units made with tempered glass are universally recommended. Additionally, the use of fireproof and/or waterproof materials and construction techniques were found not to negatively impact dwelling resiliency to the quadruple threat. 
Disaster resiliency will require a concerted effort with many intertwined components to create a successful system for individuals, communities, and countries. Each must play their part; individuals need to be engaged in their own success. At the same time both governments and the insurance industry have a role to play to encourage resiliency enhancing behaviours through grant programs, rate reductions, and/or tax incentives. Furthermore, educational programs and literature must be made available and promoted, to inform consumers and governments alike to ensure new projects are built to a better standard, not the lowest safe level. This is especially important after a disaster level event impacts a community and the opportunity and need to build back better is apparent to everyone concerned. Plans to maximize this rebuilding window of opportunity must be developed well before the need to operationalize them. Without forward-thinking-planning, the window of opportunity will be wasted, and the status quo will be the fallback solution perpetuating the disaster-rebuild cycle. 

Solution Model 

To promote a shift to disaster resilient housing, everyone in the process needs to know their specific role and what influence each wields. The home buyer, when properly educated to the benefits of a resilient home can make their preference known by using their purchasing power to sway how homes are built, which features are included, and what standard is acceptable (FLASH, 2021). However, this cannot be achieved in a vacuum; others play critical roles as well. The insurance industry can contribute immediately by offering rate reductions for homes that are designed and built to a resilient standard and maintained to that standard. Similarly, governments can do their part by updating building codes to a resilient standard, offering tax reductions for disaster resilient homes or grants to build to that level, and then inspecting and enforcing the building code. The construction industry can either self-police or have enforcement applied from government agencies, to ensure building standards are met during home construction or renovation. Membership in local homebuilder’s associations could require quality standards for membership. Without membership, belonging to the better business bureau would be impossible; thereby helping consumers identify approved contractors. Finally, the professional industry and academia must work together to ensure all research that contributes to more resilient building construction is published and made public through open access. Time to end knowledge silos and pay-wall access restrictions, some other method of cost recovery will need to be devised. If there is buy-in from all stakeholders, the shift to a new paradigm of structural disaster resilient housing will become a reality and the expected standard. 
The proposed solution for a disaster resilient dwelling will endeavour to incorporate as many of the best practices into a single structure as possible (see Figure 4). The research has shown that a simple hip style roof, with at least a 3/12 pitch is the way to go. In Canada, that minimum should be at least a 4/12 pitch to also shed snow, however, Deltec Homes’ (2020) suggestion of a 6/12 pitch could be a universal roofing solution, as it would work well for wind events, water, snow, and wildfire ember storms. The use of 5/8” structural plywood roof sheathing, using ring shank nails, on cross-braced roofing trusses; clad with a Class ‘A’ roofing material and secured to the walls with proper hurricane ties and straps would create a roofing system that could weather any storm. The wall system should be framed on 16” centres stick construction with impact rated cladding over 5/8” fire rated (FR) Gyproc, screwed to exterior 5/8” plywood wall sheathing which is secured to the wall framing. Between the exterior sheathing and FR Gyproc would be a layer of house wrap for moisture control of the building envelope. The exterior walls would be insulated with a fireproof insulation, like Rockwool, and the interior of the wall would have a layer of 6-mil poly vapour barrier between the framing and the interior 5/8” FR Gyproc. The walls would be anchored to the floors and have continuous metal strapping from roof to foundations to ensure a continuous load path for strength and structural unity. Doors, windows, and vents would have storm and fire shutters properly mounted, which would need to be secured in the closed position before an event. Also, windows and doors would be impact-rated with tempered double pane glass. Utilities would be mounted above the BFE, seismic gas shutoff valves would be installed, as would backflow valves to prevent sewer backup floods. Homes in a floodplain would not have basements. Gutter systems would be kept free of debris to prevent localized flooding or providing an ignition source to wildfire generated ember storms. Landscaping would incorporate FireSmart recommendations for Zones 0 through Zone 3 (first 100’ around home). Landscaping would grade the elevation away from the foundation to prevent overland flood waters from inundating the home. Following these suggestions, more homes would survive a disaster level encounter with the quadruple threats and speed up recovery. 

Gaps & Future Research 


Effective communication between emergency management organizations and the public requires communication tools that resonate with the public, like the FireSmart program. Therefore, one must ask why is the FireSmart program not emulated for the other disaster types? Public Safety Canada or FEMA would benefit (and so would the public) if there was a standardized communication tool that was disaster event specific, and mitigation focused to aid the public. While similar terms are used for: QuakeReady, StormReady, FloodSmart, QuakeSmart and CycloneReady; these programs are individually created but lack a standard format. The FireSmart program is successful and well received, there is an opportunity to fill this gap and create similarly effective communications tools for floods, earthquakes, and wind events. 

Future Research Starting Points 

  • Wood studs versus steel studs, which enhances wildfire resiliency of structures greater? 
  • Which dwelling shape is most resilient to the quadruple threat? Square/cube, octagon/octa-column, hexagon/hexa-column, round/cylinder, round/sphere, or geodesic dome? 
  • Which seismic motion isolation devices or seismic damping devices are least cost prohibitive for homeowners in earthquake prone regions? 
  • Design a quadruple threat resilient home, build samples and subject to full-scale home testing in the IBHS Research Lab against an ember storm, in the WoW Hurricane Simulator against a Cat 5 Hurricane, in the ARK Flood Lab against a swift water flood, and the MCEER Earthquake Simulator against a 9.0 earthquake. Determine by primary data which design, features, materials, and construction methods create the most disaster resilient home.
  • Test the proposed quadruple threat wall design (see Figure 5) to determine survivability and conduct a cost-benefit analysis.


In the end, resiliency (or lack there of) falls to the homeowner, community, and local government; if they (individually or collectively) do not buy-in and become active participants in their own resiliency; then, they are doomed to fail. On the other hand, if they are committed to cooperating and collaborating; with the correct education, technical support, and materials then they will succeed. The first barrier to breach is denial, which requires education, role-models, and champions (Labossiere & McGee, 2017; Ripley, 2008). As Ripley (2008) postulates, denial is followed by a period of contemplation (deliberation) before the decisive moment for buy-in, cooperation, and action. Therefore, opportunities to breakdown barriers to advance resiliency objectives should be well planned and ready to action on a moments notice. Resiliency is an active choice that becomes a lifestyle, and all the well-intentioned research, plans, or solutions will be for naught if those who would benefit are frozen in a state of denial. Start with small, incremental steps to ease homeowners, communities, and local governments to buy-in, such as construction techniques and materials that enhance structural disaster resiliency to the quadruple threats – wildfires, floods, earthquakes, and wind events (tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones). 

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Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2018). A proposed research agenda for the emergency management higher education community. https://training.fema.gov/hiedu/docs/latest/2018_fema_research_agenda_final-508%20(march%202018).pdf

Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2021). FEMA P-361: Safe rooms for tornadoes and hurricanes – Guidance for community and residential safe rooms (4th ed.). https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/documents/fema_safe-rooms-for-tornadoes-and-hurricanes_p-361.pdf

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Ginger, J., Parackall, K., Henderson, D., Wehner, M., Ryu, H., & Edwards, M. (2021). Improving the resilience of existing housing to severe wind events – Final project report. Cyclone Testing Station, James Cook University. https://www.preventionweb.net/files/76921_improvingtheresilienceofexistinghou.pdf

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Tables 2


The science which treats of the air under the action of force and of their mechanical effects.

Built world

Synonym for built environment, dealing with urban planning, architecture, human geography, civil engineering; refers to the human-made environment.


Cancer causing.

Cripple wall

A wooden wall from the foundation to the first floor of the structure, usually less than a full storey, creates a crawl space beneath the dwelling. Must be braced with plywood to provide seismic protection.

Dry proofing

Sealed to be impermeable to the passage of floodwaters.


A passive fire protection measure, using non-combustible materials or making something fire-resistant.


Landscaping technique that inhibits the spread of fire.

Floor joist

Any parallel structural members of a floor system that support, and are usually immediately beneath, the floor.

Gable roof

A roof style that has flat ends with a triangular profile. If unbraced these ends can leads to structural fail in high winds. Only slopes in two directions.


Geodynamics is a subfield of geophysics dealing with movements of the Earth. i.e., earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain building.

Hip roof

A peaked roof that slopes in four directions.


Loads imposed on an object by water flowing against & around it.


Loads imposed on a surface by a standing mass of water.

Quadruple threat(s)

Wildfires, floods, earthquakes, & wind events (tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones).


A sloped structural member that connects the roof ridge pole to the wall plate.


Short for “reinforcement bar”, this is a steel reinforcing rod used as a concrete tension device.


The ability to recover quickly, return to the original state.


The ability to resist change.

Roof truss

An engineered roof component that bridges exterior roof sheathing to the wall plate, depending on design it may or may not require a central ridge pole/beam.

Snowball sampling

A sampling technique where current subjects provide referrals for future subjects. Adapted to gathering articles from a reference list.


To make a dwelling impervious to the damage caused by a storm.

Systems theory

The interdisciplinary study of complex systems and how components interrelate with each other in nature, science, and society.


Deals with heat, work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, entropy, and the physical properties of matter and radiation.

Wet proofing

A flood retrofit technique that allows floodwaters to enter in such a way as to minimize damage to the structure.


Landscaping technique that uses materials and plants that need very little water. Used frequently in arid climates.

Notes. Definitions found using DuckDuckGo! search engine.

Table 3 


American Society of Civil Engineering


Base Flood Elevation


Colorado Springs Fire Department


Cyclone Testing Station


Design Flood Elevation


Federal Emergency Management Agency


Federal Alliance for Safe Homes


Insurance Bureau of Canada


Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety


Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction


Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research


National Flood Insurance Program


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Oriented Strand Board


Public Safety Canada


University of Nevada, Reno


Wind & Hurricane Impact Research Laboratory


Wall of Wind (Hurricane Simulator)

Figure 4 

Systematic Mitigations to the Quadruple Threat Impacts

Notes. Red for wildfire, blue for flood, brown for earthquake, and grey for wind events.

Figure 5

Proposed Quadruple Threat Resilient Wall Design 

Note. This wall construction should improve structural disaster resiliency to survive missile impacts and the quadruple threat – Figure 5 inside to out: 5/8” FR Gyproc, 6-mil vapour barrier, 2x8 framing on 16” centres and filled with Rockwool insulation, 5/8” plywood sheathing, Tyvek wrap, 5/8” FR Gyproc, 1 ½" x 1 ½" page wire, Cement board cladding. 



Research Directory 


Facility: ARK – National Flood Resilience Centre

Institution: University of Hull (UK)

Website: https://arkfloodcentre.co.uk/


Contact: Dr. Giles Davidson, Project Lead

Area of Research: Flooding


Facility: Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC (Cooperative Research Centres)

Institution: Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council (AFAC)

Website: https://www.bnhcrc.com.au/ and https://www.afac.com.au/

Address: Level 1, 340 Albert Street, East, Melbourne, Victoria, 3002, Australia

Contact: office@bnhcrc.com.au

Area of Research: Bushfires


Facility: Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI)

Institution: University of Memphis

Website: https://www.memphis.edu/ceri/

Address: 3890 Central Avenue, Memphis, TN, 38152

Contact: Assistant Professor, Thomas Gebel

Area of Research: Earthquakes; Focus on New Madrid Seismic Zone


Facility: Cyclone Testing Station (CTS)

Institution: James Cook University

Website: https://www.jcu.edu.au/cyclone-testing-station

Address: Townsville, Queensland, 4811, Australia

Contact: Dr. David Henderson (david.henderson@jcu.edu.au), Chief Engineer

Area of Research: Cyclones, Storm Surge Flooding, Wind Driven Rain, Building assessments


Facility: Earthquakes Canada

Institution: Natural Resources Canada

Website: https://earthquakescanada.nrcan.gc.ca/index-en.php



Area of Research: Earthquakes; National Building Code of Canada – Seismic Hazard Values


Facility: Flood and River Ice Break-up

Institution: Natural Resources Canada

Website: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-and-data/science-and-research/natural-hazards/floods-river-ice-break/10660



Area of Research: Floods; Flood mapping, Flood forecasting


Facility: Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC)

Institution: Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC)

Website: http://www.ibc.ca/on/


Contact: 1-844-227-5422

Area of Research: Fire, Flood, Earthquake, Wind, Hail & Ice; Disaster preparedness from insurance point-of-view, statistics


Facility: IBHS Research Center

Institution: Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS)

Website: https://ibhs.org/about-ibhs/ibhs-research-center/

Address: 4775 East Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL, 33617 & 5335 Richburg Road, Richburg, SC, 29729

Contact: info@ibhs.org

Area of Research: Wildfire, Wind, Rain, Hail; Full scale testing for homes; FORTIFIED Home program


Facility: Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR)

Institution: Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR)

Website: https://www.iclr.org/

Address: Western University, Amit Chakma Building, Suite 4405, 1151 Richmond Street, London, ON, N6A 5B9


Area of Research: Wildfire, Flood, Earthquake, Wind, Hail; Wind Tunnel at Western University, Quakesmart.ca program, Guidebook for Homeowners


Facility: Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory

Institution: US Department of Agriculture – US Forest Service

Website: https://www.firelab.org/

Address: 5775 US Highway #10 West, Missoula, MT, 59808-9361

Contact: SM.FS.mso_firelab@usda.gov

Area of Research: Wildfire; Firebrand generator & Fire testing lab  


Facility: Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER)

Institution: University of Buffalo

Website: https://www.buffalo.edu/mceer/about.html

Address: 212 Ketter Hall, Buffalo, NY, 14260-4300

Contact: mceer@buffalo.edu

Area of Research: Earthquakes; Earthquake simulator


Facility: National Earthquake Monitoring and Research Center

Institution: Government of Nepal

Website: http://www.seismonepal.gov.np/

Address: Department of Mines & Geology, Lainchaur, Kathmandu, Nepal

Contact: info@seismonepal.gov.np

Area of Research: Earthquakes


Facility: National Severe Storm Laboratory (NSSL)

Institution: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Website: https://www.nssl.noaa.gov/research/flood/ , https://www.nssl.noaa.gov/research/wind/ ,

Address: National Severe Storm Laboratory, 120 David L Boren Boulevard, Norman OK, 73072

Contact: nssl.outreach@noaa.gov

Area of Research: Floods, Wind


Facility: Northern Forestry Centre

Institution: Natural Resources Canada

Website: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-data/research-centres-labs/forestry-research-centres/northern-forestry-centre/13485

Address: 53520-122 Street, Edmonton, AB, T6H 3S5


Area of Research: Wildfire; Canadian Wildland Fire Information System (CWFIS) https://cwfis.cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/home


Facility: Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center

Institution: University of Washington (University of California, Berkeley)

Website: https://www.washington.edu/research/research-centers/pacific-earthquake-engineering-research-center-peer/ (http://peer.berkeley.edu/)

Address: Davis Hall, University of Washington

Contact: Director, Marc Eberhard (eberhard@uw.edu)

Area of Research: Earthquakes


Facility: Pacific Forestry Centre

Institution: Natural Resources Canada

Website: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-data/research-centres-labs/forestry-research-centres/pacific-forestry-centre/13489

Address: 506 West Burnside Road, Victoria, BC, V8Z 1M5


Area of Research: Wildfire; National Fire Management Resource Demand Model, 7370 documents library


Facility: Severe Storm Prediction Education & Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center

Institution: Rice University

Website: https://www.sspeed.rice.edu

Address: 6100 Main Street, MS317, Keck Hall 117, Houston, TX, 77005

Contact: sspeed@rice.edu

Area of Research: Wind, Partners with other universities in the region


Facility: Wall of Wind (WoW) Hurricane Simulator

Institution: Florida International University (FIU)

Website: https://cee.fiu.edu/research/facilities/wall-of-wind & https://fiu.designsafe-ci.org/



Area of Research: Hurricane; Category 5 hurricane simulator


Facility: Wind & Hurricane Impact Research Laboratory (WHIRL)

Institution: Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech)

Website: https://research.fit.edu/whirl/projects/florida-public-hurricane-loss-model-fphlm/

Address: 150 West University Boulevard, Melbourne, FL, 32901


Area of Research: Hurricanes

Notes. In alphabetical order by facility name. 

Well there we are folks, after to the slow build-up, that is my capstone research project. Hopefully, someone will benefit from this.

Here are the links to the other related posts: 

Research Poster

Literature Review from 2019 


Literature Review from 2022 

Research Proposal from 2022