Lists for Active Preppers and Leaders

Thursday, January 18th, 2018
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The Good Stuff from CERT and NERT

Big FlashlightOver the years Joe and I have been involved in both CERT and NERT training. CERT is Community Emergency Response Team training, a course and refreshers offered by our city. NERT is our informal Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, with its own unofficial and customized training.

At both CERT and NERT get-togethers we end up sharing ideas for useful supplies and gear, and, of course, ideas for how to stay on track.  We’ve documented many of these conversations and trainings in the over 200 Advisories here at Emergency Plan Guide.

Since I have been getting requests for one list or another, I thought I’d just bundle a few of them together in one place for easy reference. So . . .

Here are 7 popular lists for individual and family survival kits.

They should all sound familiar to you!

(Follow the links to get to each Advisory.)

Lists of meeting agenda ideas for group leaders.

If you are looking for ideas for a meeting agenda, just grab one of the Advisories above and use it to stage a “show and tell.” You can bring your own kit and get group members to bring theirs. Always a success!

And don’t forget, we’ve gathered up a collection of something like 50 meeting agenda ideas pulled from all the meetings we’ve held over the years. Here’s the link to the page where you can download them immediately. (And yes, we do charge a little for the books. It helps us continue to buy and share emergency items with our team!)

Three more lists, specifically for Neighborhood Teams’ “Block Captains.”

No matter how your neighborhood group is set up, at the very ground level you’ll have a number of people who have agreed to get to know their “block” of neighbors (a block could be a building, a floor, a department, or actually a block), to check in with them in an emergency, and report on their condition to the designated leader.

We find that Block Captains are the heart of our neighborhood group, so we encourage their active participation by making sure they get their own specialized resources.

1-Block Captain Supplies for CERT graduates

Have you taken the formal CERT training? If so, then you already have received a first set of supplies. For example, our local CERT graduates come away with:

  • A vest with reflective stripes
  • Duffle bag
  • Helmet
  • Flashlight
  • Safety goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Gloves

(Other CERT programs supply their members with different items. The list above is from our local program, only. Amazon.com actually offers a variety of CERT kits starting at around $50 and going up from there. Take a look at all the gear included in these kits to see what you might want to include in yours.)

By the time the class is over, most of our CERT members have added to their bags – first aid items, a few tools, duct and making tape, pens and tablets to write on, headlamps, etc. The duffle bag can get very heavy very quickly; most people keep them in their cars.

2-Block Captain Under-the-Bed Kit

As far as local Block Captain duties are concerned, we have been able to outfit our captains – whether or not they are CERT graduates – with just a few essential items:

  • A reflective vest
  • Walkie-talkie and extra batteries
  • Clipboard, tablet and pen for taking notes
  • Flashlight
  • Whistle
  • A reminder checklist of what to do in an emergency

You can get a Block Captain outfitted with the above items for less than $30. (Most expensive item is the Walkie-talkie/hand-held radio at around $15.) Buying items in bulk can reduce that cost.

And we truly call this the “under the bed” kit. (As I’ve mentioned before, we recommend that all our Block Captains also store shoes under the bed. If something happens, we want to be able to jump into action – safely!)

3-Block Captain Step-by-Step Checklist

Block Captain ChecklistOur NERT volunteers carry a quick reminder checklist of their primary duty when the community is hit by an emergency. It’s a card similar to the one to the left.

As you can see, this card assumes that the community has already been organized into Divisions; everyone has a walkie-talkie and understands the way channels have been assigned. Your own checklist needs to reflect the vocabulary and set-up of your organization.

In any case, the list needs to be SIMPLE and HANDY. You might consider laminating it to give it a bit more heft.

When we bring a new member aboard, we present him/her with some items at the orientation, and then present the rest when the new Block Captain is introduced to the group. People like to be recognized – and this is an important role they are going to be playing!

And we find that getting free “gear” encourages other people to join in.

What lists or checklists have you found to be helpful as you manage your own preparedness? And do you have suggestions for helping a group get formed and stay interested?  Pass ’em along!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

Nuclear Bomb Threat – What to do

Monday, January 15th, 2018
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Text - not a drill

If you’re close enough to hear a siren or get a text like the one above, you are in potential danger.

It doesn’t matter whether the danger is coming from a nuclear plant leak, a terrorist explosion or an incoming missile.

Take action immediately. You may have just a few minutes.

  1. Get to shelter. Get deeper into a building or deeper underground to put as much solid material – bricks, concrete, dirt – between you and the radioactive fallout. Obviously, if your shelter is hit directly by a bomb, it won’t protect you.
  2. Stay in your shelter. Radioactivity is worst at the time of the blast, but dissipates pretty quickly. According to the Department of Homeland Security, radiation will have declined to a little as 1% after 2 weeks.
  3. Don’t come out until it’s safe. This may mean 24 hours or it may mean 2 weeks or even longer! You’ll only know it’s safe if you have a way to get emergency communications from official sources.

Basic preparations to take now

Most preparations for a nuclear disaster are pretty simple, and follow the guidelines that we’ve laid out many times. Here’s a quick reminder list.

  1. Have a survival kit that you can grab at a moment’s notice. Take it with you to your shelter. You may want to have a battery-operated walkie-talkie in each family member’s kit so you can stay together in the dark.
  2. Stock your shelter with food and other supplies so you can shelter in place for days if need be. Obviously, if you are traveling or not at home, it will be difficult if not impossible to have enough supplies for a lengthy emergency stay.
  3. Be sure you have an emergency FM radio so you can monitor official transmissions.

Advanced preparations if you are in a target location

Some areas are more likely to be targets than others. For example, right now the emphasis seems to be on Guam and Hawaii, which could be reached by missiles from North Korea.

However, every nuclear reactor in the country – there are about 100 of them – could also be subject to an emergency or terrorist attack, as could different manufacturing, government or military centers.

If you live near one of these “prime targets,” you may want to make more preparations. These could include:

  1. Find out what your local government’s “emergency plan” is for a nuclear disaster. It probably involves evacuation.
  2. Be ready to seal yourself into your house. Bring in pets. Close all windows and doors, shut off fireplace, heater and A/C.
  3. Have a supply of potassium iodide (KI). It’s nonprescription and FDA approved. You’ll need enough for every family member for several days. Pills cost lessz than a dollar each. Be sure to check on expiry date.
  4. Consider having a way to measure the levels of radioactivity yourself. Geiger counters start at around $150. There are also Smartphone apps to measure radiation.

If you want more info and some specific recommendations for these products, please check out an earlier – now updated! — Advisory: http://emergencyplanguide.org/what-threat-do-you-face-from-a-nuclear-reactor-emergency/

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. If you get caught in an active radiation blast, you’ll need to protect yourself as best you can and then get the radiation — carried through the air like dust — off you. Steps for decontamination are pretty much removing your clothes and then washing off your body and hair.  Here’s an article from NPR that describes the process and the imprecise nature of that process: Decontamination

 

 

Add a Tourniquet to your Survival Kit

Thursday, January 11th, 2018
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Quick, before you have to think much . . .

Bloody faceWhere is the nearest first aid kit?

Is it up to date? Do you know what stuff is in there, and how to use it?

I added “Update your First Aid kit” as No. 4 on my Preparedness Checklist for 2018. That was partly because OSHA has new requirements.

But there’s more to this Advisory.

There have been so many violent incidents in the past 12 months. Hurricanes, floods, the shooting in Las Vegas. And yet,

People’s lives have been saved by quick bystander action.

In particular, bystanders have jumped into action, stopping bleeding until victims could get medical help.

I want to be one of those bystanders who is able to help – and I realized I don’t know enough about stopping bleeding.

Thus, this Advisory.

Some of this Advisory may be review. But some of it may be new. For sure, some of the items below are being introduced for the first time to Emergency Plan Guide families.

Let’s start with a new item for your first aid or survival kit: a tourniquet.

From the Department of Homeland Security: “A person who is bleeding can die from blood loss within five minutes.”

Five minutes!

If someone is bleeding heavily from a wound, with blood spurting, soaking clothing or pooling on the ground, you can’t wait for the professionals to arrive.

Certainly, some of the people in the Las Vegas shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing were saved by bystanders like you and me, operating on instinct and some basic understanding. That’s what I was looking for as I began this Advisory.

Disclaimer: I am not a trained medical professional, so I read many articles and watched a number of videos about the use of tourniquets. I recommend you do the same before you think you know what to do and when to do it. BUT, having studied at least this much, it appears to me that as a possible bystander to a mass shooting or big wreck some basic knowledge is better than none!

Bloodied girlProfessionals don’t all agree about exactly how to handle severe injuries. But they seem to agree on  . . .

Steps for stopping severe bleeding.  

1-Be sure you and the victim are safe. If this is a terrorist or accident scene, you may have to move the victim to a protected place.

2-Figure out where the blood is coming from. Open a shirt or slit a pants leg to find the wound. Then,

3-If blood is coming from the head or torso, apply pressure to the wound to keep that blood in the body!

Having a first aid kit with large-sized pressure bandages to place on the wound would be best. (See below.) But you can use a towel, clothing or even your hands. Yes, you may be introducing germs into the wound. Better to introduce a few germs that can likely be dealt with later than to lose the patient to shock from immediate blood loss.

4-Press hard with both hands and don’t quit. Use the weight of your body on your locked arms or even your knee.

Pressure on a wound will hurt. Be strong and confident and tell your patient that help is coming and that you need to do this to save his life.

5-If blood is coming from an arm or leg, first try pressure. If pressure doesn’t work, consider a tourniquet.

We used to be taught that a tourniquet could somehow damage the limb. There still could be damage, but now we know that saving a life is better than losing a limb. A tourniquet – a simple cord or strap wrapped around the limb tightly enough to stop blood flow – can work if you know what you are doing. And to repeat, for the purposes of this article, we’re talking about a mass situation where victims outnumber medical personnel but professional medical help will soon arrive.

Again, having a professional tourniquet in your pocket or pack would be optimal. But you can make a tourniquet from a scarf, a belt, a shoelace, the strap of a purse, a bra, whatever. Simply wrap the tourniquet a couple of times around the arm or leg at least 2-3 inches above the wound (between the wound and the heart), not over a joint. Tighten the strap, then tie a partial knot, place some sort of bar onto the wrap and tie a second knot over it. Twist the bar until you feel no more pulse below the wound. Tie the bar or tape it down so the tourniquet doesn’t loosen. Don’t open to check!

If you can, use a marker to flag the fact of the tourniquet (write a “T” on the patient’s forehead), and write the time when you started its use. Give professional medical personnel a heads up to know what they are dealing with!

Stop the bleedThe Department of Homeland Security has an infographic that covers the above steps with simple diagrams. Click the picture to get the full-sized image.

Where to get a tourniquet.

See below for examples of tourniquets that are readily available as additions to your first aid kits. The two most common are called CAT — Combat Application Tourniquet and SOF® Tactical Tourniquet. The SOF TT Wide version (1.5″) seems to be preferable to the narrow (1″) version.

It is particularly important that when you get your tourniquet to open the package, unwrap everything and “prep” your tourniquet so it will be ready to use at a moment’s notice. You will not be able to get the package open if you have only one hand and/or everything is slippery with blood.

Training videos to view before you buy.

I found these two videos to be very helpful for the non-professional. Each makes it clear that you have to practice with a tourniquet to be able to apply it correctly and quickly. Professionals aim to get it on in less than 30 seconds!

https://youtu.be/pDP5Cy0nguU  — Video – 17 minutes. Goes through the “prepping” process and makes clear the difference between the two different tourniquet models.

https://youtu.be/TqUI1xeMKRU — Thorough and detailed presentation by 20-year veteran. At 25 minutes the video starts coverage of a third type of tourniquet. My research suggests the first two would be better for non-professionals.

Examples of two popular types of tourniquet.

This CAT tourniquet (image below) comes in a variety of colors. As the long description says, this is for “pre-hospital hemorrhage control,” which is what we’ve been talking about. This model costs less than $20. (A number of tourniquets LOOK similar. One thing to watch for — a metal windlass instead of plastic.) The picture doesn’t tell the whole story! Be sure to watch the videos to see what the tourniquet really looks like.

Tourniquet -(ORANGE) Recon Medical Gen 3 Mil-Spec Kevlar Metal Windlass Aluminum First Aid Tactical Swat Medic Pre-Hospital Life Saving Hemorrhage Control Registration Card 1 Pack

I’ve shown two SOF tourniquets (below), one in orange and one in  black. You’ll notice that the tourniquets are unpacked, giving you a better idea of how big and how complicated they are. I like orange because it’s a lot more visible in a backpack or kit. The SOF technology is different from that of the CAT, and this tourniquet costs about twice as much as the CAT above. Click the links for more details and exact prices.

SOF Tactical Tourniquet – Wide

SOFTT-W Tourniquet 1.5 – Black

More items to add to your kits.

You’ll notice we are using the plural form: kits.  We’re assuming you have several kits to be sure one is immediately available no matter where you are – in the house, in the garden, at the office, in the car, on a hike or backpacking.

Commercially available kits are usually more like “starter kits.” You’ll want to add your own specific medicines and/or supplies, like sunburn cream, bug spray, and antibiotic cream.

Also, consider the items below as additions to your kits. ALL THESE ITEMS ARE SHOWN IN THE CHART BELOW THE TEXT, WITH LINKS TO DETAILS AND EXACT PRICING.

  • Pressure bandage — Israeli bandage. Get the 6” size. These bandages have multiple layers, a sterile pad that goes onto the wound, and then wrapping that acts as compression and secures itself.
  • Good multi-purpose knife – like the classic Swiss Army knife – that has  tweezers and scissors as well as the usual knife blades, bottle openers and punch. Get several so you have one for each kit.
  • Flashlight or even better, headlamp. Emergencies don’t happen in the daytime; they happen in the rain or at night, too. Being able to see, and to have both hands free to cope, just makes sense. Same advice about multiples.
  • Survival lighter can be used to provide light, start a fire for heat and/or comfort, and to sterilize equipment. (Even the Tesla electric lighter could sterilize whatever tool you could fit between the points, like a needle or knife tip.)
  • Self-adherent bandages. Tape is important to have, but these bandages stretch to fit then stick to themselves, making them convenient and quick for holding dressings. Most kits won’t come with any of these – add them yourself.

Scroll  down to see images of these items, with price info.

And finally, as for your “regular” first aid kit items . . .

First aid kits have some sort of shelf life, like maybe 3-5 years. During that time, every tube of ointment, every packaged wipe, and every band aid is likely to degrade.

It’s easy enough to check the components of your kits, toss those that are out of date, and replace them with new. Toss items that have been opened, used and then re-closed. If you have powdered gloves in your kit, you may want to toss and replace them, too. (The FDA has banned them as of January, 2017.)

You may even want to invest in a new kit altogether, one that has room for some of your new items.

In any case, here are some items we recommend, available at Amazon. We try to be as accurate as possible on prices, but they do change.

 

Cyber Threats Right Here At Home

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018
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Smart home

 

A page in The Costco Connection for January 2018 is devoted to “some of the smart tech you may want to invest in over the coming months.” The image above suggests 10 different smart technologies – lighting, windows, temperature, door locks, etc.

Note that I said “Costco.” This wasn’t Wired or Popular Science, which you might expect to have articles about the very latest in high-tech gadgetry. No, we’re talking mainstream.

So, back to the array of smart tech devices.

Maybe you already use some smart tech devices in your home?

Or you got one as a Christmas present?

Or better yet, gave one to your children?

Here’s a better idea of how smart the technologies are:

  • Smart phones – Shoot 4k video so you can play it back on your TV; recognize your fingerprint as password; track your blood alcohol level; find your car; diagnose why it’s not starting.
  • Smart watches – Receive text, email and tweets from friends; capture your fitness info; give you directions or track your run via GPS; lock, unlock, and start your car.
  • Smart homes – Respond to voice or touch commands to adjust air and water temperature, lights, locks and cameras; “learn” family habits and schedules; report on current traffic conditions along your route to work; read and adjust solar panels; start the laundry.
  • Smart TVs – Connect to social media platforms; follow voice and gesture commands; display photos and videos from your phone.

These all fall under the heading Internet of Things, the IoT.

The IoT — a mind-boggling composite of convenience and just plain cool stuff!

With one little problem: security.

Here it is reflected in one sentence from ISO Online, in an article about DEF CON 2017:

“At the IoT Village, hackers found 47 new vulnerabilities in 23 IoT devices.”

Whoops!

Even if you don’t understand exactly where the threats lie, you can probably recognize just how these vulnerabilities come about.

  • Like every other product, IoT products are hurried to market to beat the competition. (Think Apple.) They don’t have time to spend on developing sophisticated layers of security that interact with every other device’s layers of security.
  • Device manufacturers may be as interested in selling information about you and how you use the product as in selling the product in the first place. So, they conveniently overlook certain aspects of security. (Remember the TVs that were capturing info about their viewers’ choices? And the “Talking Barbies” that stored and transmitted what the children said to their dolls?)
  • Many IoT products are complex, combining software, hardware and services often provided by more than one supplier. Not infrequently, one or more of the suppliers sells out or even goes out of business somewhere along the line. A broken link in the chain is a hacker’s opportunity.
  • And IoT users – that is, us consumers – are not following smart security practices!

Now last month our Advisory reviewed home and business security systems – all of which were internet connected — and in doing that research I read many, many advertisements and reviews. Not one had anything to say about security. The Costco article didn’t mention security either!

But when I dug into broader background on the Internet of Things, I got a whole load of warnings.

So, in our ongoing effort to improve awareness and understanding about all areas of preparedness, here are . . .

Seven recommendations for your personal IoT devices as of January 2018.

1-Enable security features on all smart devices.
Not sure if there ARE security features? If the device connects to your home network, there better be usernames and passwords that you can change from the default! In fact, the instructions should remind you to make those changes. Remember that default usernames and password combinations are published online and thus easily available to hackers.

2-Use strong passwords.
Are your children using the devices? Don’t give them an easy password so they can operate the thing. A simple password makes it easier for every hacker to break into the device!

3-Check for and reconnect or remove dead devices.
Some IoT devices are treated by the family or employees as toys, and after a while they lose interest in them. These neglected devices are precisely the ones that may provide an opening for a hacker. Take a regular inventory and clean up your IoT.

4-Schedule battery replacement.
Many of these devices operate using battery power. Batteries die – and when they do, you could cause a security risk. (Door lock won’t open? Fire alarm won’t go off?) Check all devices regularly until you know just how long their batteries will last, and then build a schedule for ongoing maintenance – with dates and numbers and types of batteries required.

5-Update firmware (operating systems) and apps.
If you find the updates on your phone or computer to be a nuisance, imagine having an entire collection of devices with apps that need updating! But it’s through updates that holes are stopped up and vulnerabilities are fixed. Watch for updates and apply them. (Not sure exactly how you’ll be notified of updates? Find out, so you don’t miss out.)

6-Be sure updates and/or network communications are encrypted.
You don’t want strangers listening in on your baby monitor, measuring your blood pressure or noting the hours when the house is empty! If your smart device sends unencrypted info across your home network and the internet, you are vulnerable.

7-Are any ports left open?
Some devices – particularly hubs or routers – need open ports to allow connections to the internet. The more ports that are open, the more vulnerable you may be to hackers. By and large, your firewall software will allow or block connections based on the profile you’ve set up. If you haven’t set up firewall software, do it. (If you aren’t sure how to find out about the status of your ports, you can get additional software to check on them.)

A next step for non-tekkies.

If you’re interested in getting a lot more familiar with IoT and IoT Security, plan on either spending a lot more time online or spending some money on one or more of the books available via Amazon or other book stores. Most of these books seem to be directed to IT professionals and have professional prices.

The Internet of Things: A Look at Real-World Use Cases and Concerns

However, I did find this inexpensive book that looks intriguing for ordinary consumers. In it, the author turns the IoT from focusing on the THINGS (as we have done in this Advisory) to focusing on how the CONNECTIONS are going to empower people and businesses. His case studies make it clear how this can happen.

(FYI, according to the back of the book cover, the author was born in 1981. He got his first computer at age 7, wrote his first software application at 9, and has built and sold “several” technology businesses since he was 18. That gives me a comfortable feeling about his level of expertise!)

 

This Emergency Plan Guide Advisory is aimed at households. Naturally, much of it also applies to the business world, or at least to the small business world. Earlier in 2017 we drafted an Advisory and a checklist/questionnaire on Cyber Security for Business. If you overlooked them, you may want to check them out again. We’ll be updating this info regularly, but don’t wait for the update!

In the meanwhile, pay attention to your Things and don’t let them get you into trouble!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. This is the kind of information that everyone should be aware of. Please forward this Advisory to friends and family and share with your neighborhood group. If just a few people take a few actions they will be safer than they were before.

P.P.S. What really got my attention from the DEF CON article was the report of a wheelchair being hacked . . .!

Intruder! Do we need a security system?

Thursday, December 28th, 2017
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Security Camera catching thief

Home and Business Security Options

Have you seen the ads showing a package thief caught in the act?

Or the ad that shows the “escaping teenager” on the roof, caught because she set off an alarm when she opened her window?

All these ads are designed to make you consider the value of a security system. And while the ads are compelling, they really don’t tell the whole story behind the available technology.

In fact, they don’t make it at all clear where a simple self-contained security camera leaves off and where a comprehensive monitored security system begins.

If you’re a new business owner, or someone newly concerned about security and safety, take a look at the questions and answers below. They’ll help you come up with a shopping list customized for your personal needs.

Disclaimer: security equipment and commercial security “packages” change regularly, so as you shop, be sure you are comparing current offers.

Questions to ask about security.

The first version of this article appeared in Emergency Plan Guide nearly two years ago. In the time since, some things have changed dramatically! The “classic” security camera set up shown in the image below – camera connected to DVR connected to monitor — still exists, of course. But in many cases, wires have been replaced by wireless connections. And now, instead of a computer monitor, connections are made to cell phones and tablets.

That’s not all that has changed. As you review the following questions, consider what you really need for your location and your circumstances. As you might expect, the more features you want, the more expensive the system.

Security Camera Buyer's Guide

“Do I want wired vs. wireless?”

Wires are reliable as long as they aren’t damaged or cut. In fact, they may be more reliable than wireless, which can  suffer in extreme weather or because of electronic interference.

And of course, wireless systems can be hacked!

So, whether you choose a wired system or a wireless may depend on your location or your security level requirements. Think it through.

Oh, and if components are wireless, they still need to be powered, so you’ll have to consider when and how to replace batteries.

“Should I manage the system myself, or have it professionally monitored?”

Basic systems are set up to alert you by phone of activity or of a breach. Activity could be as simple as someone approaching the front door. You could, of course, miss the alert if your phone isn’t operating or isn’t nearby.

A monitored system reacts to a broader set of activities, and when it detects a breach, it reaches out to alert the monitoring company, which then alerts you and/or others, including perhaps police or fire.

Whereas a basic system is pretty much one purchase and a DIY install, a monitored system involves service personnel to guide you through the installation or, more likely, to do it for you. This may include installing a number of connectors, monitors and cameras and tying the system in to your home for business computer network. Naturally, you will pay for that personal installation service and for the monthly monitoring, as well.

Costs vary widely. Equipment costs for a home system start as low as $100 for a single camera but are more likely to be twice or three times that much. (Costs for even a simple business location are likely to be higher in part because there are more rooms and more spaces to monitor.) Monthly monitoring costs may add as little as $10/month but most monitoring companies fees seem to be in the $39 –$59/month range for home services. (Watch for “sign-up specials” you can take advantage of!)

“Do I need indoor or outdoor security?” 

Outdoor “barrel” or “bullet” security cameras (as shown in the illustration above) have a hood that protects them from the weather. “Dome” style cameras, with a curved face, are most popular indoors, and can also be weatherproof for outdoor use. (They have an advantage in that you can’t tell which direction the camera is pointing. You’ll often see them in casinos or in other public places.)

The latest models of doorbell security cameras are smaller, best described as a simple box with a small camera lens – not too dissimilar to the camera in your smart phone.

A complete system may have a variety of camera types. The main thing to remember: while an outdoor camera can be used indoors, the reverse is not necessarily true.

“Do I want an alarm only, or do I want to see video?”

The simplest video systems run continuously, without interruption. If something happens, it is caught on the tape. (You’ve surely seen videos showing convenience store robberies, or scenes from street cameras.) When the tape is filled up, it is stored for a given period of time and then written over.

A continuous video creates hours’ worth of images that are difficult to search through if you need footage for insurance or crime purposes.

So, you probably want a motion-activated system for your home or business, something that you can set to complement known traffic patterns. Movement or a change in condition (window being opened, for example) sets off an alarm that can go to your smart phone or computer, or, as already described, to a monitoring service. Movement can also start a camera that takes still photos or video that you can view on a computer screen in your office or send to your smart phone.

 “What quality picture can I expect?”

The question really is, how much detail do you actually need?

Do you need to be able to recognize faces on a 6 x 12 foot front porch? Or read license plates 30 yards away in the company parking lot? Think about how far away the object will be and the horizontal distance you want to cover.

The more detail you want, the higher the price of the equipment you’ll need. In many cases, however, you do NOT necessarily need the highest quality.

Having cameras with varifocal lenses will allow you to set the same camera for different uses. Some versions are P/T/Z – can be panned, tilted and zoomed remotely, for utmost flexibility.

“What about nighttime views?”

Most cameras have the infrared night vision built in, and automatically switch from day to night mode. Some cameras are paired with separate, motion-activated spotlights to provide the amount of light necessary for filming.

 “Do I hear and can I speak to the person being filmed?”

The porch camera ads on TV show the homeowner telling the intruder to get lost. (Or you hear a friendly dad’s voice acknowledging the arrival of the kids.) Being able to hear and speak to the person who has activated the alarm are again additional features. They will cost more and require more bandwidth in the system.

LEGAL CAUTION: The above paragraph describes SPEAKING to another person via your security system. RECORDING a person without his or her knowledge is a whole different thing!  In fact, Federal Wiretap Laws specifically prohibit recording unless at least one person in the conversation knows recording is taking place. (In California where we live, both parties must be aware of the taping.) So before you invest in a camera with audio recording capabilities, make sure you know the law in your state. You probably don’t want this capability!

OK, so much for the basic choices. Now . . .

“What additional features might I want?”

Some monitored home security systems offer more than just the surveillance and intrusion features we’ve discussed so far.  Options could include:

  • Panic buttons – Press to call for help if you are threatened in your home. Silent alert goes to monitoring service and to police.
  • Life support systems – Press to call for medical help. This is the so-called “life alert.”
  • Fire and CO alarms — These can be added to the system to alert residents and also the monitoring company in an emergency of this type.

And the final important question . . .

“What kind of customer support will I get – and what will it cost?”

If you purchase a stand-alone system through Amazon or any other major retail outlet, you are probably buying from a third-party distributor, not the manufacturer. The amount or quality of support will vary dramatically. Before you buy, make sure you will have access to full documentation, at least, and check on the terms of the guarantee.

If you decide on a monitored service, you’ll want to know even more details before you sign on the dotted line. For example . . .

  • Will the company set an appointment and come to my home/office to do the installation, or am I responsible for installing the equipment?
  • Do I pay extra if they do the installation and set up?
  • Must I buy all the equipment from the monitoring company? What if I already have some cameras I want to use?
  • What is the procedure for repairs/fixes if the equipment stops working?
  • What sort of contract is required? (How many months?)
  • Is there a fee to discontinue the service?

So now, if you’re ready to shop . . .!

Three examples of basic security camera systems

I picked these three best-selling models because they had consistently good reviews while demonstrating the variety of features discussed above. As you can see, prices vary. Click on the images or links for full details and to get exact prices at Amazon.

Zmodo 8 channel wireless system

Zmodo 8CH Wireless Security Camera System – 1080P HDMI NVR with 500GB Hard Drive, 4 x 720P HD Indoor/Outdoor Wireless Cameras Night Vision – WiFi Easy Installation No Video Cables Needed

This model fits the definition of a classic security camera system. Plug in its cameras (or hardwire them), and they transmit wirelessly to the included hard drive, where up to 90 days’ worth can be stored. Watch playback on your computer or, with the Zmodo app, on your phone. The system works outdoors and indoors, day and night. This product has a strong guarantee, and even offers an extended protection plan as well as upgrades. Price for the 4-camera model at Amazon as I wrote this is (rounded) $180. If you want the 8-camera model, add another $80. (Be sure to click on the image below to get the current price.)

Ring Doorbell Pro

Ring Video Doorbell Pro (Existing Doorbell Wiring Required)

Ring has been doing a lot of (good!) advertising, and getting a lot of chatter on our local neighborhood website. So far, people seem very pleased with their purchases. This version, which takes advantage of existing wiring, costs around $240. (You can have it professionally installed, by appointment, for another $125.)

As it suggests, this single camera is installed at your door. If someone rings the bell, or triggers the motion sensor, you get an alert and can see and talk to them using your tablet or smartphone or PC. (You can actually check in any time you like, whether or not someone is there.) The quality of the video is good.

A battery-operated earlier version from Ring is available for around $200. It seems to work as well, although it has a narrow, one-setting field of vision while the Pro model can be set to different zones. Note that this system “protects” only the one entrance where it is installed. Other doors, windows, etc. are not included.

Fortress for business

Fortress Security Store (TM) S02-B Wireless Home and Business Security Alarm System DIY Kit with Auto Dial + Outdoor Siren and More for Complete Home and Business Security

I included the Fortress as an excellent example of a straight-forward home or business security system designed to deter intrusion. This system does NOT depend on cameras. Rather, it is is designed to alert after hours (or whenever you set it) if there is a break through a window or door (guarded by magnetic sensors) or suspicious movement in rooms (armed with passive motion sensors). When security is breached, the system immediately calls a designated phone number (you can program up to 6 different numbers) and sets off a LOUD siren (inside and also outside); you can play a recorded message or custom sound.

To disable the system and enter your building, punch in a code on the keypad, or use a portable key fob.

For home use, there’s a panic button. And you can can call the system anytime and listen in to what’s going on in your home or place of business. Click on the image to get accurate pricing; the system price was around $170 as I wrote this article.

Eight reviews of popular monitoring systems

A reader of Emergency Plan Guide directed me to this excellent resource. (Thanks, Jericka!) It’s a review site that compares eight popular monitoring companies: ADT, Vivent, Frontpoint, GetSafe, SimpliSafe, Link Interactive, Protect America and LiveWatch.

The reviews are long and detailed, and based on experiences with people who actually installed and used the systems. Definitely worth a study before you sign up with ANY security monitoring system.

The link:  http://www.reviews.com/home-security-systems/

If you have experience with any of these systems, or with a different system, please let us know so we can continue to update this guide!

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

Preparedness Checklist for 2018

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017
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Lists work. They’re easy to figure out, satisfying to check off. Here’s one to get us all going toward some new levels of preparedness for 2018.

Review or reminder?

For a few people, this will be review. But for most of us, at least one of these items will cause a grimace or even a slap of the forehead because we know we should already have dealt with it!

There are more ideas and resources below the chart. But take a quick first look.

Which item should be first on your list?

Preparedness Checklist for 2018More resources for items on the list.

  1. Homeowners’ insurance may not cover water damage to the stuff in your basement. Neither may flood insurance! If you rent, what about the items stored in your “cage” in the parking garage? You will never really know what’s covered until you pull out your policy and go over it with your insurance agent. Here’s an Advisory that will give you more questions to ask about any insurance:
    Flood Damage Not Covered By Insurance
  2. What was a good place to head for last year may have changed. Update your plans, particularly if you have children. Pick an assembly place nearby – like the big oak tree at the back of the lot – and another place further down the block or even across town. Can your family members FIND these places without the maps in their phones?
    Get Out Now — Family Evacuation Plan
  3. Every homemaker knows this, and knows how to do it. In a survival kit, just pull and replace everything! (You may discover that more and more canned items now are self-opening. Yay!) On the kitchen shelves, load at the back, eat from the front. Basta.
  4. I finally got far enough ahead on my blood pressure pills to have 10 days’ worth stored in my survival kit. But they’ve been there a while . . . And as we all know, over time pills lose their effectiveness, band aids lose their stick, bottles dry out, tubes ooze. Your first aid kit could actually do you harm if it’s not up to speed.
    First Aid Kit Failure
  5. Seems as though it would be easy to run outside in a fire, doesn’t it? But people are trapped and burned every day. Practice with your family! Make sure you know two exits from every room, how to get down from the second floor. What’s your agreed-upon signal for a home invasion threat? Every individual needs to know how to respond. If all your children know is to come screaming for you, you have NOT trained them properly.
    Escape from Burning House
  6. People around you could turn into rescuers – and even into friends. It can’t hurt to be open to meeting more of them. Besides, it’s just a neighborly thing to do. And if you have a neighborhood emergency response team, invite them to come and find out more.
    Build a neighborhood team
  7. Memorize important phone numbers. Assume phones won’t be available in a car wreck, a storm, or an earthquake. Memorizing is healthy brain activity, too!
  8. Computer companies compete to be your back-up service. But where do they PUT your files, and how to you access them if your computer has been destroyed? Have at least 3 back-up methods: onto your own computer, onto a separate physical hard drive stored off-site, and into the cloud. Test whatever procedure you have put into place. Just having a COPY of something doesn’t mean you can necessarily start right back up to work.
  9. Did you know that if one roommate applies for relief from FEMA, the other roommate may not be eligible? Do you know who would have to sign off for you to get an insurance payout on your house? We all tend to let legal questions linger . . . 2018 is the year to clean legal issues up for a number of reasons, not least of all to get them off your mind.
    Legal problems surface after flood
  10. Emergency preparedness isn’t supposed to be all long faces and determined expressions. It’s supposed to be positive!  What would be fun for you and your family? Learning to tie knots? Identify edible plants? Start a fire without matches? Operate a HAM radio? Take a course in basic self-defense? Do the CERT training? Every one of these skills will improve your knowledge, improve your confidence, and make you better prepared for any emergency!
    Tie the right knot!
    Ham radio operators play key role
    Self-defense for the rest of us

OK, I think that should do it!  Post this list somewhere handy, so you won’t overlook these items. What else should we add to the list? Just let us know in the comments!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. While we’re still on the positive aspects of preparedness, don’t miss my most recent Top Ten list!  It’s a collection of comfy camping items that would make ANY trip so much more pleasant — and fun!  Here’s the direct link: http://emergencyplanguide.org/top-ten/

 

 

New Threats Emerging

Friday, December 15th, 2017
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What 2018 is looking like for Emergency Plan Guide

Wet FloorThe Emergency Plan Guide website has been up since 2011. Its main objective has stayed the same since those first days: to help people understand disaster realities and be better prepared to face them.

Three realities continue to sustain the site.

(If you’ve been with us for a while, this will be mighty familiar!)

  1. Emergency Preparedness isn’t top of mind for anybody. When asked, people say they want to be ready – they just don’t think about it on any regular basis. That’s why we came up with the idea of weekly Advisories, filled with tips and reminders. Since 2011 we’ve written hundreds, covering dozens of different topics. (Right now I count 297 in the list of Archives. A number of older Advisories have been retired, and several are being reworked.) People keep subscribing, so the Advisories will keep on coming!
  2. Family preparedness is one thing, workplace preparedness is another. You’ll see that we address both on a regular basis. We also address a third aspect of preparedness that very few other websites even mention – the importance of community and the value of working together as a group to prevent or make it through a disaster. Much of this planning is based on CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training.
  3. Authorities do their best, but . . . Police and fire departments, local and federal government and non-profit agencies may not arrive for hours, days or even weeks after a disaster hits. We hear about new instances of delay, and we use them to keep reminding our readers that no one is coming to save them – it’s up to us.

OK, that’s three of the core beliefs that drive us. What drives YOU to work on being prepared? What threats are keeping you up at night? Keep reading, please.

Seven trends will be guiding our plans for 2018.

Some of these trends have been around for a while, but have pushed themselves to the top of the heap, demanding more attention.

  1. Technology changes faster and faster. Five years ago we might have written about how to use a compass and a map; today we write about personal locator devices (GPS) that will direct rescuers right to you! Smart phones have become THE primary tool in every survival situation; in the past several months solar rechargers have supplanted batteries as the best way to keep devices functioning. At the same time, more technology also means more security risks. Watch for an upcoming series on hacking threats to your home from the internet.
  2. There’s a new normal for natural disasters. In Texas, three 500-year floods occurred in the last three years! In California, three years of historic drought have been followed by the “most destructive wildfire season ever.” Some areas in the world – like Florida – are “hot spots” where sea level rise is 6 times faster than average. Add “normal” emergencies to these locations and it becomes a nightmare. Shelter in place doesn’t work well for these disasters, so watch for more info on how to prepare for evacuation.
  3. Deliberate cutbacks threaten (FEMA). Proposed budgets, not yet passed, aim at cutting federal emergency funding by nearly $1 billion! Local budgets are cutting police and fire department funding. This leaves citizens on their own more than ever before. We have three books on the drawing boards to strengthen citizen response; the first one should be coming out before the end of this year.
  4. Terrorist threats and hate crimes continue. ISIS may have lost its caliphate, but U.S. home-grown terrorists are alive and well. And hate crimes have risen in the U.S. for the second straight year. I guess we can’t change people’s minds about religion or ethnicity – but we can talk about how to spot a potential crime and what to do when you do. And we will keep talking about steps communities can take to increase safety. (Did you know that after the shooting at Sandy Hook, Connecticut passed new requirements and made money available to improve school safety, but barely 25% of schools are reporting that they have even held fire drills, much less hardened facilities or practiced lockdown drills!?)
  5. Risk of nuclear war reemerges after 3 decades. Almost impossible to contemplate. As older Americans, we remember the drills of the 50s. Watch for more as we struggle to consider the realities of this threat.
  6. Most people cannot retreat to the wilds and live off the land. The last census in 2010 showed 80% of the U.S. population living in “urban areas.” Here in California, that percentage was 95%! Today those urban percentages are only higher. What this means is rural lifestyle, which fosters self-sufficiency and encourages learning and practicing wilderness survival skills, is simply not available to most of us. Yes, we can enjoy learning more of these skills, but a plan to “bug out” to the wilderness is unrealistic. We will address more urban survival skills.
  7. We all face more distractions. Driving, devices, politics, health, family — it’s hard to be clear about objectives, much less to follow through. People are also reading less and less — the average American spends only 19 minutes a day reading! These facts have led us to turn more Advisories into quick read worksheets and skimmable checklists – and almost always, a Call to Action! (Nothing like having a background in direct marketing and advertising.)

Now, when it comes to emergency preparedness, what’s on YOUR mind?

When you sign up to receive our weekly Advisories, I get the chance to see the town your message is coming from. But that’s all I know about you!

Occasionally, people write in with a comment or question, and then we are able to begin a real conversation. (I like that a lot!)

After all, I’m researching and sharing information that I trust will be useful. If it’s not – well, it’s a waste of your time and mine.

So . . .here’s that Call to Action.

Can you please take a moment and send me a quick message with some trends or some topics YOU would like to discuss? I can promise I’ll respond!  (I’ll keep your name private, of course.)

Here’s the link:  Virginia, here’s what’s on my mind . . .

Thanks for being a part of our community. The more we all know, the safer we all will be.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

New Power Outage Affects Thousands

Thursday, December 7th, 2017
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Power OutageHundreds of thousands in the dark – again?

I just heard the local newscaster say, “ . . . as many as 260,000 will be without power.”

That should give you the clue as to where we are. There are 7 wildfires burning here in California, with all but one at 0% containment. And that one is only 5% contained.

I hope by the time you read this, those numbers will have changed.

Last week we talked about severe winter weather and the dangers the cold it can bring. This week, it’s heat.

Whether from heat or snow, winds or flooding, overburdened electric cables, transformers, and other electrical equipment can fail.

This year will  explode the outage statistics, given the hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands that left hundreds of thousands without power.

Will you be next?

Up until this year, the average American could have expected at least one power outage a year, and it would have averaged 200 minutes. Unfortunately, given the way things are going, you may need to expect a whole lot more minutes of outage. And maybe even days.

The good news?  We assume you have a sensible approach to outages and are preparing for them.

Ready.gov offers these basic suggestions at their site.

  • Have flashlight, batteries, cash and first aid supplies. No candles.
  • Have alternative charging methods for your phone or any device that requires power.
  • Know how to open your garage door when power is off.
  • Keep your car full of gas. Gas pumps require electricity.

This should all sound familiar, but . . .

Let’s take a closer look at a couple of these.

It goes without saying that you should have flashlights in every kit and in every room!

Emergency temporary lighting options

About 6 weeks ago, just after Hurricane Harvey hit, we revisited the topic of emergency lights and lanterns. If you haven’t seen that Advisory, or can’t remember the details, it goes into some detail about different types of flashlights, batteries, what a difference lumens make, the value of adjustable focus, etc.

You may want to take another quick look at that lantern Advisory and see if you need to replenish or add to your emergency supplies. While you’re at it, add Inflatable solar powered lamps to the options.

Shown at left, these are affordable at about $10 each, and are water and snow resistant, small, lightweight, perfect for emergencies or for any evening activity or party. Click on the image to get current pricing.

Alternative charging methods for devices

The technology that allows you to charge or recharge your various devices just keeps changing!

Not long ago we spent time examining the so-called “power banks” that store enough power to recharge your devices several times.  They range from what are termed “lipstick size” (1-2 charges) to considerably larger. Here’s that original Advisory that covers batteries and chargers.

As you might expect, the more charging capacity you ask for, the larger the banks are and the more they cost. The one shown here, for example, is about the size of a wallet, has two USB ports for charging devices, and actually will charge your phone as many as 6 times. Click on the image for full details on this power bank.

Charging methods for bigger stuff

If you’ve ever been faced with a car that won’t start, you’ll be interested in this!

I seem to attract cars whose batteries just can’t keep up . . . so we have added one more piece of emergency equipment to what’s stored in the trunk.

12 V Car Jump Starter

start your carAfter years of backing a second car up to mine, fighting with jumper cables, etc., I was happy to get a portable battery charger. You can see it in the photo, labeled “old.”

This week, though, I was even more thrilled to get my hands on the portable power pack labeled “new.”

It pops right into the trunk (or into the glove compartment) since it’s not much bigger than Joe’s cell phone (shown) and can provide enough power for 20 jump starts!

The charger also powers phones, tablets, etc, and has a built-in S.O.S. LED light.

Lots of safety features, too, to prevent over-charging, over-heating, etc. And a row of blue lights indicates just how much charge you have left.

Below is a similar model, same size, same price, better picture!, from Amazon. It comes complete with clamps, plugs and cords plus carrying case.

The model shown here has 600 Amps, suitable for jump starting cars or smaller diesel engines, ATVs, boats, etc.  If you have bigger engines, look for a more robust device. The more energy you need, the bigger the item and, of course, the more expensive.

Still, for somewhere around $60 you can get a LOT OF SECURITY for yourself or family members! (Small enough to stuff in a stocking, too.) Click on the image for exact pricing.

Energy to keep equipment running

We’ve heard over and over again the challenges Puerto Rico has in keeping hospitals running for weeks using generators designed for short-term usage. Their maintenance people must be very skilled!

For most of us, a generator is purely a back-up device to carry us through a temporary power outage.

Precisely because it’s not used regularly, a generator requires extra attention as to placement and usage. Some quick safety reminders:

  • Generators can produce carbon monoxide, so they need to be placed OUTSIDE where there is plenty of air circulation.
  • Keep your generator dry.
  • Store the right fuel for your generator in a safe, secure place where it doesn’t become a fire hazard.
  • A portable generator typically can run one or two pieces of equipment. Plug them directly into the generator. Do NOT plug the generator into the home electrical system!
  • Size your generator to meet high start-up electrical requirements as well as requirements for running the equipment. (“Starting watts” vs “running watts”)

I’ve written before about the generators we bought for our neighborhood emergency response group. You may find those stories informational. Here’s a link to one of them.

A generator like the one shown below is a typical, mid-range household emergency generator. This type of generator is rated at between 500 and 15,000 watts. This one (at 7,500 watts, about $1,000) is shown with wheels, but be aware that it is not exactly portable because it weighs over 200 pounds!

This generator has an electric starter and runs on gas or propane. In the yellow triangular space on the front you can see that it has several outlets, both 120 and 240 volts, all protected from power surges. The manufacturer also offers a number of guarantees.

Click the image for full details and to use this model as a start for shopping. (You’ll see that a lot of people buy a cover and extra heavy-duty cords along with the generator itself.)

Whole-house standby generators

Did you notice the sentence hidden above that says a is designed to power “just one or two pieces of equipment.”?

If that’s not enough for you (!), you’ll want to consider a standby generator. This is a different level of equipment, permanently installed and sized to turn on automatically when the power fails. Standby generators generate anywhere from 5,000 to 150,000 watts. To find the right sized generator, you’ll need to examine exactly what you want to power in the way of essential equipment (A/C, heater, sump pump, etc.), appliances (stove, microwave, dishwasher, dryer, etc.) and extras (computers, hot tub, security, etc.).

Prices on standby generators start as low as $2,000, but realistic prices probably start around $5,000.

Get help from a qualified electrician to establish the size you need and to be sure it gets properly installed.

Whew. That’s a fair amount of info about emergency lighting and power. But I can assure you, when an extended outage hits, you’ll be pleased to have some back-up capability.

You can be SURE that after the outage hits, none of these items will be available in stores — either they’ll be sold out, or the stores too will be closed because they have no power!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

Winter Storm Prep

Thursday, November 30th, 2017
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Winter storm

Photo via Pixabay by Free-Photos

How To Protect Your Home–And Your Family–In An Emergency

Intro to this week’s Advisory – From time to time, readers contact me to offer a suggestion, a correction or, happily, a Guest Advisory! This week is an example. It was written by Oliver Lambert, co-creator of DisasterSafety. As its name suggests, his site focuses on safety resources including but not limited to hurricane, flooding, wildfire, blizzard, earthquake, and tornado. His  mission is to provide the most updated and accurate info on how to stay safe before, during and after these disasters. For those of us who like to-do lists, this article has what you need for several of them! And if you want even more info, follow the links included.  Thanks, Oliver!

Winter can be a fun time for many families, especially on snow days; sledding, building snowmen, and drinking hot chocolate are some of the best parts of cold weather.

However, winter storms can cause hundreds or even thousands of dollars’ worth of damage and can leave your home–and your family–exposed to the elements. Even if there’s no damage, there may still be power outages and other issues that can lead to emergency situations.

Fortunately, there are some simple ways to prepare for a major winter storm, and it’s important to do so as soon as the weather turns cold. In many parts of the country, fall and winter are unpredictable seasons, meaning the snow could fly at any time.

Being prepared means having the right tools to deal with Mother Nature plus a plan for your family’s safety.

Read on for some of the best ways to get started.

Winter Prep your home

It’s a good idea to walk from room to room inside your home and look for ways you can prep them for winter weather. This means reversing the direction your ceiling fans turn in so they’ll push down the warm air that collects near the ceiling; having your fireplace and chimney checked and cleaned; laying aside enough firewood to get you through the season; checking and replacing furnace filters and making sure the unit is in good working order; installing a carbon monoxide detector or replacing the batteries in the one you have; and protecting your pipes from freezing. For some tips from professional property managers on how to help your pipes stay warm even in freezing weather, read on here.

Think emergency

It’s important to think about how you’ll handle an emergency. If the power goes out, or if you get stuck inside your home due to heavy snowfall, what will you need to get through several days?

Backup generators, kerosene heaters or wood burning stoves (CO warning!), flashlights, extra batteries, a small radio, blankets, a reserve of food along with any cooking tools you’ll need, medication, and anything your pets may need is a good start.

Make a list and ensure you have everything you need to get yourself and your family through an emergency.

For tips on how to handle heating when the power is out, check out this article from the Red Cross.

Stock up on tools

Bad weather in winter means you’ll likely have to do some shoveling, so stock up on salt and make sure you have the right tools, including sturdy gloves that will protect your fingers from the cold and a shovel that’s in good shape. (The Red Cross article mentioned above reminds you not to overexert yourself in cold weather, too!)

Remember to have a camera handy for when the storm is over so you can photograph any damage for the insurance company. This includes damage to your roof, windows, deck, and gutters. If possible, take “before” photos of these areas in the fall, before the first snow. For more tips on how to handle any storm damage, check out this article from the real estate professionals at Redfin.com.

Get your car ready

Winterizing your car will take some collaboration between you and a mechanic, who can check  fluids, tires, and windshield wipers and make sure everything is ready for the cold.

What you can do is stock the car with a jug of water, blankets (foil emergency blankets are compact and inexpensive), flares, a spare tire and set of tools, a flashlight, and a bag filled with snacks such as granola bars in case you get stranded for a little while.

Look outside

The exterior of your home is just as important as the interior when it comes to a winter storm. Branches that are dead or hang close to your house should be trimmed so they don’t become weighed down with ice, and the gutters should be cleaned so icicles don’t form and clog them up. Clear walkways and make sure you have plenty of salt or brine on hand to keep them from becoming slippery hazards.

Remember that each family member should be aware of your plans for winter weather; talk about what you’ll do in case of an emergency and where everyone should meet in case you get split up. Keeping communication open will ensure that everyone stays safe.

Thanks for reading, for making your own check-lists, and being ready for winter.  Here in Southern California we continue to have historic high temperatures — 91 degrees on Thanksgiving Day! — and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) says that two-thirds of the continental US will likely experience warmer-than-normal conditions this winter season. So, things may not be quite as bad as they could be!  

But no matter the long-range outlook, a cold snap or two will surely happen. Be ready.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

Expand your thinking with some NEW IDEAS

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017
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New Ideas

Real preparedness extends beyond the walls of our homes.

We spend a lot of time at Emergency Plan Guide examining the best supplies to lay in, and how to select the right emergency tools. Last week we reviewed in detail individual or family survival kits, and everything that needs to go into the best ones.

Yes, focusing closely on our immediate needs is a good idea.

But from time to time we need take a wider look around.  Joe and I often do this at our monthly team meetings.

This week’s Advisory could become a great topic for YOUR next meeting. At the very least, it will broaden your personal horizons!

Here are 7 news headlines to inspire NEUE IDEEN! (That’s German for “New Ideas!”)

For each headline, I’ve added a brief comment and then posed questions for you or your group to follow up with.

You know our favorite saying: “The more we all know, the safer we all will be.” Well, I hope these questions inspire a new level of knowledge – and safety!

1-“Fayetteville NC works on downtown evacuation plan in case of emergency on train tracks.”

It turns out Fayetteville has train tracks running right through the town. And the city doesn’t know exactly what those trains may be carrying. Since they have experienced more than one terrible train wreck, it seems to make sense to prepare for the next.

Questions: Do you have nearby train tracks? Do you know what’s being carried on them, and at what time of day? Perhaps more pertinent, do your city’s First Responders know this information? Find out! (Hint. It may be impossible . . . but whatever you can do will move the ball forward for your community.)

2-“Everett WA Graduates First Ever All Spanish Speaking Only CERT Class In Washington”

When the disaster hits, everyone will be pretty much in the same boat. Think of how much safer you’ll feel – and how much safer you’ll BE – when neighbors pitch in as a coordinated team!

Questions: Does your city put on CERT classes in another language? If not, what language/s should they consider? How could you or your group make that happen? (Think about reaching out to work sites, churches, private schools.)

3-“Florida’s 3,200 assisted living facilities and 640 nursing homes were ordered, by this week, to submit emergency plans that include enough generator power to run air conditioning . . .”

You surely heard about the 14 people who died in Florida during the aftermath of Irma. You may not have heard that nearly 2,000 facilities in FL haven’t yet complied with the order.

Questions: Do you have elderly relatives? Any in nursing facilities? What is that facility’s requirement for an emergency plan? What are your city’s requirements when it comes to emergency and/or evacuation plans for facilities of this sort? Can you bring pressure to bear if it appears to be necessary?

4-“The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency will begin testing its Attack Warning Signal or ‘Wailing Tone’ next month as they continue preparedness for attack from North Korea..”

Whether you live on the West Coast, the East Coast or in the middle of the country, a nuclear disaster is a frightening thought. It doesn’t have to be the result of war; it could just as well be the result of a natural disaster or even an accident at an aged facility.

Questions: Are there nuclear power plants anywhere near you? How old are they and what kind of maintenance do they receive and/or report on? What sort of warning signals do they have? (Have you ever heard one?) What’s the evacuation procedure for your home, your town? (Important: Sometimes the evacuation zones of plants overlap, which could make one or both of the individual plans inadequate.)

5-“Amid wildfire risk in Bay Area, UC Berkeley’s emergency management office to lose 50 percent of its staff…

This isn’t the only headline I’ve come across on the topic of staffing. Communities and their budgets change, often without much warning. If emergency management funds are cut, the quality of response to emergencies will decline.

Questions: Does your city have an Office of Emergency Management? An Emergency Operations Plan? Who heads up the department right now? What are the leader’s qualifications? What does the future for the department look like? What role can your local neighborhood group play in community preparedness? (Maybe you can get that department leader to be a guest speaker at one of your local meetings?)

Ask these same questions about the place where you work!

6-“JOHNSON COUNTY, ARKANSAS — The owners of C&H Hog Farms and the international corporation that supplies the operation’s swine are planning to apply for a permit to operate another farm, this one in a flood-prone area just south of Hartman.”

We heard just a couple of months ago about how unrestricted development added to the flooding tragedy in Houston. We all remember from 2014 the massive landslide that swept away an entire town in Washington – a town built below a hillside with a well-known history of slides.

Questions: What’s the status of your home and your community with regard to flood plains and/or past flooding? Has it been the victim of wildfires? What about hurricanes and/or tornados?

A developer, real estate agent and/or insurance agent may not be eager to share the history of the locale. In fact, they may not know it!

As a homeowner, you need to know this information. As a member of the wider community, you want everyone to know and be prepared to the extent possible.  What plans does the city have for growth and new development?  You CAN find out . . . and maybe keep ill-advised development from taking place.

7-PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — State health officials are encouraging people with special health care needs to enroll in an emergency registry.

In a widespread emergency, people with special needs will be most vulnerable. But they’ll not get the help they need if people don’t know they need it! Some sort of registry, like the one mentioned above, may help direct resources.

Questions: Does your state or local community have a registry for people with special health needs? How do you sign up? How is the registry maintained? How is it updated?  Note: People with special needs could be a target for unscrupulous or even criminal behavior, so privacy and security for any registry are paramount.

How to use these headlines.

OK, so while you’re digesting this spread of preparedness morsels, I hope you will have taken note of several questions that you want to answer for your personal benefit.

You can expect that getting those answers will take some time.

But as we have discussed many times, being prepared is a continual state of mind built on awareness, knowledge, and confidence.

I think pursuing news headlines like these can help on all fronts!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Use these headlines at your next group meeting, or ask people to bring in their own news item on emergency preparedness. Pick a few to discuss. Come up with questions like those above and, if appropriate, turn getting answers into a group project.  (In our neighborhood team, we almost always have one small group or another pursuing one idea or another!)

 

Survival Kit Worksheet

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017
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“OK, I’m clear I need a survival kit.”

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

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

But have you thought through . . .

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

Wait . . .

“You mean I need more than just one?”

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

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

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

Survival Kit Worksheet

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

 

Don’t drink that water!

Friday, November 10th, 2017
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Drop of water from faucet

Stop! Don’t drink that water!

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

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

These are not your extraordinary natural disasters.

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

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

Today we are taking a look at local problems.

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

Most of these local problems stem from two things:

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

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

What are the signs of danger?

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

= Your water pressure drops suddenly.

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

= Your water turns murky.

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

= Your water contains bacteria, parasites, etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase and store bottled water.

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

Don’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stack water using interlocking water bricks.

 

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

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

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

Store water in a 55 gallon barrel

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

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

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

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

Fill the bathtub if you have time!

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

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

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

Scoop out of the swimming pool? Maybe not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purification tablets are a convenient back-up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

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

 

 

5-point Safety Checkup for Daylight Savings Time Change

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017
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Emergency waiting to happenJust waiting for you to make a mistake!

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

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

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

1-Change the batteries in your smoke alarm.

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

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

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

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

Here’s what we discovered about alarms chirping:

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

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

2-Change the batteries in your walkie-talkies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4-Refresh your first aid kits.

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

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

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

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

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

Repeal and replace as appropriate!

5-Clean out coils and filters to prevent fire.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it.

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

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

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

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

Wildfires In Our Backyard!

Thursday, October 19th, 2017
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Virginia scanning important documents

Procrastinating no longer

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have written many times about go-bags.

Our go-bags were ready.

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

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

How about the car?

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

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

But what else would we put into the car?

Here’s where the challenge became clear.

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

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

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

We have procrastinated about scanning our official papers!

Flash drive holds copies of important papers

The answer to important papers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boxes packed for evacuation

Still in the hall . . .

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

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

How prepared is your child?

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017
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How prepared is your child?

Ever been accused of being overly protective of your children?

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

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

The good news?

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

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

Start where you are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Build simple action steps with your child.

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

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

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

Practice the action steps.

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

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

Here are examples that you can use as starters.

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

Add more skills as your child gets older.

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

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

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

www.fema.gov/children-and-disasters

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

https://www.ready.gov

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

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

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

In summary . . .

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

Disasters will happen.

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

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

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

Emergency Communications Revisited

Thursday, October 5th, 2017
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Cell phone no signal

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

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

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

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

What you’ll grab first – your cell phone!

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

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

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

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

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

Three ways to have a better chance of getting through. 

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

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

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

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

Facing a longer term outage?

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

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

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

Examples of hand-held emergency radios

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

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

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



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

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

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

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

Preliminary Findings

Thursday, September 28th, 2017
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Remember this?

Business Survival Survey

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

Alert readers to potential weaknesses at THEIR places of business.

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

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

Here are three questions whose answers were particularly dramatic.

“Do we have a plan?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks – and stay tuned for more!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

Emergency Transportation Options

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017
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Emergency Transportation

 

How to Get Around After The Disaster

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

Will roads be passable?

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

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

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

Alternatives to regular passenger cars

4-wheel-drive vehicles

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

Golf carts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adult 3-wheeled tricycles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A standard dolly or hand truck

Hand-truck

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

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

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

Magna Cart Ideal 150 lb Capacity Steel Folding Hand Truck

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

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

A wagon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia and Joe
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Harvey – The First Week

Thursday, August 31st, 2017
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Flood Hurricane Harvey

 

How well would you have done?

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

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

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

We have learned a lot about Houston, Texas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then we learned a lot from individual families.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

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

A New Source of Fear

Thursday, August 24th, 2017
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Malcolm Nance Gooks

Recommended Resources

A Dose of Reality on ISIS and the Terrorism Risks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

 

Don’t Miss the Eclipse

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017
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Solar eclipse

Are you preparing for eclipse-related disasters?

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

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

First, you could miss it altogether . . .

if you’re not paying attention!

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

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

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

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

So, you don’t want to miss this one!

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

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

Second, looking at the eclipse could damage your eyes!

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

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

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

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

A cardboard box – the longer the better

Scissors and box cutter

Tape

A sheet of white paper

A square piece of aluminum foil

A pin or tack

Basic instructions:

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

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

Third, you could find yourself trapped on the highway.

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the eclipse!

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

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

 

 

Back to School Emergency Checklists

Thursday, August 10th, 2017
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Safe at School Ready for the first day of school?

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

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

Everything is ready! Or is it?

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

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

Grade-school Parent Checklist

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

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

What if your persistent questions are not answered?

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

Step up and take a leadership role.

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Campus Checklist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia 
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Safety Checklist for New Employees

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017
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Safety Is Your Responsibility

Where's the nearest fire extinguisher?

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

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

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

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

The 12-Point Checklist

 

More In-Depth Info on Employee Safety

Some Advisories with more details for workplace preparedness:

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

Suggested Next Steps for the Company

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

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

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

Disclaimer from EmergencyPlanGuide.org

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

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

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

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Cash Is King in an Emergency

Thursday, July 13th, 2017
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Gold coins

Best emergency currency?

Surviving after a serious, wide-spread disaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if I have to evacuate?

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

This puts us back to the need for gasoline.

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

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

So how much cash do I need?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hiding money or valuables in plain sight

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

If you’re a handy-person,

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

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

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

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

 

Children and money

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

What about precious metals?

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

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

 

 

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Catastrophic Events and Disasters Can Ruin Your Day — Updated 2017

Friday, July 7th, 2017
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Ostrich Assessing the Situation

Assessing the Situation

Classic Categories of Disasters

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

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

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

  1. A new category: Man-made On Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK, enough on terrorist attacks.

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

So why do we even make an effort at preparedness?

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

A better question: How to respond to this reality?

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

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

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

For newer and long-time readers . . .

Here’s how we approach the process of preparedness.

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

When uncommon threats become predictable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Virginia 
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

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

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