Self-Defense for The Rest of Us

Friday, February 24th, 2017

Violence in the news

Purse with weapon. . . against religions, immigrant or racial groups. Violence in the streets, violence threatened by our government – it’s enough to make you want to lock the doors, crawl into bed and cover your head.

Some people are stocking up on guns and ammunition. But for most of us at Emergency Plan Guide, daily life goes on without dramatic changes that include firearms.

Still, if you’re feeling less secure these days, it’s worth taking another, no-nonsense look at personal safety and self-defense.

1 – Martial arts skills are a potent defense for some.

Trained martial arts masters no doubt have a much better chance of surviving a violent attack by someone without a weapon or even with one. In fact, everyone can become more skilled, without having to become a master. (I’ve seen classes advertised for children, for young women – “Don’t get raped” — and for senior citizens.)

I think even I could handle several of the self-defense moves illustrated in this article: http://www.cracked.com/photoplasty_1376_16-self-defense-moves-to-impress-your-friends-muggers/

But – and here’s the big caution. I am NOT in the best shape of my life. I have NOT trained or practiced these moves. I’m NOT confident that I would remember exactly which move to apply when. And I don’t have a martial arts class in my future.

So what about you?

In other words, unless you are willing to sign up for a professional class and become proficient if not professional, a casual approach to martial arts is useless and probably even dangerous.

2 — Mental attitude will KEEP you out of trouble.

Being aware is the very first defense, and is likely to be the key to your safety. We have written several times about the concept of situational awareness.

But awareness also requires action.

For example,

  • If you find yourself driving deeper into the “wrong” neighborhood, an unknown part of town, or into a dark parking lot or alley – make a smart decision, a quick U-turn and simply get out of there before you put yourself at risk.
  • If your normally familiar neighborhood or work environment suddenly “feels funny” – you see people you haven’t seen before doing things that don’t make sense, hear sounds that could be gunshots – make a smart decision and remove yourself (and your family, no matter how much they resist) before something happens.
  • if you enter what we’ve learned to term a “soft target” area – like a mall, movie theatre, sporting event, or shopping area – make constant note of alternate ways to get out of the area. In an emergency you’ll know just what to do and you won’t be trampled by all the others who will naturally try to get out the way they got in.

All of these mean you have to 1) recognize a potentially dangerous situation and 2) overcome doubt and other people’s criticisms or reluctance and 3) GET THE HELL OUT.

Explain or defend your actions later.

3 – When you have to fight, your ultimate goal is still to get away.

There may be a time when your “antennae” just didn’t work and you can’t avoid a person who is threatening you.

Or, and I hate to say this, YOU may have provoked a situation by threatening, annoying or insulting someone (Road rage? Street protest?) to the point they attack you. At that moment, you need to be able to let go of your own emotions and recognize the danger you’ve put yourself in!

Either way, if you decide that you must fight for your life, then commit to that fight. Any half-hearted attempt will be inadequate and could put you in even more danger.

Some self-protection suggestions that make sense to me:

Yell sharply and loudly right in the face of the attacker!

“BACK OFF!” makes it clear you are not going to be a willing victim. Your aggressive resistance may even be enough to make the attacker look for an easier victim. Note you are yelling at the attacker, not yelling for “Help!” from some unknown source.

Use what you have or can find as an improvised weapon.

If you have keys in your hand, use a key to scratch or cut. (If you are holding a whole bunch of keys in your hand, however, you are likely to stab your own palm if you actually hit something hard with that hand.) Hurl a handful of pocket change. Toss dirt or sand. Launch a pot of hot coffee. Spray an attacker with perfume or hairspray.

Use what you can to distract the attacker so you can get away.

Use “weaponized” personal items.

Any device is useless unless you understand how to use it, and you have it in your hand ready to use. This takes us right back to “situational awareness” and “mental attitude.” Here are some ordinary items that become weapons if you use them that way. Click the blue links under the images to go to Amazon to get current prices and full details.

I try to carry a flashlight all the time, for light and as a weapon.  Lately, we have the choice of “tactical” flashlights that serve both purposes.

My favorite “tactical” flashlight has a ridged grip that won’t slip and a sharp front edge that would cut seriously when used as a slashing weapon. Here’s a tactical light that has a wrist strap for easy carrying, offers a super-bright m adjustable flashlight and comes in a gift box. The blue arrow points to the sharp edge.

tactical flashlight

LED Tactical Flashlight,Akaho 900 Lumen XML T6 Portable Outdoor Water Resistant Torch with Adjustable Focus and 5 Light Modes,Rechargeable 18650 Lithium Ion Battery and Charger

I also carry a “tactical pen.” (The image at the start of this article shows it clipped to my purse.) It looks pretty ordinary but is anything but. It’s solid, heavy, has a pointed end and a thumb rest on the other end for secure grip. It could break a car window in an emergency. And plunging it into any part of anyone’s body would hurt BAD.

Here’s a better look and a link to the description at Amazon. There are other pens that are more pen than weapon, and pens with small flashlights built in. Take a good look to find what would suit you best.

Tactical pen

Hoffman Richter Stinger Tactical Pen

Be prepared with legal, dedicated self-defense items.

In my estimation, carrying guns or knives requires a level of training outside the scope of an Emergency Plan Guide Advisory. But there are other options to consider.

Stun gun. You hold a stun gun in your hand.  When you press it against the body of an attacker, its “electrical punch” can completely disable and disorient him for seconds or minutes, giving you the chance to get away. Before you purchase, be sure a stun gun is legal in your state or county. (For a lot more on stun guns – and tasers, which we do NOT recommend — see our earlier Advisory.)

I like the model shown below because it has a safety disable pin. If you lose control of the gun, the pin pulls out and it won’t shoot. It comes with a wrist strap, too – and in pink and black.

Stun guns

VIPERTEK VTS-979 – 230,000,000 Stun Gun – Rechargeable with Safety Disable Pin LED Flashlight, Pink

VIPERTEK VTS-979 – 230,000,000 Stun Gun – Rechargeable with Safety Disable Pin LED Flashlight, Black

Pepper spray

As I just said, for your stun gun to work, you have to press it against your attacker’s body.

That means the attacker is VERY CLOSE to you!

That’s why I prefer to carry a canister of pepper spray. It can shoot a spray at least 8-10 feet! (For more details, see this Advisory.) Anyone over 18 can buy and carry pepper spray.

Here’s one I recommend; I chose the pink color because if you bury this in a purse or briefcase, you’ll find it a lot easier if it’s colored. (This brand comes in black and aqua as well as pink.)

Pepper spray pink

SABRE Red Pepper Spray – Police Strength – Compact, Case & Quick Release Key Ring (Max Protection – 25 Shots, up to 5x More)

Does any of this make sense to you? Should you make a change in what you normally carry in your car or on your person?

Remember that in all these cases – driving, shopping, defending against an attack – you will only be successful if you

Make a quick assessment

Decide what to do, and

Do it!

Here’s to your safety,

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

How many terrorists are there, anyway?

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Earlier this week we attended a special

CERT update presentation on Terrorism.

Terrorist with pistolThe meeting was sponsored by our police department and given by an expert with military and law enforcement experience.

As always, it was good to see some of our CERT colleagues and to renew that feeling of being a part of a committed and capable group. (We have over 2,000 grads in our community!)

As it turned out, much of what was presented is information we have already reported on here at Emergency Plan Guide. Check out the list of Advisories at the end of this article — remembering that some of them were written as early as 2013 and thus are dated.

Anyway, after our training at the City, and prompted by news headlines about terrorists that we’ve seen on pretty much a weekly basis, I decided to dig a deeper into the issue.

My first question was,

How many terrorist attacks have we experienced here in the U.S.?

After several hours of research, my answer is:

There’s no good answer to that question!

Statistics on terrorism were difficult to find and even harder to interpret. Let me go through the challenges that I faced in trying to answer what I though was a pretty simple question.

Challenge #1. “What’s your definition of terrorist?”

As you might expect (!), different people define terrorist differently.

Dictionary definitions of terrorism seem to include three elements: “using force, particularly against civilians, to achieve a political goal.” (Typically, “state-sponsored terrorism” is not included in the basic definition.)

OK, but other terrorist terms popped up, too.

For example, in the U.S., the FBI has the job of combating terrorism. On their website I found that they track or otherwise deal with two different categories of terrorists. “Known terrorists” have been convicted or are known to belong to a terrorist organization. “Suspected terrorists” are people likely to engage in terrorist activities.

(“Terrorist organizations” is yet another aspect of this study. The list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations is maintained, interestingly enough, not by the FBI but by the Department of State. https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm.

And I could find NO formal list of Domestic Terrorist Organizations, but Wikipedia has a good start: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_terrorism_in_the_United_States)

And we have all heard of the FBI’s “watchlist” that they use to track terrorists.

But I did NOT know that people cannot be put on that list solely because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation or because they are exercising First Amendment-protected rights – freedom of speech, freedom of the press, etc. There has to be a link to actual or potential terrorist activity – that is, back to the concept of “violence or force.”

You can find out more about the FBI and its watchlist here: https://www.fbi.gov/about/leadership-and-structure/national-security-branch/tsc.

Whew. More work than I really expected to have to do. But while we’re on words, I have to include “extremist” and “radical,” too. Both these words show up, right along with “terrorist.”

Further research suggests that extremists and radicals share and support ideas that are “far from what most people think is correct or reasonable.” It’s only when we add the concept of violent and forceful action that these believers shift over to becoming terrorists.

So what’s the point of all this word play?

Terrorist, extremist, radical, domestic, foreign . . .

It’s this: Having extreme beliefs doesn’t make you a terrorist or a criminal. Forcefully and violently ACTING on those beliefs can.

So, before I could even attempt to answer my initial question, I found I had to first define my terms!

Challenge # 2. What are the parameters of the source you are using?

There are more than a dozen lists online of recent and not-so-recent terrorist activity. Every single one is different. Why? It has to do with the parameters of the study.

And nowhere did I find those parameter clearly stated!

For example, I had to look for . . .

  • Period covered. Online lists of terrorist activity cover very different periods of time – leading to different conclusions. For example, one oft-quoted and very long-term study (starting in the 1970s and ending in 2008) shows a preponderance of terrorist activity perpetrated by Jewish Underground organizations – groups which by today have become essentially inactive. Recent studies, covering the U.S. only since 2000, omit important acts like the Oklahoma City Bombing and Columbine. Timing matters.
  • Current activities. Most studies online are not up to date. The most up-to-date list I found is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Lists_of_terrorist_incidents_by_year
    As of February 15, 2017, the Wiki list shows 63 attacks for this month alone – none in the U.S.
  • Obvious bias. Again, as you can imagine, different authors are attempting to make a particular point. To pick up bias, first it helps to check the author of the study (Individual? Organization, Agency?) What about the use of particular jargon or “code” that reveals a particular point of view? (Religious bias seems to come through pretty strongly.)

With all this in mind, then ask yourself:

Challenge #3. What are YOU trying to prove?

If your goal, for example, is to focus on terrorist activities perpetrated by refugees (a popular topic these days), then be sure you set out your own clear parameters.

For example, if you were looking for statistics about terrorist activities perpetrated by refugees, you might look for refugees who . . .

  • Came from a particular part of the world
  • Arrived during a certain time period
  • Adhere to a particular religion
  • Attacked a certain target
  • Used a particular weapon
  • Etc.

As it turns out, for the purposes of this Advisory I found NO statistics on “refugee terrorists!”

I plan to continue with this topic, because at our meeting we learned some more about how police respond to terrorist activities, and what YOU can do to evade or avoid getting caught. But, that’s for another day.

Meanwhile, if I find myself hearing “statistics” about ANY of these subjects — terrorists, radicals, extremists, refugees — I know I’ll be a whole lot more cautious in trusting them.

Oh, and my research also came up with some terrific quotes about statistics, and I leave you with this one from William T. Watt (Professor of English, Lafayette College in Pennsylvania)

“Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say.”

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Some earlier Advisories with good background info:

Again, some of these were written as early as 2013, so keep that in mind as you read the stats!

 

We can dream, can’t we?

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Ah, for a wilderness retreat.

You may have guessed by now that Joe and I live in a community surrounded by other communities running up and down the coast of Southern California. Over 22 million people whose view of mountains is often just a brownish-gray haze over the top of multiple freeways. As for forests and rivers – well, you’ve heard of the California drought, too, right?

What this means is that OUR normal notion of “survival” really doesn’t include camping, hunting or fishing. For most of us, even the notion of back-yard farming is out of the question. (There’s that drought I mentioned.)

Living vicariously

So, I live vicariously through other survival blogs and my monthly Popular Mechanics, which seems to feature survival in 3 out of every 4 issues! Oh, how those photos of lush greenery make me envious! And the “how-to” survival ideas remind me of earlier days, when I tagged after my brothers as they earned Boy Scout merit badges. (Starting a fire with a bow was one of the biggest challenges, I recall.)

Anyway, a recent issue carried this title story: “How to Survive On Your Own – Make your own power, grow your own food, and other secrets to the new self-sufficiency – Page 55.”

So I thought I’d highlight a few things, in case you missed it . . .! (You won’t find all these items at Amazon, but if there’s a link, click to get the current pricing.)

Some slick survival equipment

The multi-page feature article started with wonderful tips about cast-iron equipment for the off-grid cookitems I’ll probably never use but that I’d like to try! (There’s such a satisfying feeling to the finish and heft of just about anything made of cast iron.)

  • A cast-iron grain mill ($1,100) for making flour and grinding seeds.
  • An 8-quart fruit press ($200) will handle berries, too.
  • The 11.75 in. Le Creuset enameled cast-iron skillet ($285) is something I MIGHT use. I admire Le Creuset pots but they’re heavy. The one in the magazine article has two handles so you can pick it up more easily. I’d still probably opt for a smaller size, maybe this one – cherry red, of course. Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle Skillet, 10-1/4-Inch, Cerise (Cherry Red)

But then I got to some other survival items that I would definitely try:

A manual washing machine – a 5 lb, hand-cranked machine great for delicates or small loads in an apartment and, of course, for camping. As long as you can hang things up to dry, it sounds like a terrific – and resource saving – idea, don’t you agree? The Laundry Alternative Wonderwash Non-electric Portable Compact Mini Washing Machine

A heavy-weight shovel that turns out to be a multi-tool – adjust the angle for chopping, digging or sawing, and it even has a fire starter embedded in the handle. I need a shovel for my car kit – I am particularly attracted by the case for this one from FiveJoy. The image shows the whole package.  (Note – this is the RS and not the C1): FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multitool (RS) – Tactical Entrenching Tool w/ Case for Camping Backpacking Hiking Car Snow – Heavy Duty, Multifunctional, Portable, Compact Emergency Kit Survival GearA pre-made, off-grid house! No tent for me – how about a self-contained pod that makes its own electricity, collects rainwater, deals with waste, etc.? The article described three different models (only one had a waste processor) costing from $87,600 (ecocapsure.sk) to “$400,000-$500,000.” (acredesigns.com). Sorry, no direct link to Amazon on these!

And then, there was the section called “Entertainment.”

It focused on making sure you have plenty of power for games and movies on your various devices. (After all, we’re talking survival here!) I already own solar panels, and recommend Goal Zero for even the most inexperienced survivalist.

Solar panels plugged into a power pack can charge your phone or tablet to give you the power you need for entertainment or connecting to civilization. There are many permutations of (1) panel/s + (2) powerpack/battery + maybe (3) inverter + device, but Goal Zero seems to have done a good job of making sturdy, convenient and handy combinations. We own a number of the components.

Here’s a Goal Zero kit that you could consider as a starter, for hiking or camping. Charge from the sun, by plugging into the wall, or into your car. The image shows the foldable solar panel with the battery and attached inverter. Many people add an extra 20W panel to give it more capability. Goal Zero 42011 Sherpa 100 Solar Recharging Kit

One family’s story

Still deep in the magazine, turn the page and you come to a personal story about confidence, creativity and survival in Smith Henderson’s article about his childhood and his family living in Montana. The story includes an intriguing mixture of danger (forest fire), hard work (filling the woodshed, canning and pickling and jamming to fill the cellar) and the best of modern survival gear. Again, for example:

Henderson’s father’s hunting bow with “complex sighting system, soloCam and arrows that flange outward.” As a kid I had a bow (and slingshot, and crossbow) so for fun, I took a look at several articles about real hunting bows, and learned a lot about draw-weight, draw-length, speed, weight, noise and vibration. Here’s a medium-priced single cam bow at Amazon that got a solid recommendation. PSE Archery Prophcy Skllwks CamoLH70.  (Nothing like what you remember from your childhood, eh?)

Can’t finish my Advisory without a nod to Smith Henderson himself, who published a first novel in 2014 — set where else but in Montana? — and which won all sorts of awards. Check it out:  Fourth of July Creek: A Novel

And a philosophical touch

I found the best piece in this whole feature buried in the section called “You need books.” It was a quote from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and it can pretty much apply to all our Advisories at Emergency Plan Guide.

As we dream, and make plans for acquiring wonderful new survival gear, we need equally to make plans for acquiring new knowledge, being open to new attitudes and learning new skills.

For as Thoreau says,

“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”

Thanks to Popular Mechanics for its continued emphasis on do-it-yourself self-sufficiency.

What about you? What’s a favorite resource of yours? Let us know in the comments!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

What To Do When You Discover a Gas Line Leak

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

(Part Three of a series aimed at neighborhood or workplace teams)

Gas main shut-off

Where and how?

In the first two segments of this special article we talked about where gas lines run, why they leak and how to recognize a leak.

Now, let’s talk about what to do if you find one!

Your response depends in large part where you find it. Let’s look at some possibilities.

Before we start, remember Rule #1.

If you detect a strong smell of natural gas, leave the area, get a safe distance away, and call 911.

A leak in the home

In your home, what’s most likely is that you will get a weak smell of gas. In that case, remain calm. Think.

You may be able to solve this problem yourself and safely.

Possibility #1. Nearly every home has a couple of pilot lights – usually in the gas furnace or water heater, gas stove or oven. The pilot light is really a “starter” flame. When you turn on the appliance, the pilot light ignites the gas coming out of the main burner.

In older appliances, the pilot light burns 24/7. In newer ones, it is turned on when needed by an electronic igniter. (You may hear a clicking sound as it activates.) Fortunately, when the pilot light goes out, it triggers an automatic shutoff valve to the gas supply. So you won’t usually smell a gas leak from this source.

However, in older systems, your pilot light could go out from something as simple as a draft or spill, and if the system doesn’t have an automatic shut-off valve you would smell leaking gas.

In this case, you can attempt to relight the pilot light yourself by following instructions on the appliance. They are likely to be something like this:

  1. Turn off the appliance and wait at least 5 minutes for any leaked gas to dissipate.
  2. Be sure you know where the pilot flame is located. (It may not be near the on/off knob.)
  3. Turn the knob from OFF to PILOT.
  4. Hold down the reset button (could be the knob itself) and light the pilot light with a long match.
  5. Keep holding the reset button until the flame is burning steadily, maybe a minute.
  6. Turn the knob to ON.

If the light doesn’t stay lit, try again. If it still doesn’t work after a couple of tries, quit and call for professional help.

Tip: You can’t light an electronic pilot system using a match! If the electronic system isn’t working, be sure the appliance is turned off and call for professional help.

Action item: Check all your home appliances — gas furnace, gas water heater, gas oven or gas burners — to see where you have pilot lights.  Are they ever-burning or do they have electronic ignition?

OK, so much for pilot lights. You’ve checked, they are working, and you still smell gas.

Possibility #2. Most often, a gas leak is usually the result of an appliance with poorly designed, faulty or damaged connection.

Check your appliances carefully.

  • Sniff to see if you can detect where the rotten egg smell of leaking gas is coming from.
  • Coat a questionable pipe or connection with soapy water. Bubbles will appear where the leak is located.
  • Look at the color of the flame on the appliance. Is it blue (good) or orange (not so good, could suggest a leak)?
  • Check the outside of the appliance for soot or scorch marks.
  • Do you have excessive condensation on the inside of your windows?

In these cases, if you identify the culprit appliance, get assistance from a qualified expert – probably your gas company. You may be advised to shut off the gas to the appliance, or even to the whole house. In either case that expert will have to re-set the system once the leak is repaired.

A leak in a larger pipe or larger system

If you discover a gas leak in a larger pipeline or facility, move to a safe distance and notify your gas system operator or property owner or 911. (Review signs of a major pipeline leak in Part 2 of this series.)

Do not attempt to find the exact location of the leak, to shut off the pipeline or to fight any gas main fire. Dealing with a large pipeline leak is the business of professionals.

However, in a big disaster . . .

It’s one thing to handle day-to-day leaks. After a storm or earthquake, however, there may be multiple or large leaks. Professionals may be delayed.

You may be called upon to shut down an entire system to protect against fire or the spread of fire.

Gas line shut-off valves may be located at an individual home, at the entrance to a building, at the street, or in other places along the system. Different size systems use different styles of shut-offs. The more you know about where gas lines run and the shut-offs on those lines, the more options you will have.

(As we have already indicated, your gas line operators are not likely to tell or show you exactly where the shut-off valves are located without your being clever and/or persistent. Remember that map that we recommended building in Part One?)

1-Appliance shut-off. Individual appliances may have their own shut-off valves, usually with a handle that turns 90 degrees. Action item: Check your own home appliances to find these valves. (Do not “practice” shutting them off!)

2-Building or home shut-off. In an emergency, shutting off the gas to the building likely means shutting it off at the meter. To do this, you’ll need to know where the meter is and have a wrench and an understanding of the ON vs. the OFF position of the valve. Here’s a sample of what a typical home shut-off valve looks like.

Open or closed?

Open or closed?

You can turn a shut-off valve using a regular crescent wrench. You may prefer to use a non-rusting tool specially designed for the purpose, like the one shown below. (Click the image or the link to go to Amazon, where you can buy this tool — less than $15. Full disclosure: we may get a commission.) In either case, you must store the tool near the valve!

SurvivalKitsOnline 515100 On-Duty Emergency Gas and Water Shutoff 4-in-1 Tool for Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Fires, Floods, Disasters and Emergencies

 

Action item: Find your home and building shut-offs and have a wrench placed at each one. Figure out a way to attach the wrench to keep it from disappearing.

3-Automatic valves. Some valves, such as seismic gas shut-off valves, operate automatically. They aren’t required, and many professionals don’t trust them – but you may have them on your system. Action item: Find out if any automatic valves are installed on gas lines leading to your home or in your place of work.

4-Gas main. When it comes to shutting off gas at a larger line, the shut-off may be a larger version of the wrench turn off, or it may operate with a large wheel and gear. It may be locked in such a way that only the operator can access it. Often, these valves are painted red. Action item for your group: locate the pipes and the shut-offs leading to your building or community. Larger line shut-offs may be marked with a sign like the yellow one at the start of this article. Or they may not be marked!

What procedures are in place for shutting off the gas?

As we have emphasized, shutting off the gas is a major event to be taken only with due deliberation. It will require professional assistance to get the gas turned back on again. It may take days for all gas service to be restored.

In a widespread disaster, when fire fighters are delayed, representatives of the gas company may also be delayed, perhaps indefinitely. You or your group may have to make decisions about shutting off the gas.

Questions you need to have answers to BEFORE something happens:

  • Who is authorized to shut off the gas?
  • Which valves are they authorized to shut off?
  • What training and tools do these authorized people need? Do they have what they need?
  • How likely is it that authorized and trained people will be on hand in an emergency, when immediate action may be required?

With this info, you will be far more prepared in case of an emergency.

Getting more answers

Over the years we have found that “the authorities” are loathe to share gas line information. However, as we have built up our own skills and knowledge, we have better luck at getting more. Above all, we have a better understanding of just what our role should/could be in an emergency.

One of our most effective guest speakers was a representative from the Fire Department who talked about the various gas lines in our neighborhood. (We have the usual mains and feeder lines PLUS a high-octane aviation fuel line running beside our community.) Action item: Get a speaker on natural gas safety from your own fire department or local utility. Prepare some questions in advance.

Your invitation will cause that fire official to update his or her knowledge about your neighborhood or building, as well as remind your neighbors and/or co-workers to be more alert. (In our case, the fire department speaker was NOT up to speed on gas mains that had recently been installed near us as part of a construction project!)

_______

We started this 3-part series with the question, “Are you sitting on a gas leak right now?” The question still is pertinent. We hope that by now you have a better idea of how to respond!

And one last disclaimer. We are not professionally trained experts on gas main construction, maintenance or procedures. We offer this special series for informational purposes only. Any time you consider messing with your gas supply or gas lines, we recommend that you do it with the assistance or under the supervision of professionals. Gas is inherently dangerous so treat it with all due caution.

But as emergency responders, you can’t ignore it!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Here are the three parts of this special series. Please read all three parts.

Part One: Are you sitting on top of a leaking gas line?

Part Two: Detecting a gas line leak

Part Three: What to do when you discover a gas line leak

 

Detecting a Gas Line Leak

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

(Part Two of a series aimed at neighborhood or workplace teams)

Are you familiar with your local gas lines?

Could this be leaking? What is it, anyway?

If you have tried finding the location of gas lines in your neighborhood or near your workplace you will have discovered that it takes some time and effort!

Still, using online resources and your local utility you can usually identify the route of:

Transmission lines — long-distance lines, typically more than 10” in diameter (can be as big as 42”), that move large amounts of gas under high pressure (200 – 1,200 psi)

Distribution or main lines –- operate at intermediate pressure (up to 200 psi) and are 2″ to 24″ in diameter

The lines that actually connect to your home are not so easy to track once they disappear underground. These are

Feeder or service lines – pipes less than 2” in diameter carrying odorized gas at low pressures, below 6 psi.

As mentioned in Part One of this series, utility companies are concerned about vandalism and sabotage or even terrorism, so they don’t publicize the location of these lines.

If you have a good relationship with your utility and property manager, you may be able to get some detail; we were actually able to get the construction drawings showing location and sizes of the gas lines for our community.

Action item: create a map of your location, showing the different gas lines as you identify them.

Should we assume that all these lines leak?

Yes!

The gas distribution system is made up of thousands of miles of pipelines, and they operate safely nearly all of the time. Still, all of the time, the system is under one or another source of stress. The amount of gas that is “lost and unaccounted for” – and probably is mostly the result of leaks — ranges from less than 1 to over 4%.

Stresses include:

  • Built-in weaknesses from poor connections, bad welds or incorrectly installed equipment
  • Corrosion or wear from aging
  • Weather-related shifts (winter freeze-thaw cycles)
  • Seismic shifts or earthquakes

(If you’ve seen a cracked slab under a home, you know what “seismic shifts” can do. It’s not unusual for shifts to break gas, water and/or cable lines!)

It is the responsibility of the system operators to monitor and maintain the pipelines under their jurisdiction.

In some states legislation has been introduced to require the utilities to report on leaks and on their progress in fixing them. As you can expect, the utilities oppose this legislation, saying that the number of leaks is exaggerated and that fixing more leaks faster would be too expensive. Find out about legislation in your own state!

Can we prevent a gas line leak in any of these pipelines?

No.

But you can do your community a service by finding out what sort of gas line maintenance takes place.

And, you may be able to prevent a disaster by detecting and reporting a leak!

How can we tell if there’s a leak?

1-Use your nose!

The most common indication of a leak is SMELL. An odorizer called Mercaptan is added to feeder lines for the very purpose of making a leak noticeable.

What does Mercaptan smell like? Most people compare it to “rotten eggs.” In any case, it is distinctive and obvious.

You may be able to get “scratch ‘n’ sniff” cards from your local utility that will give you an idea of the smell.

2-Gas sniffer will help in the discovery.

If you don’t have a good nose for smells, or if you sense you might easily get used to a smell, consider investing in a gas sniffer. This is a simple hand-held gadget that can identify a leak — and some can tell you what gas is leaking – using a lighted meter and/or an audio sound (“tic, tic”). As always, the more you pay, the more capabilities you get.

Our local emergency response groups own a couple of different ones. The “pen” model (less than $40) is used by one group to check around their emergency gas generator when they start it up.

The “tube” model (around $150) adjusts from broad to fine sensitivity in order to pinpoint the precise location and type of gas that is leaking. We have used this model with startling success, using it to identify a propane leak from a gas BBQ, among other leaks.

 

General Tools PNG2000A Natural Gas Detector Pen

 

 

 

UEi Test Instruments CD100A Combustible Gas Leak Detector

 

 

 

Action item: If you suspect or are plagued with frequent leaks, you may want to add a gas sniffer to your collection of safety equipment. They are easy to operate.

Physical signs of leaks from larger pipelines

You’re not likely to find yourself walking along the route of a larger underground pipeline, but a leak can show up anywhere. Here are some ground-level signs you might notice:

  • An unexpected hissing, roaring sound
  • Dirt or dust blowing up from the ground
  • Water bubbling or spraying
  • A spot of dead or brown vegetation when it’s green everywhere else
  • Flames coming from the ground

As a reminder, the gas in these larger pipes may have no odorants added.

What should we do when we discover a leak?

When you do identify a leak, you need to act quickly and decisively. Your goal is to avoid a build-up of gas around a leak or a build-up from gas “migrating” to a nearby area (such as a basement) – creating conditions for an explosion.

Your first response should be to get safely away from the area (hundreds of feet away!) and then CALL 911 or the gas line operator to GET THE GAS SHUT OFF.

As you move away, warn other people about the danger, too, and encourage them to move to safety.

Above all, DO NOT CREATE A SPARK by flipping a light switch, lighting a cigarette, starting an engine, turning on a battery-operated light, etc.

Action item: Discuss with your group the ordinary actions that someone might take that could start a gas fire. (In our community, starting up the car to “get away from the danger” is likely to be the most dangerous action possible. The catalytic converters of cars in a traffic jam can reach 1,600 degrees – plenty hot enough to start a fire!)

Is that all we can do?

Calling 911 from a safe distance is the first and most important step. Not creating a spark is the second.

Every member of your family and of your workforce should know and be able to follow this rule.

However, as an emergency response group, there is more you should know and consider when it comes to getting the gas shut off.

We will address some of these options in our next Advisory.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

Go any stories about gas line leaks or explosions? Feel free to share . . .! And don’t miss the first article in this series.

 

 

Are you sitting on top of a leaking gas line?

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

(Part One of a series aimed at neighborhood or workplace teams)

An often-overlooked threat

Pipeline brochures

Toss as junk mail???

The word “disaster” usually makes people think about natural disasters like tornado, flood, or earthquake.  You’ve probably already talked in your group about how to prepare for these specific events.

Unless we’re reminded by notices from our local utility — Image at left shows a couple of brochures I’ve received recently — we may never even think about the gas lines that run under or near our homes or places of business.

But . . .

A gas line break can be deadly.

When a leak erupts in an explosion or fire, it’s dramatic and dangerous. Surely you remember these three big ones:

  • In 2010 an explosion in an underground gas main followed by a massive fire destroyed over 50 homes and killed 8 people in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, California. Alleged Cause: stressed system with inadequate maintenance.
  • In March 2015, two people were killed and four injured when a gas explosion in a Brooklyn, New York restaurant reduced the building to rubble and damaged neighboring businesses. Cause: leak from illegal pipe siphoning gas from restaurant to apartments above.
  • In October of 2015, the Aliso Canyon gas leak was discovered north of Los Angeles. The leak was from a well within an underground storage facility – the second-largest gas storage facility of its kind in the United States. Over 97,000 tons of methane escaped in the 5 months before the well was capped; no one was killed but hundreds of people were displaced complaining of headaches, nausea and nosebleeds. Lawsuits continue. Cause: failure of equipment at 60-year-old facility.

Have you or your group asked:

Where are the lines around you?

Finding out where the gas lines run in your neighborhood will take some effort.

In the years that we’ve been studying our own community we have run up against resistance from a number of sources. As can be expected, cities and gas line operators are concerned about sabotage and/or terrorist activities so they protect the details of their systems.

However, a good emergency response group wants to understand its community’s risks, and so perseveres . . .!

Three places to start your research.

1-The National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) is an online map provided by the Department of Transportation. As a member of the public you can search by your State and COUNTY to get an idea of where gas transmission and hazardous gas pipelines are located.

I say “get an idea” because the public viewer is good only to +/- 500 ft.  (If you are actually going to dig, then you need to contact your local pipeline operator – or call 811 – to find out exactly where the pipes are.)

Here’s the link to the map (“Public Map Viewer”):  https://www.npms.phmsa.dot.gov/Default.aspx

2-Your local gas company

Here in California we have two of the largest public utilities in the country, and our local utility provides a map showing transmission and distribution lines. Once again, the authors of the map stress that the maps are accurate only to +/- 500 ft. Still, we can easily identify the “hazardous liquid” line running along the railroad tracks very near our home.

My research on other utility companies shows that there is no consistency. Many of the websites simply refer readers to the National Pipeline Mapping System.

3-Your local pipeline operator

The pipeline operator is not necessarily the same as the utility.

Keep your eye open for pipeline signs. They are not required, nor are they necessarily placed in the same way every time. What they seem to have in common is the gold color.

The round warning sign will tell you who the pipeline operator is. (You’ll see a round sign on the brochure in the image above, too.) Write down the name and emergency phone number. You may be able to get further information about that particular pipeline and what it carries from the operator.

Kinder/Morgan is the largest pipeline operator in the country, transporting nearly 40% of all piped natural gas, refined petroleum products, crude oil, carbon dioxide (CO2) and more. I found this map at their website. It shows their biggest pipes.

Kinder/Morgan PipelinesThe point of all this is that with some digging (bad joke!) you can discover a lot about where pipelines are located in your community.

How we got information about our own community.

This Advisory is meant to give you an idea of where to start. Different members of our neighborhood emergency response group took on different tasks in researching our gas pipelines.

  • I tracked down online maps like the ones shown in this Advisory.
  • One member hiked along the railroad tracks and photographed a construction project showing the size and exact location of gas lines.
  • One member went to city hall to get the original construction drawings for our community. These drawings showed not only the location but also the size of the various pipes in the network, plus shut-off valves.
  • As a group we queried the management of our community regarding make-up and maintenance of our local system.
  • Our group invited the fire department, the police department and our local utility to special meetings on gas safety. (You will not be surprised to learn that they don’t always agree on where the lines are, what information to share or how to respond in an emergency!)

OK, so we know where the pipelines are and what they are carrying.

Now, how to prevent an explosion or fire?

Gas is leaking from all these systems all the time! Most of the time the gas that escapes isn’t even noticed (except by the atmosphere, of course, since methane – the main component of natural gas – is 30 times more potent as a heat trapping gas than CO2.)

But any time there’s a leak, there’s a potential for explosion or fire.

In our next Advisory we’ll share what we have learned about recognizing a leak when you see, hear or smell one, and what to do when you find one.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

Confident About the Security of Your Passwords?

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Combination LockThere is no such thing as complete security. All precautions and security devices are nothing more than time delays. You are not immune from hackers or malicious software bugs, identity thieves or unscrupulous “ransom ware” extortionists.

You can, however make yourself and your business a harder target and significantly reduce the likelihood that you will be a victim.

The first line of defense is usually the password.

At last count, I have close to 100 passwords I have to retain and use periodically, some more frequently than others and some more complex than others. Virginia has an equal portfolio with only a dozen or so overlapping with mine. That’s too many unique and nonsensical combinations of numbers and characters to rely on memory alone.

We understand all too well how unlikely that you will approach your computer and on-line security with enthusiasm.

It’s just human nature to look for shortcuts.

I accept this and, in fact, I have some institutional experience that I’ll share with you that may help motivate you to reexamine how you approach this important subject. It’s not a long story, but it’s one I think you’ll find both entertaining and enlightening.

A true and embarrassing story of security shortcuts.

Some years ago, I was serving our country with the US Army as a Special Agent for Counterintelligence. I assure you that, while there were exciting times and even dangerous assignments, there were many more tasks that some (me included) would consider mundane and tedious. Among the latter was the responsibility of conducting periodic inspections of Army units in their handling, storing and protecting of classified information.

(And, yes, this required that we put on our expressionless “face” and make sure we came across as serious “spooks.”)

One thing we did that relieved the tediousness of these inspections was to ask early in the process to see how documents were stored and who was in charge of their security to “make sure” they had the proper level of clearance.

Storage was typically in a bank of four-door file cabinets with a rod inserted through the handles, secured with an impressive Sargent-Greenleaf combination padlock at the top.

Then, with the handful of personnel (including the Unit Commander, officers and non-coms in the “audience”) we would proceed to begin attempting to open the padlocks by turning the dials without anyone providing us with the actual combination/s.

Imagine, if you can, the looks of surprise and embarrassment on the faces of the soldiers as, one-by-one, we deftly opened most – and sometimes all – of the locks on the file cabinets.

“How in the hell did you do that?!?” was the typical reaction.

Actually, it was quite simple. Before the actual inspection, we examined the personnel records of the people in charge. We jotted down birthdays, wedding dates, serial numbers, etc. With few exceptions, we would find that at least half of the locks could be opened by treating these dates as combinations because they were an easy way for the people to remember the sequence of numbers.

In some of the more dramatic encounters where we opened ALL of the locks, it was usually where the same sequence of numbers was used on all the locks.

The point of this story is to illustrate that the convenient ways you create passwords is typical. Most “crackers,” if not “hackers,” will have search scripts that can readily break these normal code patterns.

Avoid normal code patterns!

There are a number of ways to pick passwords that will foil eager agents, friendly or not so friendly.  Here are three:

  1. Use a password generator. Typically, these programs will create totally random combinations of capital and lower case letters, numerals and symbols, often as long as 16 digits.
  2. Save these passwords so you can retrieve them, since you won’t be able to remember them. Password manager programs include Keeper, RoboForm and LastPass.
  3. Not happy with having all your passwords stored on your desktop? You can write them down on paper and store or seal it well away from prying eyes.

If these ideas seem too few, or too paltry, we recommend you click on Consumer Reports: 66 Ways to Protect your Privacy Right Now. In 14 pages it discusses passwords but also covers email, devices, privacy, software updates, two-factor authentication, PINs, travel, encryption, settings, wifi, pfishing, and ransomware!

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Let us know which of these 66 suggestions you already follow, and which ones you decide to implement.

 

What’s YOUR Cyber Security Threat Level?

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Cyber SecurityAccording to Pablo Passeri at Hackmageddon.com, a site that compiles monthly stats on cyber activity, the chances of your website or network being attacked are growing exponentially. And the goal of over 80% of those attacks? Criminal activity.

Most of the attacks – somewhere around 25-30% — are against industry. Anywhere from 7-22% of the attacks are against government. Attacks against individuals represent about 12% of the total. (These Hackmageddon figures are from the second half of 2016.)

Is it possible to protect 100% against hacking?

No. Even the experts say that their programs or systems are never 100% secure.

After all, with 30,817 attacks happening every minute (according to Wordfence.com), how could anyone possibly keep up!? Did you just skim over that last figure? It is so amazing, let me repeat it: 30,817 attacks per minute! Makes you want to DO something, right?!

There are simple steps you can take, but . . .

As a home business owner, and builder of several WordPress sites, here’s some of what I have learned about so-called simple steps to protect your financial and intellectual property.

1-Cyber protection isn’t free.

The first layers of security don’t cost much except time. They involve simple things like using good passwords and adjusting the built-in security levels on your software.

Amazing but true, some 40% of consumers use the same password for multiple devices, and nearly half the home users use the default passwords that come with their routers!

2-Cyber security is added in layers to your networkand each layer has its own cost.

After the initial adjustments, you can add a layer of “free” antivirus or malware protection for your system, like Avast or AVG. These programs are easy enough to install on your desktop; the free programs to protect your WordPress websites take a bit more time to customize.

Soon you’ll recognize the limitations of free, though, and will want to purchase and install security programs appropriate for the value of the work you do online.

A home computer network, for example, can be strengthened by software like Kaspersky and McAfee. Your websites can use the protection offered by an upgrade to the professional versions of iThemes and Wordfence.

Nearly all these security programs come as “security suites,” with ever more levels of protection. Naturally, the more layers or levels, the greater the cost, if only in time to manage them.

3-Cyber protection goes out of date the minute you install it.

As mentioned above, new hacking attacks occur daily, with new “weapons” being developed regularly. For example, Symantec reports that a new zeroday exploit emerges on a weekly basis. (A zero-day attack takes advantage of a security vulnerability on the same day it becomes known – often, on the day the program is introduced – and before the developer has time to create a patch for it.)

Security software does its best to track and protect against the deluge of worms, viruses and vulnerabilities. I have found that the free versions do work, but are often not automatically kept up to date.

In any case, updating operating systems, programs and security software takes time and diligence.

Lower your threat level with cyber security resources

All the products mentioned above in this Advisory are ones that I am familiar with, and I recommend you consider them as you examine your security situation. (I have no affiliation with any of them.)

If you’re starting at the home network “set-up” level . . .

then you may want more details. Here’s a resource that comes from Amazon (where we DO have an affiliate relationship) that offers step by step guidance. Click on the image or the link to go directly to Amazon for full details.

Cybersecurity for Everyone: Securing your home or small business network

What’s attractive about this book is that it is SIMPLE. Only 125 or so pages, no dissertation about global trends, just down to earth recommendations for how to harden your set-up – layer by layer.  You can get a kindle version, or the hard copy. (I always prefer hard-copy because I like to add flags and underlining.)

 

 

If you own or work in a small business . . .

your IT expertise may be limited or sporadic. Even if you think your network is working well, take a look at this new quiz, published by Emergency Plan Guide.

Cyber QuizIt’s only 10 questions, but they will quickly give you a sense of how well your business is set up to protect against cyber threats, and make it easy to plug gaps you may find.

Remember, internal threats (i.e., employee action or inaction) account for 80% of security problems in business!

Click here to request your FREE copy of the Cyber Security Quiz.

 

Disclaimer: At Emergency Plan Guide, we are not security experts, and the material here and in our Cyber Quiz is meant for information only. It may not be complete, and does not constitute professional security advice.

But if you’re tempted to ignore it, you are raising your own threat level!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. What security stories do you have to share? Let us know in the comments. EVERYbody will benefit.

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions and Emotional Intelligence

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

Do you fall into that 45% of Americans (or 32% of Britons) who routinely make New Year’s Resolutions? And how about your success rate? Is it around the average 8%?

“Getting prepared for emergencies” — not typically one of the top 10 resolutions.

But ask anyone if they have done some preparing for emergencies and you’ll invariably get this answer:

“No, I haven’t got around to that, but I really should!”

This year, as we approach Resolution Time, I’m trying to come up with ways to help people get started on what they clearly think is important! And I decided to see if I could use the concepts of Emotional Intelligence to help.

You’ve heard about EI. It was “discovered” in the 90s and continues to be an important business topic three decades later. From what I can tell, EI boils down to “Know thyself, ” and in so doing, you’ll be able to understand others better, too.

Four Emotional Intelligence questions.

Ask yourself these questions, and then ask others.

1-What’s your motivation for putting together a cache of supplies?

We have asked many, many people this first question. There are four or five common answers:

  1. My wife keeps nagging me
  2. I know it just makes sense
  3. Some sort of emergency is inevitable
  4. Better safe than sorry

What’s your motivation? What’s the motivation of the people you’re trying to convince?

2-How do you respond if you get criticism, resistance, or ridicule?

EVEN WHEN THEY’VE ALREADY AGREED THAT PREPARING MAKES SENSE, most people quit as soon as they get criticism or resistance. It stops ‘em in their tracks!

They then come out with excuses like these:

  1. If it is my time, then it is meant to be.
  2. Nothing has happened so far. Why think it could happen in the future?
  3. There are too many eventualities to prepare for.
  4. We can’t afford the cost associated with preparing.
  5. The government will take care of us.

If you’ve spent time on this at all, you know that these “excuses” are just that. But here’s where EI comes in to play.

3-Can you understand the emotions behind the criticism?

Many friends and even family members may discourage you because of their OWN emotions: Do any of them fit you, too?

  1. They’re guilty they haven’t done any preparing themselves.
  2. They are embarrassed to admit they wouldn’t know what to do in an emergency.
  3. They are afraid to think about destruction, pain or death.

If you can identify these emotions, then you will find answers to these emotional barriers. So, the last question.

4-Do you have the skills to manage the situation and inspire support?

Sometimes answering fears and emotions is as simple as first, listening to the person. Then, depending on the situation and the person, you communicate the value of a change in behavior (i.e., taking steps toward emergency preparedness).

Here are some EO inspired approaches about emergency preparedness that may work for you.

  • (Show confidence.) You have already made it through some tough situations because you already have basic good sense and resilience. There’s nothing magic about emergency preparedness.
  • (Acknowledge conflict) Emergencies happen – but they don’t have to become disasters. You’re likely to live through an emergency. It will be a lot safer and more comfortable is you have some basic supplies and tools.
  • (Articulate a simple vision) Maybe you can’t prepare for every single emergency that could arise, but “general preparedness” will help in every situation. Start with a survival kit; you probably already have a number of the items that belong in it.
  • (Lead by action) Preparing doesn’t mean making one huge investment in stores of dried food. I started with water and a few food staples – things I already knew and liked – and then added a piece every month or so. Flashlights, glow sticks, rain gear, an emergency radio – they fit my budget and began to fill my kit!
  • (Collaboration and team building) As for the government coming to help . . .Katrina, Sandi and more recent floods and storms have shown that in an emergency we can expect to be on our own for at least several days. Neighbors will be our First Responders – and we’ll be theirs. So the better prepared we all are, the safer we all will be.

So to get back to the New Year’s Resolution that started this article,

People who “know themselves” best get the best results with ANY resolution.

Share this article with friends and neighbors. Add to the list of “excuses,”“fears” and “criticisms.” Think what emotions they really represent. ‘With every step, you’ll be understanding yourself better, and be strengthening your Emotional Intelligence.

And you may find that the “Resolution to Get Prepared” will become a reality in 2017!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

How to Light a Flare

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Accident in Darkness

Winter darkness makes accidents on the road hard to see and even more dangerous.

Having a good accident kit in the car can help protect YOU, and might help protect others if you come across an accident scene.

An accident kit is different from a car survival kit. The survival kit has stuff for YOU – warm clothing, flashlight, food, water, etc.  The accident kit has stuff for the CAR, like jumper cables, emergency reflector triangles, flat tire inflator, and flares.

Does your car accident kit have road flares?

When it’s dark, there’s nothing better than flares to warn oncoming vehicles of an accident, a stranded car or even an injured person. Flares are easy to get, easy and safe to store, and they last a long time. The problem that people have with ‘em is . . .

How to light a standard industrial flare?

Our CERT group had the opportunity to practice one evening with the police department. We hung around in our official vests, enjoying the cool evening and the chance to see each other again. When it came time to light the flares, however, some of us looked pretty dumb.

It’s not as simple as you might think!

Here are some guidelines that I took away from that evening.

1Have more than one flare so you can warn oncoming vehicles and direct them around the accident.

2-Pick where you want each flare to go BEFORE you attempt to light it. Once the flare is burning, you will not want to carry it around to be positioned! It’s BURNING and shooting off white-hot bits!  Some things to keep in mind:

  • If there’s spilled gas, don’t use a flare nearby at all.
  • Keep flares on the road so they don’t roll into a ditch or catch vegetation on fire.
  • Go to where you’ll place the flare, and then light it.

3-Remove the cap on the flare to expose the rough striking surface.

A flare has a plastic cap. Part of the cap contains a rough “striking surface.” Under the cap is the “igniter” end of the flare. You want to hold the striking surface in one hand and the flare in the other.

4-Light the flare by scratching it across the striking surface.

Extend both arms and scratch the flare across the striker in a movement going away from your body.

It’s rather like striking a very large match. Too soft a strike, nothing happens. Too hard, and you can break the “head” off the match.

In our group, most people had trouble getting the right amount of pressure and speed to get the flare to light. One person actually broke the head off the flare because he “scratched” too hard.

5-Place the ignited flare where you had planned to place it.

Put the cap back on the non-burning end of the flare. If you’re carrying it, keep the flame pointed down so you don’t get any drips on your hand.

Don’t drop the flare – you could break or extinguish it. Don’t place the flare in a puddle – it could go out.

If it’s raining, place the flare so any running water goes around the base of the flare and not directly against the flame end. You can prop it up to keep it dry.

6-The flare will burn for 10-30 minutes.

When you’re ready to extinguish it, break off the burning end and let it burn out. You cannot easily smother this flame.

(In our group, we picked up the burning flares and carefully tossed them a little ways down the road. When they landed the burning end broke off.)

After practicing, we all felt more competent.

It’s like so much else. Until you’ve practiced, you really can’t count on being able to make it work! So here’s a suggestion:

Buy a supply of flares and set up a practice. Even if everyone doesn’t attempt to light a flare, everyone in the group will clearly see how it’s done – and what NOT to do! A great CERT group exercise, and a great family exercise, too.

Hi-tech No-Flame Alternative  — LED, Battery-driven Flares

Obviously, First Responders use “real” flares because they work! Everyone recognizes just what they mean, and starts paying attention as soon as they become visible.

But not everyone is ready to handle industrial flares as described above!

If you find this just too challenging, consider a good alternative: plastic strobe light flares that are safe and comfortable to use.

These flashing, reusable flares come in two styles – stand-up flares with a tripod base, and round, disc-style flares that lie on the ground or attach magnetically to a car.

I personally prefer flares that are really bright and can be seen from all sides – so the disc style would not be my first choice.

In fact, here are flares that we own. (We also own reflective triangles made by the same company). I particularly like that they come in their own case; otherwise, the flares (and their bases) can get lost in the trunk of the car.

Click on the link or the image to get full details. (As you know, we’re affiliates at Amazon so this link will take you there.)

Magnatek LED Flashing Roadside Emergency Beacon Flares-Two RED Flares with Solid Storage Case

A couple of hints if you’re considering flares like these.

  • Each flare has 3 different settings, one of which converts it to a flashlight. Handy.
  • The flares use AAA batteries. If you leave the batteries installed in the trunk of your car for weeks and months, ultimately they will corrode. So, store the batteries in a baggie UN-INSTALLED but in the package with the flares. Of course, it makes sense to PRACTICE installing them as soon as you get the flares so you’ll be able to do it in the dark and when you’re nerves are frazzled because of an accident.
  • These flares also have magnetic bases so you could place one on TOP of your stranded vehicle for more visibility.

 

(This image – for one order — shows the front and back of the case. It’s misleading. Each individual case comes with two flares. If you want more than two, then you’ll have to order more cases.)

Another good idea for a stocking stuffer!  (A very large stocking, perhaps!)

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Again, a reminder to check the status of the batteries in your emergency lights, flashlights, etc. They ultimately do go bad if not recharged or replaced. Now’s a good time to do that.

 

 

Holiday Security Mistakes

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Tempting Christmas window All ready for the holidays?

Here are 3 security mistakes people tend to make at this time of year. Take 2 minutes to check them out. It would be wonderful if you and your family could avoid them all.

  1. Packages are SOOOO tempting!

Sure, you know better than to allow packages to be delivered to an empty house.

Just a week ago I was stopped on the street by a patrolman who showed me a picture of a kid taking a package from a front porch. (The picture had been taken by a home security camera. More on those later.)

And when you’re shopping, take the time to put gift purchases into the trunk of your car. If they won’t FIT in the trunk, at least cover the back seat pile with a dark and preferably dingy looking blanket. Better yet, make an extra trip rather than let packages sit unattended in a parking lot in full view.

And at home, don’t position your tree and all the lovely presents right in front of a window as in the picture above. Someone could break the window, grab the presents and run.

Packages are so tempting — to thieves!

  1. “We’re so proud of our emergency preparations.”

The holiday season often means more visitors to your house. The guy to string the lights on the roof. UPS and Amazon delivery people. All the invitees to your Christmas party!

Every person who comes onto your premises has the chance to take a good look at what you have – and that includes some of your emergency preparedness items.

Your gardener sees the locks, the security cameras and lights you’ve installed. The delivery guy walking past your open garage door sees your tools and the cupboards and shelves packed with food and water. The computer guy you bring in to troubleshoot your new network sees your ham radio set-up, not to mention your laptop and printers.

It’s natural for a visitor to tuck this sort of information away. And in a big emergency, your house might become a target for one of those visitors, now turned desperate.

What can you do to cover or camouflage emergency supplies? Yes, be proud of the sensible steps you’ve taken. But with a bit of creativity you’ll get more of them out of sight. You can be just as satisfied and maybe a whole lot safer.

  1. Take out the trash!

We’ve all read the novels where the criminal is identified because of stuff he puts in the trash. (Harrison Ford left orange peels and fake ID photos in the wastebasket in The Fugitive, remember?)

If you’re making a lot of purchases and getting a lot of gifts, you are going to have more trash than usual. And it may attract the wrong kind of attention.

Save and/or shred receipts or statements that have account numbers. Some receipts for online purchases may show up in your email. Protect them from casual view. Don’t stuff empty cardboard boxes (with pictures of TVs and electronic games and security cameras and drones!) into the trash; break them down and recycle anonymously at the recycling place.

And if you’re traveling during the holidays, make sure newspapers, leaves or other trash doesn’t build up outside while you are gone. That trash, plus a dark and empty house, is a real invitation to trouble. (Ask a neighbor for help, and invest in some timers for lights and/or radios.)

Oh, and for heaven’s sake, don’t you or your kids announce via social media or on a phone message that “We’re away skiing for a week!” Ouch!

We wish you the pleasure of giving, and the excitement of receiving. But we sure hope it’s not spoiled because you overlooked taking these sensible precautions.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We’re writing an Advisory about “Hiding valuables in plain sight.” Sign up for all our Advisories to be sure you get it.

 

 

Drones for Emergency Response Teams

Friday, November 18th, 2016

The market has expanded dramatically.

Quadcopter as emergency tool

How useful in an emergency?

Part One of Two.

It was just two years ago when we wrote our first article about drones. At that time, non-military drones were still in their infancy. In fact, drones were mostly high-tech toys that (probably) appealed to the same folks who love electric cars and boats and model airplanes.

So we wrote about them as toys, with some interesting but not yet widespread uses like delivery of packages or emergency equipment.

Today things are different. The market has expanded dramatically. And because we are ALWAYS interested in leveraging our strengths when it comes to preparing for or dealing with an emergency, it makes sense to look a lot more closely at drones as emergency tools.

A new category of drones has appeared.

In addition to military and hobby use, we now have drones designated “for commercial and non-governmental use.” Naturally, anything labeled “commercial” means it carries rules.

So whether you’re looking at purchasing a drone — whether as a toy or a piece of emergency team equipment — you should be aware of the latest rules from the FAA.

New Rules for Small UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) as of August 29, 2016

Register Your Drone

Any UAS weighing more than .55 lbs. must be registered. If it weighs less than .55 lbs you can register it online; otherwise, go to the FAA website to get started registering it on paper.  Here’s the link:  https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/aircraft_certification/aircraft_registry/UA/

A pilot under 13 years of age will need an adult to complete the registration.

Pilot Your Drone Safely

Caveat – these rules are changing! (You’ll see why when you look at them carefully.) If you are really interested in using a drone, be sure you know the rules for non-recreational use.  You can check in on a regular basis to monitor any changes, at http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/

The current rules as of this date, November, 2016:

  • Drones must remain in visual line of sight of the pilot — no first-person-view cameras. (This means no flying by what the camera shows as opposed to what you actually see from where you are standing.)
  • Maximum speed is 100 mph and maximum altitude is 400 feet.
  • Pilots must be at least 16 years old and hold a “remote pilot airman certificate,” issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • Operation is only allowed during daylight hours or twilight with appropriate lighting.
  • Pilots must avoid flying over populated areas or over specific people not involved in the operation. ( Based on an “Expectation of privacy”)

To see a summary of the entire set of rules (so-called “Part 107”) go here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/Part_107_Summary.pdf

The rules for recreational use really don’t vary much from the “official” rules listed above! They include the same limitations on line of sight, height and speed, and, in particular, avoiding “no-fly” zones like airports, military bases, athletic events, and the White House. One difference: your teenager doesn’t need a Remote Pilot certificate if he wants a drone for Christmas. But if the drone weighs over .55 lbs., it will have to be registered.

Please note — again! – rules keep changing! In particular, rules for non-recreational use, like for emergency purposes, which we’ll get to, are under continuing review. NASA is leading a multibillion-dollar effort to develop a system to manage manned and unmanned flight, while the FAA is expected to ease restrictions on commercial drones.

Using Your Drone as an Emergency Response Tool

Defense is by far the largest market for drones. But there are so many smart ways a drone can be used by the rest of us! For example,

  • Farmers can check on irrigation lines and crop growth at the far reaches of the acreage.
  • Scientists can track ice melt or water level rise without having to wade in, or visible earthquake faults or landslides.
  • Firefighters can safely track movement of the fire line, position of crews and equipment.
  • Real estate professionals can film a property’s exterior, and then tour the entire home inside, for the benefit of prospective buyers. (Walk-through videos are already popular, but for an aerial view of the whole property, the agent has to rent a helicopter!)

What about Emergency Response Team usage?

While not commercial, and yet not exactly recreational, here are some uses we are considering . . .

  • Use a drone to provide overhead lighting when searching an area at night
  • Inspect upper levels of buildings or structures (in industrial or high-rise residential areas)
  • Film damaged areas or obstructions following a disaster
  • Map area covered by the CERT team to segment into manageable areas
  • Search areas for survivors following an event
  • Reconnaissance of adjacent areas to identify pathways to safer positions
  • Drop markers to designate specific damages or routes to follow
  • Monitor teams during training exercises with filmed records for group critique
  • Transfer supplies, first aid items, batteries, replacement radios, etc.
  • Transport high value items over a distance, reducing the need for multiples of expensive equipment (e.g., gas sniffer)

You can probably come up with many more.

Challenges with these Emergency Team uses?

1-Rules may limit your CERT team’s use.

When you look at even this short list of uses, you will see that a number of these uses would be against current rules! Let’s look again . . .

  • Can’t fly at night.
  • Can’t let drone out of your sight.
  • Can’t fly higher than 400 feet.

From our standpoint as emergency responders, these restrictions make no sense. In a serious situation the safety of our neighbors in the community is more important that the actual altitude of the drone looking for them! Moreover, we have confidence that some of these restrictions will soon be lifted.

So we are not letting these restrictions stop our analysis.

2-Battery life may limit your team’s use.

Most drones have a flying time of only 10-20 minutes. To get a couple minutes more of flight can cost a couple hundred more dollars in purchase price. No matter which model you get, plan on getting at least 3 or 4 extra batteries right along with the machine.

3-Set up in advance to be able to share your images and videos.

Clearly, the emergency planning and response ideas above would generate information you’d want to share with the rest of your team or with First Responders! There are several options available – the obvious one being sending footage to YouTube or Vimeo.

However, the FAA may label your video as “commercial use” if it appears with an ad on it, whether or not you wanted it!  (Again, in an emergency, I’d probably not worry about that. But be aware . . .) Other sharing options include apps provided by Facebook, Dropbox and certain drone manufacturers.

If you goal is to share your work, find out more before purchasing.

OK, with all this in mind,

Which drone is best for our Neighborhood Response Team?

In our community, we already have some guys who race electric cars. And there are a couple who build and fly model airplanes. The skills they bring to the table will be valuable – but not all of them are on our CERT team, of course.

So, as we shop for a drone, we have to add “ease of set-up” and “easy to fly” to our shopping list.

Here’s the whole shopping list so far:

  • Big enough to fly outside, in somewhat inclement weather (Cheap toys won’t work.)
  • Strong enough to carry something to a designated location
  • The best battery life we can get for the price
  • Proven performance (not bleeding edge technology)
  • Reasonable image and video quality, though not necessarily the highest
  • Easy to set up and start flying
  • Compatible with variety of hand-held mobile devices

We’ve done a lot of comparing of different machines to get to this point! I hope the data above will be helpful to you in your own search.

Our next Advisory will review the machines in our “list of top choices.” Watch for it in about a week.

Just one last caveat. Our research showed prices for THE SAME MACHINE varying by as much as $100.00.  So take your time to be sure you’re getting exactly what you thought you were getting!

See our top choices in Part Two of Drones for Emergency Response Teams.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S.  Found this tidbit you should consider, too: “Report to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in at least serious injury, loss of consciousness, or property damage of at least $500.”  (!)

 

 

Better Home and Office Security

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

“Who’s that at the door?”

Who is at the front doorIf you hear someone knocking, can you tell who it is without opening the door?

As the days get shorter, more and more of us — business people, parents of busy children, everybody, in fact — find ourselves out and about in the dark. And while crimes can happen at any time, being in the dark certainly gives us less chance to see trouble coming.

I am all for simple and effective security solutions. Here are a couple of improvements we can all consider.

Better Perimeter Security at the Office

If you are alone in the lighted front office, and it’s dark outside, you may wish you had an extra layer of security around yourself.

(Now we’ve written before to business owners about the importance of securing entrances to the business. Upgrading your entire perimeter with mechanical or electronic security devices – fencing, gates, lighting, etc. – would be costly and time-consuming. Of course, it may be worth it to strengthen your insurance coverage and to avoid legal threats. If you’re interested, here’s a link to that earlier Advisory : http://emergencyplanguide.org/security-at-the-front-door/.)

But getting back to the convenience and safety of the person alone in the office . . . here is one easy upgrade worth considering.

Add a perimeter alert system.

What is it? It’s a wireless motion detector that sends an alert when, for example,

  • a delivery truck arrives at the freight entrance
  • a car comes through the front gate
  • a person appears at the back door.

The model below looks perfectly adequate and is not too expensive. A brief description is below the image — click on it, or on the link, to get all the details at Amazon. CAUTION: As always, compare prices carefully at Amazon! Prices vary considerably, since vendors set the price they think they can get. And sometimes, they’re looking for a quick sale, and you can benefit!

Wireless Driveway or Entry Announcer

This model has two parts. The motion detector — about the size of a baseball — attaches to a building or wall, where its sensitivity and visual field can be adjusted in a variety of ways to suit the location and your needs. It can send a signal for up to 2,000 ft. to the receiver, generating different tones to distinguish between the different alerts.

The receiver plugs into the wall; the detector operates off a 9 volt battery.

Naturally, you’d have to buy one sensor for each entrance you want to protect.

Would something like this make sense to the person alone at the front desk or in a back office at your workplace?

Better Perimeter Security at Home

Lately we’ve seen more and more internet-driven devices that offer home comfort, and now more home security.

Various companies offer “home security programs” that consist of multiple door and window locks, cameras and a console that connects to a remote monitoring office. You can set the alarm system to work while you’re away, or set it at a lesser level so it’s on at night when you’re asleep. In an alarm is tripped, the monitoring company or the police are called. Typically, these systems require professional installation and have a monthly charge (and a contract).

Again, for this Advisory I was looking for something simpler and less expensive.

Something focused on the front door at your house. 

  • If someone knocks at your front door, do your children automatically run to open it?
  • Do you have to peer through the curtain or a window to see if you can recognize who is there before you open the door?
  • What happens if someone knocks in the middle of the night?

Do these questions make you wince?

If so, you may want to consider installing a video door bell.

You’ve seen the ads. The scary-looking guy comes to the door with a questionable story. Without having to open the door, the mother see who he is, tells him she’s not interested and sends him away.

I took the time to look into these devices. Here’s some of what I learned.

First, there are at least a half dozen on the market. All have the same basic characteristics:

  1. A video camera films your entrance.
  2. The camera is triggered by a motion sensor or a person pressing the doorbell.
  3. The camera connects to your home wi-fi system.
  4. A downloadable app allows you to view the video and also to speak with the visitor via your smartphone or tablet.
  5. You can save and store the video for later viewing.

As you can imagine, different products have variations on these features. So, when you’re shopping, compare with the help of these questions.

  1. Consider the video quality you want or need. And how big is the image? What’s the resolution? The best video camera tends to be the most expensive, of course.
  2. What triggers the camera? Someone actually pressing the doorbell? Or simply approaching the door? From how far away?
  3. How much flexibility do you have in setting up the motion sensor? Range, multiple ranges, sensitivity, etc.
  4. What about its source of power? Is it hardwired through your regular doorbell, or battery operated? Do you have a choice?
  5. How well does the system operate at night or in other low light conditions?
  6. How is the video footage stored? How long? What do you have to pay for storage?

And a couple other things to consider to protect your system from being hacked.

  1. Can you set your own password?
  2. How will the security updates be provided by the manufacturer?
  3. Can you disable remote viewing (and just use your system while at home)?

With all this information in mind, and after reviewing the top doorbell video products, here’s the one that seems to be the best seller. I’d start by looking at it.

Ring Video Doorbell Pro

This model is at the upper end of the price range. It has to be hardwired. Since it looks like a regular doorbell, it doesn’t announce itself as would a mounted security camera. Oh, and it comes in four different colors.

Once again, look carefully at all the models, and at all the prices before you buy. Maybe it could be an early Christmas present?!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. I’ve written before about outdoor lighting as a security device. When the light outside my bedroom window foes on at 4 am, I am pleased to know it’s working, and to know I can look out and see just what triggered it. That peace of mind is worth a lot — and that’s what I’m trying to achieve with the security recommendations in this Advisory!

 

 

Gift That Will Save a Life

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Vial or File of Life – a Great Gift Idea for Family or Employees

We are constantly looking for ways to engage our communities in “preparedness thinking.” It’s not always easy. For some reason, many people prefer to fall back on “It won’t happen to US!” as the reason they don’t do any planning.

However, everyone has seen an ambulance pull up to a home or business, lights blazing. Everyone stops for at least a moment to wonder what is happening inside.

We can use this fact to raise awareness in our neighborhoods or workplaces. Here’s a GIFT that you can arrange for that people will value – and that could make a difference between life and death.

The Gift: The Vial of Life

At a recent meeting with the Fire Department we were reminded that when First Responders are called to an emergency in a home, they automatically look for the victim’s VIAL OF LIFE.

Vial of LifeWhat is the Vial of Life?

The Vial is really simply a container that holds essential medical information for the people in the house – information that First Responders will want to know if they have to give emergency treatment.

Originally, the info was put into an actual vial (like a medicine prescription bottle) but these days, the preferred container is a simple zip lock Baggie. You can see the plastic baggie in the image (blue stripe).

What goes into the Vial of Life Baggie?

The Baggie holds a filled-out Medical Information Form. It’s the form in the picture, with places for info such as:

  • Name of person in trouble
  • Name of Doctor
  • Medical conditions
  • Current medicines/prescriptions
  • Allergies
  • Contact information for family

Where do I put the Vial of Life Baggie?

Identify the Baggie by placing a decal with a red cross on the outside. Fold the Medical Information Form and place it inside.

Then fasten the baggie to the refrigerator door with tape or a magnet.

(Naturally, you’ll want to keep the Medical Information Form updated – that’s why it’s best to use a zip lock style baggie so you can take papers out and replace them.)

How does the Fire Department know I have this information on my refrigerator?

Depending on the layout of your home, place the second decal with a red cross on the front window or door to your house. This will let the Fire Department know you have a Vial of Life Baggie on the refrigerator.

Even without the second sticker, they will likely automatically look there for medical information.

Anything else I need to know?

Depending on your circumstances, you may want to put other information into the Baggie. For example . . .

  • If you have appointed someone else to make medical decisions for you in an emergency (common for senior citizens), you may want to include that info along with directions to where the full document can be found.
  • Your Advance Health Care Directive, which tells what emergency life-sustaining treatment you want, can also be included. (That form is available online and must be witnessed by your doctor.)
  • Finally, if you have specific end of life wishes, such as the desire to donate your body, you may want to include that info, too.

These documents are important.

Without the Vial of Life information, emergency personnel will follow their STANDARD PROCEDURE – which may NOT be what you want or can even survive.

How to Use the Gift with Your Group

If you want people to participate, you have to make it easy for them.

The “easiest” is to create Vial of Life kits, already assembled, and pass them out to all the members of your group. Each member of the family needs one!

You can go to http://www.vialoflife.com to get the masters for everything you need.

Assemble into individual kits:

  • Instruction sheet
  • Baggie
  • 2 Decals (print your own using color printer onto white labels), one for the Baggie and one for the door
  • Medical Information Form

If you prefer, turn this into a group activity. Provide sheets of decals, piles of forms and instructions and the baggies and have group members set up an assembly line to separate and assemble the kits.  Next step is to distribute kits to neighbors, family members, etc. (You could add a pen as an extra incentive to get the form filled out!)

We distributed Vial of Life kits to our community about three years ago. Many of our neighbors, who don’t participate in any of our neighborhood emergency response team activities, still have their Baggies and point proudly to them.

The Vial of Life has been a successful and inexpensive awareness builder for our team. Add it to your own group’s agenda!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

If you are looking for other emergency response team ideas for group activities, please don’t overlook the book of CERT Meeting Ideas I put together earlier this year. You can get details here.

 

 

Secure Your Space

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

The Great ShakeOut Hits California

Our community is “celebrating” the annual earthquake drill here in California on October 20. We are joining a crowd of 9.4 million participants (so far).

Secure Your SpacePlus, just two days ago we emerged from a heightened earthquake alert resulting from a swarm of 140+ small quakes near the base of the San Andreas Fault. That’s the seismic fault that’s going to give birth to the long-overdue “Big One.”

So it seems time to take another look around the house to Secure Your Space, as the ShakeOut people say.

We put together a worksheet for our neighbors, and I thought it would be a good tool to share with all our Emergency Plan Guide readers.

(The form I created for our neighborhood group has a space for recommendations to be made by a handyman that we’ve engaged to go to people’s homes. The version shown at the left in this Advisory is a little different. It figures YOU will be making the changes, hence the “to-do list” terminology!)

No and Low Cost Recommendations for Quake Safety

These are all pretty straightforward. It just takes setting a time for a “walk-through” and then making obvious changes to your living space.

As you do your walk-through, look at furniture placement, and not just heavy or decorative items that could fall and break.

When we returned home after the San Francisco quake in 1989, one of the most dramatic things that had happened was we couldn’t get into the bedroom because a bookcase had fallen over, completely blocking the door.

Handyman Help for Quake Safety

You may or may not already be a handyperson, so some of these suggestions may require that you get a few simple tools. Generally, the idea is to stand in the middle of the room and imagine that everything loose starts flying at you.

How do you tether or fasten down the items that could hurt you?

Keep in mind:

• Flexible fasteners may be better than stiff ones, which can break in a large jolt.
• Rubberized pads may stop heavier items from shooting across the room, but of course won’t keep them from falling to the floor.
• A wire barrier or a lip may keep items on a shelf as long as the shelf stays on the wall.

This Secure Your Space list is aimed at simple things you can do to improve your chances. It doesn’t get into major improvements, like blocking and strapping your water heater, or reinforcing your foundation. We’ve covered some of those elsewhere.

Today, let’s just take care of a few items that should not be left unaddressed.

Need a shopping list of earthquake safety items?

Here are some items from Amazon. You could click on the links, order them all, or items like them, get them delivered within just a couple of days, and have everything you need for an earthquake safety family activity!

Picture or Mirror Hanger

The usual hardware or hobby pack of picture hangers is designed for light pictures, but the sawtooth version of a hanger, or any hanger that counts on simple gravity to hold the wire on the hook, will not be adequate in an earthquake. You are looking for something that can carry 50, 70 or maybe even 100 pounds, and keep it on the wall!  Here are some ideas for hanging heavy items.

Hangman 3-Inch 100-Pound Walldog Wire Hanger (WDH-100-2)

And the wire to go with it . . .
Hillman Fasteners 121128 Mirror Hanging Set Heavy Duty

Big Stuff on Shelves

When it comes to electronics on the shelves in our office, we start with rubberized mats under our printers and computers. We also have a mat under the one desktop tower that is still on the desk. (The other tower is on the floor.) I also use rubberized shelf paper in the kitchen under my plates, and actually between some of the serving platters.

I really love this stuff. Get enough of it because you’ll find many uses for it.

VViViD Non-Slip Rubberized Plastic Mesh Shelf and Drawer Liner Non-Adhesive Sheets (12″ x 20ft, White)

Appliances and Furniture

I said above that for our computers, we “start” with rubberized mats. The next step is to fasten all appliances and furniture down with flexible safety straps, so they won’t go anywhere when the world starts shaking.  Of course, what you use to fasten things down depends on their size, their weight, where they are located (how far to a wall stud), etc.

TV monitors are probably the most likely thing to fly in an earthquake. Tie ’em down! Next most important are bookcases, appliances and other furniture. Here are several models of straps and cables to consider.

QuakeHOLD! 4520 Universal Flat Screen Safety Straps

Quakehold! 4163 15-Inch Furniture Strap Kit, Beige

Quakehold! 2830 7-Inch Steel Furniture Cable

And one model of strap (not from Quakehold!) that seems to be all-purpose:

TV and Furniture Anti-Tip Straps | Top Quality Heavy Duty Strap, All Metal Parts | All Flat Screen TV/Furniture Mounting Hardware Included | Lifetime Guarantee (2 Pack, Black)

Objets d’art and Collectibles

Every home has a shelf or cupboard with beloved figurines, plates, vases, whatever. If the shelf falls, or the cupboard opens, these precious items will be destroyed. So, some suggestions:

  • Can you place these objects in a closed cupboard instead of on an open shelf?
  • Run a wire or fishing line barrier along the front of the shelf to keep books from falling.
  • Add a simple lock to be sure the cupboard or cabinet door won’t swing open in an earthquake. (Check under “child-proofing your kitchen.”)

Most important, “glue” treasures down with museum wax from your local hardware or craft store. It holds!

Quakehold! 66111 2-Ounce Museum Wax

Kitchen

I mentioned above what we found in the bedroom when we got home after the 1989 earthquake. In the kitchen was an astonishing mess of broken dishes, broken jars of pickles and peaches, flour and spices, appliances and potted plants.

Again, all kitchens are slightly different. Do a kitchen walk-through. What could fall or move? What will happen if cupboard doors come open? Moving heavy items to lower shelves is the obvious first step. Selectively applying child-proof locks or safety straps may be the next best improvement.

A Weekend’s Worth of Work

Doing the appropriate moving, measuring, drilling and installing will take more than 5 minutes. Depending on your level of skill and interest, it might take all day or even all weekend.

But all it would take is one good shake and EVERYTHING ON THIS LIST  — mirrors, pictures, bookcases, furniture, computers, cupboards, TVs, food, glassware, souvenirs, collections — could end up in a jumble of broken trash in the middle of the room. And you’ll be lucky if you aren’t in it somewhere.

So, join in your own region’s Great ShakeOut and make some safety improvements. You’ll sleep better for your efforts.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

I mentioned some articles on more serious infrastructure improvements for your home. Check these out:

 

 

Will Your Pet Survive an Emergency?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

One out of every two people reading this message has a pet. Pet in snowAnd according to surveys, 90% of American pet owners consider their pet “a member of the family.”

So we’ve usually included pets in our articles about family preparedness, just like we include children.

But pets are not children.

So today I want to consider three pet situations that most prepper or survival blogs don’t seem to address.

1 – Pet phobias

Humans, even children, understand what a storm is, and can be calmed and thus make it through loud noises, lightning flashes, etc. They can recognize the need for evacuation.

Many pets, on the other hand, respond to a dramatic change not with understanding, but with real terror.

Their response can be so extreme that it can put them, other animals, and you or family members in danger.

We’ve told the story about a friend’s dog who attended a 4th of July celebration with us. The fireworks – not at all dangerous, and a couple of miles away – were enough to send Boo into a frenzy of barking, trembling, sweating, clawing, trying to run away, and peeing on everything and everybody. His terror lasted for the full 45 minute show. (Ruined it for us, of course.)

That was just one small dog. We kept him safe by holding him. (As you can imagine, Joe, who was doing the holding, needed a shower afterwards!)

As for cats, they are likely to go just as berserk — or just go missing.

Still, if you have the pet at home, what can you do to protect the animal, the house, and other people/pets nearby in an emergency?

Various online websites suggest ideas that I am passing along here. I’d love to hear YOUR story or suggestion.

First and most benign is to try to train your pet to manage his phobia. That can mean setting up a safe and protected place for the pet to get to during the trauma of loud thunder and intense lightning. This could be his crate, a closet, or even the bathtub. Practice having the pet rest there (with a favorite blanket and toy?) on a regular basis when there is no storm or rain; take him there when a storm threatens or the earth shakes. Pets can be trained!

Second, and again this needs practice beforehand, is to give your pet a so-called Thunder Shirt. It’s a jacket that fastens tightly around your pet’s body, applying constant gentle pressure (like swaddling a baby). The Thunder Shirt can be used to lessen separation anxiety, travel stress, fear of loud noises, If you were required to evacuate,a familiar Thunder Shirt  sounds like an excellent idea.. Here’s an example:  ThunderShirt Polo Dog Anxiety Jacket, Heather Gray, Large

 

Third, and only if you are confident in your pet and your own instincts (and have checked with your vet), you might consider giving your pet an anti-anxiety drug. Again, your vet can help with a prescription, but a well-regarded over-the-counter brand is Rescue Remedy. It’s a liquid that you add to your pet’s drinking water. My research showed prices at Amazon to be about HALF what they are elsewhere!

Click on the link to check prices – be sure you’re comparing the same size bottles (10 or 20 ml). Bach Rescue Remedy Pet – 20 ml

 

2 – Emergency rations and stomach upset

When it comes to putting together food for a survival kit, we find that for adults the best are (a) foods you know you will like and (b) foods that don’t need be cooked. Typical favorites: peanut butter, canned and dried fruit, canned tuna.

Do you eat this food all the time? No, but you probably know what to expect and thus would be able to put up with it in an emergency. (Heck, you’d be glad to have it!)

If your pet normally enjoys a particular gourmet brand of wet food, she’s not going to be happy being offered dry kibble in an emergency! She may even refuse to eat it!

And even if she does, you may discover what we all know: a sudden change in food can result in a dramatic change in digestion – and poop.

So, as you pack your pet’s survival kit, be sure to put in her usual fare (along with an appropriate bowl and, if necessary, a can opener). If you have time to prepare for a change of scene, and need to use dried food, introduce the new dried food gradually. Naturally, you want to pack water along with the food.

What experiences have you had with potty breaks or controlling your pet’s poop when she has to stay inside, needs to spend long periods in a carrier, etc.? I have seen a number of gadgets invented to try to catch poop before it falls, but none appears to have been a success! (Have you found one that really works?)

3 – Pets in the dark

While we always tend to think about emergencies in terms of storms, or earthquake, the chances are that a simple power outage is the emergency most likely to hit. Your pet will still need to be walked; to protect him from getting lost or being hit and injured, consider a lighted collar (and leash).

Reflective jackets and collars work fine but only when there is light to be reflected! We’re talking here about a total electrical blackout.

Individual battery-operated LED lights can be attached to a collar, or an LED tube can become a collar all by itself. The lights can be set to blink or shine steadily. Very small animals may not be able to wear all models, but here are several that look very practical and are inexpensive enough to add to a survival kit as well as use on a regular basis for night walks.

Note: The most popular styles come with rechargeable batteries. Remember that in an emergency you may not have electricity to recharge the batteries – so maybe regular batteries would be a better choice!

In any case, measure your pet carefully to be sure you get the right size. Here is an example to get you started:

Flat webbing with led lights embedded : LED Dog Collar – USB Rechargeable – Available in 6 Colors & 6 Sizes – Makes Your Dog Visible, Safe & Seen – Green, X-Small (9  13.7 / 23  35cm)

 

Other lighted pet collars for small animals look just like a piece of tubing that you cut to size!

This is just the start of an effort to focus more attention on pets in emergencies. Watch for a whole new section of our website, coming soon. In the meanwhile, if you have experiences or ideas regarding pets that you would like to share, please send them along via the comments to this post or by contacting me directly.

Do you have pets at work? I am particularly interested in their stories!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Be sure to sign up to receive our regular weekly Advisories, below. Don’t miss any of ‘em! Your family, including your pets, will appreciate it.

 

 

 

Coconut Oil for Your Survival Kit

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

“Good to know about” or “Essential” ?

When I’m writing about items for a survival kit, I often have to distinguish between “good to know about” and “essential to have.” Today, I’m writing about coconut oil. It straddles the line between “good to know about” and “essential to have.”  I’ll let you decide!

Coconut Oil

From my stash . . .

Coconut oil has been popular in health and beauty news for several years, and a couple of years ago coconut water emerged as a very popular drink. (I don’t care for it, myself.)

Coconut Oil for Emergencies

Lately articles about coconut oil as a survival item have jumped out at me. Then, when I got a sample recently — as a unique favor at a wedding party! — I looked into it at more depth.

Here’s what I’ve found out, and tested for myself. See if any of these work for you – then try some of the oil!  It’s inexpensive and available everywhere.

First Aid with Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is claimed to have antiviral, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties!  Whew! Makes me wonder how I got along without it so far!.

Some simple ways to use it that certainly sound sensible:

  • Apply to a cut to prevent infection.
  • Dot on bites, stings or rashes to relieve itching.
  • Rub between toes to prevent athlete’s foot (a fungus).
  • Relieve chapped lips with a thin coating.
  • Apply to scalp to kill lice (and get rid of cradle cap).

 

Shelter-in-Place with Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has an extended shelf life (up to two years, maybe longer), doesn’t need refrigeration, hardens at temperatures below 76 degrees and is liquid at temperatures higher. The image above shows my two bottles — the one I’ve been using and the one I stuck in the refrigerator.

Some excellent survival or camping ideas:

  • Rub into wood or leather to condition and protect.
  • Use to season pans and in fact, as a substitute for butter or oil for frying.
  • Use as the basis for a candle. Just add a wick to liquid oil, then allow oil to harden.
  • Use coconut oil to clean your hands – of dirt, wax, paint. (It works great as a make-up remover, too, but you won’t be needing that in an emergency!)

 

Eat Coconut Oil

I’m not a trained dietitian or a doctor, so I’m not making any recommendations about taking coconut oil internally. Certainly, there are many, many testimonials on the internet and on TV about its ability to improve your health. I suggest you simply research on your own. (Try looking up “coconut oil + _____” and fill in the blank with your own condition: constipation, diabetes, cancer, acne, etc.)

I did find an article that laid out healthy limits for a daily dosage of coconut oil based on your weight. Find out more about this, too, before you start taking it.

Finally, consider the quality of the coconut oil you buy. While there are no internationally agreed-upon quality terms (like “extra virgin” vs. “virgin” olive oil), it does make sense to read about how the oil is captured and processed. It all comes from the coconut — but can be washed, steamed, pressed, bleached, etc.  For our survival purposes, I would look for virgin oil for the best benefits.

Here are some examples of what look like good buys in three different categories. Click on the image to get full details and current pricing.

Island Fresh – Virgin

I selected this because its labeling specifically calls out some of the survival uses discussed above. Note that some other jars of coconut oil at Amazon refer only to their use for COOKING. In fact, some of them add extra flavors to the coconut! Anyway, this is the one I would start with for my own survival kit.

 

 

 


Majestic Pure – Fractionated

Note that this oil has been treated to remove certain fatty acids, rendering it odorless and greaseless and permanently liquid. So-called “fractionated” oils like this may be more convenient for cooking or general purpose beauty care, but may have lost some of their anti-oxidant properties.

 

 

 

Nativa – Refined, in Gallon size!

If you are planning on cooking with coconut oil (French fries!), you may want to purchase refined oil in much larger quantities. Here’s an example of an oil that has a high smoking point, no coconut smell or taste. The customer reviews are very positive.

 

 

 

 

Note: At Amazon many of the coconut oil product distributors assume you are going to want to sign up for a regular delivery, and they offer a discount for that purchase. My recommendation: try out ONE item first, or even better, try out at least TWO so you can compare, before you sign up for monthly delivery. Don’t accidentally click the wrong box!

I think you’ll end up adding coconut oil to your survival stash, just as I have!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. If you have discovered great uses for coconut oil, write and let us know in the comments!

 

Stay or Go? Keeping Ahead of California Wildfires

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Take a look at these 2016 maps, from CALFIRE. On the left, the Current Incidents map shows 10 wildfires burning. Now, look at the map on the right. Just one month later, 17 fires are burning!

California Wildfires

And these are just the MAJOR wildfires burning.

Today, as I write this Advisory, there are 31 fires being fought and/or monitored by CALFIRE.

CALFIRE is the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Its people respond to an average of more than 5,600 wildland fires each year. This year, as of 27 August 2016, they have already responded to 4,270 fires – above average due to significant drought conditions. (No, El Nino didn’t bring Southern California the much needed rain.)

What causes wildfires?

The simple answer: people. Yes, some are started by lightning or lava, but over 90% of fires are started by hunters, campers, tree trimmers and grass mowers, smokers, people’s cars’ catalytic converters and, of course, arsonists.

What can I do to protect my home?

Before you buy or build

Find out before you make an offer if that site is high-risk for wildfires! (If you have found what you think is a good deal, increased wildfire or flood risk may be the reason why.)

Plan for, or confirm, that the home is built from the ground up to the highest fire-resistant construction standards. Building standards vary, but you can get detailed information from your City’s Municipal Code Department and even more detail from the National Fire Protection Association. http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards

Before a wildfire threatens

You’ve heard before about creating a defensible space around your house. Briefly, that means clearing combustible materials from around your house – trees, bushes, uncut grass, piles of wood, fences, sheds, etc. – to create a 100 foot buffer zone between home and fire. Find out full details of each of the 4 zones of defensible space here: http://www.napafirewise.org/index.html

Protect against flying embers by cleaning and then closing up or blocking off gutters, eaves and vent openings or areas under the deck or porch. Purchase or make custom-fitted vent covers.

Pay particular attention to windows and skylights, because they may be more vulnerable to heat. Consider upgrading them to more-resistant materials, and installing metal shutters for the outside of the house and fire-resistant curtains inside.

Fight a fire threatening your home

It is not always possible to protect your home from a wildfire.

However, you may be able to protect your home from a threat or until the fire department gets there by the use of a personal water supply and pump delivery system.

This does NOT mean a garden hose!

Your water source needs to be independent – a pool, dam or lake. Your pump needs to be gas-operated or otherwise stand-alone, since electricity may be out. The entire system – with hoses — needs to be big enough to cover your whole house and preferably the entire defensible space. At the same time, it needs to be portable.

Here is an example from Amazon of the kind of home system you may wish to consider. This model has two 50 foot hoses and can be expanded with more nozzles and hoses. It also delivers foam and comes with approximately 3 hours’ worth.
Home Firefighting HF-S14FC-100F-BK Pool Fire Pump Cart System with 1-Inch Fire Hose and 30 gpm Solid Cartridge Foam System

Obviously, you need to maintain a system like this and practice with it before you actually need it.

Know when to evacuate

For all the above recommendations about preparing for and fighting fire, be ready to go sooner rather than later.

Here are evacuation recommendations from CALFIRE. You can get their full evacuation checklists at http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Pre-Evacuation-Preparation/

Inside the House

• Shut all windows and doors, leaving them unlocked.
• Remove flammable window shades and curtains.
• Close metal shutters.
• Move flammable furniture to the center of the room.
• Shut off air conditioning.
• Shut off gas at the meter; turn off pilot lights.
• Leave lights on so firefighters can see your house under smoky conditions.

Outside the House

• Gather up flammable items from the yard (furniture, toys, trash cans) and put them inside or in your pool.
• Turn off propane tanks. Move propane BBQ appliances away from structures.
• Connect garden hoses to outside spigots for use by firefighters.
• Don’t leave sprinklers on or water running (can affect water pressure).
• Leave exterior lights on so your home is visible.
• Have a ladder available and place it at the corner of the house for firefighters to quickly access your roof.
• Seal attic and ground vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.

We have seen the news footage of fire after fire, and, unfortunately, heard about not only property damage but death.

Preparing for the risk of a wildfire needs to be part of your emergency planning, particularly if you live in California.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Any more ideas you’d like to add to this list?  Just drop them into the comments!

 

Flood Damage Not Covered by Insurance

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

The devastating floods being shown on TV are often accompanied by this voiceover:

“And most of these people have no flood insurance.”

flood damageWhen you see the piles of ruined possessions out on the curb, as in the photo, you get a better idea of what “no insurance” really means. And, I hope, you are prompted to take another look at your own insurance coverages.

After all, it seems as though in the last 12 months we have seen multiple floods labeled “thousand year floods,” so even if you have never been flooded before it’s possible you’ll experience one for the very first time. And it could be any time.

This spring we were threatened by unusual rain from El Niño, so I took a closer look at flood insurance. Here’s some of what I found out about it.

Of course, you should check with your own insurance agent to confirm how YOUR home fits into the world of insurance coverage. Questions to ask:

What does my Homeowner’s Insurance cover?

Your standard homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover flood damage at all. It may cover some water damage from rain coming through a hole in the roof punched in by a storm, but if rising waters fill the house, you are out of luck.

Do I have to live in a flood plain to get flood insurance?

Well first, do you know if you even live in a flood plain?

Find out by going to FEMA’s map service at https://msc.fema.gov/portal 

If you do live in a flood plain, obviously flood insurance will cost more because the chances are higher that there will be a claim. (If you have been required to obtain flood insurance as part of a mortgage, the map can be a good “second opinion.”)

The fact is, though, that something like 1 in 4 claims is for a home not on a flood plain. So this shouldn’t be your deciding factor.

And, to answer the question, anyone can get flood insurance, flood plain or not.

Where do I get flood insurance?

Start by checking with your current home insurer. Some of them have flood insurance available, as a separate policy. Most will refer you directly to the National Flood Insurance Program, administered by FEMA. NFIP was set up in back in the 60s, and it has been updated regularly so be sure you check for the latest limits and costs.

How does NFIP work?

Like all insurance programs, the NFIP must be financially sound, so its policies are priced based on the likelihood of a claim (“Are you in a flood plain?”) plus the amount of coverage selected by the homeowner – whether for the building, the contents, or both.

Does the NFIP have maximum limits?

Yes. (That’s why I included that question here!)

While limits have increased over the years, and coverage has been refined, there are distinct features to the policy. You will need to watch for:

  • Maximum for the structure – currently $250,000
  • Maximum for possessions – currently $100,000

If you have a more expensive home, you can get “excess flood insurance.” You’ll get it from a private carrier, and it will function rather like “a flood policy with a $250,000 deductible!”

What is covered by NFIP?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, “Flood insurance covers direct physical losses by flood and losses resulting from flood-related erosion caused by heavy or prolonged rain, coastal storm surge, snow melt, blocked storm drainage systems, levee dam failure or other similar causes. To be considered a flood, waters must cover at least two acres or affect two properties.”

Note that last sentence. An overflowing storm drain just in front of your house might not count!

What isn’t covered?

Read the following exceptions carefully, and confirm whether they apply in your case.

  • First, flood insurance doesn’t cover that build-out to your basement (although it may cover some of the air conditioning or heating systems) or anything you may have stored down there. No basement coverage!
  • Second, it may pay replacement cost for your home, but it will only pay “current value” on possessions. This means the family “heirlooms” may be worth almost nothing as far as insurance coverage is concerned.
  • Third, this insurance doesn’t help cover living expenses during the time your home is being rebuilt.

 

Should I get flood insurance?

I’m not going to recommend one way or another, but I would certainly consider it. The average price is somewhere around $600 a year for maximum coverage. (I looked into it for our house here in Southern California, built in what is essentially a desert landscape. Our quote was $371/year.)

What else should I know?

Here I WILL make some recommendations.

  1. Be sure to maintain your house whether or not you get a flood policy. Some water damage coverage on your current homeowners policy may be denied if you haven’t installed or maintained gutters, kept up with roof repairs, etc.
  2. No matter what kind of insurance you carry on your home and/or possessions, charge up your phone and do a deliberate walk through, video-taping the contents of every room. Having this record will be incredibly valuable in helping you remember what is missing or damaged in any kind of emergency. Put the footage on a flash drive and store it with a family member or at work, somewhere “off site.”
  3. If you are thinking to wait until the “real” rainy season hits before you buy flood insurance, remember that there is a 30 day waiting period after you sign up before the coverage goes into effect.

Finally, as with all insurances, I recommend you get at least two quotes. Flood coverage, just like earthquake coverage, is something the average insurance professional may not be experienced with. You need to become your own expert – after all, it’s your house we’re talking about!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. I can hear some of our readers saying, “Heck, I know all this.” If that’s your case, how about forwarding the article to a family member or friend who might NOT know it all!  Thanks!

P.P.S. And if you haven’t already, subscribe to our Advisories below. Just let us know where to send them. You never know when one will come that has some new information perfect for you that week!

 

 

Survive An Airplane Disaster

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Announcement from the cabin attendant, “In the unlikely event . . .”

Last Friday I flew from L.A. to San Francisco. It was an evening flight so before we even started taxiing people had removed their coats and shoes, turned off their overhead lights, and curled up to get in a quick hour’s nap after a long week’s work.

"you have 90 seconds to get 370 people through this doorway . . ."

“You have 90 seconds to get 370 people through this doorway . . .”

Alarm bells started going off in my head!

Why?  Because I had just finished reading a series of articles about airline safety and here are some of the details that stuck with me.

Three Airplane Safety Facts

 

Fact 1: Most airplane disasters happen between 3 minutes after taking off and 8 minutes before landing.

With that in mind, I was horrified to see that at take-off most of my co-passengers were NOT thinking about emergencies, had NOT taken a look at the emergency brochure, had NOT checked their flotation device, had NOT noted the number of rows to the nearest exit.

Worst of all, many were barefoot.

If we had to evacuate, these people would be groggy, confused, and naturally hesitant to scramble out in the dark onto a strange, maybe hot or broken surface – or into the ocean!

We were set to fail the 90 second evacuation test.

Airplanes are designed to get everyone out within 90 seconds. To accomplish that, over the years airplane designers have widened the galley ways (to 30 inches), widened evacuation slides to handle 70 people a minute, etc.

The 90 seconds isn’t an arbitrary number.

It’s about how long you can keep moving to save yourself if you can’t take a good clean breath of air.

And that’s because, in the case of a crash, more people perish from smoke inhalation than from injury.

Well, our flight didn’t have a problem (after all, I’m writing this) and when we landed, I witnessed an orderly exit. Still, it took a long, long time for everyone to dig out their hand luggage from under the seats and from the overhead racks. And this reminded me of the second thing I learned.

In an evacuation, people naturally want to bring the stuff they boarded with. The problem?

Fact 2: Evacuation slides on modern passenger aircraft are designed to rapidly remove human bodies from a plane that may be as tall as a two story building.

Key word is “rapidly.” A rapid evacuation works only if you JUMP onto the slide. It won’t work if you attempt to sit down to start your slide.

Jumping and falling that fast means you cannot control suitcases, computer bags, or rolling luggage carts. For sure, slowing your fall means you will be plowed into by the 350 lb. guy coming behind you with HIS rolling cart.

Even in evacuation drills, trained volunteers with nothing in their hands get injured sliding that fast and that far.

Luggage on the slide makes injury inevitable.

Fact 3: Once you’re on the ground, the next sensible thing to do is get away from the airplane. Fast!

We have all seen movies where the heroes run away from a burning car, house, or boat and it blows up behind them. (Great special effects.)

This image could just as well be an airplane loaded with aviation fuel.  Do our heroes stop to take a video of the flames behind them . . .?

While we’re on the subject, here are just . . .

A Few More Airline Safety Tips

 

Negotiating Emergency Doors and Exit Rows

Apparently getting an emergency door open isn’t always as simple as it looks in that brochure. (“Pull down on handle, lift up door.”) In fact, some airline industry professionals suggest that you anticipate that half the emergency doors won’t be able to be opened at all – due to location of a fire, a damaged frame, whatever. That’s why you need to

  • Identify the two closest emergency exits as soon as you are seated.
  • Count the number of rows to the emergency exits so you can get there in the dark.
  • If you can choose your seat, get one within 5 rows of an exit.

(During my research I came across stories of people attempting to open the emergency doors during flight. Mostly, it’s because they (1) were drunk or (2) had never been on an airplane before. Unbelievable.)

Managing Yourself

In a crash, your goal is to get up and get out right now! Do not sit there checking to see if you are OK or waiting for your breathing to return to normal all while wondering what is going to happen next.

Remember that 90 second rule and get yourself and family members moving to the nearest exit!

Leave your luggage behind.

You are going to have to launch yourself off the side of the plane. Extra weight and/or encumbrances will slow your passage to the door and threaten your ability to slide safely and to negotiate your landing.

Of course, crew members will guide the evacuation. The more assertive they are, the better it will go, so don’t get huffy at being yelled at. Get off the plane!

“In the unlikely event . . .”

. . .is the subtitle for this Advisory, because air travel is still statistically safer than other modes of travel.

Even with all the bad news of recent months, a CNN update published in May 2016 for the first half of the year stated: “We are ahead of the 10-year average with eight accidents and 167 fatalities compared to the average of 10 accidents and 205 fatalities.” (Source was aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas, editor of Airlineratings.com.)

When there is a crash, though, death statistics can be dramatic. Being aware and taking immediate action may keep you from becoming one of them.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

P.S. The Number 1 airline fact above – the 3 minute 8 minute rule – came from a book that we have read with great interest. It’s called Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life: A Former CIA Officer Reveals Safety and Survival Techniques to Keep You and Your Family Protected. The travel safety tips are just a small part of what is fascinating reading about protecting your home and yourself from people out to get you.

P.P.S. If you want to get regular tips and recommendations, be sure to sign up for our weekly Advisories below. There’s no cost, and you never know when one of our Advisories will be enough to save your life.

Summer Water Shortage

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

What I really meant: Summer Water Shortage Storage

Here in California, we’ve had drought conditions for 4 years. Throughout the state, people have cut back about 25% on water usage – sometimes voluntarily, mostly as a result of cost pressure.

But using less water for the landscape doesn’t mean we should drop storing water for an emergency!

So again, I want to promote . . .

The best water storage solution: the 4-item 55-gallon water barrel kit.

The kit has four components. You need all four!

You can buy them separately or all together, at Amazon, Walmart or at Costco or wherever you find the best price. In doing my research today I found that by shopping carefully I could get the same four items for a low of about $100 to a high of about $150.

The image at the left shows a kit with the four items that need to be on your shopping list — the barrel, the bung wrench, the pump and the water preserver. You can click on the kit image — or any of the images below — and go directly to Amazon. But before you go there, learn more about each of the components so you know what you’re looking for.

1 – The 55 gallon water barrel

What you want is a standard blue polyethylene plastic food grade water storage barrel with a sealed top. (I’d want a new one. Even if it’s brand new, give it a good rinse with a diluted chlorine-bleach solution – one part bleach to 10 parts water. Of course, use non-scented bleach that contains no soap.)

What to watch out for:

When it’s full, your barrel will weigh 440 pounds so you won’t be able to move it by hand!  Pick the spot where you want to store it, lay down some boards or pieces of wood to keep it up off the ground or the floor, and set it in place. (Make sure your floor can hold this weight.)

2 – A “Bung wrench” to open the plugs in the top of the barrel

The stopper in a barrel is called a “bung” and you’ll need a special wrench to remove it. You can get a metal or plastic wrench like the red one in the photo to the right. Often, the wrench will be designed for a second function, like being able to turn off gas at your meter. Bung wrenches seem to go missing on a regular basis. You may want to fasten it to your barrel (tape?).

3 – A Pump to get the water out of the barrel

 These water barrels are designed with openings only at the top, so to get the water out you need to insert a pipe down through one of the bung holes and then pump the water up and out. Since this is for emergency use, you need a pump that operates by hand! Be sure your pump is BPA free since your drinking water will be flowing through it.

What to watch out for:

An inexpensive siphon hose can work but may take a lot of effort to get started. Other hand siphon pumps have a hand-operated sliding action and larger tubes, and are more efficient. The image shows the “vertical manual action” of the pump shown in the kit.

Once you get a siphon pump flowing, it will continue to flow until you stop it, so be sure you know how to start AND stop the flow. (Hint – you unscrew the cap at the top to break the vacuum.)

Here’s a great video from Robert Canning that shows just how to install and use a hand siphon pump.

There are also hand pumps with a lever that pump a certain amount with each press of the lever – best if you want to remove just a small amount of water.

4 – Water preserver liquid

We have written before about using 1/8 cup of plain bleach in your barrel full of water to keep the water clean for long-term (i.e. year-long) storage. You can also use a water preserver concentrate that will keep water clean for up to 5 years. Follow the directions on the bottle to get the right amount into your barrel.

And now, the question we overlooked . . .

How to get the water INTO the barrel? Three options.

If you’re like me, I want the barrel tucked out of the way, so it turns out not to be close to a faucet. So how do I fill the barrel?

Naturally, you’ll think about using the garden hose. But wait. That hose has probably been sitting around for who knows how long, getting dirt on it, spraying pesticides or soap, and gradually disintegrating. I wouldn’t want to use it to fill MY barrel!

So what are other options?

One way is to use new bottles of water or simply carry water from the kitchen in a clean container and pour it into the barrel. Works fine, takes many trips!

The other option is to purchase the right length of food grade, white plastic drinking water hose at an RV supply store and run it from the tap.

And finally, store the barrel properly.

Some hints:

  • Label the barrel with the contents and the date you fill it, so you’ll know when it’s time to empty, refresh and refill.
  • Store in a cool dark place, out of sunlight; keep it clean.
  • Camouflage the barrel to prevent someone from stealing your water. Cover it with a tarp or canvas, turn it into a workbench, whatever.

This water can keep you alive in a crisis, so consider this big purchase as a gift to the family for the summer!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

 

P.S. You will likely want to have smaller containers of water, too, so you can store them more easily, move them, pour out just a glass of water, etc. Here are a two more articles from Emergency Plan Guide you may find useful as you consider how to store the water YOU need:

 

Buy Batteries On Sale

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Is getting batteries “on sale” a good idea?

Check out this article before you buy! Price isn’t the only factor. In the world of batteries, it seems you get what you pay for, and you’d better know in advance just what you need.
Batteries
Some Background on Batteries (Skim if you already know all this!)

How batteries work

Batteries use a chemical reaction to do work. Alkaline batteries, the AA, C and D batteries we all know, typically depend on zinc interacting with manganese (through an alkaline electrolyte solution) to produce electricity.

Other batteries use different chemistries to achieve a higher “energy density” so they will last longer and perform better. Some of them: nickelcadmium (NiCd), nickelzinc (NiZn), nickel metal hydride (NiMH), and lithium-ion (Li-ion),

In a regular alkaline battery, the reaction ultimately consumes the chemicals (leaving behind hydrogen gas as a “waste” product) and the battery dies.

When to recharge

While an alkaline battery can be recharged, the process is inefficient and dangerous because of the hydrogen gas buildup. Recharging non-rechargeable batteries can result in a leak or even an explosion.

Rechargeable batteries are designed differently. First, they use specific chemicals (most popular seems to be Lithium Ion, which is even being used in Tesla batteries) that can undergo a “reverse chemical reaction” easily and efficiently. They contain a catalyst to keep hydrogen gas from forming. They have vents to prevent pressure from building up during recharging.

As you might expect, rechargeable batteries are more expensive because you have to buy that extra “charger.” However, studies suggest that you will save money over time using rechargeables, but they need electricity to work, so IN AN EMERGENCY SITUATION you will probably want to have regular disposable batteries on hand, too.

Getting the most out of batteries

No matter where they are stored, all batteries will ultimately die. Eventually, the steel casing will corrode and rust and leak. (Heat like we’ve had over the past several weeks can speed up the deterioration!)

Still, there are things you can do to preserve the life of your device batteries.

  • Don’t attempt to recharge non-rechargeable batteries.
  • Remove batteries from a device that you won’t be using for a while.
  • Replace all the batteries in a device at the same time. (Clean the contacts with a cloth before you install the new batteries).
  • Don’t mix different kinds of batteries in the same device. Use the same manufacturer, same type, same manufacture date.
  • Store batteries in a cool, dry place. (Your car, in the summer heat, is not so good for preserving the life of whatever battery-operated device you store in there.)
  • Don’t mix loose batteries with metal objects – like in your pocket with change. They can short-circuit and burn or explode!
  • Keep batteries cool, but there’s no need to refrigerate modern batteries.

 

My phone’s my most important survival tool! What’s the best solution for it?

The battery already in your phone or computer may have to be replaced as some point. If so, you’ll probably have to get whatever the manufacturer requires.

But, you’ll be recharging that device many times before you have to get a new battery! In an emergency, of course, electrical power for recharging may be out or you may be nowhere near a wall socket. One back-up option is a device that holds an extra charge, just ready for you to plug in to when you need it.

So let’s look at portable chargers or Power Banks.

Power Bank with Flashlight

My Power Bank has a flashlight, too.

If your goal is to extend the life of your electronic devices, consider a Power Bank,  otherwise known as a “mobile power supply,” mobile battery, external battery, spare battery, charging stick, or portable charger. These devices can keep you operating for days at a time!

If your time is worth anything, a power bank will be an inexpensive boost to your productivity and, in an emergency, to your peace of mind.

Power Banks are sized from something similar to a small flashlight to a device that resembles a small external storage drive. They all fit in a palm, pocket or purse, but may be a bit heavy to carry around all day. (Check the weight.)

As you compare them, look for:

  • Capacity (measured in mAh, or milliampere hours). The higher the mAh, the more stored power.

    IS THE POWER BANK BIG ENOUGH TO DO THE JOB?  Some negative reviews come from people who expect a small battery to recharge a much larger device. Doesn’t work!

    You want enough juice to reload your phone or tablet completely, at least once and preferably more often than that! For example, one power bank model declares its 15,000 mAh are able to charge an iPhone 6 more than 5 times. To know how much capacity you need, get the specs on your device from the box it came in, or search online for “technical specs.”

  • Output (measured in V, or volts). Generally, you want the power bank output to be the same as the input to your device. For example, your phone and Bluetooth headset probably each have 5V input.
  • How many ports? Some of the chargers can “feed” as many as 4 devices at the same time. (You’ll need the right cord for each device.)
  • What security against short circuits, over-charging or over heating?

 

The chart below will gives you a quick idea of options. These models range from $20 – $40 each; click on the name to go directly to more details on Amazon.

NAME
CAPACITY (mAh)
SHAPE
WEIGHT
NOTES
Portable Charger RAVPower 22000mAh 5.8A Output 3-Port Power Bank External Battery Pack (2.4A Input, Triple iSmart 2.0 USB Ports, High-density Li-polymer Battery) For Phones Tablets and More - Black22000 mAhFlat - Wide14.4 oz5.8A Output 3-Port External Battery Pack
Portable Charger RAVPower 13000mAh (Powerful 5V / 4.5A Dual USB Output) Power Bank External Battery Pack - Black13000 mAhFlat - wide10.88 oz4.5A Dual USB Output (iSmart Technology) Black
Portable Charger, RAVPower 10050mAh Outdoor External Battery Pack Waterproof Dustproof and Shockproof Rugged (Premiun Bttery Cell) Built-in Flashlight; iSmart Technology - Black10050 mAhFat - wide7.36 oz2.4A Single Output, 2A Input and iSmart Technology
[Smallest but Powerful Enough] Portable Charger RAVPower 3350mAh 3rd Gen Luster Mini - External Battery Pack and Power Bank & iSmart for iPhone, iPad, Android and Other Smart Devices - Black3350 mAhTubular2.56 ozSingle Output Port


What are the best batteries for our other emergency devices?

 

Disposable Batteries

Understanding all that basic information listed above, we have tested disposable batteriesEnergizer, Duracell and Kirkland (Costco brand) — multiple times for our emergency radios. These radios are used once a month for our Emergency Response Team drill, and then very lightly, so we don’t go through the batteries quickly at all. We do automatically replace them regularly (usually twice a year at the time change.)

Re results of our testing? There doesn’t seem to be too much difference in manufacturers, although our current favorite is the Duracell Coppertop with Duralock.   You can get what you need at your local hardware or big box store, or add them to an Amazon order. The packaging shown here has both AA and AAA sizes in one.

 

Rechargeable batteries

For multi-use devices, like our emergency radios, we prefer rechargeable batteries. We’ve found that rechargeables are often specified BY NAME by the manufacturer of the product. If specified, use ‘em.

Other raters for rechargeables have consistently come up with Eneloop NiMH. These are made by Panasonic, and come in AAA and AA sizes. Panasonic says these can be recharged 2,100 times!  For that reason alone I would try them!

 

 

 

Whew, this is a lot of info, but given the fact that we all seem to invest in batteries on a consistent basis, it’s worth it to get the right battery for the job.
Oh, and buying on sale? A good idea if you know what you’re buying.

But buying just on price alone makes no sense.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

If you’re part of a Neighborhood Emergency Response group, you’ll need a budget for batteries for your walkie-talkies. Here’s an article with some ideas about financing your group’s efforts.

 


 

 

Off to College? What’s in your survival kit?

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Pretty exciting, isn’t it? New freedom, new friends, new food (!).

And, new dangers.

Survival kit for collegeWe can’t deal here with all the social issues on campus. But there are some things you can do to make your life away at school a bit safer and more secure. Take the time to check these out.

1-Be Ready For An Active Shooter on Campus

The news has been full of shooter incidents lately, so perhaps you’ve spent time talking about what YOU would do in that situation. But maybe you haven’t.

People most at risk are – OBLIVIOUS!

  • Walking around with their eyes glued to their cell phones.
  • Chatting or goofing off with friends and not paying attention to their surroundings.
  • Half asleep, waiting for somebody else to tell them what to do.

Time to change those habits!

Here’s a video put out by the University of Alberta that is pretty effective at reminding you what to do in case you hear what sounds like gunfire. The best stuff comes after the 2 minute intro.

Action item: Take 8 minutes right now and watch this video.

https://youtu.be/gHNApS-MC18

And then consider these actions for when you get to campus:

2-Secure Your Dorm Room or Apartment

Let’s assume that any room you are sleeping in has normal locks, and that you use them. However, if you want to be more secure – and particularly if you have been notified of danger on campus – you want to be sure you are extra safe inside.

Depending on the construction of the door, here are three things to consider.

= = > Barricade the door.

Somebody dangerous threatening you? The classic chair under the door handle really DOES work, as long as the angles are right. In an office setting, though, you may not find the stiff chair you’re looking for. So, in an emergency, don’t hesitate to pull a HEAVY piece of furniture (table, copy machine) in front of the door. Add a second heavy piece behind it.

= = > Disable the mechanism.

Keep door from openingThe working of a typical commercial door hinge may be defeated by use of a belt. Tighten it down to prevent the door from opening, as shown by Bill Stanton, safety expert.

= = > Get a door wedge.

In your bedroom or dorm room, a simple investment in a rubber door stop may be all you’ll need. (This one looks as though it will work on any surface.) Click on the image for details.

Keep intruders from coming in through a balcony with the help of a sliding glass door bar – you can place it in the track of the door, or, if you’ve bought one for that purpose, lock it across the center of the door. Obviously, a determined intruder can break a glass door if he or she has the tool to break it with.

3-Be Prepared For Evacuation or An Extended Lockdown

It’s far more likely that your college stay could be impacted by something less dramatic than an active shooter. But it might be equally serious – like a storm, flood, electrical outage, or even some sort of disease outbreak.

Be ready to respond to a call to shelter in place or to evacuate by having your own survival kit. Figure you need to take care of yourself for at least 72 hours – and remember, you will have no access to electricity, water or food. Or a toilet.

Stuff your kit (use a backpack) and have it handy so you can grab it at a moment’s notice.

What should be in your kit?

Basic Emergency Supply Checklist

  1. Water – 1 gallon per day. (Tough to fit in a small backpack, admittedly!)
  2. First Aid Kit with fresh supplies.
  3. Food – Canned or dried foods that you like and that don’t require cooking.
  4. Clothing – A set of warm, comfortable clothing. Extra sunglasses, glasses or contact lenses.
  5. Medicine – At least a two weeks supply of any prescription medicines.
  6. Sanitation – Garbage bags, including small, compactor-strength bags for waste. Sanitary supplies. Toilet paper, baby wipes, paper towels.
  7. Flashlights, emergency radio that operates with batteries, solar or by hand crank – NO CANDLES!
  8. Car – Always ready with half tank of gas.
  9. Cash – No electricity = no ATM, no credit card.
  10. Telephone numbers – Write on paper. Your cell phone and computer will run out of battery unless you have a solar charger.

You should be able to collect just about everything on this list right at home, before you leave for school. There’s one possible exception — the emergency radio.

Here’s a link to Amazon that will get you one of the best ones we’ve found. It operates using AA batteries, its own solar panel, or you can crank it for power. You can even charge it from your computer. Click on the image for details. (If you buy through Amazon we may get a small commission. It won’t impact what you pay.)

OK, we know you have put in a lot of effort to get to where you are. Don’t overlook some of these common-sense preparations that will KEEP you at school just the way you have planned.

Best of luck,

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

P.S. Please share this article with friends. It’s possible they won’t have thought of all these things, either!

 

 

What threat do you face from a nuclear reactor emergency

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Nuclear Power PlantWe have written before about the shadowy world of nuclear power plants. In last week’s news I found another of the disconcerting developments connected with plants that have been shut down and that are going through the “decommissioning process.”

This news comes from Vermont.

Briefly, the purpose of decommissioning is to remove and dispose of contaminated materials so that the property may be released for other uses. Since decommissioning can be a long and complicated. the plant owner is required during the plant’s lifetime to set money aside for that purpose.

Naturally, once the plant stops producing power, owners want to shut it down as quickly and as inexpensively as possible.

One of the steps they take is to petition to have the “emergency zone” around the plant reduced. We have written before about the 50-mile-zone vs. the 10-mile-zone; you can check that Advisory by clicking here.

It turns out that Entergy, owner of Vermont Yankee, has successfully petitioned the NRC not only to stop supporting planning in the 50-mile zone, but also planning in the 10-mile zone. In fact, it has petitioned to eliminate ALL its responsibility to the 18 towns around the plant.

Apparently the funds set aside for decommissioning have also been “used for other purposes.” Lawsuits are being filed, hearings held. It’s not clear what the outcome will be.

But this brings up the whole issue of emergency planning around nuclear power plants.

Can you answer these questions about living near a nuclear power plant?

Nuclear Reactors U.S.1. How far away is the closest nuclear plant?

There are about 100 operating nuclear plants in the U.S., and most tend to have a low profile. So if you don’t really know where the nearest reactor is located, here’s a link to a map from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC):  http://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/reactor/  *There’s a lot more info behind each pin on the map at the site.

2. In an emergency, how will you be affected?

The NRC defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: 1) a “plume exposure” zone with a radius of 10 miles, where airborne radioactive material would directly impact people, and 2) a second zone with a radius of 50 miles where contaminated food and water could be ingested by people within the zone.

(As a side note, Japanese authorities set a 20 km “exclusion zone” around the destroyed Fukushima Daishi power plant. That zone continues to be adjusted as radiation levels change as the result of government clean-up efforts and new weather events.)

3. What preparations can you make to protect yourself from a nuclear accident?

If you live near an operating plant, it’s likely that the first you’ll know of an emergency is when you hear a siren. (3-5 minute blast, repeated) Immediately tune to your local FM radio station or TV station, or to one of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) stations.

  • Plan to shelter in place. The major hazard in the plume area is direct exposure to the radiation cloud – through breathing, touching particles on the ground, or eating materials that have been contaminated.
  • Go indoors and stay there. Close doors and windows and shut off furnaces, fireplaces and air conditioners. Keep pets inside. If you’re in your car, close the windows and vents.
  • Keep listening for updates!

4. What will the authorities be doing?

  • An evacuation may be called. Grab your survival kit/evacuation kit and follow instructions. Hopefully your car’s gas tank is at least half full.
  • You may be advised to take potassium iodide (KI). KI is a nonprescription medication that blocks uptake of radioactive iodine by the thyroid gland. It is FDA-approved and readily available, coming in 65 and 130 mg tablets and liquid form; children need half or even a quarter of the dose for adults, so follow directions carefully. KI is effective for about 24 hours and you need to have enough to last every member of the family for several days or until you can get out of the affected zone. (See purchase info at the bottom of this article.)
  • You’ll be notified when it’s safe to return. (How can you be sure it’s safe? See “More resources,” below.)

5. What about the threat of a closed plant?

Here in Southern California, the San Onofre plant ceased operations in 2013 after a history of maintenance problems. The owner of the plant is just now putting final touches on its “decommissioning plan.” Spent fuel is being stored in one of the closed reactor containers — just hundreds of yards from the Pacific ocean (risk of tsunami?).  Since the 2010 U.S. census counts over 8 million people living within 50 miles of the plant, ANY emergency here will have a big impact!

Clearly, the chances of a nuclear disaster are far less for a plant that is no longer running, but as long as radioactive fuel is still being stored on site a certain threat remains, whether from a weather event (like what happened and continues to happen in Japan) or a terrorist event.

So it’s back to you and your emergency planning team, whether that’s your family, your local neighborhood emergency response team or your workplace leaders:

  • Are you near a nuclear plant?
  • Is it operating at full or reduced capacity?
  • Is it shut down or scheduled to be shut down?
  • What is the emergency plan for the site?

As an active and concerned citizen, it’s up to you to learn more. I hope this article can be the impetus. We’ll continue to share what we learn . . .

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

More resources:

Buy KI tablets. As you are shopping, consider the make-up of your family, and whether it would be easier for you to have smaller tablets (adults take two, child takes one) or even liquid (would have to be mixed with something). This is an inexpensive item so get a big enough supply that you don’t have to worry about running out. This particular item often goes on sale at Amazon — note its expiry date!
Potassium Iodide 60 Tablets 65 Mg. Each Expires 2018

Test radiation levels using a personal Radiation Test Sticker. These stickers come in postage-stamp size; paste one on the back of your drivers licence or elsewhere in your wallet and you can always test conditions. This link takes you to Amazon.

Radstickers -Radiation Detection Stickers – Lot of 10 Add to your Nuclear Survival Gear

For real understanding of your circumstances, consider a Geiger Counter. You can learn more about them at this Advisory and take a look at two versions here:

SOEKS 01M Plus Generation 2 Geiger Counter Radiation Detector Dosimeter (NEW Model replaces SOEKS 01M)

GCA-07W Professional Geiger Counter Nuclear Radiation Detection Monitor with Digital Meter and External Wand Probe – NRC Certification Ready- 0.001 mR/hr Resolution — 1000 mR/hr Range

There are less expensive options, including this app that works with your phone. Its  low cost makes it attractive for people living or working in areas of moderate risk, or for people who want a backup unit to carry on the road.. . .

Smart Geiger Nuclear Radiation Gamma X-ray Personal Detector Counter Tester Sensor for Smartphone Apple iPhone 4 4s 5 5s 6 iPad, Android Phone Samsung Galaxy S3 S4 S5 S6 Note 3 Lg G G2 G3 G App

 

Don’t miss a single Advisory. Sign up below.

 

Survival Vocab Quiz

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Survival VocabularyOK, so you’re in good shape when it comes to preparedness.

But can you talk to people about preparedness using THEIR words?

Here are three quick quizzes for three different groups. See how you do!

Group One: Your Prepper Relatives

While you may not be a red-hot survivalist, you probably have a few in the family. Maintain your dignity by knowing these prepper acronyms:

  1. EDC – Every day carry – collection of essential, small items that the survivalist has at all times in a pocket or purse.
  2. ATV – All-terrain-vehicle – A three or four-wheeled “buggy” that can carry preppers to safety through the woods or over the hills, when roads are impassible or too dangerous.
  3. BOB – Bug-Out-Bag – What you need to have ready to grab and go and that will keep you alive for at least 72 hours. At a minimum it contains shelter, water, and food.
  4. OTG – Off the grid – Surviving without access to electricity, municipal water, grocery stores, etc. Usually, it means setting up alternative living arrangements in an isolated area where you won’t be bothered by people who haven’t prepared in advance.
  5. SHTF – Shit Hits The Fan – All your preparations are made so that you will survive when the SHTF.

Group Two: Your Emergency Response Team Volunteers

These folks are committed and concerned. You owe it to them to provide good leadership by knowing what you’re taking about.

  1. CERT – Community Emergency Response Team member – Someone who has taken the (free) 24 hour course designed by FEMA (see DHS, below), offered by a city or other local organization. CERT members are volunteers who have received training in basic disaster response skills and who agree to provide emergency care until professionals arrive, and then support those professionals as needed.
  2. DHS – Department of Homeland Security – DHS was established in 2002, combining 22 different federal departments and agencies into one cabinet-level agency that now has 240,000 employees. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is part of DHS.
  3. EMT – Emergency Medical Technicians — EMTs are trained to provide emergency medical care before a person arrives at a hospital. EMTs may be associated with an ambulance company or a fire department; they may have different levels of training depending on their state or employer.
  4. SOP – Standard Operating Procedure – “The way we do things.” If you don’t have an SOP for your team, then you can’t expect any given outcome.
  5. Triage — Triage is the first step in an emergency. It is the process for sorting injured people into groups based on their need for medical treatment. Triage, by definition means that as a volunteer you don’t stop to help the first injured person you see.

Group Three: Co-workers

People at work deserve a plan for emergencies. If you’re involved, here are formal and informal terms you should be using:

  1. OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration – OSHA is part of the Department of Labor. For our purposes, it is important to realize that OSHA’s purpose is to “provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards.” Generally, this does NOT require any sort of emergency preparedness plan.
  2. BC/DR Plan – Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Plan — These terms are often used interchangeably but they both contain an approach to (1) preparing for emergencies, (2) taking action to limit damage before anything happens, (3) understanding how to get through the disaster when it does it, and then, (4) how to get back to BAU (see below).
  3. BIA – Business Impact Analysis – This is the first step to a Disaster Recovery plan. It’s a process that will identify and evaluate the potential effects of a disaster, accident or emergency on your critical business operations. The BIA will help set priorities for your planning.
  4. BAU – Business As Usual — After an emergency, BAU is what you want to get to. However, it’s possible that today in your workplace, if changes aren’t made right away, your current BAU will lead to a worse disaster than was necessary!
  5. SOW – Statement of Work — If your organization decides to hire a consultant to help in developing your BC or DR Plan, you’ll likely ask for, or actually provide yourself as part of the consulting contract, a statement of work that outlines exactly what is to be done.

Ok, had enough?! Here are a couple of suggestions to make this exercise valuable for a bigger audience.

  • Action Item #1: Consider printing out these definitions for your emergency response team members. Go over them out loud at a training meeting so everyone knows how they sound and can say them easily. Some of this will be new to some of your members, I can guarantee it!
  • Action Item #2: At work, share this list with co-workers or with your boss. If emergency preparedness and emergency planning are relatively new subjects, people will get a sense of confidence having been exposed to this vocab.

Let us know how you used the list!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. And one last acronym I just can’t resist putting in here: TEOTWAWKI:

If you’ve spent time on survival websites, you’ll know that this stands for The End Of The World As We Know It. TEOTWAWKI usually assumes a BIG disaster – total economic collapse, cosmic event, pandemic, etc. I don’t know how the acronym is pronounced, if it even can be pronounced!

P.P.S. More preparedness vocabulary for people who like this sort of thing: