Posts Tagged ‘FEMA’

New Threats Emerging

Friday, December 15th, 2017

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.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team



Will Your Business Survive a Disaster?

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

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

Storm damage

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

Think Again. Your job is all about business continuity!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What your employer is required to do

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

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

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

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

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

What you may have to do

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

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

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

If the disaster is big enough

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

Does your employer have more resources?

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

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

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

What’s the best answer?

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

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

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

And watch for more on this topic!*

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team


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


Flood Damage Not Covered by Insurance

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does my Homeowner’s Insurance cover?

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

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

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

Find out by going to FEMA’s map service at 

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

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

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

Where do I get flood insurance?

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

How does NFIP work?

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

Does the NFIP have maximum limits?

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

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

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

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

What is covered by NFIP?

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

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

What isn’t covered?

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

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

And while I hesitate to say it, you may find that the way your insurer defines “not covered” is likely to be confusing and/or downright misleading. You need to become your own expert.

Should I get flood insurance?

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

What else should I know?

Here I WILL make some recommendations.

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

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

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

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

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





Abandoned in a disaster?

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Helping people with disabilities.

This is my 5th year of writing weekly Advisories, and my 15th year of participating in my local neighborhood emergency response team. During that time I’ve attempted to address the challenges of helping people with disabilities during a disaster.

Not suitable for wheelchair usersThe first time the subject came up was after Katrina, when we heard the horrific stories of people left behind in their nursing home to drown. Then, after Hurricane Sandy, stories came out about people trapped in their high-rise apartments when the power – and thus the elevators – were out for days and days.

Most recently, I received an email from a reader asking if I had any advice for her newly-formed Emergency Team, particularly on how to plan to help neighbors suffering from dementia.

So for the past couple of months I’ve been reaching out again for resources.

Let me warn you – I have not found much!

But let me share what I have found, and invite you to comment or to incorporate some of this into your own local planning. I’m posing these as questions you can ask in your own community.

1 – Should we maintain a Registry of people with special needs?

Several online articles mentioned efforts to build lists of people who might need special help in an emergency. I found references to what looks to be a robust registry in Santa Clarita, California, and the Calgary Police (Canada) started a new such registry in 2015. However, other registries that I attempted to research have gone out of business!

I even posed a question online in a special LinkedIn group, and over two dozen people were kind enough to respond. The consensus: many people with disabilities do not want to be on any list – mostly because they don’t trust that their information will be kept private.

Check your local community for what’s available and confirm that it is secure.

2 – Does our city have special plans for First Responders when dealing with people with disabilities?

We have a great relationship with our City’s Office of Emergency Management, so we invited the head to speak to our group. One of the questions we posed was this one. His answer, “We do not have special plans because we don’t know exactly what will be needed.”

Since this answer wasn’t exactly satisfactory, I have dug deeper into training that is available for First Responders. In fact, there are resources available online, for free, that would be useful for First Responders and for ALL of us. We will be building them into our regular trainings starting in September.

Some simple and sensible guidelines:

  • Don’t make assumptions about people’s abilities or disabilities in an emergency situation. Ask.
  • Everybody will be disoriented in an emergency, so expect a range of emotional response.
  • Treat people with respect. Somebody who can’t see isn’t necessarily deaf or stupid. Be patient.

Tips for First RespondersTwo resources I found most useful:

Tips for First Responders from the University of New Mexico. You can get a pdf that lists tips for dealing with 12 different situations: seniors, people with service animals, people with autism, etc.  The online link:

A set of training videos for First Responders comes from the Nisonger Center at Ohio State University. I found them thorough but long. This is the YouTube link:

3 – What should people with disabilities do when it comes to emergency planning?

There is really only one good answer. If you have special needs, you are in the best position to plan for your own safety.

It’s up to you to build your own personal support network. Members of your network can be relatives, neighbors, friends and co-workers. You need more than just one person; you need people you can trust to check on you and people who know your capabilities and needs.

As part of my research I received many great referrals, but one document that appealed to me particularly comes from FEMA and the American Red Cross. Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs is a brochure with a lot of basic information, but in my estimation, it’s the “Complete a Personal Assessment” section that is most valuable We will be using this assessment list with ALL our members..

Action Item: Get this Assessment; it starts on page 3 of the booklet:

I have no doubt that we will be revisiting this topic many times. If you have a recommendation for readers, please share it in the comments below.

Here’s to a better chance of survival for your entire community!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

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Lies Your Mother Told You

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

“In a big emergency, FEMA will be there to help.”

You’d think that after what happened after Katrina, all of us would be tuned in to the role that FEMA plays to help with disaster recovery.

Apparently, we’re not.

Some recent headlines got my attention and prompted me to take a closer look at FEMA. Check these out:

  • Louisiana: Some who sought FEMA assistance after Katrina being forced to pay back ‘debt’
  • Iowa: ‘Serious Risk’ Federal Flood Protection Money Not Coming
  • New Jersey: Hurricane Sandy Anniversary 2014: Billions Of Dollars In Federal Aid Still Unpaid

Bridge down after floodIf you are counting on government money after a disaster, you’d better keep reading.

This article is not meant to give you legal or financial advice. You need to check with your own state’s emergency management agency for details. Still, the examples we’re providing raise some pertinent questions.

Question #1: Who gets FEMA money after an emergency?

FEMA money is meant to help two major groups: local governments and local citizens.

Before any money starts flowing after a disaster, though, there’s a procedure to follow. The FEMA website describes it this way:

  1. Local Government Responds first, supplemented by neighboring communities and volunteer agencies. If overwhelmed, it turns to the state for assistance;
  2. The State Responds with state resources, such as the National Guard and state agencies;
  3. Damage Assessment by local, state, federal, and volunteer organizations determines losses and recovery needs;
  4. A Major Disaster Declaration is requested by the governor. It describes the damage and agrees that the state will commit state funds and resources to the long-term recovery;
  5. FEMA Evaluates the request and recommends action to the White House based on the disaster, the local community and the state’s ability to recover;
  6. The President approves the request (or FEMA informs the governor it has been denied). This decision process could take a few hours or several weeks depending on the nature of the disaster.

So that’s the process. Disaster recovery is designed as a partnership between the state and the Federal Government. If the state doesn’t want to play, the government won’t play either.

And, even when a request goes through the process and is approved, that doesn’t seem to mean the funds always arrive as anticipated.

In 2014, for example, Congress authorized $73 million for flood protection for Cedar Rapids, IA (things like flood walls, levees and pump stations) but never appropriated the money.

Even though both New Jersey and New York suffered roughly the same amount of damage from Hurricane Sandy in late 2012, New York has received over $7 billion in assistance and New Jersey has received only $1.7 billion.

If you live in either of these places, you have to ask “Why?”

Question #2: What can FEMA money be used for?

First, FEMA money can be used for “public assistance,” which is money aimed as repairing a community’s infrastructure – roads, bridges, buildings, schools, etc. FEMA can pay for 75% of the costs; the state is required to come up with the rest of the money.

Individuals apply for – you guessed it – “individual assistance.”

Disaster aid to individuals generally falls into the following categories:

  • Disaster Housing, available for up to 18 months, for people whose homes were damaged or destroyed. Funding also can be provided for housing repairs to make them habitable again.
  • Disaster Grants can help replace personal property and provide money for transportation, medical, dental and funeral expenses.
  • Low-Interest Disaster Loansare available after a disaster for homeowners and renters from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to cover uninsured property losses. Loans may cover repair or replacement of homes, cars, clothing or other damaged personal property. Loans are also available to businesses for property loss and economic injury.
  • Other Disaster Aid Programs may supplement state or local help with counseling, unemployment assistance, legal aid and assistance with income tax, Social Security and Veteran’s benefits.
  • Assistance Process– After you apply, your damaged property will be verified. If you are approved, you’ll get a grant for rental assistance. A loan application requires more information and it may take weeks for it to be approved.

The deadline for applying for most individual assistance programs is 60 days following the President’s major disaster declaration.

This leads us to question #3.

Question #3: Why would some people be forced to pay back FEMA money?

After FEMA funds have been approved and distributed, the program is audited. Through the audit, FEMA is looking to “recoup” funds that have been issued to the wrong people or used incorrectly.

First, FEMA is looking for duplicated payments. This is where the homeowner has received money from both their insurance company or from an SBA loan and from FEMA — for the same purpose.

Second, auditors look for ineligible uses. This is where the recipients of FEMA money have used it for unintended purposes. For example, a recipient got money to repair the home and used it, instead, to pay off the existing mortgage.

In some cases, months after the disaster and receipt of FEMA funds, residents receive letters seeking “recoupment.” These letters are reported to threaten legal action, negative reports to credit agencies, property liens, and impacts on residents’ future eligibility for federal disaster assistance if they fail to pay.

A couple of examples:

FEMA has so far determined that $34.7 million given to Floridians for recovery from the 2004 hurricanes was improperly spent and must be repaid,

And in 2014, over 1,000 New Jerseyans still displaced from superstorm Sandy started receiving letters from FEMA telling them they had received too much money and would have to pay it back.

If anyone tells you to count on FEMA as your disaster plan, you may want to pause before you believe it.

Aren’t you glad you read this far?!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

If you have any experiences with FEMA to share, good or bad, please do!


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We will rebuild! Is it grit or stupidity?

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

I don’t have an answer yet.

But when you hear new zoning or new flood insurance requirements being debated, stop and find out what’s going on. Because YOU are likely paying the bill for repetitive disasters now, and you will be paying the bill when disaster strikes again!

FEMA grants to disaster-prone areasRebuilding in disaster-prone areas is a big issue.

Rick Moran, in American Thinker, said it well.

“Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep rebuilding in disaster-prone areas. If history is any guide, a large fraction of the federal money allotted to New York, New Jersey and other states recovering from Hurricane Sandy – an amount that could exceed $30 billion – will be used the same way.

Tax money will go toward putting things back as they were, essentially duplicating the vulnerability that existed before the hurricane.”

(To see the full article, click here.)

The problem is compounded by the current role of the Federal Government.

Many citizens want to, and do, look to government when disasters overcome a community. Even conservatives who fight for less government seem to support government aid when their communities are affected. But by helping local communities rebuild, federal programs have often created targets for the next natural disaster.

There are some efforts underway to break the build-devastate-rebuild cycle.

Some isolated and admittedly random examples from around the world:

  • Alberta, Canada, is considering a plan to not cover damage costs in extreme floodways in future if people choose to rebuild there.
  • In Nigeria, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has advised state governments to relocate citizens living in flood-prone areas.
  • King County, Washington has bought a mobile home park that lies close to a flood-prone portion of the Cedar River and is planning to relocate current residents.

And as a follow up to Mr. Moran’s comments above, I read that:

  • In New Jersey, $300 million in federal aid has been set aside for the Blue Acres program, which allows the state to buy up homes in repetitive flood-prone areas and convert the area to open space.

As far as I can tell, these examples of prevention are few and far between.

The American Citizen article has a quote from Robert S. Young, a North Carolina geologist, that seems to sum it up:

“We’re Americans, damn it.  Retreat is a dirty word.”

What are your thoughts about supporting rebuilding in disaster-prone areas using your tax dollars?



Mothers, Are You Leaving Your Children Unprepared?

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Children Deserve Survival Training

When there’s an emergency, whether storm, earthquake, flooding, or power outage – children go though it just like you do. How prepared are your children to survive? How about your grandchildren?

Children prepared for an emergency

How prepared are these kids to respond in an emergency?

Little ones may not understand the potential danger of a storm or other emergency, and perhaps they don’t need to. But they CAN be prepared to take action when they recognize certain warning signs.

Emergency Preparedness at School

These days all schools have access to emergency preparedness training through FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Education. (Just search for “Emergency Preparedness for Schools” on their websites.) Most schools have and practice emergency procedures.

In fact, our grandchildren (aged 10 and 13) seem to know more about how to respond in an earthquake than their parents do!

However, take these children out of the school setting, and they have no experience in taking care of themselves. These are children who have grown up in the suburbs. They’ve never spent time in the wilderness, never used tools, never hiked more than a couple of blocks! (Don’t get me wrong. They’re smart, and getting a great education. But it doesn’t include any survival skills!)

Action Step: Find out what Emergency Preparedness training your children’s teachers go through, and what drills they and the children participate in. It may reassure you!

What about survival training for younger children?

If your children are home with you all the time, then naturally you will be making decisions for them in the case of an emergency.

Still, you may not be with them all the time! What if the storm hits when your child is:

  • At a day-care center
  • On a play date at a friend’s house
  • At a birthday party or an athletic event where other adults are in charge
  • At the movies, at Sunday school, playing in the backyard – the list is endless!

You simply can’t be with your children 24 hours a day. So, what survival skills are you giving them?

A simple emergency preparedness tool for starters!

In 1993, FEMA and the American Red Cross put together a Coloring Book for Children. (Yes, it was created in 1993, so the illustrations are pretty dated . . . but I feel that overall, the coloring book has value.)

Here are five highlights from the coloring book, as I see them:

  1. Work together.  The book is designed to be worked on by an adult and child team. Do you have older children who would find the coloring book silly? Let them be the “adult” in the conversation with the younger child.
  2. Call 911. Use the coloring book as a tool to teach your child when and how to call 911.
  3. Family emergency plan. If you haven’t done it yet, use the book as a motivation to identify your “outside meeting place” and your “out-of-area” emergency contact person.
  4. Survival kits. Discuss – and build! – emergency supply kits for each family member.
  5. Repeat.  The quiz on the last page is a good review.

Action Item: Here’s the link to the book. Click on it and print out the book. It’s 26 pages long, so you probably won’t be going through it all in one sitting.

Click to download Coloring Book

(Here’s the entire link again, in case you need it:

I think this coloring book could be improved by being brought up to date. In fact, I’m ready to do a new version myself, because it seems as though young children still like to color. What suggestions do you have for improving it? Please let me know by using the comment box below.

Thank you!

Virginia – Your Emergency Response Guide Team


“What do kids know?!”

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

We often get discouraged trying to get people to take preparedness seriously. “It’ll never happen to me,” they say with a smirk. “Too much trouble; I don’t have time!” say others, shaking their heads. “Don’t know how to start,” they complain.

I was glad to hear of some young people who DO have the time and energy to Get Prepared! Here are five youth programs going on right around us!  Do you know about them?

FEMA for Kids

In Middlesex county, New Jersey, FEMA is implementing FEMA for Kids. While it’s designed to come into a community after a disaster, it is directed to children, using them as conduits to their parents with tips and advice on disaster preparedness for the future.

BSA Merit Badge

BSA Merit Badge in Emergency Preparedness

Boy Scouts of America

The merit badge in Disaster Preparedness (required for Eagle Scout) helps a Scout learn what is “helpful and needed before, during and after an emergency.” Over 50,000 scouts earn this badge every year. Official materials say that Scouts are “are often called upon to help because they know first aid and they know about the discipline and planning needed to react to an emergency situation.”

Girl Scouts of the USA

In 2009, then Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Girls Scouts of the USA unveiled a Girl Scout preparedness patch, aimed at advancing community preparedness nationwide. Napolitano is a former Girl Scout who says she knows what it means to “Be Prepared!”

Camp Fire USA

Prepare Today – Lead Tomorrow is a teen program developed by Camp Fire USA. Its goals are to engage teens in intensive community preparedness learning experiences, and create opportunities for them to participate in community preparedness efforts.

FEMA Corps

In 2012, the White House announced FEMA Corps, part of the AmeriCorps program. Some 1,600 people ages 18-24 will join teams to learn skills and get community experience in the field of emergency management.

We all know what an impact kids can have on families and communities. It is thanks in large part to kids that parents stop smoking, start using seat belts, recycle … the list goes on. Find out what your kids are learning at school or elsewhere about Emergency Preparedness. Enjoy their enthusiasm as you conduct your own preparedness efforts. Figure out ways to include the local Boy Scout or Girls Scout troop as a resource in your CERT expo, you neighborhood block party, or your family garage sale.

They will probably be able to teach you something valuable!




Are you in a flood zone?

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

Like maps?

If you are a map fan, check out FEMA’s Map Service Center to see whether you’re in a flood zone. The map is designed for ordinary citizens, but also for real estate and insurance specialists, who can create printouts coordinated with the Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map.

Starting in May, 2013, the map service is being expanded and upgraded. But in the meanwhile, you can do what I did to check out your own home and community. It’s easy!

Go to

Do a “Product Search” by filling in your address. A second screen will come up identifying your general area (county). Click on “View” and be patient as the data loads. Ultimately, you’ll be rewarded with a very small map of your area!

FEMA map shows flood zones

Red arrows point to flood zone markings

You can adjust the scale at the top of the screen. (I changed the 4% to 15 % and that gave me a much better size map, and I could read most of the street names.) You can also click on the “pan” button on the left (looks like a little hand) and move the map around. (Again, be patient since it’s a lot of data and the map re-adjusts slowly.)

Once you’ve found the right area and the right level of detail, search for overlays. In our example, the gray dotted area (left arrow in the illustration) indicates a 500-year-flood zone, and the bright blue color (right arrow in the illustration) indicates a 100-year-flood zone, which means there’s a 1 percent chance of a 1-foot or higher flood in that area in any given year.

In the illustration, the blue area happens to be a key highway/railroad overpass/underpass. This interchange is about one mile from our neighborhood, so a flood there would definitely impact our emergency response, particularly if an evacuation were called for.

Check out this resource for your neighborhood, and also for your business or place of work. It’s interesting and good information to have.

We’ll be sending more info like this in future Advisories, so sign up so you can be sure to get it.