Posts from — March 2011

Leatherman “Crunch” Tool: A Multi-Tool For Emergency Preparedness

FIELD REPORT PERIOD: February/March 2011

PRODUCT:  Leatherman Crunch™ Multi-Tool

LOCATION: Washington State

WEATHER CONDITIONS: Windy, Rain with Snow

EVALUATORS: John A. Larsen and ICE PACK® Emergency Preparedness Systems LLC Staff

OBJECTIVE/PURPOSE:   Test and Evaluate the Leatherman Crunch Multi-Tool for use in emergency and disaster response situations.


There are numerous multi-tools in the marketplace with new ones being introduced nearly every year. Some are fairly general in nature, yet others are designed for specific activities. The “Crunch”™ is one of the family of Multi-Tools made by Leatherman selected by ICE PACK<® product developers to be included in our Disaster Sustainment Systems. The Crunch multi-tool comes packaged with operator instructions and a black ballistic nylon belt pouch. It has a total of 12 tools that include:

  1. Locking Pliers
  2. A 420 HC (High Carbon) Stainless Steel, Serrated Sheeps Foot Knife Blade (2.2 inches long)
  3. Wire Cutters
  4. Hard Wire Cutters
  5. Wire Stripper
  6. Three (3) Flat-Head Screwdrivers (small, medium and large)
  7. Phillips Head screwdriver
  8. Metal/Wood file
  9. Bottle opener
  10. Ruler (inches and millimeters)
  11. Lanyard Ring
  12. Hex Bit Adapter

The Crunch is four inches in length closed and weighs a mere 6.9 0zs.


For the last month I have used the Crunch in a series of simulated emergency situations, as well as two real world incidents. First, I tested the signature tool of the Crunch, the “locking pliers”. The ability to tighten the pliers down on an object and let go of the Crunch is a definite asset in an emergency situation, especially one where you may be the only person there. After opening the two halves of the Crunch simply rotate the pliers’ head out of the handle, and place the base of the jaws into the top of the second handle. Incidentally, this is pretty intuitive to do, as for some reason I had an instruction sheet that did not cover the Crunch; however, I was able to go on to the Leatherman Web site ( and download the instruction sheet. This is a handy capability, as instruction sheets have a way of being lost. The pliers can then be used as normal pliers, and also by tightening the round screw head in the base of one of the Crunch handles, lock the pliers onto whatever object (up to a 1-inch diameter) you are working on.

Around your home what emergency situation could you use the Crunch for? If you are in a home that has uses natural gas, and for some reason (e.g. earthquake structural damage, etc.) you have to turn off the supply of gas to your home, do you have the appropriate wrench to do it, or can you access it? Another situation involves some catastrophic occurrence (e.g. frozen pipes due to a utility outage during winter, etc.) where water pipes burst in your home. Do you know where the master water value is? How many times a year do you turn it off and on? It may be very stiff, if like in my home, it has not been turned off for about eight years. With the Crunch Locking Pliers, you should be able to turn the water off, saving your home from serious water damage. Under extreme conditions, are you heating up canned food or melting snow over a fire? You can use the pliers head to remove the hot can from the fire without burning yourself!

Not all emergencies happen in the home, and having the Crunch can often prevent an emergency from happening on the road. I carry a Leatherman in both of my vehicles and have had two occasions that I needed them. First one we had driven to the Oregon Coast, and were returning home on a late Sunday evening. After stopping at a small, roadside restaurant and eating we were preparing to leave when I noticed my driver’s side headlight had burnt out. I had recently replaced the other headlight so had a second bulb, popped the hood and found that to get to the driver side bulb I had to remove the battery. I had a screwdriver with me, but without the pliers on my Leatherman, I would have been in trouble, as nothing was open and we were about three hours from home. As it was, I was able to quickly remove the battery, change the light bulb, and continue our drive home.

The second incident was easier to correct. Another Sunday drive, heading home from visiting a good friend, again in Oregon, and we were heading into bad weather. I turned on the windshield wipers, and of course the driver’s side wiper did not work. It was a simple matter to use the large flat head screwdriver to pop off the plastic cap, and then use the pliers to tighten the nut on the windshield wiper arm and continue on. A much preferable outcome than driving for an hour and a half down twisting country roads, and then another two hours on a major interstate, all in a driving rainstorm, without an operating windshield wiper. Not a safe situation!

The Crunch has three different sized (small, medium and large) flathead screwdrivers, and Phillips head screwdrivers. This multi-tool pretty well covers all your basic needs when it comes to tightening or loosening various types of screws.

Nearly all multi-tools have a knife blade and the Crunch has a serrated sheeps foot blade. I was able to quickly and effortlessly cut through a thick piece of plasterboard, as well as using for mundane tasks such as cutting up branches for kindling wood, opening cardboard boxes, and preparing meals.

The tip of the file is also the large flat head screwdriver and one side of the file is for metal the other side is for wood. Both files worked well, and I could see a situation where you had a round pipe that you could not get a sufficient grip on with the pliers head, but you could file two flats, one on either side of the pipe, then the pliers would be able to grip.

I found four different types of electrical wiring in the garage and had no problem cutting any of them using the hard wire cutters in the jaws of the pliers head. When stripping wire it worked best to crimp the wire, then rotate the wire, crimp again, then using the jaws of the pliers you could easily pull the plastic covering off of the wire. If you have an emergency generator at your home, the ability to cut and strip wiring is a definite plus. Do not work on electrical wires (house or office wiring) that are connected to electrical sources, you could be shocked badly!

The black ballistic nylon belt pouch is well made and can be worn either vertically or horizontally on your belt, and has a large Velcro™ closure that is quite secure. There is a lanyard loop that you could tie in a length of cord, ensuring you will not lose the Crunch. In addition to the tools in the Crunch ™ you also have the option of using ¼-inch Hex driver tools (typically screw driver, Torx, square and hex head). Simply grasp the knurled, round knob that controls the tightening of the pliers head, unscrew it and remove it from the handle (be careful not to lose this large screw as its critical to the operation of the locking pliers) and you can now insert any ¼-inch hex head into the opening at the base of the handle.

All the tools in the handle of the Crunch lock into place when opened up to be used, which is a nice feature, and to release them you just have to depress the grooved section of the locking device. It is a very simple operation. The ruler has measurements both in inches (3 ¾-inch total) and in millimeters (95mm total). The ability to make precise measurements is always a plus.

Durability. The Crunch is very solidly built and I experienced no failures during testing. I left the Crunch out on our deck for 48 hours in a typical Pacific Northwest rainstorm and close examination showed no corrosion, and all tools and the screw head operated smoothly. Maintenance of tools may not be possible during a protracted emergency situation, so it is nice to know the tool you selected can withstand severe weather conditions and keep working.


The Crunch™ will not replace wire cutters, files, multiple screwdrivers, pliers that you may have in your garage tool box. What it will do is give you all those capabilities in a durable, compact, and reliable tool. I would recommend storing the Crunch in one of the ICE PACK® six-gallon, yellow plastic containers where you will know where to find it during an emergency situation. It is also a tool that would make sense to keep one in each of your motor vehicles as all emergency situations do not happen at home. In addition to all of the grasping, cutting, screwing operations described above the Crunch can also act as an effective glass break tool and seat belt cutter inside your vehicle. Accessibility of course being the key!

SUITABILITY 5-shield rating
QUALITY 5-shield rating
EASE OF USE 5-shield rating
RELIABLE 5-shield rating
EFFECTIVE 5-shield rating
COST 5-shield rating
5-ShieldsExcellent w 4-ShieldsVery Good w 3-ShieldsGood w 2-ShieldsAverage w 1-ShieldPoor


Right click (Mac = Cmd. + click) to download the report in PDF format.

March 28, 2011   1 Comment

ICE PACK and GSA Pricing Schedule

ICE PACK Emergency Preparedness Systems will soon be available to GO, NGO’s and OGA’s on GSA Schedule through a strategic business relationship with TSSI of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Initially the Disaster Sustainment, Basic Essential systems and Preparedness Modules will be made available on GSA, with plans to add additional emergency preparedness and escape and evacuation products in the future. TSSI can be contacted for details at 877-535-8774. Availability should be Spring 2011!

March 21, 2011   No Comments

Catastrophic Tandem Natural Disasters Cause Technological Nuclear Power Plant Disaster in Japan

As with so many around the world, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan. The devastation is staggering.  Such devastation coupled with the potential for multiple nuclear power plant catastrophic events makes the situation utterly incomprehensible.  Even though nuclear power is considered extremely safe, it is worth educating ourselves to the possibility of the worst of the worst-case scenarios.  Such a scenario is playing out in real-time in Japan.  Could such an event develop here in the United States? Absolutely. While this disaster coupled a major seismic event of 8.9 to 9.0 with a resulting tsunami, we do have identified areas in the United States vulnerable to a major earthquake.   It is beyond reason to think that the people of Japan anticipated the potential of the worst earthquake in the nation’s history followed by a devastating tsunami which resulted in the threat of multiple nuclear disasters they now face.  Regardless, education and planning are, by far, our very best defense in emergency preparedness.

While this is certainly an extreme circumstance, multiple disasters do happen and the effects are catastrophic. The west coast and the New Madrid fault zones in the United States are daily confronted with the potential of a significant seismic event. Certainly many countries benefited this past week from the tsunami warning systems that were activated as a result of the event in far away Japan.  Moreover, Japan, unlike the United States, has adopted an earthquake early warning system which gave citizens precious seconds of warning prior to this quake. Perhaps we also need to begin to plan and exercise for “the worst of the worst” scenario which Japan is now certainly facing. It can indeed happen here!

The following article is re-printed with permission from  We appreciate their contribution.

A March 12 explosion at the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Japan, appears to have caused a reactor meltdown.

The key piece of technology in a nuclear reactor is the control rods. Nuclear fuel generates neutrons; controlling the flow and production rate of these neutrons is what generates heat, and from the heat, electricity. Control rods absorb neutrons — the rods slide in and out of the fuel mass to regulate neutron emission, and with it, heat and electricity generation.

A meltdown occurs when the control rods fail to contain the neutron emission and the heat levels inside the reactor thus rise to a point that the fuel itself melts, generally temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, causing uncontrolled radiation-generating reactions and making approaching the reactor incredibly hazardous. A meltdown does not necessarily mean a nuclear disaster. As long as the reactor core, which is specifically designed to contain high levels of heat, pressure and radiation, remains intact, the melted fuel can be dealt with. If the core breaches but the containment facility built around the core remains intact, the melted fuel can still be dealt with — typically entombed within specialized concrete — but the cost and difficulty of such containment increases exponentially.

However, the earthquake in Japan, in addition to damaging the ability of the control rods to regulate the fuel — and the reactor’s coolant system — appears to have damaged the containment facility, and the explosion almost certainly did. There have been reports of “white smoke,” perhaps burning concrete, coming from the scene of the explosion, indicating a containment breach and the almost certain escape of significant amounts of radiation.

At this point, events in Japan bear many similarities to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Reports indicate that up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) of the reactor fuel was exposed. The reactor fuel appears to have at least partially melted, and the subsequent explosion has shattered the walls and roof of the containment vessel — and likely the remaining useful parts of the control and coolant systems.

And so now the question is simple: Did the floor of the containment vessel crack? If not, the situation can still be salvaged by somehow re-containing the nuclear core. But if the floor has cracked, it is highly likely that the melting fuel will burn through the floor of the containment system and enter the ground. This has never happened before but has always been the nightmare scenario for a nuclear power event — in this scenario, containment goes from being merely dangerous, time consuming and expensive to nearly impossible.

Radiation exposure for the average individual is 620 millirems per year, split about evenly between manmade and natural sources. The firefighters who served at the Chernobyl plant were exposed to between 80,000 and 1.6 million millirems.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimates that exposure to 375,000 to 500,000 millirems would be sufficient to cause death within three months for half of those exposed.  A 30-kilometer-radius (19 miles) no-go zone remains at Chernobyl to this day.  Japan’s troubled reactor site is about 300 kilometers from Tokyo.

The latest report from the damaged power plant indicated that exposure rates outside the plant were at about 620 millirems per hour, though it is not clear whether that report came before or after the reactor’s containment structure exploded.


March 14, 2011   No Comments