Survival Kit Worksheet

“OK, I’m clear I need a survival kit.”

Backpack for survivalWe’re all familiar with the concept of a survival kit.

We usually picture a backpack that we can grab at a moment’s notice and that will carry us through a 3-day emergency until things get back to normal or we are taken under the wing of some helpful rescue organization.

But have you thought through . . .

  • What should really be IN the backpack?
  • How should MY backpack differ from YOURS?
  • How many kits do I actually need?

Wait . . .

“You mean I need more than just one?”

Of course you do!  What are the chances of the whole family being together, at home, when the disaster hits?!

Here’s a worksheet we’ve put together to get started on answering these basic questions. (You may have seen the worksheet before. We think it’s an essential tool!)

Go over the worksheet with your family, and share it with your neighborhood group before anyone starts actually putting a kit together or buying a pre-built kit. The instructions are simple, right there at the top.

Survival Kit Worksheet

Because we think survival kits are so essential, we’ve addressed the topic many times and from a number of different perspectives.

Here are some articles I think will be helpful. (There are more on the site. Use the search box in the upper right-hand corner to look up particular topics.)

You may want to check pertinent articles out BEFORE you start shopping for emergency kits and supplies!

We’ll be adding more on this topic. But this is a solid starter.

What we want to avoid is a situation like we saw repeated over an over again when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas — people struggling onto rescue boats carrying belongings in a ratty plastic bag, a pillow case, or climbing in empty handed. Disaster!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

 

Don’t drink that water!

Drop of water from faucet

Stop! Don’t drink that water!

No matter where you live, you could experience a WATER EMERGENCY any day of the week. Why, in just the last couple of weeks, for example . . .

Boil water alerts have happened in Richmond, KY, in Detroit, MI and in Cocoa, FL. Where I live in Southern California, water main breaks took place in Reseda, Gardena and right on Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles.

These are not your extraordinary natural disasters.

We have all been sensitized to the need for clean water in a wide-spread emergency. We watched as the people of Beaumont, TX struggled without their water system for 10 days after it was flooded. And we are still watching the people in Puerto Rico for whom water of any quality is nearly impossible to get.

We understand what happened in these places, devastated by historic floods and storms.

Today we are taking a look at local problems.

Rather than a huge catastrophe, it’s more likely that we’ll need to be ready for a localized water problem.

Most of these local problems stem from two things:

  1. A water main break, a repair, or regular maintenance that shuts the system down
  2. An electrical power outage to a water plant or facility

Whenever the water pressure in the system drops, no matter from whatever cause, the water can be contaminated – mostly with dirt and/or bacteria.

What are the signs of danger?

You don’t need to wait for an official news announcement. Sometimes, accidents happen and you will know before the authorities do.

= Your water pressure drops suddenly.

If you notice an unannounced and dramatic drop in water pressure, we recommend you instantly turn off your water to protect the water already in your home’s system. You can always turn it on again later.

= Your water turns murky.

You may see unusual foreign matter in your water. That murkiness is called “turbidity.”  Don’t drink this water – and start thinking about a way to filter it to remove the junk. (More below . . .)

= Your water contains bacteria, parasites, etc.

Unfortunately, your water could contain all kinds of dangerous microorganisms and still look clear and clean. (My son came down with giardia when he got water in his mouth from a high mountain stream. He wasn’t even drinking it – but the resulting diarrhea put him into the hospital for 6 days!)

When water comes through a properly-operating system, these contaminants are removed. If the system fails, so does any guarantee of cleanliness.

That’s when you could get a Boil Water Alert.

If there’s a possibility that your water system has failed or your supply is contaminated, you could get a Boil Water Alert. Officially announced or not, you have several options.

Option One. Switch immediately to bottled/stored water that you know is clean. Use it for drinking, cooking, and washing. This is an emergency; that’s why you have emergency supplies! (If you haven’t put together supplies in advance, and you have to head to the store to buy them, you may be shocked to discover high prices, or worse, empty shelves.)

Option Two. Boil your drinking water until you know your water is safe. Bring water to a rolling boil, boil for one minute, then let cool down. Use this boiled water for drinking, brushing your teeth, preparing food, etc. Do NOT use your dishwasher, ice that was recently made, etc.

Option Three. Disinfect your water if you can’t boil it. One alternative is to add 1/8 teaspoon of regular, unscented household chlorine bleach to a gallon of water. Mix and let stand for 30 minutes before you use it. If you need to, strain cloudy water through a cloth or filter paper before you disinfect it.

You can also disinfect water with water purification tablets. Easy to carry and manage, they are designed to be used in bottles and canteens; just make sure they dissolve completely! (Keep reading for more on water purification.)

How long will you need to boil, disinfect, etc.?

The methods listed above will work well for a day-long water outage, or a week-end camping trip. However, depending on them for days or even weeks at a time will be trying, at best.

If you receive a Boil Water Alert, you can assume it will last for at least 3 days. It takes 48 hours for water quality test results to come back!

If the emergency is much bigger or more serious, you need to have plans for the long term. As you know, it’s recommended that you plan for a gallon of water a day for each person in your family. A family of four, for 3 days, needs 12 gallons. If the emergency lasts 10 days (which is what I think you should plan for), you’ll need 40 gallons. That is a lot!

Now, first off, I would assess my water supplies. Some of your water supplies may be of better quality than others. I’d plan to use “pure” water for drinking and cooking, but would consider using a lesser quality water – like from the rain barrel — for washing my feet. (Obviously, water that you know is contaminated with toxins or dangerous chemicals should not be used at all.)

Maybe your family of 4 doesn’t really need 40 gallons of pure drinkable water. But it still needs that much total water.

How to manage your need for gallons and gallons of water?

Here are a number of suggestions for sources of emergency water. I hope these are all familiar to you! But the question is, have you taken action to be sure they are available for your family right now????

Purchase and store bottled water.

You will be tempted to rinse plastic bottles that you’ve emptied of juice, milk, or whatever, and use them to store water.

Don’t.

You will find it nearly impossible to get these containers clean – and thus, the water you store in them will be suspect. Other options may cost more, but you won’t have to worry about ADDING to the emergency with tainted water!

Case of tottled waterOne-time use plastic bottles of water are cheap, readily available, and easy to move, stash around the house, etc. You can keep regular cheap bottles for 6 months; after that, replace with new ones. (Reusing a plastic water bottle isn’t recommended. The cap collects bacteria from your mouth . . .) Square plastic bottles may be a bit sturdier, and are a lot easier to pack/stack.

A 24-bottle case of bottled water is about 3.2 gallons and weighs about 30 pounds. In my neighborhood I can find them on sale for less than $5. A dozen cases would just about meet your 4-person family needs.

Don’t stack these plastic-wrapped cases too high, because they will collapse and break.

Note: Half gallons of water a lot more convenient and efficient, if you can get them.

P.S. If you click on THIS image, you’ll go nowhere. I think you’ll do better to shop locally and bring home cases of water yourself!

Stack water using interlocking water bricks.

 

Having had thin plastic bottles break in my storage shed, I strongly recommend water bricks! (That’s why I’ve included a BIG picture here!) Yes, they are an investment, but are so much more reliable and far more efficient for storage!  They are of heavy plastic and designed to interlock and stack like Legos. (The manufacturer suggests stacking them no more than 4 ft. high.) Each regular brick holds 3.5 gallons, and weighs just over 30 pounds when filled. You can fill with clean water from the tap, seal, and store for several years. Or, add water preserver for more peace of mind.

You can even add a spigot to your order of bricks to make them easier to use.

A dozen or so bricks would work for our example 4-person family for 10 days. Click on the image to get price and details from Amazon.

Store water in a 55 gallon barrel

I’m referring here to barrels that are made specifically for this purpose. (Our neighborhood emergency team was able to make a great group purchase one year. Haven’t found anything like it since!)

You’ll need a spigot and a pump to get the water out of the barrel. And naturally, you won’t be able to move this water supply, since a full barrel weighs over 400 lbs. Find a good spot, place the barrel on a wood platform — a couple of level boards will do — so it doesn’t touch the cement floor, fill it carefully so as not to introduce any dirt, seal closed, and put a cover over it to keep it clean. Refresh your water once a year for best results.

One barrel could serve the needs of a 4-person family for 10 days.

The barrel shown here comes as a kit, complete with a bung wrench (to turn the plugs), a hand-pump, and water preservative. Click on the image to get more info.

Fill the bathtub if you have time!

Now, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that you DRINK the water you’ve run into your bathtub. After all, just how clean would it be if an emergency were called suddenly? Still, consider buying a bathtub liner designed for this purpose. Open it into the tub, fill from the faucet. Some models have a top to keep the water as clean as possible..

Your bathtub could easily turn out to hold 40 gallons, and maybe even twice that much.

The WaterBob kit shown is designed to hold 100 gallons, and includes a cover and simple pump for conveniently getting just some water out. Click on the image to get all the details of the kit.

Scoop out of the swimming pool? Maybe not.

The water in your pool MIGHT be drinkable if you put some in a glass jar for several hours and let the sun evaporate the chlorine. Still, the chemicals in the water, not to mention ordinary dirt from leaves and dust AND whatever your humans leave behind . . . make this a bad choice for drinking and cooking.

If the electricity is out, then the cleanliness of the pool will deteriorate even more quickly because the pool pump and filters will stop working. Again, filter and clean it as best you can, and then use for purposes other than cooking and drinking.

Turn to collected rainwater, streams and other open sources of water.

Now we’re back to the problem of contamination. The only way you can safely drink even from a clear mountain stream is using a filter. The single-person LifeStraw is the standard – it will filter 1,000 gallons of water before needing to be replaced. You can get the LifeStraw many places for around $20. Naturally, get one for each person.

Not every family member will want to or even be able to use the LifeStraw, and it  won’t put water into a pot for cooking.
In this case, you’ll need a gravity-fed filtration system like the Katadyn or the LifeStraw family-size version. These hanging bags can filter several gallons of water in an hour. The image shows the LIfeStraw model, which filters 9-12 liters/hour. Click on the image to find out more.

With a filter system like this you’ll easily reclaim the 4 gallons a day you need to keep your family going for an extended period.

Purification tablets are a convenient back-up.

Water-borne diseases are the dangerous aftermath of many natural disasters, when people bathe, drink or eat food that has been exposed to infected water. Children are particularly susceptible to the bacteria and protozoa in unclean and unsafe water.

Fortunately, it is easy to add water purification tablets or liquid to your emergency supplies list. Potable Aqua, shown, is a well-respected brand.

At home after the boil-water notice has been lifted?

It will take some flushing to be sure your home systems are clean and ready to go back to work. Some recommendations:

• Flush hot water faucets for 15 minutes, and cold water for 5.
• Change your refrigerator water filter and any other water filters.
• Empty ice cubes, run through a cycle and discard those cubes, too.
• Run your dishwasher empty for a cycle. Then rewash everything that came into contact with water just before the boil-water notice.
• Discard and clean containers, then refill any water used in humidifiers, CPAP machines, electric toothbrushes, etc.

Be ready for a short-term or a long-term outage, and you’ll sail through. If you’re NOT prepared, or your neighbors aren’t prepared, something simple could turn into a real emergency, or even a disaster.

Take action today to store emergency water. It’s easy when everything is operating as it should. When the system is broken, it may be too late.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. I didn’t account for the water that pets may need.  Be sure to build that into your plan!

 

 

5-point Safety Checkup for Daylight Savings Time Change

Emergency waiting to happenJust waiting for you to make a mistake!

It’s “Spring Forward, Fall Back” time here again this weekend. Along with re-setting the clocks, this time of year now has expanded to include reminders for emergency preparedness.

Of course, you know about checking the batteries in your smoke alarm. But that’s just the start! So read on, for some simple actions that if overlooked could put you in BIG trouble.

To the extent that your safety and security depend in part on your neighbors’ preparedness, be sure you share this list with them, too!

1-Change the batteries in your smoke alarm.

You should know this statistic from the National Fire Protection Association by heart: Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.  Nuff said?

And here’s a real life story to go with the statistic.

A couple of years ago on a Saturday, the local fire department, police department cadets, some EMTs, and the Red Cross, supported by our Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, installed 461 new smoke alarms in our neighborhood! (Funded by a grant, in case you’re wondering.)

The alarm packaging said, “10-year guarantee” so naturally we were all annoyed when people began reporting that their smoke alarms were “chirping.”

Here’s what we discovered about alarms chirping:

  • Nearly all people who heard the chirping incorrectly identified where it was coming from! In nearly every case, it was from an already installed OLD alarm, and not the new one.
  • The 10-year guarantee works for the mechanism. When it comes to the battery, the guarantee applies only to alarms that have sealed lithium batteries. If your smoke alarm has a replaceable battery, check it and replace it or it will surely start chirping, like ours did, in the middle of the night!
  • Every battery has an indicated life. Just remember, you may buy new batteries today but you don’t know how much of that “life” has already expired while the battery was on a shelf somewhere.

Upshot? Simply replace your alarm batteries twice a year when the time changes. A few dollars invested can save your life.

2-Change the batteries in your walkie-talkies.

Same concept: when the emergency hits, if you don’t have fresh batteries, you may have lost an important tool.

Walkie-talkies take AA or AAA batteries. Over the years we have tested different brands and over the years the “winner” in the test has been different every time!

Get the right size, get the longest life available, and TEST them regularly. Every month we catch a couple of dead Walkie-Talkies during our monthly drill. (Of course, if people forget to turn the Walkie-talkies off after the drill, the chances of the batteries going bad are about 100%.) (And corroded batteries can destroy the walkie-talkie, too.)

Don’t have Walkie-talkies for your group or family? Here’s our walkie-talkie reviews to get you started on adding some.

3-Check your fire extinguishers and replace if they have lost pressure.

Fire extinguishers can last many years, but – Do you really remember when you bought yours?

A good extinguisher has a pressure gauge to help you track its functionality. Check the gauge when the time changes, if not more frequently. Not sure if the extinguisher is any good? Get a new one.

Looking to re-charge your extinguisher? We’ve looked, and haven’t found a reasonably-priced service. Maybe you can find one, but chances don’t seem to be very good.

4-Refresh your first aid kits.

We’ve written before about the drawbacks of most purchased first aid kits.

Still, you’ll want to start with a basic kit, and add your own enhancements.

At the left is a starter kit, available at Amazon, that looks even better than ones we’ve recommended before. Click on the image to get full details, but note to start with that this kit has soft sides with pockets labeled so you can see everything at a glance.  (Most of the inexpensive kits that I see are simply a zippered container with contents thrown in.)

Any first aid kit needs customization, and that’s where a regular check-up is important. At the time change, pull together all your kits (from your cars, your Go-Bags, etc.) and look in particular for . . .

  • Small medicine bottles whose contents have dried up completely.
  • Tubes of medicine that have been accidentally crimped or punctured and are oozing gook.
  • Band aids that have torn packaging and thus have lost sterility and stick.
  • Pills that have expired.
  • Scissors or other tools that have mysteriously developed spots of rust.

Repeal and replace as appropriate!

5-Clean out coils and filters to prevent fire.

We’re talking refrigerator, heater, and clothes dryer. All these collect dust and lint in hard-to-see and harder-to-get-to places, and can overheat or even (in the case of the dryer) burst into flames.

Enlist help to move or open any pieces of equipment or access doors, and attack with the wand and the crevice tool of your vacuum cleaner.

When you’ve finished vacuuming, empty its dust container and replace the filter in the vacuum, too.

While we’re on vacuum cleaners, a couple more safety notes:

  • Don’t leave a vacuum cleaner running while you go to another room. It can overheat and start a fire! (Just go onto YouTube to see a number of dramatic examples. . .!)
  • Check the cord and plug of your vacuum to be sure they aren’t damaged or frayed. These cords get hot! (Even the cord of my quite new Navigator gets really warm, just from being in normal use.)

That’s it.

You may have discovered that your 60 minute time change job has turned into a multi-hour project!

However, once you’ve gone through the steps once, it’ll be easier next time. Also, you may be able to turn the whole thing into a family bonding exercise by delegating different jobs to different family members, and presenting it as a contest!

However you get through the 5-point list, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your home is good to go for another six months. And you won’t be caught by an emergency just waiting to happen — as represented by the eager dinosaur in the picture!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

Wildfires In Our Backyard!

Virginia scanning important documents

Procrastinating no longer

Here in California wildfires are threatening thousands. Last Tuesday the evacuation area got within 5 miles . . . but fortunately for us, the fire turned and headed in another direction.

That fire is still burning, but for the time being we are safe.

The whole situation developed quickly. People just 15 minutes north of us were forced to leave their homes with only minutes’ warning.

Moreover, even though their houses haven’t been damaged, these people still haven’t been able to get home again!

The close call right here at home has made me reconsider our own state of preparedness.

I am embarrassed to tell our story of being “ready for evacuation.” 

I have written many times about go-bags.

Our go-bags were ready.

We have them in the house and smaller ones in the car.  They include a change of clothing, some water, first aid kit, personal items. At the top of each bag: shoes and a flashlight. So, all I had to do was put in some prescription pills.

I added a couple of personal items to my house bag, and some energy bars, and stashed it near the back door. So far, so good.

How about the car?

Our car was 7/8 full of gas, thanks to Joe’s unfailing attention.

Plus there’s a warm blanket and even a pillow in there, our CERT duffel bag, and a couple of walkie-talkies.

But what else would we put into the car?

Here’s where the challenge became clear.

  • What about our “original official documents” that we’ve collected over a lifetime – birth certificates, death certificates, marriage and divorce certificates. Military records. Transcripts. Credentials. At least they are all mostly in one filing cabinet drawer! One big swoop and they all landed in a cardboard file box.
  • What about proof of ownership of the house, the car, past houses, past cars, property taxes on all? What about insurance on all these? OK, another drawer and a second box was filled.
  • All the business records – we’ll take the computers themselves, a laptop plus a desktop with keyboard, screen, mouse. The back-up drives. Oh, and that binder with all the account passwords in it . . .Ugh. This would take time to disassemble and haul outside. We leave all this for later.
  • Photo albums! Another THREE boxes full, and we’re leaving the framed pictures behind on the wall.
  • All the cards — credit cards, health cards, insurance cards, passports. Plus some cash. Surprising how much room these take up when you never seem to have enough of them!
  • Phones, power bank, plugs and cords. Ham radio and batteries. This stuff is scattered throughout the house.
  • And more . . .

It quickly became clear that we have far more to save than is possible to stuff in the car.

But what was even more painful was the realization that for all our writing and speaking and encouraging and nagging, we had never taken the time to prepare fully for evacuation.

We have procrastinated about scanning our official papers!

Flash drive holds copies of important papers

The answer to important papers

The data from more than half the items listed above would fit easily on a couple of flash drives!

So, that’s why you see that photo of me at the top of the page, scanning what is actually my mother’s birth certificate! I’m using our all-in-one printer. Even a  modest multi-function printer can do a reasonable job as a scanner.

Of course, it will take hours to scan EVERYTHING using this printer/scanner.

So, I’m actually going to take it step by step. (I’ll be leaving the filled file boxes stacked in the hall, just in case another emergency arises!)

  1. First I need to come up with the labeling system I want to use to be able to find things later. (Not too hard. I’ll use the same file names I have in my computer.)
  2. I’ll start with documents that would be difficult or impossible to recreate, like that birth certificate, or photos.
  3. Documents that exist in some government or commercial file somewhere (like property tax records) will be a lower priority.

Of course, I could also scan documents using a smart phone. Depending on what version of phone you have, you can get an app that will allow you to scan documents into your phone, send to your computer or store in the cloud (DropBox, OneDrive, Evernote). Some of these apps are free; some cost a few dollars. Depending on what you need, you can adjust for size and clarity, combine multiple pages into one document, convert text into editable files, etc. This would work really well for scanning on the go, of course.

If scanning each document one at a time gets too onerous, I’ll likely invest in a higher-speed document scanner. (In the past we used a desktop scanner for business receipts. It scanned well but became outdated and as our business needs changed it wasn’t worth it for us to upgrade.) A full-featured desk-top scanner that can handle multiple pages at a time, with documents of different sizes and shapes, may cost $200-$400; the “mobile” models (about the size of a short box of tinfoil – the documents feed through one at a time) cost less than $100. Before you buy, make sure to find out if you are required to purchase a monthly subscription for the software and/or the digital storage as part of the deal.

Of course, you can also consider using a professional document scanning service. Many options are available. Some services scan, store, or shred. Some certify. Some can convert scanned documents to searchable pdfs for ease of retrieval. Photo retouching may also be available. It all depends on the number and condition of your documents, and your concerns for privacy.

In my case, images of my documents will end up in my computer, copied on a flash drive, backed up on our back-up drives, and . . .

I’ll also file these digital documents somewhere in the cloud!

We’ve prepared before for evacuation from potential flooding, but we had plenty of time to do it. This last week, once the order came down, we would have had only minutes to get things organized and out the door.

Yes, that go-bag is the first step. But taking care of other “loose ends” is also part of preparing for an evacuation.

Boxes packed for evacuation

Still in the hall . . .

This has been a valuable lesson for us. I hope it’s useful for you, too. I’ll let you know how the scanning goes.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

P.S. These are the boxes I mentioned. As you can see, they’ve been used before. We always have a few empty ones on hand!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How prepared is your child?

How prepared is your child?

Ever been accused of being overly protective of your children?

Maybe it’s true. And it’s doing them a disservice, because . . .

When it comes to an emergency situation – you MAY NOT BE THERE to protect your child!

The good news?

Children are trainable! They are resilient! Give them tools to work with, and they can surprise you.

(Heck, this goes on throughout your life as a parent!)

Start where you are.

Here are some questions you can ask your kids to see just how well they would manage BY THEMSELVES in an emergency.

Of course, the first reaction for most small children would be to run crying for you. But what if you are not there? These questions are designed to help your child think past that initial reaction and move through to the next step.

How well the question-answer conversation goes will depend for the most part on your own ability to guide it in a meaningful way – i.e., with the right amount of information for each child. (It’s easy to go overboard . . .!)

But if you can help your child realize that there is a course of action he or she can take that will be smart and that will help . . . then you’ve made a huge difference in how well things will turn out.

So, some sample questions. Pick one to start with.

  1. If there’s a fire in the house, what would you do first?
  2. If you are at the park playing, and you feel an earthquake, what would you do?
  3. If you’re home alone, and you hear our smoke alarm go off, what would you do?
  4. If a policeman is knocking at the door, what would you do?
  5. What if you try to call 911 and no one answers?

These are pretty tough questions. Your child probably won’t be happy even thinking about something happening when he’s alone.

Still, given a bit of encouragement, your children can probably come up with some good ideas.

The purpose of the conversation is to remind your child that emergencies DO happen, to figure out what your child knows already about dealing with them, and then identify more good ideas and turn them into action steps.

Build simple action steps with your child.

What follows are some examples of action steps that might be appropriate. You will build your own list, depending on where you live, the makeup of your household and the skill level of your child.

  • Be sure you can tell a Firefighter or a Police Officer your whole name (first Name, last name) and where you live (your street address). (I’ve met 6 year old children who are unable to talk to adults.)
  • Memorize your home telephone number or a parent’s cell phone number. (This applies to older children, too!)
  • Know at least two ways you can get out of the house. How can you get out of the second floor of the house if you can’t go down the stairs? (Only kids who like the idea of “escaping” have really considered this!)
  • If the lights go out, find a flashlight. (Where?)
  • Fix a meal while you’re waiting for things to get back to normal.
  • When you feel an earthquake, the first thing to do is: ____, ____ and ____. (Children in California schools know this one.) What if the earthquake happens at night when you’re in bed? (Cover your head with the pillow. Don’t jump up and run barefoot through the dark house! Flashlight? Shoes?)
  • Call 911 in an emergency.  (Having a landline will allow even small children to call for help. If teens and adults all just have cell phones, a small child may have no options.)
  • If there’s no answer at 911, what does that mean?
  • Don’t automatically open the door because someone says so. (What else could you do?)
  • When you can’t stay in the house, or can’t reach it, go to our “safe place.”
  • If you have to leave in an emergency, grab your go-bag.
  • In an emergency, wear shoes.
  • And more . . .

Now, it’s on to the most important, third piece of this plan.

Practice the action steps.

When a disaster disrupts your child’s regular routine, a back-up plan THAT’S BEEN PRACTICED will fall into place. Without that practice, the child will likely be unable to make any good decisions.

Every one of the steps you’ve come up with in your conversations can be practiced.

Here are examples that you can use as starters.

  • Go room-by-room through your house and identify 2 exits from each room. (Windows work if they’re not blocked by bushes or bars.) You may want to draw a floorplan of the house and show those exits.
  • Climb to the second floor to see how to get out without going down the stairs. If you have a fire escape or an emergency escape ladder, assemble it and climb down. If you or your child can’t make it down, you can’t count on the ladder to save anyone!
  • Practice reciting address and telephone numbers. The number of your out-of-state contact should be on your list of memorized numbers, too. IF YOUR PHONE IS OUT OR GONE YOU WON”T BE ABLE TO PULL UP NUMBERS FOR AUTOMATIC DIALING.
  • Pick a place for flashlights or emergency lights and make it a game to find every one. Try to keep the lights in their assigned places so you could find them in the dark.
  • Make sure your child can prepare a simple (uncooked) meal while she’s waiting, or get to an emergency snack. This simple job will be reassuringly normal.
  • Practice making phone calls using a variety of phones.
  • Build family go-bags together. Right on top: SHOES (and then a flashlight). Stash the bags in an appropriate place.
  • Grab your go-bag and take a walk to your “safe place” (assembly point) outside the house or further away in the neighborhood. Have the child lead the way. Take the walk again, in the dark.
  • Practice communicating using walkie talkies.

Add more skills as your child gets older.

Schools train children on some of the basics. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have emergency preparedness and first aid training, too. FEMA and CERT offer programs especially for high-school-aged children.

If you take your kids camping, that’s a perfect time to practice a whole other group of survival skills: building a fire, understanding how to build a shelter, knowing when it’s safe to drink water, “capturing” water using a plastic bag over a branch, tying knots, using tools, administering basic first aid, reading a compass, etc.

If you are looking for more info on preparing children, consider these resources:

www.fema.gov/children-and-disasters

This page lists a whole collection of resources aimed at different age levels and different audiences (for example, educators, social services, etc.). Some of the programs are co-sponsored by Ready.gov, the Red Cross, Dept. of Education, etc.

https://www.ready.gov

This easily accessible site has good descriptions of what to expect in a particular type of emergency (hurricane, tornado, etc.) and helpful suggestions for building a go-bag. (Don’t forget our Emergency Plan Guide booklet on how to build customized bags.)

The KIDS section at Ready.gov offers a series of simple comic books with accompanying tips for parents and educators.

http://www.savethechildren.org  Resources at this site include some downloadable checklists for parents and for child care professionals. The checklists might be appropriate for members of your emergency response group, too.

In summary . . .

Grab some of the resources listed here, and build disaster preparedness and response reminders and actions into your daily family routines. Add new “content” as your children get older.

Disasters will happen.

Unless you have prepared your children to take action without you being there to tell them what to do . . . they are more likely to be hurt, trapped or at the very least, traumatized.

Protecting your children from disasters isn’t as good as preparing them to get through successfully.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

Emergency Communications Revisited

 

Cell phone no signal

Hard to imagine: “Puerto Rico residents still without communications, now into third week . . .”

But it was hard to imagine that the U.S. would be hit by back-to-back-to-back hurricanes and flooding, too.

Emergencies happen. Overnight they can turn into disastersAnd if you’re caught in the middle, you want to know what’s happening and be able to reach out to let others know what’s happening.

It’s time to take another look at personal emergency communications.

What you’ll grab first – your cell phone!

Since most people have their phone within reach 24/7, it’s likely to be your first choice in an emergency. Phones can connect with family, receive electronic alerts, and come up with what to do in case of disease, traffic jams, etc.

Cell phone tip: Pre-program your cellphone with important emergency numbers (police, fire, utilities) and create a “group” with family members so you can reach them all quickly.

Your cell phone is an important tool, as long as it’s working.

Three reasons why your cell phone may not work in an emergency:

  1. Cell phone towers are pretty sturdy, but can be damaged and even knocked down by big winds or a big earthquake. Result: no service at all.
  2. Service can be overwhelmed by too many people trying to use it at once – ex., the Boston Marathon. Result: busy signal.
  3. Your phone may, and eventually will, run out of battery unless you have made provisions to keep it charged.

Three ways to have a better chance of getting through. 

  1. Text or tweet instead of calling. These messages need far less bandwidth and can be “stored” in the system until they’re deliverable.
  2. Send your message or call your out-of-town family contact instead of local friends or family members. Naturally, this arrangement has to be set up in advance.
  3. Carry a battery back-up for your phone – one of the power banks or a solar charger – to give yourself a better chance of eventually getting through. Some emergency radios can charge a phone, too. (Want more on batteries, power banks or solar chargers? Here’s an Advisory covering these devices.)

 No cell phone? Don’t forget to try a land-line.

When a power outage has crippled communications, a simple phone attached to a landline may still have a dial tone. Of course, you have to know whatever number it is you want to call!  (That’s why you have memorized a few numbers, right?)

And as we’ve said many times, the operator answering your cell phone 911 call only knows approximately where you are, particularly if you are in a high-rise building. A landline pinpoints your location.

Facing a longer term outage?

Puerto Rico has been cut off for weeks. But not EVERYONE there is cut off!

Three kinds of emergency communications are being used there by people who were prepared in advance of the storm.

  1. Short-reach walkie-talkies. Depending on the quality of the instrument, the weather and the terrain, battery-operated walkie-talkies can connect people across the street or across town.We recommend that all families and neighborhood emergency response groups consider getting their members walkie-talkies (with extra batteries). Even small children can master their use easily. See a couple of examples below, and take another look at our updated Walkie-Talkies Reviews to see if you are considering adding walkie-talkies to your emergency supplies: http://emergencyplanguide.org/reviews/Best Walkie-Talkies/ 
  2. Wider-reach HAM radios. This is the one option mentioned more than any other by the professionals in my LinkedIn group. Over 3,000 ham radio operators have been active in Puerto Rico since the hurricane hit. They have been assisting the American Red Cross to gather records about survivors, transmit personal messages to families, and help dispatch power authority crews. (Article: Amateur Radio Volunteers Aiding Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands)You can get started with a HAM radio for less than $100, but realistically you’ll probably want a better device and additional equipment (power supply, antenna, etc.) so budget for more. Joe is a licensed HAM operator and wrote more about the radios and training, here: http://emergencyplanguide.org/getting-serious-about-emergency-radio-operations/
  3. Satellite phones for world-wide connection. As the name suggests, these phones use satellites to carry their calls. When cell towers are down or you are so far from civilization that there are no towers (mid-ocean? Antarctica?), this might be your best bet for staying in communication.As you might imagine, it costs a lot more to own and use these phones. Prices for most devices themselves (some rather like a clunky cell phone, others more complex, like a computer with handset) range from $500 to $1500 or more. Prices for actually using the phones start at around $40/month at the low end, or you can buy by the minute. More details here. http://emergencyplanguide.org/ultimate-emergency-communications-device/

Examples of hand-held emergency radios

Most emergency radios are compact, though they are heavier than a regular cell phone. And, they will require practice before you can tune them successfully. Don’t think they are terribly expensive.  Most of them cost less than the latest Apple iPhone.  Some examples are below. Click on the image to go directly to Amazon for full details and current pricing. (We are Amazon affiliates. I’m happy to refer you there because items are almost always available and prices are often better than anywhere else.)

Baofeng -- Basic 2-way dual band HAM radio; VHF and UHF; costs around $70-80. Yaesu -- Mid-range quad band HAM radio. Submersible. Yaesu makes several; this one costs around $500. Irridium Satellite Radio. Click on image and go to Amazon where you should read the reviews, particularly the one about Alaska. Cost around $1,000.

And here are a couple of examples of walkie-talkies. We own and have used both models; the Uniden is what the members of our Neighborhood Emergency Response Team use and practice with every month. Click on the image to get details at Amazon.



Good basic walkie-talkies. Great for local group, family or workplace. Easiest-to-manage buttons. Cost around $40 a pair.I like these because they're yellow and not so hard to locate in an emergency! Alkaline or rechargeable batteries; NOAA weather channels. Cost around $70 a pair.

If a radio and/or battery charging device sounds as though it makes sense to you, get started on your purchase now. It’d be hard to find someone selling one during a disaster.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. An upcoming Advisory will be on serious solar panels designed to drive all these communications devices.  If you haven’t signed up to get ALL the Advisories, do so now! (Fill out the form below!)

Preliminary Findings

Remember this?

Business Survival Survey

A little over a week ago we put out a short survey. Its purpose was simple. Knowing that survival statistics are bad for businesses with no emergency plan, we wanted to . . .

Alert readers to potential weaknesses at THEIR places of business.

A first round of answers has come in, and they have encouraged us to widen the reach of the survey before coming up with a final report.

In the meanwhile, though, we want to share some preliminary findings because they are compelling. (We’re not sharing everything in detail because we don’t want any responders to be able to identify themselves in the answers!)

Here are three questions whose answers were particularly dramatic.

“Do we have a plan?”

Around 25% of our readers say their company has no plan – a lot better than averages that you’ll see below. More unsettling, though, was the 30% of our readers who admitted that THEY DON’T KNOW IF THERE’S A PLAN OR NOT!

Clearly, these businesses are the most vulnerable to being shut down by a disaster — and never re-opening. Those statistics are well established:

  • Nationwide’s 2016 poll of 300 small businesses found that most small-business owners (68 percent) still don’t have a written disaster recovery plan, That’s better than the 75% from two years earlier, but still shockingly high!
  • And the long-standing statistics from FEMA remain the same: 40% of small businesses without plans that are forced to close due to a disaster – never reopen!

Of course, just having a plan doesn’t guarantee you’ll get through unscathed. But it certainly will improve your chances of at least getting through alive!

Action item: If your business has no continuity plan, see if you can uncover the reasons why not. (Tread delicately.)

“Do we know what to do in an emergency?”

As you can imagine, employees at companies with no plan, or where the plan hasn’t been practiced, WILL NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO IN AN EMERGENCY.

In our small survey, over 70% of the companies leave people totally to their own devices when it comes to responding to an emergency!

If your company falls into this category, you personally may have some idea of what you’d do first, and what others should be doing. (I feel confident in saying this because you’ve been thinking and reading about emergency preparedness for a while, via Emergency Plan Guide.)

But what about the rest of the people? Would they be able to help, or would they hinder? Would you be able to direct any activity? What about new hires, or temporary employees? What about visitors?

You can imagine the chaos – and the possibility of further danger or damage!

“Does the business have a plan for communicating with our families?”

So far, this has been the piece of the plan that most businesses overlook altogether. In our survey, nearly 90% of people said there was NO PLAN FOR CONTACTING FAMILIES.

Over the years at Emergency Plan Guide we’ve reported about what happens when employees are separated from their families. In Katrina, police officers abandoned their posts. In one shocking incident in Japan, 128 elderly people were abandoned by medical staff at a hospital. Just recently in Florida, four city employees decided to stay at home from work to be with their families and pets – and they were fired!

And we’ve seen what’s been happening in Puerto Rico over the past 10 days, when families have been totally cut off.

Whether you are required or expected stay at work may be written into your contract. You can’t be forced to stay, of course, but your employer is free to fire you if you don’t follow that contract.

In any case, being able to let your family know you’re O.K., and knowing THEY are O.K., would allow you to make a better decision about your next step. A good disaster plan includes preparations for facilitating these emergency communications for employees.

What’s next?

Thanks to our friends who took the survey, we have already been encouraged to follow up on some specific threads, with more Advisories. We have a book in the planning stages, too. It will be specifically for small businesses.

In the meanwhile, we need more data to make our survey more reliable.

We’ll be reaching out to more people to get more data, and you can help!  First, if you didn’t take the survey last week, feel free to take it now! (Statistics from SurveyMonkey showed that sure enough, the average time to finish the survey was less than 2 minutes!) Here’s the direct link to the survey:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NJW29HR

Second, forward this message to people you care about! Encourage them to participate in the survey and to sign up to get ongoing Advisories, like you do.

(You will see the “ad” for the survey on the home page: http://EmergencyPlanGuide.org )

For all of us, the best time to think about responding to a disaster is BEFORE it happens.

Thanks – and stay tuned for more!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

More Lessons from Harvey

Hurricane, downed power lines

 

And now from Irma and Maria . . .

[Note: Please consider using this Advisory as the agenda for a meeting of your neighborhood emergency response team, and include this information in a neighborhood or church newsletter. Share it online. This is information we ALL need to consider!]

The last couple of weeks have been so full of stories about and from hurricane victims that I hesitate to add to the outpouring. But I feel I can’t just sit back and wait for things to settle down. So, here is a continuation of my earlier Advisory on Lessons from Harvey – The First Week.

This Advisory adds observations from Irma and Maria, too.

1. Still the most likely emergency: no power

Texas update: A week after Harvey, I checked the Entergy Texas website. The recurring language (my italics!):

“Power has been restored to all customers in the area impacted by Hurricane Harvey except for customers served by flood damaged equipment, areas that are still flooded, and areas impacted by [specific] substation outages.”

Even as late as last week – nearly 4 weeks after the storm struck —  4,000 were still without power.

Florida update: The outages in Florida from Hurricane Irma were even more widespread. At its height, the power outages affected “62% of the state’s 10.5 million households.”  News reports from five days ago (9-17-2017) say that about 20,000 homes are still dark.

Puerto Rico update: “Puerto Rico’s entire power grid was knocked offline during the storm and the island is facing months without power.”

You have got to be asking yourself,  “How would we fare without power?”

First, it’s important to realize that as an ordinary resident, even after the rain is gone YOU CAN’T FIX YOUR OWN POWER PROBLEMS. That’s why utility teams came to Florida from as far as California to help! These teams have to . . .

  • De-energize dangerous fallen power lines, remove trees from lines, put up new poles, etc. The image above is typical of the mess to be cleared up.
  • Inspect and repair or replace meters that have been flooded.
  • Wait for YOU to get repairs made to your house – repairs that pass inspections — before they can turn the power back on.

All this takes days and days, if not weeks.

Last week, we looked at how to choose battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. If you haven’t got your emergency lighting in place yet, head there now. Shelves will be empty if you wait until something happens.

Turning to a generator for longer-term power needs is a completely different decision. We’ve studied this option a number of times, and our neighborhood emergency team purchased a generator some years ago. Questions we had to answer:

  • What would be the limited PURPOSE of the generator? It can’t run everything in a home or office.
  • What size is best? Where would a generator be kept? (Remember in Texas that the back-up generators for the chemical plant were themselves destroyed by the flood.)
  • How much fuel would it need, and where would fuel be stored?

Get professional assistance before making this decision. Here’s an Advisory from earlier this year, with more background information. http://emergencyplanguide.org/portable-generator-safety-update/

And another Advisory focusing on preparing for a power outage in a business setting. http://emergencyplanguide.org/power-outage-at-work/

2. Hidden water problems?

Whenever a disaster involves water, there are additional concerns besides simply having enough water for survivors to drink.

Health care professionals are watching in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma for longer-term health issues including . . .

  • Pollution from sewage. Every image we see of people wading through flood water should make you cringe! These people may be coming directly into contact with sewage. Even the entire water system may have been contaminated. Diseases from sewage pollution can result in death.
  • Chemical pollution. In Texas we all got a powerful lesson about the dangers associated with oil and chemical pollution of water supplies. These dangers are usually not immediate, but could emerge as cancer years after the incident.
  • Mold. Again, when flood water finally withdraws, mold can grow. It’s the danger of mold that prompts people to throw out not just furniture but entire floors and walls, or to abandon their home altogether.
  • Mosquitoes. Standing water after the flood is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and thus increases the chance of viruses like Zika and West Nile and fevers like dengue and chikungunya. Patrol your property and neighborhood and get rid of standing water.

Emergency preparations thus include not just supplies of clean water but also knowledge to help you identify a potential health problem related to polluted water.

3. What about rebuilding after the power comes back on?

Do you have enough money to rebuild your home if it is destroyed by floods? Probably not. That’s where insurance comes in.

Check out this lengthy Advisory about flood insurance. http://emergencyplanguide.org/flood-damage-not-covered-by-insurance/

If there is any chance that you could be hit by heavy rains, flooding or storm surge, you should be asking:

  • What does my Homeowner’s Insurance cover?
  • Do I have to live in a flood plain to get flood insurance?
  • Where do I get flood insurance?
  • Does the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) have maximum limits? (Hint: YES)
  • What is covered by NFIP?
  • What isn’t covered?

Whether or not your flood insurance is adequate, given what we’ve seen lately, or whether you should even get insurance, depends on YOUR answers to the questions above.

Note: There’s a lot in the news lately about the flood insurance program being CUT BACK. I’ll try to keep you up to date.

If you have questions about flood insurance for your home, start with the Advisory mentioned above and then talk to your insurance agent.

4. How will businesses fare?

Even if you’re not a business owner, the impact of a huge storm on the local economy will impact you, too.

According to Scott Teel, Senior Director of Communications for Agility Recover Solutions, in most cases it takes a business about 14 days to recover from a natural disaster. FEMA ads some more, and very sobering, statistics: about 40 percent of small businesses will never reopen after a disaster.

It’s not hard to imagine why. Fourteen days is a long time . . .

First, there’s the flood or the rain that causes the business to shut down, sometimes even a couple of days before the storm actually hits. Then the storm hits; over the three-five days of these recent hurricanes we’ve seen restaurants flooded, fishing boats tossed and destroyed, hotels torn apart.

Even if the building itself isn’t damaged, any business that requires electricity to operate or accepts payment via credit card – like that restaurant, a bank, a gas station, you name it! – will lose revenue during a power outage.

During the shut-down, the business will likely lose employees unless it has funds to pay them for this down time. It will likely lose customers, who are forced to look elsewhere for suppliers to keep their own enterprises going.

What can a business do to protect itself?

  1. Some businesses have a disaster plan that gives owners and employees an understanding of what it will take to carry on essential functions. Naturally, these folks have a better chance of making it through.
  2. Other companies’ plans go so far as to maintain arrangements for the company to move to an alternate location to carry on these essential functions. (As you can imagine, these plans can become pricey.)
  3. Some businesses carry special Business Continuation Insurance that will help, although too great a delay in getting payments can still mean the demise of the business.

If your company doesn’t yet have a disaster plan, you can get started building one using our Guide to a Simple Business Continuation Plan. Request your free copy here. http://emergencyplanguide.org/no-business-continuation-plan-is-a-threat-in-itself/

OK, that’s enough for now.

Our first look at recent disasters talked about immediate issues – having enough water, supplies, and an evacuation kit. This second look brings up some of the longer-term issues that may arise: power outages, health concerns, insurances.

It all goes to reinforce what we have learned at Emergency Plan Guide – when the emergency hits, it’s too late to do any planning or preparing!

Do what you can now to prepare. Whatever you do will serve you better than having done nothing.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Again, thanks for sharing.

 

 

Emergency Transportation Options

Emergency Transportation

 

How to Get Around After The Disaster

Recent flooding in Texas and Louisiana, and earthquakes back to back in Mexico, have again brought our attention to what really happens in a widespread emergency when it comes to getting out or getting around. Here are some of the issues we’ve talked about, and are talking about again, in our community as a result of news coverage.

Will roads be passable?

Here in Southern California, we’re not likely to experience wide-spread flooding, or anything like the frozen image above! Most of our likely natural disasters will be from rainstorm, fire or earthquake, and even then we assume that MOST of our streets will be passable.  At least, there is likely to be an alternate way around a blockage or breakage (as long as your GPS is still working).

However, a regular passenger car may not be able to negotiate a flooded or broken streets. And, if streets have fissures that are leaking natural gas (yes, pipes do break in storms and earthquakes), any combustion-engine vehicle could become dangerous in itself.

Also, given the long distances people regularly travel to and from school and the store, not to mention commuting to work, cars are likely to run out of gas if the emergency is prolonged. (Remember the images of cars lined up waiting for gas in Texas? When only 2 pumps were still operating?)

Alternatives to regular passenger cars

4-wheel-drive vehicles

Hardy survival types will naturally point to the value of having a 4-wheel-drive vehicle that can go off-road if necessary.  There’s no question that such a vehicle might be useful in an emergency, although it’s tough to justify maintaining one here “just in case,” since it’s not made for freeway travel.  And given the gas mileage of most of these vehicles, having supplies of gasoline would be a challenge. Still, as we saw with Harvey, high-profile pick-up trucks and SUVs played an important  role in rescuing people trapped by flooding. Here in California, being able to climb over broken curbs and streets might be a big advantage to such a vehicle.

Golf carts

In a big emergency, unless you’ve been evacuated, you’re likely to be staying as close to home as possible. And for getting around a disrupted neighborhood, a golf cart may be a good alternative to a car. Golf carts can travel on regular streets, on sidewalks and walking paths, and, of course, over open ground. They can be configured to carry two or four people. Some can pull a trailer to move heavier supplies, transport trash and even remove dead bodies (in body bags) to remote areas. (Sorry about the gruesome reference, but it’s a reality we have to face.)

Carts come in a variety of models and horsepower. You can expect to pay anywhere from under $1,000 to several thousand dollars, depending on the model, equipment, battery-power, etc. These carts mostly use an array of 6,8 or 12-volt batteries, just like in your car, and that means you will have a replacement cycle every 4-5 years plus the requirement to keep them charged.

Some golf carts are now being manufactured with solar panels built onto or serving directly as the canopy. These panels can keep the cart’s batteries charged indefinitely. Carts also come with (or accept) plastic or water-proof enclosure kits that make it easier to operate in inclement weather. (I don’t know if any snow tires are available for them.)

Golf Cart Update as of 9-19-2017. This morning I spoke to Julie at PowerFilm regarding their aftermarket solar canopy kit for golf carts.  Here’s what I found out.

The kit’s main part is a cover made of thin-film panels for the roof of your cart. If you’re not used to thin film, it comes in a flexible sheet — has been used by the U.S. military for years to lay out on the ground to generate power wherever they find themselves. In the case of the golf cart, the panel arrives rolled up. You unroll it and fasten it to the roof with what are essentially big snaps. There’s a charge controller (typically goes under the seat) and a 15 ft. cable to connect everything.

For our purposes, we’re interested in the fact that AS LONG AS THERE IS SUNLIGHT, the solar canopy will charge your batteries completely, and even if you’re driving, will keep the batteries from discharging as quickly as they would otherwise. The image shows the black solar panel, sized 36in x 48in.  Here’s the link to Amazon. Slide your mouse over the image when you get to Amazon and you’ll see the panels and the snaps in much better detail. PowerFilm Solar 48V Golf Cart Charging Kit (TXT model) The complete kit costs around $1,100.

In our community, it is likely that after a big earthquake it will be some days before First Responders can get around to helping us. So, our Neighborhood Emergency Response Team will be faced with transporting our First Aid team, or, conversely, elderly or injured residents to First Aid/Triage and/or hospitality sites. Battery-powered golf carts may be what we depend on. We have a number of them, owned by individuals and they have volunteered to make them available to our neighborhood ERT in an emergency. And this summer, our HOA purchased a golf cart exclusively for Association use! 

(Note: Think you’d like to drive your cart to the grocery store or the drugstore? Golf carts are street legal only in a few cities — mostly retirement communities. Such street-legal carts require seat belts, mirrors, turn indicators, etc. Check with your city before you decide to take your cart on the roads. )

Adult 3-wheeled tricycles

We also have a number of tricycles in our senior neighborhood. People ride them regularly for short trips or for longer ones, as exercise. The tricycles are satisfactory for carrying light-duty items (first aid supplies, blankets, etc.) in their rear-mounted baskets.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $500 per bike . . . and over $1,300 for an electric powered unit. (You’d also want a battery-recharge capability for the electric one.) (P.S. I had an electric bike a couple of years ago, and loved it! That extra assist when going up hills allowed me to arrive at work unflustered!)

If you’re shopping, check for SIZE (the image shows a 26-inch model: Schwinn Meridian Adult 26-Inch 3-Wheel Bike (Blue); Schwinn also makes a 24-in.), number of gears, and portability. Some bikes can be folded. Click on the image for details from Amazon about this particular model, and to see others. )

Obviously, if your area is rural and spread out or with lots of hills, the tricycles might prove problematic for your team members. In our case, they work satisfactorily for emergency tranportation as our inclines are not steep and all homes are accessible by streets.

If roads aren’t passable, you’ll be on foot.

Moving yourself or emergency equipment may be far more difficult if it all has to be done by hand — or foot.

Carrying something in your arms, or on your back, works for shorter distances and limited size and/or weight. What’s far more efficient?

A standard dolly or hand truck

Hand-truck

We actually own three different versions of dollies here at our house, and we’ve gone though a number of them over the years! Here are some things to consider.

Lightweight dollies are suitable for carrying boxes of papers or books, a cooler, an emergency pack, luggage.  Most fold nearly flat for easy storage in the closet or trunk of the car. Check carefully about the weight the dolly can carry – and be sure it’s tall enough for you.

Expect to pay around $35 – $45 for a good, small dolly.  Click the links below for details.

Magna Cart Ideal 150 lb Capacity Steel Folding Hand Truck

Industrial-strength dollies convert from wagon/flat cart to dolly. Get the biggest tires you can find; they make it easier to go up or down stairs, or over rough ground. These dollies can carry items weighing hundreds of pounds. Here’s an example, at Amazon, with cost around $65. (Others can be far fancier, with prices considerably higher.)

Harper Trucks Lightweight 400 lb Capacity Nylon Convertible Hand Truck and Dolly

A wagon

Nothing is more serviceable than a traditional red wagon, just like this one! Radio Flyer Classic Red Wagon Click on the image of the wagon or on the link for more details, and then cruise though Amazon to see other versions. Some  have wooden sides, some are made of canvas instead of metal, etc.

A wagon is something you could probably use frequently — for gardening, hauling groceries from the car, etc.  — and then just commandeer in the case of an emergency. The best thing? Everyone knows how to manage a wagon, without any special training.

Of course, any item with wheels could be useful for transporting items in an emergency: a rolling cart, a wheelbarrow, a wheelchair, a skateboard. From a safety standpoint, just be sure to get something that is sturdy enough for your needs.

Oh, and don’t forget to have a few bungee cords handy for holding things down! We definitely prefer the cords with the wire ends, not the plastic ends. Here’s an assortment costing less than $15 :Highland (9008400) Bungee Cord Assortment Jar – 24 Piece

This isn’t all there is to the topic of transportation.

Action item: Use recent news events as a prompt for a conversation around your own dinner table, or at your local emergency response group. If you live where flooding is a possibility, you’ll want to add floating items to your transport list. Whatever, you may come up with some new and better ideas for your location and your family.

In every case, though, you’ll need these items BEFORE the emergency hits.

Virginia and Joe
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Harvey – The First Week

Flood Hurricane Harvey

 

How well would you have done?

“I’ve heard it a hundred times: Be prepared for emergencies!”

I’m sure you have. And I’m sure the people in Texas had heard it, too. But what we witnessed this week suggests that a whole lot of them were caught unprepared.

Let’s take a look at some of what we saw just this week. It might be useful for all our neighbors and friends, not to mention ourselves.

We have learned a lot about Houston, Texas.

So many people who had been through past storms just weren’t ready for this one. Why not?

This is turning out to be an historical event. That is, NEVER BEFORE SEEN!  Not a hundred year rain, or a 500 year rain, or a 1,000 year rain. Amounts of rain outside the insurance guidelines; amounts that required weather forecasters to tear down their charts and build new ones, live on the air!

One simple fact stands out to help explain the event. Sea surface waters near Texas rose as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit above average, creating some of the hottest spots of ocean surface in the world. This heat is what caused the storm to develop so rapidly into a Category 4 storm. (Read more at The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/08/did-climate-change-intensify-hurricane-harvey/538158/

One neighborhood after another fell victim to flooding. Why is flooding so widespread in Houston?

Again, one fact seems to stand out: “over-development.

Houston has been called “The Wild West” of development. It’s the largest U.S. city to have no zoning laws. As millions of new residents have moved in, development has been allowed in flood-prone areas. Water management seems to be built on a patchwork drainage system of bayous, city streets and a couple of 80-year-old dams. (Looking for more background? Check out this article from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/investigations/harvey-urban-planning/?utm_term=.f2848cb00326)

The city just isn’t able to handle a big storm like Harvey.

(With more and increasingly violent storms on the horizon, you should be asking yourself about your own city’s plan and preparedness.)

Then we learned a lot from individual families.

From TV footage you could see and hear the differences between people who had prepared and those who hadn’t. Here are some of the images that stick with me, and questions we could all be asking ourselves.

1-We didn’t hear from people who actually evacuated safely before the rains hit. We did hear about some people who refused to evacuate. (One man was quoted as saying, “I got food and I got my gun. That’s all I need.”) Ask yourself: “Am I prepared to evacuate if word comes down – or would I resist, delay or flat-out not go?”

2-Many people were not prepared because they weren’t expecting a disaster. (“Lived here 20 years, assumed we’d be fine.”) Even if their homes weren’t flooded, when their neighborhood was surrounded by water, these folks hadn’t set aside enough supplies to shelter in place for more than a few days. Ask yourself: “How many days’ worth of supplies do I REALLY have?” (Follow-on question: What about supplies, including flashlights and batteries, for if the power is out?)

3-We heard so many stories from people who said they’d gone to sleep and then somehow, in the night, had wakened to find water in the house. If course, you don’t leave your TV on all night for weather reports. In an emergency, though, getting important communications in a timely fashion could mean the difference between considered action and panic. Ask yourself: “How do I plan to get emergency news?” (We’ve written before about emergency and weather alert radios that could be left on all night if need be! And here’s an Advisory with alert app info. And does your community have a Reverse 911 system, that is, an automated message delivery system that could notify you via telephone about impending flooding or other emergency?)

4-We saw image after image of people climbing out of boats with just the clothes they were wearing, perhaps gripping a small plastic bag with “valuables.” And did you see how many of them were barefoot?! Ask yourself: “Do I have an evacuation bag or backpack compact enough to carry or wear onto a boat or bus or even into a helicopter rescue basket?” (And does it have shoes in it?)

5-Pets were visible in nearly every shot. I saw a boat going by that carried probably a dozen animal carriers – just pets, no people! By the same token, I’m sure we all saw the image of the dog swimming at the end of his leash. If you have a pet, ask yourself: “Does my pet have a carrier? Can I get my pet INTO the carrier? Can I handle the carrier myself while helping my other family members?”

6-People were using landlines to call 911, and cell phones to share emergency messages via Twitter and/or Facebook. Ask yourself: “Do I know how to use social media in an emergency? Who would I send a message to? What’s their number/address?”

7-In the midst of everything, I heard newscasters mentioning that people were being urged to apply for disaster relief – like, immediately! (FEMA anticipates some 450,000 people will apply.) Ask yourself: “If I had to apply for relief from an evacuation shelter, would I be able to supply the necessary information?

Here’s a brief list, taken from the DisasterAssistance.gov website, of what you need for the application:

  • Social Security Number
  • Proof of citizenship (non-citizen national or qualified alien)
  • Insurance coverage you have (type, amounts)
  • Damage you’ve sustained (photos?)
  • Household income at time of disaster
  • Contact information

You might be able to provide direct deposit details, too, if you have them.

Don’t let Harvey get by without doing something about your own preparedness.

So do you know people who STILL haven’t done any preparing for an emergency because they “can’t imagine it happening?”

If you do, and if you care about them, please forward this article while Houston is fresh in everyone’s minds.

If you know people who need even more of a push to build a simple evacuation bag, send them to EmergencyPlanGuide.org with the recommendation that they buy our guide to building a custom survival kit. (Actually spending a few dollars may be the impetus they need to take this seriously.)
Build Your Custom Survival Kit
If you need to refresh your own kit, or build MORE kits so you have one for each family member, the workplace and your cars, our workbook will help sort it all out. (It has pictures, lists, charts, product reviews and recommendations – everything you need to approach this systematically and get it done!)

⇒    Here’s the link to the Guide: http://EmergencyPlanGuide.org/custom-survival-kit/.

Let’s all of us use Houston’s story to add to our own knowledge and resolve. And let’s contribute to helping residents of Houston however we can. They are going to need help for a long time.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. One other thing we learned about Texas is that people pitched in to help their neighbors. It was inspiring. Let’s hope that our neighbors would help us and we’d help them in the same way.

A New Source of Fear

Malcolm Nance Gooks

Recommended Resources

A Dose of Reality on ISIS and the Terrorism Risks

Virginia writes: “Terrorism is not a favorite topic of ours. A couple of months ago I wrote to provide some updated statistics. I figured that would hold us for a while. Today, though, recent news has compelled us to write again on this topic, from a different perspective. You may recall that Joe has background in military intelligence, so he has authored this Advisory.”

The 17th of May, 2015 was one of the most important days in the battle to defeat ISIS.

It marked the successful conclusion of one of the most important missions undertaken by US Special Forces – a raid on the operational center for the entire ISIS organization.

The center housed comprehensive files on the ISIS government and fighting forces in Iraq and Syria, from the leadership right down to the rank and file of their organization. And it was all on computer.

The Obama Administration authorized the undertaking. The target, located in Eastern Syria near Deir ez-Zor directly in the heart of ISIS occupied territory, was heavily fortified. Despite the defense of the target, it was completely overrun.

Our Special Forces returned with the electronic keys to the kingdom in the form of as much as seven terabytes of data that included virtually all of the financial transactions, resources (including payroll and biometric records) on their officials, their army and captives as well as addresses, cellphone numbers and the IP addresses of their remote locations.

This coup yielded the battlefield intelligence our forces needed to begin a systematic program to eliminate (or “vaporize”) — in the place and time of our choosing – ISIS leaders and key personnel.

This 2015 mission marked a turning point in the fight against the ISIS terrorist organization.

As the operation continued, it has had particular importance to us on the home fronts in the US, Europe and the Middle East. It means that there will be fewer skilled terrorists re-entering the country, and because we have more complete data on many of those who manage to escape the lethal battlefield, they are easier to apprehend.

Thus, as might be expected, we can expect more terrorist strikes by “amateurs.”

They will choose targets of opportunity, selected at random – which makes such attacks harder to anticipate and defend against. And, while any one person’s odds of being a victim of terrorism are small, each attack that appears on the news meets a goal of the organization, to frighten the populace and inspire the gullible.

On the news today we heard an interview with Malcolm Nance, expert on intelligence and terrorism, speaking about the latest ISIS recruiting effort using a 10-year old “American Boy.” Details are still sketchy, but Nance’s comments followed the theme developed above. Now that ISIS fighters are systematically being removed, ISIS propaganda is aimed at widows and children, hoping to turn them into suicide bombers!

I have confidence in Nance’s assessments, and have gone so far as to purchase and study three of the many books he has written over the past 10 years or so. (The image at the top of this Advisory shows me with two of his most recent books.) If you want to understand more, I recommend these three highly:

Hacking Isis focuses on the “cyber” aspect of ISIS’s recruiting and communications, and what we are doing to track and defeat them in cyberspace.

The Plot to Hack America details how Putin and WikiLeaks “tried to steal the 2016 election.” Obviously we learn more about this story every single day . . .

The Terrorist Recognition Handbook, first written in 2003 and updated in 2014, is a heavy-duty 394 page textbook on terrorist activities, with a particularly compelling chapter about suicide terrorism.

What can we do to protect ourselves, here at home and abroad?

For you and us, the best defense is the advice we have given repeatedly . . . “Situational Awareness!”

Train yourself to constantly take stock of where you are and what is going on around you. Always be cognizant of vulnerable crowd situations, how and where to exit dangerous situations and, above all, exercise caution and intelligence about how, when and where to bury your nose in your tablet or smart phone.

As for self-protection in random attacks, it is highly unlikely that any weapon or self-defense training will prove more useful than fleeing the scene or finding some place to hide and letting the professionals handle the attacker.

You may have a chance against a single attacker whose motive is intimidation, harassment or burglary, depending of course on your age, physical condition and self-defense skills. We have written before about simple weapons that you can use competently and conveniently. One of the simplest and most effective is a sturdy mechanical pen or pencil. Better yet is a “tactical pen” that is an actual ball point pen made of sturdy steel. Proper use of this “weapon” can effectively wound an attacker, seriously enough to make escape possible . . . or, even mortally wound the assailant.

But the story is different when faced with an active shooter or a knife-wielding assailant whose sole motivation is to kill you – and who isn’t worried about his own life. Even a citizen carrying a knife or gun may find it ineffective or worse, may lose control of the weapon and find it turned on them.

The bottom line — the more aware you are, the less likely you will be caught up in a dangerous situation, and the less likely you will need a weapon.  Practice awareness!

Joseph Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

Don’t Miss the Eclipse

Solar eclipse

Are you preparing for eclipse-related disasters?

Do you live in the path of the eclipse scheduled for Monday, August 21?

If so, you’d better be ready. There are some eclipse-related disasters that could happen and are likely to happen!

First, you could miss it altogether . . .

if you’re not paying attention!

What’s happening is that as the moon orbits the earth, its path will cause it to pass in front of the sun. This will create a shadow that will move across the earth — and across the face of the entire U.S., from Oregon to South Carolina. This is such a rare occurrence that it has been given a name: the Great American Eclipse — first time since 1918 that this has happened!

If you’re in the exact place where the sun, moon and earth line up, the moon/sun will look like the image above and the world around you will turn totally dark — if only for a couple of minutes.

Here’s how scientist Tyler Nordgren describes what to expect:

“The shadow of the moon moves over you, day turns to night for half an hour, the stars become visible in the middle of the day, the sun turns black and the most incredible thing – the sun’s corona: that million degree atmosphere that is invisible at all other times – suddenly you see the enormous crown, its rays of pale white spreading outward from the sun,” The Guardian

So, you don’t want to miss this one!

Action item: Here’s a super website that will tell you the time of the eclipse in your town, and show what it might look like.  Just replace “city” with your city (or a nearby one) at the end of the link:

https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/city

Second, looking at the eclipse could damage your eyes!

By now you should know that you should never look directly at the sun, even with dark glasses. In fact, I just today read that counterfeit solar glasses have surfaced. (Amazon is actually giving refunds for fraudulent merchandise!)

How to know whether glasses you’ve bought will do what they say? Check to be sure the glasses are from a vendor approved by the American Astronomical Society, AND make sure they have the label ISO.

pinhole projectorIf it were me, I’d avoid glasses altogether and watch the eclipse “indirectly” using a pin-hole projector. Easy enough to make as a family project!

You’ll need these supplies – and you probably have everything at home already:

A cardboard box – the longer the better

Scissors and box cutter

Tape

A sheet of white paper

A square piece of aluminum foil

A pin or tack

Basic instructions:

  • Cut a square hole in one end of the box, tape a slightly-larger square of tinfoil over the hole, and puncture the foil in the center with pin or tack. Make a SMALL neat round hole.
  • Tape the white paper on the INSIDE of the box, at the end opposite the pin hole. This becomes the screen.
  • When the eclipse starts, point the foil/pinhole end of the box at the sun. Put your head inside the box and look away from the sun at the white paper screen. There you’ll see the (reversed) projection of the sun and the shadow of the moon!

Need more? Here’s a great video demo of how to build the projector, perfect for kids. Our thanks to station WAPT in Jackson, MS:  http://www.wapt.com/article/diy-make-a-box-pinhole-projector-to-view-eclipse/12014830

Third, you could find yourself trapped on the highway.

Areas that expect to be in the path of the “totality” (entire sun obscured by the moon) have been planning for months for a massive influx of visitors.  I’ve been reading reports from various emergency services across the country (in particular, Idaho and Kentucky) about the steps they are taking to manage the hundreds of thousands of people they expect to try to get to “just the right spot” to view the eclipse.

Estimates of the number of people traveling to get into the path of the eclipse range from 1.85 to 7.4 million!

Police and emergency services are planning for traffic conditions replicating evacuations – that means, stop and go and maybe huge traffic jams. Even if you don’t intend to try to get to a good viewing place yourself, you may experience significant traffic congestion just trying to get to the local store.

In any case, be sure your car is full of gas and well supplied with water, emergency food and blankets, just in case you get unexpectedly caught.

As always, the more you know, the better you can anticipate potential problems and work around them.

Enjoy the eclipse!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We won’t seem much of the eclipse here in Southern California. Let us know what YOU see!

 

 

Back to School Emergency Checklists

Safe at School Ready for the first day of school?

Every year new students wait eagerly for that first day of school. And often in the background, proud yet nervous parents hope their child will flourish in this new environment.

Many parents have already “done their homework” on what will be necessary for their child’s success. Parents and children have shopped for school supplies and probably some new clothes, too. Older students have invested in everything from electronics to sheets and bedspreads.

Everything is ready! Or is it?

What about being ready for an emergency at school? Are the children prepared? Are parents prepared?

If you’re a parent, use these questions to put the finishing touches on back-to-school preparations for your student.

Grade-school Parent Checklist

While there are no national guidelines for emergency preparedness for schools, you can find out your child’s schools procedures. You may need to be persistent to get answers to these basic questions:

  1. Threats. What emergencies does the school prepare for? (fire, natural disasters, active shooter?)
  2. Supplies. What emergency equipment is available for teachers, and have they been trained on it? (fire extinguishers, first aid kits, emergency lighting, lockdown safety kits?) Are several days’ survival supplies (food, water, blankets) for kids and faculty stored at the school?
  3. Student Practice. What emergency response procedures do students practice? (evacuation, lock down/secure school, shelter in place?) How often?
  4. Communications. What communications can you as parent expect in case of an emergency at school? (a phone call or text? notice on public radio or TV? a written follow-up report?)
  5. Parent Responsibilities. What does the school expect of parents? (list of emergency authorized caregivers/family members, provide emergency supplies for child?)

What if your persistent questions are not answered?

Worse, what if you realize that there are no answers to some of these questions at the school your child attends?

Step up and take a leadership role.

You can help improve the situation. Join the PTA. Get a copy of the 2013 Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans and, with a committee, put together recommendations for necessary changes based on your own location, size of school, etc. Present your recommendations to your school administration along with whatever publicity is appropriate.

The Guide is available for download here:   https://rems.ed.gov/docs/REMS_K-12_Guide_508.pdf and may also be available for purchase at Barnes & Noble. While the Guide was written by a number of government agencies (FEMA, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Federal Emergency Management) it is perfectly readable!

(I add this exclamation point because some similar documents are NOT readable by the average person, even ones as dedicated as I am!)

As you might expect, the Guide introduces the standardized “vocabulary” used by professional emergency planners everywhere, concepts such as Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response and Recovery.

It also includes a discussion of privacy issues and the need to plan for disabled people.

The list of “emergencies” in the Guide needs to be updated, once again. In 2013 “active shooter” was added to the list of threats. Now, given developments in North Korea, Hawaii is formally adding “How to Respond to a Nuclear Disaster” to its emergency response plans!

College Campus Checklist

Every school will be different in the way it handles emergency preparedness. As a parent of a student or prospective student, you can help make sure the self-reliance you’ve encouraged at home will continue when your student is away at college.

Up until now your student may have counted on you for direction. Now that responsibility has shifted.

In working together to get answers to the following questions you’ll get the process started.

  1. Threats. What emergencies does the school prepare for? If your new school is in a totally different part of the country, the experiences you’ve had with natural disasters, for example, may be irrelevant. What NEW or DIFFERENT threats exist at this campus?

    UC Berkeley’s Office of Energy Management website starts with this eye-opener: “All campuses have their faults. Ours is 74 miles long and runs directly under our campus . . .!”

  2. Procedures. Who are the planners and the actual Responders on campus? It’s usually easy to find details on the campus website. (Check out Berkeley’s for example.) Read about security procedures, emergency operations, etc. Are all emergency plans only for administration and faculty? What role does the campus envision for students – do they get any training?
  3. Student Responsibilities. On nearly every campus students are expected at registration to connect with all emergency communications methods. This usually means providing emergency contact information (text, phone numbers, emails) and signing up for an alert service.
  4. Campus Resources. In addition to the emergency alert system, your campus may use sirens or loudspeakers to issue warnings. It may have a campus emergency website, emergency radio station and/or toll-free emergency information lines. Know when and how to use all these resources! Incidentally, it’s possible that the 911 number you’ve always considered as “your” emergency number may not be the best one on campus. Find out about special campus emergency numbers. Store all this info in your phone.
  5. Parent Responsibilities. As an adult, your student will be expected to make his or her own decisions in an emergency. Encourage your student to learn about evacuation routes, understand the definition of “shelter-in-place,” and to maintain at least a minimal survival kit. Some first aid knowledge helps, too. (Here’s an Advisory with more about survival at college, with particular emphasis on personal safety.) Of course, parents can probably access campus emergency websites or toll-free numbers, too, for up-to-date info when something happens.

As always, it’s the people closest to you — roommates, people on your floor — who will be there when the emergency happens. They are the ones who may need help — or will be able to help YOU. Building a strong team around you is the best thing you can do for your safety! 

Action Item: If your children aren’t quite ready for school, or are long past that stage, please pass this Advisory on to someone whose children are of school age.

Being ready for the school year happens to someone new every year!

Virginia 
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. One of our readers sent us his school’s “Emergency Information” publication delivered to all parents. It was crammed with good information — but unfortunately, “crammed” was the operational term. If you get something like that from your school, attack it one page at a time. There are sure to be good ideas hidden in there. Then share them with us!

P.P.S. This week the National Fire Protection Association came out with these pertinent statistics for college students:

 Firefighters respond to 11 dorm fires a day, and 86% of them are related to cooking!

If your college-aged kid is considering a hot plate or a microwave (legal, of course), at least review some safety measures. And don’t forget a Kitchen-sized Fire Extinguisher! (I own this one and like how it fits in because it’s white.)

 

 

 

 

Safety Checklist for New Employees

Safety Is Your Responsibility

Where's the nearest fire extinguisher?

Are you a business owner? in charge of emergency response at your work? an employee of any sort?

If you’ve been there a while, you should be able to check off every item on the Safety Checklist below. Someone new, however, will have to make an effort to figure out all the answers.

New or experienced, these are SIMPLE THINGS THAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW every day they come to work!

Read below the checklist for additional commentary and links to more in-depth articles.

The 12-Point Checklist

 

More In-Depth Info on Employee Safety

Some Advisories with more details for workplace preparedness:

If you want a more detailed review of how to build a Simple Business Continuation Plan – download it here:  http://emergencyplanguide.org/no-business-continuation-plan-is-a-threat-in-itself/

Suggested Next Steps for the Company

You can put this checklist to work in just about any workplace – office, factory, hotel, retail operation – wherever your business is located. Of course, you may prefer to use it as a sample and make your own, more customized version.

Either way, here are 3 suggestions for how to proceed:

  1. Share this article and the checklist with management. See what items they can check off; are there any items no one has thought of, or knows the answer to? Be sure you understand which items might have some liability connected to them.
  2. Decide on a plan for sharing the checklist (or a customized version) with all current employees. Turn it into a team effort, or a competition — whatever works to engage people and get them more aware of safety and their surroundings!
  3. Add the checklist to your on-boarding process for new employees. Obviously, they will need a helpful partner to be able to get through the list. I think they’ll find it to be a comforting exercise and one that will impress upon them the company’s commitment to preparedness and to safety.

Disclaimer from EmergencyPlanGuide.org

This handy checklist is not meant to be a full assessment of employee or workplace preparedness. Rather, it is meant as a simple, easy tool to create more awareness among people who are working together.

If the checklist starts a conversation about what’s missing, consider it a bonus. And then, put together a plan to fill those gaps!

We are committed to a continuing conversation about being ready for emergencies. As always, the more the people around us know, the better off we ALL will be!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Cash Is King in an Emergency

Gold coins

Best emergency currency?

Surviving after a serious, wide-spread disaster

We’re not talking “emergency cash fund” here, the 6 months’ worth of savings we’re all supposed to have to carry us through losing our job.

Here, we’re talking about getting up after the storm has hit, shaking ourselves off, and taking stock of how we’re going to get through the next few days or weeks.

In most emergency situations like this, you’ll be at home – or you’ll get there after some effort.

Will I need cash if I’m sheltering in place at home?

If your stock of emergency supplies is complete, you won’t need much cash!

  • You’ll have food and water, even if there’s no easy way to heat it.
  • You’ll have lights, and blankets, and activities to keep you busy if not exactly entertained.
  • Your battery-operated radio will keep you up with the news.

On the other hand, if you’re like half the population, your food and water supplies will be GONE within just a day or so. You’ll join the hordes of people who realize they have already run low or run completely out of . . .

  • Batteries
  • Bread
  • Butter
  • Coffee
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Pet food
  • Toilet paper
  • Tampons
  • Diapers
  • Baby Formula
  • ! ! !

Even more upsetting will be running out of prescription pills – the kind with the label: “Don’t stop taking this medicine.”

If you find yourself in this situation, you’re going to try to find a store to replenish your supplies. And to do that, you’ll need cash.

Think about it.  When the electricity is out your credit cards are going to be pretty much useless.  Stores – including your pharmacy or doctor’s office — may not even be open if they don’t have lights, air conditioning, etc. If they are open, they’ll only be able to deal in cash. (Maybe if you’re a particularly good customer they’ll accept your IOU.)

Moreover, to GET to a store that does have supplies, you’ll need gas. In an emergency gas pumps won’t work, so stations will be shut down until they can bring in a generator. Even then, their credit card systems won’t be operating.

Once again, cash will be the likely medium of exchange . . . and you may encounter inflated prices as business owners assess the realities of the situation.

If you’re stuck at home for a while, you may also want to pay people to help you repair damages, clear roads, etc. For sure, these neighbors or contractors won’t be accepting credit cards.

(In a big emergency, people may resort to bartering for supplies and services. The best items for bartering seem to be alcohol, commodities such as flour, rice, coffee, etc., and ammunition.)

What if I have to evacuate?

Escaping impending disaster or a disaster that’s already hit means . . . getting on the road in your car.

This puts us back to the need for gasoline.

If you’re aware of what’s happening, and you’re prepared for immediate action, you may get out ahead of the other people hitting the road.  That might put you first in line at a gas station that still has power and gasoline, and where your credit card will still work.

In the crush, however, you may find yourself competing for gas, for a motel room, even for a place to camp or park – for a week or longer! Again, you’re back to paying for these necessities, and maybe with potential bribes to get you a preferred place in line.

So how much cash do I need?

Obviously, the better prepared you are at home, the less money you need if you’re staying home. And the types of emergencies you might expect (power outage, ice storm, earthquake) will have an impact on the preparations you will have made.

On the other hand, you may live in an area where the likelihood of evacuation is high. (For example, if you live along the coasts where hurricanes threaten, where a tsunami might hit, or where flooding is common.) If so, your evacuation preparations need to be more extensive.

And, of course, ANY of us could be asked to evacuate due to a fire, explosion or other unexpected emergency.

So, the better prepared you are to evacuate QUICKLY (with supplies, maps to help you find alternative routes, etc.), the less money you need, too.

In every case, it seems as though enough to keep you fed and sheltered for a week or so would be a good idea. This could mean at least $500 and probably twice that.

What denominations should I have, and how should I carry them?

When things get frantic, people accepting money are not likely to want to make change. So, having smaller denomination bills is probably best — $5, $10, $20.

You can also assume some people will be ready to take advantage of the situation by demanding your money – or taking it. So, don’t keep it all in one place. Put some in a wallet, some in a pocket, some in the dirty clothes bag. If someone tries to rob you, they may be satisfied when they see that your wallet/pocket is empty and it looks as though you have given them all you have.

If you’re sheltering in place, follow the same suggestions. Stash your money in a variety of places in the house. Avoid the bedroom, night stands or jewelry boxes – places where thieves look first. Take some time to create effective hiding places – just don’t forget where they are!

Hiding money or valuables in plain sight

The best way to hide money in your home is in ordinary places that a casual observer wouldn’t even notice but that aren’t hard for you to get into. Some examples:

If you’re a handy-person,

  • Convert a section of your wall (between the studs) into a storage cabinet. If you have paneling, a removable section won’t show.
  • Set a fake vent into the floor or the wall. Use the space behind for storage. (The space below cabinets is particularly useful.)

If you’re not handy, or are in a hurry,

  • Put a hollowed out book right there on your shelf with the rest of the books. Some “secret storage books” are really a simple metal safe, with keys (probably not fireproof). If you intend to put a weapon in the book, be sure to get a book that is big enough. The image shows an example that would fit nicely in our library. It costs around $12. Click the image for details from Amazon:

  • Buy a camouflaged container, like a fake Clorox bottle or a can of vegetables whose bottom comes off. Here’s a picture of a fake WD-40 can! (around $17). I have several cans of WD-40 around the house so this would be totally unremarkable!)  Again, click the image for more details.

 

Children and money

Obviously, giving children money to carry can be dangerous. Be sure they understand how much they have and how to protect it. Small children who normally manage their own allowance may become vulnerable targets in a widespread emergency.

What about precious metals?

We’ve all heard the investment world talk about the value of precious metals in times of uncertainly.

As an investment, gold and silver can make sense as part of a portfolio. However, as emergency currency, they may not be so effective. Consider:

Who would accept an ounce of gold in return for supplies? Would they be able to make change? How would they (or you!) even establish its value? (Quick quiz. What’s an ounce of gold worth today?  See below for the answer!)

What about a gold coin with the stated value of $1, like in the image at the top of this article? Here, the answer is probably a lot more positive. In fact, some people might prefer the metal to paper. (These coins might also be able to be used in a dispensing machine . . . if you come across one!)

Again, your preparations depend on your own circumstances. But, as always, you want to put the thought into the preparations well before the disaster hits!

Until next time,

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. The value of an ounce of gold today, July 14, 2017, is $2,012.  Care to make change for that?

 

 

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Catastrophic Events and Disasters Can Ruin Your Day — Updated 2017

Ostrich Assessing the Situation

Assessing the Situation

Classic Categories of Disasters

When we started writing our Advisories, back in 2012 (!), this was the list of “Catastrophic Events” and “Disasters” we learned about and wrote about:

  1. Widespread Natural Disasters – Several of these HIT somewhere in the world every year. Examples: Earthquakes, tsunamis, major storms, major wildfires. (Melting of ice caps and drought can be added to this list, though they usually don’t HIT. Rather, they creep up on regions.)
  2. Annual Threats – These events can be EXPECTED regularly every year including in the U.S. Examples: flooding, power outages, tornados, hurricanes.
  3. Man-made Accidents – These are unexpected, far less frequent, and often can’t really be anticipated. Examples: train wrecks, plane crashes, explosions and fires, nuclear plant meltdowns. Some people would add an economic meltdown to this list.

Since 2012, though, there has been one change to our list. Along about 2014 we had to add . . .

  1. A new category: Man-made On Purpose

You can guess which disaster falls into this category: Terrorist attacks.

Facts and statistics about natural disasters change slowly. They get worse as more people crowd to urban and/or coastal areas where storms are most common. And weather patterns are changing because of global warming.

But the facts of these changes are pretty well established, and the changes themselves are relatively slow.

Terrorist attacks are something else. News about terrorist attacks is dramatic, and gets splashed on the front pages. These attacks take place suddenly and in totally different and unrelated places.

Moreover, facts and statistics about terrorism aren’t necessarily well known. Here are some statistics from the 2016 Global Terrorism Index.

  • In 2015, nearly 30,000 people were killed from terrorist attacks worldwide.
  • More than half the deaths were attributable to two organizations: ISIS and Boko Haram.
  • Although many countries experience terrorism, over 80 per cent of all deaths in 2015 occurred in 8 countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Egypt and Somalia.
  • Over 90 per cent of all terrorism attacks occurred in countries experiencing violent internal conflicts.
  • In developed countries (Europe, the U.S.), the “man-made” factors correlating with terrorism: youth unemployment, levels of criminality, access to weapons and distrust in the electoral process.

OK, enough on terrorist attacks.

Let’s get back to our full list. When we look at all the possibilities, we realize immediately that trying to prepare for every catastrophe is impossible.

So why do we even make an effort at preparedness?

Because we know some of these disasters will happen, some day, to us, to our friends and neighbors, and to our community!

A better question: How to respond to this reality?

Here are the three most common approaches we’ve observed:

  1. Denial. Some people feel overwhelmed and bury their heads in the sand (figuratively, of course), pretending nothing will happen to them. If you have people like this in your family or at your workplace, you feel the same frustration we do. We have found over the years that it’s not worth the effort to try to change these folks’ mind.
  2. Passionate Anticipation. Some people are convinced disasters of the worst kind will happen and they spend time, money and psychic energy getting training, stockpiling supplies, buying gear and developing the mindset to get them through when the SHTF. We have met many of these people over the years, and sometimes are envious of everything they’ve put in place.
  3. Common-Sense Acceptance. Far more people approach emergency planning as simply one of the steps that responsible citizens take. Just as we buy insurance for our cars – in case we have an accident – and insurance for our homes – in case there’s a fire – making a commitment to preparedness – in case one of these disasters hits – just seems sensible.

Here at Emergency Plan Guide, we tend to support attitude #3. And we try to encourage people to take easy steps for sensible preparedness.  We remind them that it doesn’t all have to be done immediately. BUT, it can’t be done after the emergency hits!

For newer and long-time readers . . .

Here’s how we approach the process of preparedness.

  1. Count on having the bare necessities. Start with the most likely and immediate emergencies. For example, running out of food and water – whether it’s because of a simple power outage or a severe storm – is easily predictable! And the solution to this problem is one we all already know. It just takes adding a few items to our shopping list each week for the next few months. Nothing difficult, nothing high-tech. Hardest part is deciding where to store these supplies!
  2. Add Life-saving skills. You already teach your kids how to call 911. You teach them to swim. Add a few more skills to your own stock, like how to send a text, how to handle basic first aid or administer CPR. These aren’t particularly hard-core survival skills – they are really every day necessities.
  3. Think stopgap instead of permanent. It’s possible that we will experience a true apocalypse. It a lot more likely, though, that we’ll be trapped in the car overnight, or have to leave the house for a few days because of a water main break or the threat of a hurricane. Have enough packed so you can get along for 3 days at a hotel or in your brother’s extra bedroom. You aren’t likely to be camping in a forest somewhere trying to shoot squirrels for food.
  4. Build a support group. We already mentioned your brother, but what about neighbors? As a team, you could expect to have all the necessities and skills needed to get through the emergency – if you have built a relationship so you trust one another! Here at EmergencyPlanGuide.org we recommend taking a CERT course and using that to kick-off an effort to build a neighborhood or workplace group. Everybody has something to offer, and together we’re a lot more resilient and powerful than we are standing alone.
  5. Keep this stuff in perspective. Yes, emergencies will happen, but your local First Responders will be able to deal with them in 99% of the cases. And yes, a terrorist attack could happen. But whereas in 2015 some 30,000 people across the world were killed by terrorist attacks, 30,000 people are killed by gun violence every year in the U.S. alone! For that matter, around 30,000 people are killed in car accidents every year, too. Keep it in perspective!

When uncommon threats become predictable

Occasionally a threat develops that used to be in the “rare” column but now approaches “likely.” For example, here in Southern California there is one looming threat that tends to disrupt the stable, calm-cool-and-collected scenario described above — and that is a major earthquake.

Major earthquakes are unique in their potential for widespread damage. And the chances of a major quake here are getting better and better. (I think you could add a developing hurricane to this category, too.)

If these major events happen, days or even weeks may go by before outside help can arrive.

Our own First Responders tell us that planning for a 3-day emergency is not adequate. They ask us to prepare to take care of ourselves for at least 10 days.

If your own list of catastrophic events contains a threat that is usually rare but whose chances of happening go up for whatever reasons, then you need to take immediate and more focused action.

Having the basics already in place will make that extra effort a lot easier and give you a lot more confidence in your ability to survive.

So, let this Advisory  be a prompt for reflection about your own situation – and an impetus for action.

As always, you can’t prepare or train AFTER THE FACT.

 Virginia 
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Our section BUILDING YOUR SURVIVAL SKILLS can get you started quickly! (It’s in the right-hand sidebar of this page.) Clicking the links will take you to targeted Advisories. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, use the SEARCH box at the top of the sidebar to get to that information even faster.

P.P.S.  As I write this, we’re approaching PRIME DAY at Amazon (July 11, 2017). If you’ve got a shopping list going — for emergency supplies or gifts or whatever — now might be the time to consider becoming a PRIME member.  We find Amazon to be a good source for nearly all supplies, and sometimes there are really great deals to be had. Try it out for free right now:

 

 

 

 

 

Reliable Sources for Disaster Preparedness

Car in flood

Keeping up with the latest — whether political news, phone technology, business trends or emergency preparedness — takes some effort.

It’s made easier when I find reliable sources that I can return to again and again. It’s made even easier when people take the time to send me the good stuff!

So today I’m sharing some preparedness and disaster recovery tips that I have recently received from favorite sources. Thanks to you all! (Please follow the links in each paragraph to get more on that topic.)

1-For Business Owners from Business Owners

Focus on Crisis Communications

I attended another  online webinar this morning, hosted by Agility Recovery: www.agilityrecovery.com  Today’s webinar was on Building a Crisis Communications Plan for business. I’ll be drafting a full Advisory based on my notes, but if you know you need this part of your plan, go grab this earlier version of their worksheet right now – https://www.agilityrecovery.com/assets/SBA/crisiscomms.pdf– and watch for my upcoming, updated  Advisory on this topic!

In the meanwhile, get to know this business preparedness and recovery service. I’ve found everything they do to be first rate. Over the past several years I’ve shared a number of things from their resource library. At their website, you’ll find:

  • Tips: Their “52-week Disaster Recovery” series.
  • Checklists: One of the best: Checklist for Power Outages and Back-up Generators. (Read the whole Advisory before you request the checklist. The questions in the Advisory are critical! http://emergencyplanguide.org/power-outage-in-the-workplace/.
  • Case studies. There’s likely to be a story about a business similar to yours since Agility has responded to thousands of emergencies. I was particularly captured by the story of Western Financial Group’s 2015 flooding and recovery.

I really can recommend Agility Recovery as a “reliable resource.”

2-For Homeowners from a Homeowner

Focus on Flooding – Wells and Septic Tank Systems

I live in one of the most well-planned communities in the country. (Some neighbors complain that it’s overly planned. That’s another story for another day.) In any case, all utilities here are underground; I had to look up images of “telephone poles” for my recent Advisory about power lines because I couldn’t just look out the window and see one!

As a kid, though, we lived a lot further out in the country, and we managed our own well and septic tank. We even strung our own phone and electric lines (probably without a permit).

So when I got an email this month from one of our readers, I was interested!  Jim McKinley –  www.moneywithjim.org   — offers smart money management advice.

The resource he sent for us is about preparing your family and home for a flood – in particular, preparing to protect your water supply and sewage treatment system. And the link takes you to a pdf published by the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan. The general info is likely to be review for most Emergency Plan Guide readers, but I found these aspects of the article to be particularly valuable:

  • Protecting your wellhead
  • Decommissioning well pits
  • Coping with groundwater flooding (lots of info on setting up drains)
  • Pumping out a septic tank or holding tank BEFORE flooding
  • Managing the soil of your private wastewater system AFTER a flood

You may not live in Saskatchewan, of course. And the property where I grew up, and maybe where you live, has long since been “connected to the city system.”

But it’s likely that someone you know lives further “off the grid” than you do. Or maybe you know someone whose vacation home has wells and/or a private wastewater system. Share this link!

https://www.wsask.ca/Global/Lakes%20and%20Rivers/Flood%20Watch/Preparing-for-a-flood.pdf

3-Finally, for anyone whose car has been caught in a flood.

From time to time over the years I’ve watched with concern and even horror as water crept up through the floorboards. But my cars have never been fully flooded.  How about you?

Once in North Carolina I rented a car for the day. We noted right away that something was amiss, and as the day warmed up – and we got farther and farther away from the rental shop – it became clear that the car had a real problem! It had been flooded!

Peeeee-yewwww! The smell was awful! Talk about car body odor!

If a car has been flooded, it’s usually considered a total loss by the insurance company. And it will be completely replaced. But, if you don’t have the right insurance, or the car wasn’t totaled, then you may find yourself trying to save it.

Once again, our friend Jim has directed us to an excellent online resource:

https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/how-to-reduce-the-damage-to-a-flooded-car-by-jason-unrau

And I’ll add to this article, part of which deals with eliminating odors. Yes, have and use plenty of baking soda. But in addition, consider this under-$10 specialty product:

This “sponge” doesn’t attempt to overpower the odor with another smell; it absorbs all odor.

If only we had had one of these in that rental car!

OK, that’s three tips for today. Maybe only one applies directly to you. But perhaps you have been inspired to think about other tips that you might share here. We welcome your suggestions!

 Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Got an idea for a tip or for a full Advisory?  For a family, for a group, for a business? Just let me know and we’ll figure out how to get it published!  You can write to me directly at Virginia@EmergencyPlanGuide.org.

 

 

 

Fire Danger in High-rise Buildings

High rise fire
Intro: At Emergency Plan Guide, we try to write about subjects we know something about from personal experience. (It helps to be “a mature adult!”)  But until we become paid reality-show stars, some things we have to write about as observers.

The news is often an inspiration. Last week I wrote about hurricanes — though I have never lived through one. This week, it’s a fire in a high-rise.

The closest I’ve been to that is living through a fire on a ferry boat — not exactly the same thing, but certainly some similarities.

The point of all this? My own experience may be limited, and the risks that I face may be limited. But we all will  face a variety of emergencies FOR THE FIRST TIME. I’m convinced that simply being open to ever more more knowledge gives us a better chance of surviving. That’s what keeps me learning and writing.

With that, here’s this week’s offering. 

_________________________________________

The high-rise apartment building fire in London was horrifying. And deadly. When I started this Advisory – 3 days after the fire – the number of people missing and presumed dead had risen to 58. As of today, 2 days later, it is now at 79 missing and presumed dead.

High-rise fires are alarming but infrequent.

High-rise fires are always particularly horrifying. We all picture flames shooting up the sides of buildings, far above the street, and we can imagine the terror of the people trapped inside.

Still, with the exception of terrorist acts, the threat posed by fires in high-rise buildings isn’t as great as that in low buildings.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, in all the structure fires in a year, around 2,600 people die – but only 40 of them are in high-rise building fires.

Moreover, the NFPA says the danger of fire in high-rises is going down.

Why? It’s a function of old buildings being replaced by newer ones.

Modern high-rise buildings have fire-suppression protections that work.

If you’ve read the details about the London fire, you will discover that the 24-story Grenfell Tower did NOT have such protections. According to news reports:

  • Only one stairwell was available for residents.
  • There was no sprinkler system.
  • Recent “upgrades” to the building included a plastic-filled cladding material that was not fire-resistant.

What do you know about the building you are about to enter???

Safety depends on the building codes in effect.

In the United States, national and state codes regulate new construction and, to a certain extent, upgrades or retrofits. Generally, these codes apply to different aspects of the building – some of which we, as consumers, may be aware of, and other that are hidden from sight but just as important.

Outside the U.S., codes and standards may be different. For example, in the case of the London fire, the new cladding would not have been allowed in the U.S. (A visitor to the building wouldn’t have known that. Even the residents of Grenfell Tower, who had requested fire-resistant upgrades, may not have realized that their new cladding did not meet that standard.)

So, whether living, working or traveling, here are some questions to get answered before you stay in a high-rise building.

It’s good practice to answer these every time you enter a high-rise building!

1-Is there a fire alarm or smoke alarm system?

Easy enough to find out. If you don’t see installed alarm buttons, just ask!

2-Is there a fire sprinkler system?

An alarm doesn’t fight a fire!

So, look up and see if you can identify sprinklers. These are the key safety feature – in fact, they have been determined to be 97% effective in suppressing fire. (The other 3% didn’t work because they water supply wasn’t hooked up right, or the system wasn’t properly maintained.)

Don’t see any sprinkler heads? Are they blocked by furniture or decorations? Ask property management if a system has been installed.

This is the very most important feature for high-rise fire safety! No sprinkler? Don’t stay!

(An older building can be retrofitted with a fire sprinkler system. Unfortunately, it costs many times more to put in after the fact that if it had been incorporated into the original building. So, building owners may resist adding systems if the law doesn’t require it.)

3-Where are the fire exits?

Look for signs. Identify more than one exit. Check diagrams of the building so you would know which way to go if you couldn’t see because of darkness or smoke.

4-Where are the stairwells?

Again, note the PLURAL word. Every high-rise building needs more than one set of stairs. Note where stairs are located so if you need to evacuate, and one set of stairs is blocked, you can go down the other. (Remember, in a fire, one stairwell may be reserved for use by fire fighters.)

5-Are there fire doors in the hallways?

Modern buildings include fire doors that close in the case of a fire, keeping it from spreading. Usually, these doors are held open electromagnetically, and if a fire alarm goes off the circuit is broken and the door closes by itself.

Bad sign: Fire doors are blocked so they cannot close.

Again, under normal circumstances you may never notice these doors because they are “hidden” by the décor. However, it is good to know that in an emergency you may come upon a door that you didn’t expect.

6-How would people with a disability be assisted in case of a fire?

While you may see special signs for emergency procedures for people in a wheelchair, etc., it is up to you to figure out how you will handle an emergency.

Other fire safety features to look for, in any building.

1-What is the maximum occupancy?

Overfilled rooms, theaters, restaurants, stadiums, etc. may be more dangerous if there is panic. Be aware of where exits are located, and in an emergency do not automatically head for the door where you came in. Is there a better exit option?

(In my experience it’s fun and valuable to train children on a regular basis to look for multiple exits. As you settle down in movie theater seats, ask, “How many exits do you see? Or, how many ways to do you see that we could get out of here?”)

2-Where are fire extinguishers?

In a commercial building in the U.S., there’s sure to be one not far away!

Usually, local fire codes require that fire extinguishers be installed based on square footage, and they also require that you be able to find one no more than 75 feet away. (“75 feet” is only an example. Specifics may change slightly in a different state and in a different type of building.)

In any case, when you enter a building or room, it’s a good idea to look around to see if you can locate the nearest hand-held extinguisher.

This assumes you know HOW TO USE an extinguisher, of course.

What to do if there is a fire in a high-rise?

Fire experts still say “shelter in place” is the best advice IF THE BUILDING HAS PROPER FIRE SUPPRESSION PROTECTION.

(Stuff towels under the door to block smoke from entering, stay alert for instructions.)

Sprinkler systems have been in use for over 100 years. They provide 24/7 protection, turning on automatically when sprinkler heads reach a certain heat level. Fires can be caught and put out without people even realizing it until later.

Once again, if you plan to visit or stay in a high-rise building without a sprinkler system, think twice. Think three times!  You may want to find another option.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Want more information about fires and how to avoid a disaster? Check out these Advisories:

Hurricane Headscratchers – A Quiz for Preppers

Hurricane forming

Over the years, we preppers gather a lot of info about the various threats we face. We prepare our car, pets, and pantry for “the first 72 hours,” for long-term shelter-in-place, and for bugging out.

We assemble and test survival gear, food and first aid items – including snake bite kits, liquid skin and anti-radiation pills.

We do a lot of preparing!

And then along comes a hurricane, and we realize we DON’T know everything, after all!

Hurricane season starts this month. Here are a dozen questions about hurricanes pulled from a variety of “reliable sources.” Test yourself and see how well YOU do!

Let’s start our quiz with the easiest questions.

1-The circular, clear space at the center of the hurricane is called the ___? (Just beginning to form in the image above, from NASA.)

2-At the center of a hurricane, does air rise or fall to create the eye?

3-The cloudy outer edge of the eye is called the ______.

4-T or F —  Winds are highest at the eyewall.

5-Precipitation from a hurricane is greatest

  • At the eyewall
  • At the outer edges of the hurricane
  • When the eyewall hits land

6-T or F Once the eyewall starts to weaken, the storm is dying.

7-Match the storm name with the likely location:

  • Hurricane
  • Typhoon
  • Cyclone
  • ——————
  • NE Pacific Ocean
  • South Pacific and Indian Ocean
  • NW Pacific Ocean

8-All these storms are considered “tropical cyclones.” Tropical because they are formed ______ and cyclones because they _________,

9-In the northern hemisphere, the winds of a cyclone blow in which direction?

10-In the southern hemisphere, in which direction do they blow?

11-For us preppers, the greatest threat from a hurricane comes from:

  • Wind
  • Tornado
  • Storm surge
  • Flash flooding

12-The word “hurricane” comes originally from the _____ language.

How well did you do?  Sure you got everything right? Read on if you aren’t sure about some of your answers!

And the answer is . . .

1-The eye of a hurricane (that we’ve all flown through in movies) can be anywhere from 2 miles in diameter to over 200 miles! It is typically clear and calm – although the water below may be violent.

2-In a mature tropical cyclone, sinking air is what creates the eye.

3-The outer edge of the eye is called, not surprisingly, the eyewall. It’s not exactly a vertical wall. Rather, it expands outward with height – called the “stadium effect.”

4 and 5- The eyewall is where everything is happening – the greatest wind speeds, heaviest rain, and air rising most rapidly. (In 2015, winds from Hurricane Patricia reached 215 mph! A category 5 hurricane has winds of 157 mph or greater.)

6-In a large storm, there are a series of rain band rings that move slowly inward. The eyewall can weaken, but then can be replaced by the next band, giving the storm a new eyewall and new strength.

7-Hurricanes occur in the Atlantic and northeastern Pacific. A Typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific. And a Cyclone occurs in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean.

8-Tropical storms are “born” in “the tropics,” over warm bodies of water. Their “cyclonic” or rotating winds are a function of the earth’s rotation.

9-Cyclonic winds blow counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere.

10-They blow clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

11-The greatest threat to life comes from the storm surge – water that is pushed ashore by the storm’s winds. Storm surges can reach 25 feet and be hundreds of miles wide. In November 1970 the storm surge from the “Bhola Cyclone” in Bangladesh was estimated to be 20-30 feet high. Between 300,000-500,000 people in the low-lying regions were killed.

13-The Mayan god of wind “Hurakan” became our word Hurricane. One of the first record of hurricanes is found in Mayan hieroglyphics.

Are you a teacher or leader of any sort, and do you . . .

Want more on hurricanes?

The best short, all-purpose article I found is here:  https://pmm.nasa.gov/education/articles/how-do-hurricanes-form  It has several excellent diagrams showing the parts of the hurricane (eye, eyewall, the rain bands, etc.), how the air sinks and rises, etc. It also lists the different storm categories (rated by wind speed).

If you want the full explanation of the storm categories – the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale — check here: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsshws.php

Enough here for cocktail party or dinner table conversation, eh?

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Hurricane season reaches its height in September. By the time September comes around, if you are in hurricane/cyclone territory, you need to know more than just these tidbits. . .! In particular, be sure you and your group distinguish between hurricane warnings and watches.

 

 

Summer Vacation Threats — Wild Animals

WildlifeTravel to a place you haven’t been before often tops the list of vacation destinations.

And a glimpse of a wild animal you’ve never seen outside a zoo might make that vacation truly memorable.

Still, an “up close and personal” experience with a bear (mountain lion, coyote, wolf, bison, snake, alligator, etc.) may turn out to be more than you bargained for.

Five general guidelines for protecting yourself from dangerous wild animal attacks.

 

First rule – “Maintain situational awareness!”

We’ve talked before about the dangers of wandering city streets with your attention focused on your cell phone. Paying attention to your surroundings is just as important in the woods or on safari or surfing. Your “vacation paradise” may be the hunting grounds for wild animals — and you could become the prey.

So, know before you arrive what you might expect, and be on the lookout with every step.

Second rule – Avoidance is the best defense.

Unless you are a professional hunter, or perhaps a professional photographer, the safest vacation will be one where you never even see a dangerous animal up close.

Most wild animals will avoid you if given the chance.

Some ways to improve your chances of keeping wild animals at a safe distance:

• Avoid areas where dangerous wild animals have been seen or attacks have happened. This includes keeping hands or feet out of water where alligators may swim, and keeping entirely out of water where sharks have been seen. Check local reports – you may decide to change camping plans at the last minute.
• Make some noise as you hike or travel. Consider wearing bells or other noisemakers to let animals know you’re coming. (More on that. Keep reading.)
• Vacation with a group. Jog or bike with partners; don’t leave children or pets alone in a campground or let them wander off by themselves.

Third rule – Animal babies are NOT cute.

We pretty much know this by now, but any mother will viciously defend her baby. Many deaths from bear attacks have been because people got between cubs and their mother. Make sure your children understand this rule!

Fourth rule – Hunger drives behavior.

More and more homes are being built in areas that used to belong to wild animals. Climate changes are driving animals closer to human habitation, too.

This means that the traditional sources of food for predators – namely, other smaller wild animals – may have disappeared. Where else can they turn?  To humans.

Bears, coyotes, mountain lions or cougars and alligators can be attracted by garbage. Make sure trash containers are animal-proof, sealed and sturdy. If you’re camping, keep food out of easy reach of wild animals (hang it away from your sleeping area). And for heaven’s sake, don’t take food into a tent with you!

Pet food? Same idea. Small animals may be attracted to the pet food – and in turn may attract larger animals like bears or mountain lions.

If you come across a dead animal, or other stash of food, it may be planned lunch for a larger animal – and that animal may be just out of sight. Don’t let the “owner” think you’re about to steal that meal!

If hungry enough, wild animals may consider people as potential food, too. While attacks are very infrequent, they happen and with grisly results.

Once again, remember the basic rules. Be aware. Hike or bike in groups. Make enough noise that animals won’t be surprised to see you appear around the corner. If you accidentally come across a wild animal, stay calm and back slowly away. Don’t run! Give the animal an escape route. Keep it in sight as you move away, but avoid eye contact, as that is considered a sign of aggression.

Fifth rule – If you are attacked, fight for your life.

The only animals you might be able to outrun are moose. (They don’t see you as food so they give up once they’ve chased you away.)

You might be able to climb a tree to escape a coyote or wolf, but bears and cougars can come right up after you.

If you are being stalked or are confronted . . .
• A coyote can be scared away by noise or aggression. Hold your arms out, open your coat, put a child on your shoulders. Be noisy, look BIG!
• A pack of coyotes may NOT be frightened by your actions. Call for help and get your back against a wall and be prepared to defend yourself from quick attacks aimed at your feet and legs. Use whatever weapons you have. Aim for the animals’ eyes.
Wolf attacks are the rarest of all large predator attacks. Wolves are wary of humans and not aggressive toward them by nature, and if one attacks it’s probably because it has been fed by humans, or is sick. As with a single coyote, be noisy and look BIG, and – unusual for dealing with wild animals – maintain eye contact.
Cougar or mountain lion attacks are also very rare. If looking BIG and threatening doesn’t frighten the cougar away, and it attacks, you must fight back using whatever you have: a stick, backpack, water bottle, shovel or bare hands.
Bears really don’t like people, and they are likely to detect you and leave the area a lot sooner than you will detect them. Should you suddenly surprise a black bear, though, remain calm and do not run. Tell the bear to get away (thus letting it know you are a human). It may make a “fake charge” and then stop. If the bear attacks, fight back immediately and forcefully.
Grizzly bears, like other predators, will defend their territory, their young or their food. If you threaten any of these, they may attack, but if you remove yourself as a threat, they will likely calm down. One way to “remove the threat” is by playing dead – if you have the discipline. If a grizzly sees you as prey, however, it may keep coming. (Note – “Playing dead” seems to work with grizzlys, but not with other bears.)

Weapons for self-defense against wild animals.

Avoiding encounters with wild animals is the best defense. However, if you are trespassing on their territory, it’s best to be prepared with weapons for self-defense.

These weapons can range from firearms to a big knife to a club or walking stick or to pepper spray or bear spray. In every case, you need to have practiced with your weapons so you can reach them quickly and surely. Again, keep reading for a recommendation about bear spray.

Good items to add to your vacation planning list.

If you’re planning a wilderness vacation trip, consider adding these items to your list. They are relatively inexpensive and could actually save your life.

  • Smart camping items

Keep food and food garbage from attracting animals by storing it in odor-barrier bags and/or in bear-resistant containers. Here are examples available at Amazon. (Obviously, you want to dispose of the bags in animal-resistant trash containers.) The bags cost less than $15 for assorted sizes. The plastic, shatter-proof container comes in 4-day or 7-day sizes (weighs around 2 pounds) and costs between $70 and $80 as I write this. Click on the links or images for full details.

BaseCamp Odor-Barrier Bag, Assorted

Bear Vault BV500 Bear Resistant Food Canister

  • Smart hiking items

Let animals know you are coming by wearing bells. This one comes in a variety of finishes (black, chrome, red) and because it costs around $5 is considered an “add on” at Amazon. (The magnetic silencer feature allows you to “turn it off” when you’re not out on the trail.)

Bear Bell w/ Silencer


If you find yourself in a tough spot, you may want to make more noise with a whistle. Again, these are inexpensive additions to your day pack and will give you peace of mind.

ZITRADES 3pcs Emergency Hiking Camping Survival Aluminum Whistle Key Chain With Red/Green/Blue Color

Now for the bear spray. If you’ve read our Advisories for a while, you will have come across a couple of articles about pepper spray for personal safety. THIS IS NOT YOUR MOTHER’S PEPPER SPRAY. It is not meant for that mugger standing 4 feet from you. Bear Spray has extra powerful pepper. The container lays down a cloud of spray well before the bear gets to you — at 25-30 feet.  Start shooting in time, and aim low to get it into the bear’s eyes and nose. (Get a large can of spray to be sure you don’t run out before the bear runs away.)

You must have INSTANT ACCESS to spray to make it useful. Wear it in a holster at your chest or waist, and practice drawing and shooting BEFORE you need it. (Recycle a partially used can responsibly.)

Frontiersman Bear Spray with Chest or Belt Holster- Easy Access, Max Strength – 9.2 oz -Industry Max 35-Foot Range

Don’t think this is everything you need to know!

Different parts of the country experience different wild animal problems. Before you make final plans for your vacation, take the time to check in with experts from the area.

For example,

  • The U.S. Forest Service issues warnings regarding bear encounters.  Google the area where you are heading with the words “bear attacks.”
  • Parks may have special websites all about their wildlife, including ways to interact safely. At http://www.yellowstonepark.com/bear-spray-matters/  you can get info about local conditions and how to purchase or even rent bear spray.
  • Specialty websites are a great source of information about particular animal behavior. A generic resource site can be found at http://westernwildlife.org

As with all threats, the more you know, and the better prepared you are, the better you’ll be able to avoid a disaster.

Enjoy your summer vacation!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

May 31 is Dam Safety Awareness Day

Who ever heard of this holiday?

Dam Safety Awareness DayMaybe the people who live near the 90,000 or so dams in the United States! (BTW, Texas has more dams than any other state, followed by Kansas . . .)

Most likely to have heard about Dam Safety Awareness Day, however,  are the people who live near the 17% of all dams that are considered by the American Society of Civil Engineers as having high-hazard potential!

Apparently the Oroville Dam in northern California, that came so close to collapsing this spring, was not even on that list . . .!

(Personal note. My dad, who among other things was a road-grader operator – “Best damn blade-man west of the Mississippi” – worked on the construction of the Oroville Dam in the 60s.)

The Oroville Dam didn’t collapse, thanks to quick action by its operators. But in the aftermath, it was discovered that its Emergency Action Plan had never been tested in the 50-year-life of the dam. And during that time, population in the area below the dam had doubled and evacuation options had changed. Officials admitted that had the dam actually broken, citizens would not have received a warning quickly enough to be able to get to safety.

What makes a high-hazard dam?

The ASCE defines it this way: “A dam in which failure or mis-operation is expected to result in loss of life and may also cause significant economic losses, including damages to downstream property or critical infrastructure, environmental damage, or disruption of lifeline facilities.”

And, the ASCE gives a grade of D to our dam infrastructure.

What risks do dams face?

Most dams become at risk simply because of age and lack of maintenance. This image from FEMA shows the kinds of weaknesses that appear as an embankment dam ages:

Embankment dam weaknesses

At the Oroville site, the problem wasn’t in the main embankment, but rather a break in the emergency spillway. When water was released to relieve pressure on the main dam, the spillway began to give way, which could have led to the whole thing collapsing.

Too much water behind the Oroville Dam was caused by unexpectedly heavy rain storms. But dam failures are not always caused by storm. Most are caused by settlement and damage from earthquakes, mechanical failures (like gates not working) and poor design (allowing for overtopping and blocking by debris).

So who is keeping track of whether dams are safe?

States regulate the vast majority of dams in the U.S. (about 80%). The Federal government regulates the remaining number.

Regulation is one thing. Actually doing the required maintenance is another. Most states’ safety programs are woefully underfunded and do not have any authority to require maintenance.

Keeping the dams safe is up to dam owners.  And nearly 70% of dams are privately owned.

For example, a homeowners’ association that wants its homes built around a lake will own and operate a dam. A utility may own a lake used for water storage or for electricity production. And, of course, large commercial entities (agricultural, mining, etc.) may build waste holding ponds behind dams.

As more dams are built, as downstream development continues, and as ALL dams age, the number of high-risk dams increases.

Where are these dangerous dams?

I tried to find a map showing dams and danger areas – called Dam Break Inundation Areas. It wasn’t easy!

What I finally discovered is the National Inventory of Dams, maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. As a “non-government user” I could get into the database but even after I filtered for my own state, the data wasn’t easy to read. And I never found a map!

I encourage you to check it out yourself: https://nid.usace.army.mil If you have the name of a specific dam, you’ll get info faster.

Another course would be to inquire of your own insurance agent. You may have to shop for a specialist in flood insurance to get specifics for your own location.

Obviously, even if you personally are not in the path of water from a breech, you could be impacted in other ways by the failure of a dam.

Homes and businesses of people you know might be flooded; those people might be displaced. Your personal water supply might be shut off. Water for irrigation, fighting fires, etc. – all might be reduced.  Utilities that depend on hydro power could be affected. Transportation systems could be disrupted.

If we are near a dam, what should we be doing in the way of emergency planning?

1- People: Somebody manages that dam! Find out who, and ask these questions:

  • Who owns the dam? Has it been inspected?
  • Is there an Emergency Action Plan for the dam?
  • When was it last updated?
  • What kinds of warning systems are in place to warn us of danger or potential danger? (Sirens, reverse 911 calls, door-to-door notification?)
  • Are evacuation routes laid out?
  • What about people with disabilities?

2-Political: If you encounter barriers or obfuscation (love that word when it comes to things political!), consider these actions:

  • Urge your state to require a disclosure of whether property for sale is in an inundation zone.
  • Likewise, urge policymakers to require disclosure of dam-related issues to potential owners of dams and property around them.
  • Urge legislators to fund dam safety programs and to provide funding for those programs.

3-Personal: And everyone can add to their own personal emergency plan:

  • An evacuation route to higher ground.
  • How to evacuate family members who need assistance.
  • Practice evacuation route and point out a family meeting place.

Having an evacuation kit packed and ready to go is a given.

Want more info for your family or your group?

FEMA has produced a useful fact sheet (8 pages), available here:

https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1486735320675-8b0597aca8b23c7e2df293310e248bee/NDSPFlashFactSheet2015.pdf

Hope this has added to your knowledge about the (often invisible) world around us!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. And the story behind the Dam Safety Awareness Day being on the 31st . . .

One of the worst disasters in U.S. History was the Johnstown flood of 1889, which happened on May 31.

At that time, Johnstown was a thriving community in western Pennsylvania. Nearby, a group of wealthy citizens had restored an old dam and created a private lake for fishing, sailing and ice boating.

In May the area experienced several days of extraordinary rain, and it was feared the dam would collapse. Nothing could be done, however, in part because debris had built up in the spillway, making it impossible to lower the level in the dam. Warnings were issued, but false alarms had been given before, so residents ignored them.

At 4 p.m. on the 31st, the dam was overtopped, and collapsed, sweeping a 20-ft. high wall of trees, railcars and entire houses down the valley toward Johnstown. There, the mass was stopped by a bridge, which became a second barrier, causing the water to back up and cover the whole town. Then, everything burned.

More than 2,200 people died in the Johnstown flood. The entire town was destroyed, and surrounding communities dealt with typhus, smoke, contaminated water supplies and outbreaks of violence.

The private club members and dam owners were able to claim the dam break was “an act of God” and escaped being held liable.

 

Are you sabotaging yourself?

Hiuding in the woodsDo you ever roam the internet, checking out different survival forums and blogs?

Well, naturally, I do – to better understand “the communities,” learn about new products and practices, and stay up to date with some of the latest science regarding emergency response.

When I find interesting or exciting new ideas, I try to share them on our Advisories.

One theme I don’t share very often – the paranoia I see out there.

Here’s sort of how it goes:

“When the SHTF, expect bad guys, marauding gangs, vigilantes, even government troops, to start roaming the streets coming for you and for your supplies so you’d better be ready with weapons and lots of ammunition and be able to turn your home into a fortress or better yet, escape to a hidden, hardened survival shelter where you can wait it all out.”

I’m not saying some bad stuff couldn’t happen, or that having an escape plan doesn’t make sense. What I do question, though, are the implicit recommendations in this scenario. I see three of them:

  1. “Treat all others as potential aggressors.”
  2. “Arm yourself with serious weapons.”
  3. “Pull yourself into your shell and close the doors after you.”

As I see it,

The reality of the most likely emergencies is going to be very different.

For example, last week we talked about an emergency that shuts down your work completely, like a fire or flooding. In a situation like this, you may suffer a personal disaster because you don’t have money in the bank to meet your bills while you are out of work. Others you work with may suffer, too. But roving gangs as a threat? Probably not.

We’ve often talked about the most frequent emergency at work – a power outage. Statistics suggest that as many as 70% of businesses can expect to experience an outage during the next year, whether weather-related or from equipment breakdown. Once again, your company, its customers and maybe even shareholders will suffer – but all of you being well armed won’t make a bit of difference.

In fact, in the U.S., disasters have seldom left people on their own and scrambling for supplies, for more than a few days – the exceptions being Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

So, our recommendations at Emergency Plan Guide are built on a different set of assumptions.

Neighbors. I know them, their kids and their dogs. I may not consider them “best friends,” but they’ve never hesitated to lend a helping hand. They’ll be the first to show up in an emergency. Why wouldn’t I look to them for help?

Self-defense. Yes, as I wrote in my bio, I grew up with guns and I’m comfortable with them. But I think the emphasis on guns (handguns, shotguns, automatic weapons) — and also tomahawks, and machetes — encourages people to arm themselves who have no business having weapons. They will make an emergency situation even worse.

(As embarrassing as it is to admit, when Joe went through specialized weapons training with the military, he learned how to shoot all sorts of weapons. Unfortunately he couldn’t qualify as a marksman with any of them! So weapons may be more dangerous for us than for intruders . . .!)

Self-reliance. Yes, be sure you have a sensible stash of food, medicines, etc. But to count on one family to have everything it needs? How much easier to share the cooking, child or elder care, and medical knowledge and skills. How much more effective to share tools and work together on repairs. Share the fear — and share confidence and hope when you can. Self-sufficiency is positive; isolation is lonely and negative.

And as for the government . . .

Again, some survivalist blogs and forums have members who are passionate about hating the government, the police, and, in fact, any “authority.”

Here at Emergency Plan Guide we have been fortunate to build good relationships with all kinds of “authorities” in our community. I write often about the fire fighters and police and the CERT team members with whom we work closely.

One of the advantages to these relationships is that we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the authorities in an emergency. In an emergency, we won’t be guessing – or second-guessing – what they are likely to do.

For example:

  • We know how our police department has been trained to respond to active shooters – and how their procedures have changed in the past year or so. (We’ve even been invited to participate in a drill as civilians caught in an active shooter situation.)
  • We know what emergency facilities our local first responders have. Heck, we’ve been inside most of them, and seen the equipment in action!
  • We’re tuned in to local emergency services that deal with homelessness, missing people and drug overdoses. We know who to call and what to say to get an appropriate response.
  • We’ve checked and are clear on how our local police force is handling coordinating with ICE on immigrants in our community.
  • We receive regular bulletins on how local schools plan for emergencies.

This isn’t everything we’d like to know, but it’s a pretty good start!

What does it take to get up to speed about local policies and procedures?

Here’s some of what our local group members do on a regular basis.

  • We follow what our city is doing by going online to the city website.
  • We take tours when there’s an open house at a fire station or the police department.
  • We sign up for official emergency alerts (AMBER alerts, etc.).
  • We track the police department via its Facebook page.
  • We’re on the list to get invitations to CERT follow-up trainings. (The most recent one was on terrorism.)
  • We invite “the authorities” to come to our local emergency response team meetings as guest speakers – and then ply them with questions. (Yes, we have put them on the spot from time to time!)
  • We subscribe to various online industry news feeds.

If you’ve been reading our Advisories, then you know we also share what we learn from these various field trips and events – so our immediate neighbors and several hundred Emergency Plan Guide subscribers from across the country know what we know.

In our estimation, by choosing NOT to know details like those above, and NOT being open to working with a group,  you are sabotaging yourself and your chances of coming through a disaster.

No, I don’t expect the authorities to “save us” in an emergency. In fact, they have made their limitations clear. Frankly, I’m glad to know that they WON’T necessarily show up immediately . . . because it gives me an incentive to do a better job of my own preparedness.

But our philosophy has been, and continues to be, to include family, friends and co-workers in our planning, because . . .

The more we all know, the safer we all will be.

Thanks for reading.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Survival Kit Supplies

Survival Kit SuppliesBy now you know that at Emergency Plan Guide, when it comes to survival kits, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all.

By now you know that having “the one perfect kit” doesn’t work, either!

No matter how well stocked your survival kit, if it is at home when the emergency strikes, and you are 43 miles away in the car, that kit will do you absolutely no good!

Different Survival Kits for Different Situations

The chart shows the four different sets of supplies that we think everyone needs:

1-A Go-Bag or Survival Kit (also known as a 3-day or 72-hour kit)

This is the kit you grab as you head out the door in an emergency. This kit needs to provide basics for the top  nine categories: water; food (stuff you like and can eat cold); shelter/warmth (clothing, blanket, sleeping bag, fire igniter); health/safety (first aid kit, medicines, sanitation supplies); communications (radio, whistle); light (flashlight, headlamp, lantern); clothing (shoes, gloves); cash (for vending machines and/or for buying supplies); personal items (toothbrush, prescription drugs, extra eyeglasses, paper and pen/pencil, and if it suits, a weapon for self-defense).

By and large, an off-the-shelf kit will be missing more than one of these main categories, so while it may serve as a start, you really can’t count on it.

2-A kit for the car

We all travel. And any of us could be trapped overnight in a car for something as mundane as road construction, a fallen tree – or a full-blown blizzard or hurricane. Your car kit will keep you comfortable and safe until you can find your way around the damage.

Your car kit contains the same basics as listed above for the Go-Bag, but it also may have some transportation-related items including tools for car repairs, jumper cables, a work light, maps, and flares. In snow country? Consider a folding shovel and non-slip mats. (You can see that you may actually have to pack two kits – one with personal stuff, and the other with car stuff. Tools and jumper cables are heavy and get dirty.)

One final note about your car. Remember it has a battery that can be used to charge your phone and power other items (like flood lights) as long as you have the right connections.

3-A kit for at work

Once again, this kit starts with the basics. Then, depending on where you work – how far it is from your home, what sort of building it is, what actually happens at the workplace – you may need some specialty items.

If you have to set out on foot to get home, you’ll need, above all, comfortable shoes. (Break in new shoes/boots for your office or car kit by wearing them on the treadmill at the gym!)

Your work kit might contain any of these specialty items: the comfortable shoes mentioned above, personal safety equipment including gloves, dust mask, and safety glasses; tool for shutting off equipment; list of business and family contacts; a good whistle.

If people have already left the workplace, and aren’t planning to come back, you might check out your colleagues’ desk drawers for extra snacks, band aids, etc. Most office workers have that “personal drawer” that could be a small treasure trove in a big emergency!

4-Shelter-in-place

Here in California, we have been asked by our local fire department to be prepared to shelter in place for 10 days to 2 weeks after “the big one” hits. If you live in a different area, with different threats, you may want to pull together supplies that will keep you going for months, not weeks.

Shelter-in-place supplies start with the basics, just as in the smaller kits. But you’ll need more of everything. Think of it as an extended camping trip, and build a plan . . .

Plan for buying and rotating canned food, stocking up on toilet paper and other sanitary supplies and buying and storing extra batteries. You may need more substantial shelter – like a big tent, or plastic to seal windows, with the ever popular duct tape, of course. A variety of more substantial tools. Like the concept of dried meals? Be sure you have something to heat water in so you can reconstitute it – for example, a camp stove and pot.

For each kit, your complete list will be longer that what we’ve just gone over.

But today, we’re not seeking perfection. We’re getting a handle on general readiness!

Rate yourself on the state of your own survival supplies. 

So as you have read these reviews of the different emergency supply kits, how would you rate yourself? One easy way is to estimate the percentage completed for each of the following statements.

  • I have assembled supplies for all four needs — Go Bag, Car, Work, Shelter-in-Place. My percentage completed _____
  • I have considered all nine major categories — water, food, shelter/warmth, health/safety, communications, lighting, clothing, cash, personal items. My percentage completed _____
  • I have added specialty items that I personally need or want for each kit. My percentage completed ___

If your score isn’t where you’d like it to be, consider the following.

Over the years we’ve asked many, many people why they haven’t put together their preparedness supplies. Here are the most popular “reasons:”

  • I don’t know how to get started.
  • It will take too long.
  • People will think I am strange or weird.
  • Why bother?  If it is the end of the world, it will not matter.
  • Nothing has happened so far, so why should I start to worry now?

Any of these sound familiar? I’m sure you’ve thought or heard them all at one time or another!

However, here at Emergency Plan Guide we figure these are all pretty weak reasons. In fact, we call them “excuses!”

Why so weak?

Because we’ve seen so many people start with one or two items and just keep working at it over time until they have built up a perfectly respectable stash!

When they do, they feel pleased and satisfied and a lot more confident that they’ll be able to handle that emergency, whenever it DOES come!

And that’s what we’re all working toward!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Here are more complete lists of emergency supplies that you may be interested in:

Camping As Practice for Survival

Camper drinking coffee

Hot chocolate! Yum!

Making summer plans for camping?

Camping does double duty!

First, camping is fun, a total change of pace, and a great learning adventure for kids.

Second, camping is a great way to try out survival gear and supplies that you just can’t justify using when you’re comfy at home!

Here are some of my favorite “dual purpose camping/survival items” and why I like ‘em!

1. Staying reasonably clean

To the extent that camping resembles “shelter in place,” you can assume you want to use water sparingly. Still, staying clean is important for hygiene and also for personal comfort.

Three items that I have tested and found useful – and that don’t take up too much room or too much water:

  • Soap. I like a good bar of soap for cleaning dirty hands. But soap requires water, and usually quite a lot just for rinsing. So, for camping, consider liquid soap that can be diluted and doled out drop by drop as needed. (Use different plastic bottles for the different dilutions — for example, one for shampoo, one for dish cleaner (mix with lemon juice) and a third for general purpose stain remover.) My favorite liquid soap is Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap – Almond 32oz. (This soap comes in a number of different “flavors.”)
  • Wipes. If you’re underway, or are worried about germs, you might try these convenient wipes: Coleman Biowipes, 30 Count They’re larger than the usual baby wipe, and will break down within 21 days – IF YOUR BURY THEM IN SOIL. (Just tucking one under a rock does NOT count. Either pack them out or bury properly.)
  •  Clothes line. My mother insisted on clean underwear. When I have enough water, I always wash out the unmentionables and hang them to dry. (I use Dr. Bronner’s soap for the washing.) This stretchy clothesline is great! You just tuck the damp clothing right into the woven bungee cords — no need for clothes pins. Coghlan’s 0433 Adjustable Bungee Clothesline (It’s strong enough to string inside a tent, too, to use for hanging small items and maybe even a lantern.)

 

Staying warm

Sleeping in the RV does NOT count! Yes, maybe you have a tent. And let’s hope you have a fire. As for me, I can get through the night just about anywhere as long as I am warm!

And that means having the right sleeping bag.

There are many choices when it comes to sleeping bags, starting with size (length, width), shape (quilt or mummy bag up to the neck or over the head), fill (synthetic, down) and temperature rating (for example: 0, 20, 40 degrees).  You can pay anywhere from $50 to $500 – but if you pick the wrong style, and find yourself shivering through the night, you’ll regret it!

A couple of different bags to help you decide what you really need or want:

And two more warmer-uppers:

 

Eating and enjoying it

Not long ago we wrote about MREs. And last year I did a taste test between a survival food macaroni and cheese package vs. commercial mac ‘n cheese.

I’m afraid that the reviews on these survival foods are uninspiring.

(Since I don’t eat a lot of macaroni and cheese under the best of circumstances, it doesn’t really make a difference to me. But if YOU have kids, and they are fans, before you assume anything use your camping trip to test different brands!)

If I’m going camping, though, I DO want some things to eat that I really love – and that will make survival that much easier.

The essentials:

 

Seeing what you’re doing

Starting off for the campground restroom always takes some fortitude. Heading in that direction IN THE DARK is even more daunting. And if there were no restroom at all, and you are searching for a “reasonable spot to do your business?”

At the very least, you need to see where you are stepping!

 

Using survival technology

In an emergency we may have to bug out without much in the way of civilized stuff. And, of course, if the emergency goes on long enough, we will run out of everything we were able to scramble together.

Some survival technology WON’T run out, though. And that’s what you might want to consider.

If you have these already, be sure to take them with you on your camping trip to practice with them. If you don’t have them, consider getting them now – in time for the trip, or for ANY emergency.

Start making plans for your camping trip now. Looking forward to it, and getting all your gear laid out and packed, is half the fun!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Some related articles (that have LOTS more details):

 

Will Your Business Survive a Disaster?

You arrive at work the morning after a big storm . . .

Storm damage

So you say you’re just an employee, and business continuity isNot my job!”

Think Again. Your job is all about business continuity!

You should already know these statistics about businesses hit by a disaster:

  • If you can’t get the doors re-opened within 10 days, your business has little chance of surviving.
  • In fact, about 40% of companies hit by natural disasters never do re-open.
  • And for small businesses, the chances of going under are even greater because not only is the workplace damaged or destroyed, but local customers have been hit by the storm, too.

OK, those are statistics. But stick with the scenario a bit longer.

Big storm hits – and thankfully you get through unharmed. Your family is shaken, but safe and back together. Unfortunately, your workplace was leveled just like in the image above. So now, the real emergency begins, because . . .

If the business shuts down, how will you get paid?

If you’ve never really thought about it, here are some things to know that will make a difference to the answer.

  1. Are you paid on an hourly basis and eligible for overtime? Or are you “exempt” from overtime?
  2. How long is the business likely to be down?
  3. Can you work from home?
  4. Does your employer have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that will help?
  5. Do you have a personal retirement plan – 401(k) – that you could borrow from?

As you can imagine, answers to these questions may vary company by company, and state by state, but here are some general guidelines.

If you have questions, please do not rely on this Advisory; check with your employer for specific answers. (This Advisory should help you know what questions to start with!)

What your employer is required to do

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (https://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/), employers must pay covered non-exempt employees for hours worked, and overtime to those workers who work more than 40 hours in one week. So, if you work, expect to get paid. If you DON’T work because a disaster shuts down the business, don’t expect to get paid.

If you are a salaried employee, and the business is shut down for less than a week, you will probably get paid for that time. However, your employer may deduct those days from your leave bank. If the business is closed for a full workweek, your employer isn’t required to pay you.

If the workplace is completely destroyed from the disaster, you may be eligible for unemployment while you look for work or the company is being re-built.

If the company re-opens, but you can’t make it back to work because your own home has been damaged, or someone in your family has been injured, your absence is considered “a personal day” and it will be counted against your leave bank or deducted from your salary.

Your employer may have set up an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) that in addition to referrals and counseling might provide short-term financial help – perhaps advancement on future wages. Note my use of the word “might” in that sentence . . .

What you may have to do

You may be called upon to work from home while the business gets back on its feet. If you can function from home, you’ll be compensated – either for the hours worked, for by the week. Questions to ask: “How will my work from home be monitored? Is there a minimum number of hours I’ll have to work to get paid?”

If your home or other property is damaged in the disaster, make an insurance claim as soon as possible. Your policy may be able to provide money for what are called “additional living expenses.”

If you have a 401(k) or other retirement plan, you may be able to get a hardship distribution or a hardship loan, with few penalties.

If the disaster is big enough

If the governor of your state requests and is granted “Disaster Relief,” your company may be eligible for special loans or grants from the government or Small Business Association. You and your family may be eligible for FEMA assistance, too. In both cases, there will be some delay before you get any money, and how you use the proceeds may be restricted. Be sure you know what you are signing up for!

Does your employer have more resources?

The guidelines we’ve listed here are minimums prescribed by the federal government. Your state may have other requirements.

And of course your employer may have more resources and be able to pay you a lot more than the minimums.

Still, if the disaster is big enough that the company goes completely out of business, your finances will very quickly be impacted, too.

What’s the best answer?

Of course, you can’t predict a disaster, but the more you and your company prepare, the better the chances you’ll make it through the disaster and get back up and running before it’s too late.

So, even if emergency planning isn’t part of your official job description, find out what your employer has done about it. It’s possible that you could help improve whatever plan exists.

We have resources right here at Emergency Plan Guide. Use the search bar to find specific topics, or click on Business Planning in the Build Your Survival Skills section of the sidebar to page through some of the recent Advisories specifically for business owners and employees.

And watch for more on this topic!*

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

*Our 2017 Simple Business Continuation Plan is about a week away from completion! If you’re a subscriber to the Advisories, you’ll be at the top of the list to get the announcement.