Tag: Earthquake

Maybe you missed this? Tsunami warnings.

tsunami evacuation route sign
Are you familiar with this?

Yes, where you’re located makes a difference when it comes to emergency planning. I’m writing from sunny Southern California, just about 12 miles from the Pacific and its beaches. We plan a lot for earthquakes, but seldom if ever for tsunamis. But we need to keep remembering that everything is changing these days! On January 15, just 3 weeks ago, we were alerted by a series of unexpected but real tsunami warnings!

A volcanic eruption near the Tonga Islands in the South Pacific was the cause . . . and I’m sure you have seen images of what happened there. (Actually, not many images have surfaced since the eruption and waves destroyed all internet connections in the area.)

While effects were minor on the West Coast, some marinas and harbors were hit, some streets and parking areas were flooded, and a few boats were damaged or even sunk.

Could you find yourself in a Tsunami Danger Zone?

Maybe a LOT more easily than you think!

In the U.S. residents of coastal cities are at risk for tsunamis: in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California. We need to add to the list US business travelers and tourists heading to Japan, Thailand, Singapore and anywhere in the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire” countries. That’s a lot of people and a lot of places!

My son was caught in the tsunami that hit the Pacific in 2004. He was vacationing in Thailand. As he reported it live on Larry King (!), he saw a “strange long unbroken wave” forming way out in the bay. He even paused to take a photo without realizing that the wave was bearing down on the beach much faster than he could run.

Pacific Rim countries showing reach of 2004 tsunami

Yes, he was caught, washed off his feet and pushed into a building, where he was able to clamber up above the water and wait until it went down. He was young and very strong and lucky. He lost only a shoe and a camera. Over 227,000 people around the Indian Ocean weren’t so lucky. They lost their lives. This little map shows just how far that tsunami reached! 

That was in 2004, and many Americans really didn’t know how to recognize a tsunami. My son didn’t. He would now, though, and you should be able to, too.

Be prepared before you ever hear tsunami warnings.

I’ve written before on how to know you’re in a tsunami zone, and what do to to be ready in case one hits. I just recently came across and excellent video on LinkedIn and I decided it was a lot better than my earlier written description!! Even if you think you’ll “never be in a tsunami zone” someone you love may be headed on vacation next summer. Be sure they see this video, too!

Thanks to Steve Eberlein for another great training video!

Some compelling highlights from the video

  1. Are you in a tsunami zone right now? If you’re in the US, you can check at http://www.tsunamizone.org/knowyourzone/. Or if you’re on the road, check the World Map at http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-maps/tsunami-zones.html
  2. How will you know a tsunami is on its way? NOAA emergency radios and various alert apps broadcast this information. You may hear local sirens if the tsunami is threatening.
  3. If you are in a zone — particularly if you are traveling and in an unfamiliar place — you MUST know the evacuation routes! (Steve’s video makes this very clear!) Family members need to know them too, because you may not be together when you hear the tsunami warnings. Nor will it necessarily be in the daytime, during moderate weather, etc.
  4. If you feel an earthquake and are on the coast, and if you hear tsunami warnings, how long do you have to get to safety? It may be as little as TEN MINUTES! That means you won’t have time to run back home or to a hotel to get personal things or your emergency kit. So — be sure every family member has at all times a day-pack that holds some essentials, including emergency contact information. A jacket, snack, etc. would be good, too. You may not be able to get back, or get back together, for hours or even days.

Pass along this information to friends and family – and stay safe! Don’t wait until World Tsunami Awareness Day comes around on November 5 to be better prepared for this hazard.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. While we’re talking about tsunamis and earthquakes, did you know that April 26 is National Richter Scale Day?

Camp Stoves in a Disaster

Cam stove for cooking in an emergency

Cooking in an emergency

I’ve spent much of this past week working with our community on preparing for upcoming power outages. The short checklist from last week’s Advisory just wasn’t enough on cooking without power, so here’s additional info!

I’ve written before about using camp stoves in a disaster, but I’ve focused on the kinds I’ve used personally. Since I’m not a frequent back-packer, I don’t own an alcohol stove. And since I only occasionally cook outside (though I love being invited by a backyard chef!), I have limited experience with grills, too. But I have friends who do all these things, so their stories are incorporated here!.

Time to take another look at using camp stoves in a disaster!

Alcohol stoves for cooking in an emergency

An alcohol stove is perhaps the simplest way to heat water in an emergency! Here’s a basic alcohol stove that I really like. See how compact and handy it is?!! Makes you want to hold it in your hand, doesn’t it? Read below for more details about alcohol stoves, then click to head to Amazon for current prices. (This one seems to be on sale right now.)

REDCAMP Mini Alcohol Stove for Backpacking, Lightweight Brass Spirit Burner with Aluminium Stand for Camping Hiking, Silver

Basics of all alcohol stoves:

  • Round metal fuel container weighing only a few ounces, often just 1 ounce. (Imagine a cut-off soft-drink can.) Different versions have double walls, a top with a chimney, holes punched in the sides to create a ring of flames like a gas stove. The more “designed” the heavier it’s likely to be. I chose this one because it’s just about the simplest version available.
  • Fuel to put into the container. Denatured alcohol (toxic to drink!), methanol (also toxic – sold as anti-freeze), ethanol. Fuels are readily found at sporting goods stores, Walmart, auto supply stores.
  • Way to light the fuel.
  • Stand to hold cup or pot above the flame. Again, my example has a companion stand that comes as part of the package.

Alcohol stoves are simple. Because they are so small and lightweight, you have to be careful not to tip them over, and you have to watch out for spilled fuel. You may need to shelter your stove from the wind. And you have to have the right size cup or pot to fit over the stove.

The key: even the simplest alcohol stoves can boil water in 5-6 minutes, enough to make hot drinks or soup for 1-2 people.

I really like the idea of something compact, light, and simple to operate in an emergency. You can actually build your own out of soda cans! (Great 3-minute video: https://youtu.be/wdGu_0eJr3k You’ll see an ad before the video starts, of course.) Or, you can buy a stove. Many are less than $20!

The stove shown above costs around $20. For about $10 more you can get the Vargo Triad, shown below. It’s made of titanium, with folding arms and legs that double as pot supports and anchors. This stove burns more than one kind of fuel. It also gets the best ratings on a variety of review sites.

Vargo Triad Multi-Fuel Stove

Either of these two small stoves would make a great gift for a scout, a camper, or someone putting together a (better!) survival kit for the car!

Wood-burning stoves for cooking in an emergency

If you’ll be outdoors in at least a semi-wilderness setting, with fuel sources available, having a wood-burning camping stove makes lots of sense. No storing of fuels, no worrying about leaks.

Like the alcohol stoves, wood-burning camp stoves are very simple. Imagine a coffee can with some holes punched in it to let grasses or sticks and air in, and smoke out.

Like the alcohol stoves, these stoves also have ONE burner. You will be using ONE pot. Experts seem to be able to boil, fry and even bake – all on one burner. If you have a larger group, you may need more than one stove or take another look at the classic Coleman two- or three-burner box later on in this article.

I picked the wood-burning stove below because it got very high reviews from users. It’s meant to burn twigs, leaves, grass, etc., but can also burn alcohol. Easily add fuel, and air holes around the bottom keep the fire burning hot. I’d get some special camping ware to go with this stove to be sure everything fits and balances securely.

TOMSHOO Camping Stove Camp Wood Stove Portable Foldable Stainless Steel Burning Backpacking Stove for Outdoor Hiking Picnic BBQ-Upgraded Version

Cooking with classic camp stoves in a disaster

I pulled out our camp stoves. We have two of them, collected over the years. The pictures with dark backgrounds aren’t links – they are from my own camera!

Three burner camp stove

This shows our trusty Coleman stove. It’s a three-burner which makes it really convenient. You can see how my own everyday small pot fits on the stove; with those three burners, we can use a large frying pan or even a griddle. Sometimes adjusting the flame takes some careful effort.

Here’s a link to the current Coleman 2-burner. (Maybe 3 burners are out of style?) It comes in other colors, too, but I wanted to show you a classic Coleman.

Coleman Gas Camping Stove | Triton+ Propane Stove, 2 Burner

Our second stove is a one-burner model that we purchased across the street at an Asian market. It is smaller than the three-burner (Note the pot and the water bottle that appear in each photo for comparison.) and it weighs half as much, making it easier to pack and carry.

One burner camp stove

With either stove, we can accomplish the essentials: boil water for coffee, cook ramen noodles with dried vegetables (from the same Asian market), and have enough water left over for some washing up.

Here’s the current version of that same stove from Amazon (at today’s prices!) It comes with a carrying case.

Gas ONE GS-3000 Portable Gas Stove with Carrying Case, 9,000 BTU, CSA Approved, Black (Stove + 4 Fuel)

Backyard BBQ for survival cooking

If you already have a backyard BBQ, whether fueled with charcoal or gas, you are probably already prepared for some cooking in an emergency when the power is out! Most of the gas powered grills use propane or butane. Some are connected to your natural gas supply.

These grills can be just the size for a steak or two, or big enough to feed a crowd. They can be on a rolling frame that holds the fuel tank and a couple of side table, or built right into a larger backyard entertainment center.

Just a couple of weeks ago I picked out a charcoal burning BBQ that I thought would be a great gift for Mothers’ Day! Remember that one?

Having any of these stoves will give you more flexibility for summer entertainment, for camping, and, of course, in an emergency. All of them require some experimenting and practice before they will work exactly as you expected.

Hope you can find the right one to supplement YOUR emergency cooking needs!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Write and let us know what experiences you’ve had with camp stoves. Every bit of knowledge helps!

Q&A Mini-Series Will Jump Start Your Planning!

Get one or get the whole series!

The small booklets from our Q&A Mini-Series are meant to do one thing — get people started on planning for emergencies!

You may already know the answers to all the questions (or just about all of them). The booklets may not be meant for you.

They’re meant for ordinary citizens, friends and family who need a jump-start!

The press release below tells the story . . .

For Immediate Release
Virginia Nicols (949) 733-1778
Director, Emergency Plan Guide
Subsidiary of Dentrovisi Incorporated


Emergency Preparedness Q&A Mini-Series Kicks Off with Six In-Demand Titles

IRVINE, CALIFORNIA, MARCH 9, 2020 — A new series of simple, single topic booklets available on Amazon breaks the disaster planning process into easy to read FAQ, letting readers focus on one element at a time while building toward a complete plan.

Even people wanting to prepare for emergencies can find the process overwhelming. In fact, FEMA’s 2019 National Household Survey reports that while most families have taken at least one step toward preparedness, 43% have not taken even three basic preparedness actions.

The Emergency Preparedness Q&A Mini-Series aims to solve this problem. It approaches planning in a simple, guided way. Each book in the series addresses only one topic, allowing readers to choose according to their current needs or interests. Each book is short – under 50 pages. Simple questions and answers give readers a path forward to understanding and preparing for that specific emergency. Fill-in-the-blank checklists avoid intimidation and demonstrate tangible progress.

“For this series we’ve picked topics that come up again and again in our neighborhood meetings,” says author Nicols. The first titles: Pre-Disaster Plan, Emergency Communications, Custom Go-Bags, Power Outage and Prepare Your Home for Earthquake. Another nine booklets are scheduled for publication by mid-April, with additional titles to follow.

Emergency Plan Guide’s flagship series of Neighborhood Disaster Survival Guides, each with a separate Workbook, was published in 2018. It addresses comprehensive planning for four types of neighborhoods: three types of residential neighborhood (single family houses, apartment & condominiums and mobile home communities) with a separate volume for small businesses. Each book and companion workbook focus on concerns and organizing opportunities for people in that specific setting.

The two series are from partners Virginia S. Nicols and Joseph A. Krueger, whose backgrounds include military training, disaster response marketing and nearly 20 years of hands-on experience building, training and mentoring Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). Full details on the authors and their series titles are available at https://EmergencyPlanGuide.org.

# # #

Download the print version of the press release here. And if you want a bit more information on each booklet or are ready to order right now, check out the page we’ve added to our menu under BOOKS. (It has direct links to Amazon.)

You know our motto: “The more we all know, the safer we all will be.” Our goal with this new Mini-Series is to expand preparedness knowledge exponentially!

Virginia and Joe
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Our intro pricing at Amazon is $4.99 for each paperback booklet and only $2.99 for the ebook. We’re trying to make it as appealing as possible!

Survival Entertainment – for your Vacation!

Log fire from Popular
Popular Mechanics “Swedish fire” built into one log

When you are lucky enough to enjoy a few days of vacation, or if you’re in the mood to CHANGE your mood, consider spending some time with some survival entertainment!

Read for escape and pleasure!

If you are a hard-core reader like I am, you’ll demand a certain level of quality in your survival books.  Or magazines, as the case may be. I found the article from Popular Mechanics, shown above, to be a treat!   (Have you heard of the Swedish fire? You break apart one block of wood, wrap it loosely with wire to keep it all held together and upright, build your fire on top of the center splits so the fire falls down into the cracks. Burns for several hours! Love it!)

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I managed to discover and read something totally different – a survival novel that takes place in a nearly ruined America of the not-so-distant future.

I have reviewed that book — Lighthouse Island — and a half-dozen other outstanding survival books and magazines at our companion website, Emergency Preparedness Books.

If you’re looking for some different survival themes, different levels of intensity and even survival excitement, please head over there and take a look. Several of the books are “How to” on survival; a couple are novels with plenty of accurate survival imagery, and a couple are written for young people – and young at heart like me! I’ll be adding more.

Books chosen for quality survival entertainment
You’ll see some of our Emergency Plan Guide books at the site, too!

Of course, in addition to books there are . . .

Movies for thrills and excitement!

It’s the day after Christmas as I write this Advisory. Yesterday we watched the obligatory re-run of Die Hard. Not a classic wilderness survival movie – but certainly an epic survival story! (Hans Gruber, so very smooth and sinisterly multi-lingual!)

Which brings me to some more of the “Best Survival Movies Ever Made.”  Here’s a short list. Which of these have you seen?  Would you watch them again?

  • Most recent disaster film, which you’ve surely heard of if you haven’t seen it: San Andreas! Sure, it’s not the most scientifically accurate disaster movie. (Savvy preppers here in California find it pretty easy to pick out the faults – a pun!) But what special effects! And Dwayne Johnson!
  • The Martian – science fiction full of well — science mixed with humor!  I read the book a few years ago, and I loved it. (Made me laugh out loud even though the hero was stranded on Mars and had to survive on practically nothing but his brains until he could be rescued! The thinking man’s survival skills on display . . .!) Of course any movie with Matt Damon deserves a Golden Globe nearly sight unseen.
  • Just the next year a traditional survival film actually won an Oscar – in fact, many, many other awards, for that matter. It is The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The scene: western frontier wilderness in the early 1800s. The challenge: winter weather, grizzly bear and other wildlife, plus some treacherous travel companions. Hollywood loved this film, and movie-goers turned it into a blockbuster.

Now, there have been survival movies for years, well before the three described above which you’ve probably at least seen ads for.

How about some survival movie classics?

  • Into the Wild came out in 2007, directed by Sean Penn. It’s an absorbing story of a young man who leaves his comfortable life to test his survival skills in Alaska. I saw this film myself several years ago – every spectacularly beautiful and excruciating minute of it. This is more drama than adventure. And it’s good!
  • Volcano, starring Tommy Lee Jones (another must-see actor) as an emergency manager. It came out in 1997 and is available on Netflix. Set in L.A., this one line describes it all – “Hot on entertainment!”
  • Twister was the second highest grossing film of 1996! It followed storm-chasers across Oklahoma. A Rotten Tomatoes review cites the film’s “visceral thrills” and again, special effects.

Learn some good stuff via documentaries and semi-documentaries.

In no particular order, here are some films that captured the interest of professional members of the Emergency Management group on LinkedIn. I’ll be checking these films off my own holiday viewing list. (One or the other might be appropriate for showing at a neighborhood meeting.)

  • Fire in Paradise, which aired on Frontline, covers the 2018 wildfire that basically destroyed the town of Paradise in California. It’s a 39 minute documentary with interviews of people who went through the ordeal. You’ll learn a lot about evacuations.
  • Dirty War is a docu-drama first broadcast in 2004 by the BBC and made available in the U.S. through HBO. The situation:  A radioactive “dirty” bomb detonates outside a subway station in London. At that time, this was a thriller. Today, it’s become too real.
  • American Blackout is now top of my own list. Produced by National Geographic, the 90-minute docu-drama “reveals in gritty detail the impact of what happens when a cyber-attack on the U.S. takes down the power grid.” The power shut-downs earlier this year gave us a taste . . .

There’s plenty more survival entertainment where these came from!

These movies are available at Amazon and other streaming services. Most are available for purchase at Amazon, too, if that’s how you want to enjoy them. Click away here!

Of course, not all survival fiction may be award-worthy.

But today we’re talking about a vacation change of pace! If necessary, you can always pick out the totally unrealistic moments and describe to your family members what it REALLY would be like. (They may not appreciate the interruption, so maybe save those criticisms until afterwards!?)

At the very least, a book or movie can start a conversation at home to inspire new interest in emergency preparedness and response. Maybe you’ll get ideas for a family adventure tour, or some cool gifts.

Who knows what might happen?! We’re talking survival entertainment here! Hope you enjoy some of these!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Of course you have your own survival entertainment favorites! Let us know what they are!

Earthquakes have positive result in our neighborhood!

Volunteer activity is positive result of earthquakes in California

The recent California earthquakes have had several positive results here where we live, in Southern California.

I already mentioned how our neighborhood emergency response group volunteers jumped into action after the 7.1 quake on July 6. There they were, out in the dark with their walkie-talkies, talking to people, passing along info to our mobile radio command post.

What happened the next day, though, was actually more exciting. Everywhere you could hear the second positive result from the earthquake: ordinary citizens talking and talking about the quakes and how to be more prepared next time!

  • “How should I be storing water? Do you have a water barrel? What about plastic bottles?”
  • “What’s the chance of a broken gas line? Should we turn off the gas?”
  • “What if I am trapped in my house?”

And hooray! Positive result #3 — Two more neighbors decided to join the team!

I am busy assembling the “recruiting” kits – some basic info and instructions, plus the two most important items for team members: a fluorescent vest and a battery-operated walkie-talkie.

If you are figuring out what your next move ought to be for summer – consider getting a couple of walkie-talkies!

They are fun for families camping, hiking or heading to a county fair. Small kids and teens like them. They are essential if you have wandering children or lagging-behind grandparents! And if you are interested in building a neighborhood emergency response team, you’ll want to practice with those walkie-talkies before you decide which ones to buy.

I’ve written reviews of the top 5 or 6 models every year. If you are really interested in more detail, please check out that page. There’s a whole lot of info there to absorb before you make a big buying decision.

Here’s a recommendation for you.

In the meanwhile, here’s information about my favorite model – and the one we use for our local neighborhood group. Simple, straightforward, flexible.   These use AAA batteries or rechargeables; you can also recharge by plugging into the wall. A pair costs less that a dinner out – and will make your summer a whole lot more memorable! (Click on the image to get details and prices at Amazon.)

If you manage to get a pair of walkie-talkies as a result of the earthquakes and of reading this Advisory, that would be the best positive result of all!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

Day 10 of Summer Vacation: A time for some shorter and lighter Advisories as a welcome change-of-pace!

Paranoid or trusting in an emergency?

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Have you ever googled “emergency preparedness?” 

After a row of stuff for sale — survival kits, freeze dried food, first aid kits — you’ll hit the first of page after page of agencies ready to give you comprehensive and usually trustworthy advice.

Now go back and google “emergency preparedness forums.”

This is where people, not agencies, hang out!  The words associated with preparedness change immediately. You’ll see references to urban survivalists, bush craft, self-protection, weapons, primitive technology – passionate entries from writers getting ready for when the SHTF or we reach TEOTWAWKI. (See below if you need a reminder about what these stand for!)

s a writer about the topic, I get deep into just about everything: self-defense, camping skills, CERT, emergency communications, dealing with authorities, preventing fires, etc.

One of my favorite topics, though, is how to build stronger neighborhood groups. (Not too common a theme in other sites, actually!) I’ve been part of my own neighborhood group for over 17 years. What I hear from members of my neighborhood group is not that they are paranoid. They are not even particularly afraid.

Rather, they actively “want to help others.” Normally, you won’t read too much about that, either!

How people responded to the earthquakes in Ridgecrest has been an inspiration.

Watching TV coverage about the California earthquakes over the past few days certainly reinforced that message. In Ridgecrest,

  • Did you see how often people mentioned neighbors coming by to see if they needed help?
  • How neighbors were offering to do repairs for free?
  • How neighbors pitched in to help clean up?

The actions of these neighbors, victims all, encourages me to keep organizing, keep learning, and keep writing.

Oh, and here’s the quote from George R.R.Martin, author of A Game of Thrones, that got me started on this whole post, and inspired the image at the top of this page:

 “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.” 

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

  • SHTF = (when the) sh*t hits the fan
  • TEOTWAWKI = the end of the world as we know it

Day 7 of Summer Vacation: A time for some shorter Advisories as a welcome change-of-pace!

Covered for a natural disaster, or not?


Covered for natural disaster

Time for an insurance review.

I’m putting together my to-do list for the holiday vacation. After all this year’s natural disasters, first on the list is an insurance review. I started the review, and more and more questions kept coming up! Naturally, this led to an Advisory!

Ask your insurance agent these 7 questions to see how well YOU are covered for a natural disaster.

“How many of your clients are under-insured? Am I one?”

This is a tricky question, of course! Maybe you could soften it starting with this quote from Nationwide:
“I understand that 60% of American homes are under-insured by an average of at least 20%. I want to be sure I’m not one of them!”

“I’m worried about all the recent (fill in the blank: wildfires, storms, tornadoes). Am I covered for a natural disaster? What if my house is totally destroyed?”

This is the main question you want answers to. Start with these sub-questions . . .

  • What is the amount of my home coverage?
  • Is that based on the value of the house, or replacement cost? (Be careful. “Value” of a home could include the value of the land, in which case your coverage might not be enough to replace the house.)
  • Exactly how is replacement cost figured in my policy? (It turns out that there is “replacement cost” and then there’s “extended replacement cost.” Make sure your agent can explain which you have, and the difference between them.)

“If I have to live somewhere else while the house is being rebuilt, will my policy cover additional living expenses?”

How much and for how long? Any restrictions on where I stay? How do I get the money in my hand?

“Will my policy cover (fill in the blank: floods or storm surge from a hurricane, earthquake, land slide following rain, volcanoes)?”

You will probably NOT BE COVERED for a natural disaster from the list above!

I love this paragraph from esurance

Homeowners insurance typically doesn’t cover landslides or mudslides. That’s because both are considered a form of “earth movement”, and like an earthquake or sinkhole, they’re generally excluded from a standard homeowners insurance policy. Flood policies often don’t cover damage from landslides or mudslides, either. And earthquake policies only offer reimbursement if an earthquake caused the events.

Quiz your agent closely on coverage for natural disasters. Be sure you know just where “water damage” (covered) leaves off and “flood water damage” (not covered) starts, where “rain damage” (covered) ends and “mud damage” (not covered) starts – on YOUR policy!

Perhaps you need separate policies to be sure you are covered for natural disasters?  We have addressed some of these special threats, including insurance policy info, in earlier Advisories about Volcanoes, Earthquakes , and Floods.

“What else don’t I know about? What about . . .”

  • Mold
  • Sewage backups
  • Debris removal after a disaster
  • Lightning
  • Hail
  • ????

Get your agent to mention some of the frequent problems he or she has encountered here in your neighborhood. Some of these may be covered by your policy, others not. You may want to add an endorsement to your policy to cover a specific risk.

“This is adding up. What can I do to reduce premiums?”

The first thing to discuss are your deductibles, particularly if there has been a change – from dollar amounts to percentages, for example. A 5% deductible may sound better than a $15,000 deductible, but not if your house is worth $400,000!

Generally, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. You want the highest deductible you can afford.

And you may want to check with your agent to see if you can make changes or improvements to your home that will improve your coverage for natural disasters while lowering the insurance company’s risk. These might include replacing the roof, upgrading the electric system, clearing brush around the house, retrofitting for earthquake, or installing storm shutters. Ask for a list of all the home discounts you’re eligible for, not just those associated with natural disasters!

Now, I don’t review my insurance every year – but this year I’m going to with the help of these questions. I hope you use them, too!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S.  If you discover that you seem to be well covered for natural disasters (Hooray!), you still might want to pose this last question:

“Is the bill for my current homeowner’s policy going up?”

If the answer is YES, and it’s more than 5% or so, ask why. You might hear these reasons:

  • Recent disasters have made prices rise for all insurance companies.
  • Risks have gone up in your neighborhood.
  • Your personal risk profile has changed. (Confirm what’s changed – is it your credit score? That could have an impact in some states.)

P.P.S. Consumers Reports says that people who shop for better deals on property insurance can save hundreds of dollars a year. You can get quotes for free through insure.com or InsWeb.com. (as recommended  by This Old House)

And finally, a disclaimer. I am not a licensed insurance agent, hence all the links in this Advisory to what I trust are reputable sources. Be sure to get advice on insurance from professionals.

Preparedness Checklist for 2018


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!

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: https://emergencyplanguide.org/top-ten/



Battery Failure Ruins Flashlight


We Test More Batteries

If you’ve been following our blog entries you know that over two years ago we ran some tests on our Emergency Response Team’s battery purchases and the batteries’ life expectancy.

Battery failure

Recent failure of one battery ruined the entire flashlight

What we found was that performance between Duracell and EverReady batteries was pretty much equal, and both outperformed their private label versions sold through the big box stores (Costco & Sam’s Club).

The one dramatic difference was a higher failure rate (i.e. leakage and corrosive damage to our radios, flashlights and other tools that we relied on) for the Duracell batteries than for the EverReady batteries.

It’s important to note here that our Neighborhood Emergency Response Team typically has close to sixty active volunteers. We issue each team member a radio (FRS/GMRS) and a flashlight. We run active monthly drills with the radios and recommend that members check their batteries regularly and change them twice annually. The result is that we spend almost $1,400.00 annually on AA, AAA, C & D batteries and replacement radios, flashlights and other devices.

Batteries Die and Fail

While most batteries simply die and are unable to produce sufficient voltage or current to power the devices, we experience a 15% (+) failure due leakage and corrosion. We are able to “repair” about half of the radios using baking soda & water paste applied with Q-tips to dissolve the corrosion confined to the battery compartments. Flashlights are usually a total loss.

You can easily see an example of corrosion on the black flashlight in the photo. It takes a sharper eye to spot the point of failure of the Premium AAA Duracell battery. The arrow points to the cavity where the casing failed at the bottom (negative pole), under the silver strip.

We Switch to Premium Batteries

Lately we have been using only the premium Duracells (red/gold, 10-yr guaranteed shelf life) since the EverReady batteries are no longer available through Sam’s Club (where we used to find the best price). Our hope was that by purchasing the higher-priced premium Duracells, we would experience a longer life and a reduced failure rate. So far we have no evidence that this will indeed be the case and, to date, the failure rate seems to be about the same as the regular Duracells.

As of this week we are stocking up on additional EverReady, Amazon, Ikea and Orchard Supply Hardware batteries to measure longevity. We will share our methodology and results in a future post.

And, while the comparison on battery failure rate will take longer to measure, the results will be more anecdotal since the sample size of our tests will be smaller and subject to individual team members’ actual usage and care patterns. We will share our experience in this regard as well with the caveat that it’s not possible to completely separate individual user habits from the failure rate experience.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. If you’re asking yourself why we don’t use rechargeable batteries, that’s a good question. But we think the answer makes sense. It’s this: We’ll only be using these radios and flashlights in a real emergency – most likely, after a major earthquake. We expect all power to be out for an extended period, days if not weeks. As soon as our rechargeables are dead (and they don’t last as long as disposables, anyway), we’ll be stuck. We don’t want that to happen! (Yes, we DO have some solar chargers. That’s a topic for another Advisory!)

P.P.S. If you are interested in the results of our planned test, be sure to sign up below to get our weekly Advisories.

Secure Your Space


The Great ShakeOut Hits California

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

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

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

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

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

No and Low Cost Recommendations for Quake Safety

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

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

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

Handyman Help for Quake Safety

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

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

Keep in mind:

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

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

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

Need a shopping list of earthquake safety items?

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

Picture or Mirror Hanger

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

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

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

Big Stuff on Shelves

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

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

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

Appliances and Furniture

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

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

QuakeHOLD! 4520 Universal Flat Screen Safety Straps

Quakehold! 4163 15-Inch Furniture Strap Kit, Beige

Quakehold! 2830 7-Inch Steel Furniture Cable

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

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

Objets d’art and Collectibles

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

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

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

Quakehold! 66111 2-Ounce Museum Wax


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

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

A Weekend’s Worth of Work

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

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

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

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

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



Retrofit Your Home to Prevent Earthquake Damage


Are you a homeowner, property owner, remodeler or home builder, or home energy specialist? Take three and one-half minutes to watch this video showing retrofit steps for protecting a home against damage from earthquake and winter storms.

Remodel home for earthquake

Click image to see 3 minute video on home remodel

The video was posted on YouTube by the Canadian Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) in partnership with Desjardins Insurance.

Most of the steps are simple and would apply to ALL homes, no matter where they are located. As an owner, you could consider having these changes made to your home or rental properties.  As a member of the construction industry, you might want to recommend these changes to customers.

Some of the work you could do yourself, like installing a fire extinguisher. (The video recommends “at least one in every home.” We think you probably need more than one: in the kitchen, for sure, but in the garage, too, or in the laundry room area.)

You would need a licensed professional’s help for some of the other items, like installing a generator or snow melting system along the roof edge.

Even if you aren’t in an area prone to earthquakes, a number of the suggestions in the video will apply, enhancing your home’s security and safety as well as your ability to function in a number of emergency situations. In some cases, making these improvements might even give you a discount on home insurance costs.

If this video is of interest to you, you may also want to review these more detailed home improvement advisories. Whatever you can do to protect your home will help you sleep better at night. Plus, it may help with the resale value!

What other improvements do you think people should consider? Drop your suggestions into the comments box below!


Virginia Nicols
Emergency Plan Guide Team

Business Owner – Do you employ drivers?



Where will your driver be when the disaster hits?

Delivering services to homebound seniors

At a meeting last week at the local American Red Cross, we were discussing a new program aimed at preparing the senior community for disaster.

Most of the people in the room represented companies that deliver services to homebound seniors. There were folks from Meals-on-Wheels, SeniorServ, and a whole group of home health care providers.

Home health care staff members drive from home to home to assist their elderly clients. In the case of an earthquake disaster, these drivers will likely be on the road in their car or in the home of a client when the earthquake hits. The drivers will NOT be at their own home, and they will NOT be at their employer’s office.

Homes with few if any resources

These senior clients are people who, by definition, are not self-sufficient. They may be disabled or frail. This means that the driver, caught in the home with the client, will be faced with taking care of the client as well as him or herself.

If the driver is on the road when the earthquake hits, what is her responsibility? To continue on to the client’s home when possible? Return to the office? Or head for home to join the family?

Responsibility of the employer

This situation raises several issues for the employer that need to be addressed through training or investment in appropriate emergency supplies and equipment. Based on the group at the American Red Cross meeting, there was no one correct answer. But everyone agreed that these questions DID deserve consideration, and a positive answer.

1. Do your drivers all have an emergency supplies kit in their vehicle?

2. Does the kit contain enough to share with a client?

3. Are your drivers clear about their responsibility to their clients in the case of an emergency?

4. Do you know how you will communicate with your drivers in an emergency?

5. Do you have a plan for communicating with your clients’ families in an emergency?

Are you an employer with drivers?

What emergency preparations have you made to cover your staff and your customers?  What liability do you feel you carry as the employer?  Please share!



Emergency Supplies List


If you’re looking for a checklist, you’ll find many, many of them online. FEMA offers up a 26-item list; the American Red Cross has a 36-item list, and different commercial companies (selling tools, pre-made kits, insurance, dried food)  have their own lists, some of which extend to hundreds of items.

Different lists serve different purposes

Comprehensive checklist

Page One of list

Over the years we have created or used different lists for different purposes. For example,

* At an introductory neighborhood meeting, you may wish to distribute a simple, one-page list with items that apply to everyone and that won’t appear too intimidating.

* In a community where people have had some training, a more comprehensive list would be a good idea. (We wrote earlier about the “door-hanger list” that we created for our community.) Naturally, adding items appropriate for the geography would make sense: rain gear, for example, or cold-weather gear.

* In a senior community, a list might focus on items that apply to older people: 14-day supply of medicines (and how to get your doctor to give you extras), extra eyeglasses, batteries for hearing aids, etc.

* A community with pets needs a completely different set of reminders. (You can get a copy of our Emergency Pet Supplies Kit here.)

* A quick reminder card, useful for teaching, might have only a half-dozen items or a specific, focused list of supplies (for example, what you need in your first aid kit).

Our Emergency Supplies List

The Emergency Plan Guide has prepared its own comprehensive list. We have found that breaking it into three sections makes it easier for people to focus on. The three sections are:

 17 basic items for a 3-day emergency

 11 more categories for managing an extended, 14-day emergency

 10 essentials to take if you must evacuate

What’s important is to get your list, and then take the time to see what’s missing from it based on your family’s needs. Add those items to the list, and start assembling!

Like many families, you may need to prepare not only for the three situations listed above, but you may also want to put together specialty kits to carry in your cars, for students away from home, or for the office.

Get started now!

There is no time to assemble emergency supplies after the earthquake, after the storm has hit, after the fire has forced you out of your home.  Action item:  Download the Emergency Supplies Checklist and get started.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S.  I am not called the “Queen of Lists” for nothing!  Stick around Emergency Plan Guide and you will discover a number of them. Lists help me think, and keep me on track.  I hope you’ll find them useful, too!


Improving Building Safety – Interior


Preparing Inside the Home

There is no guarantee that you’ll be home when the “big one” hits. But if your home has been prepared to withstand an earthquake or storm, you’ll find more there to appreciate when you DO get back.

I rode through the 1989 quake in the S.F. Bay Area in a restaurant. We came out shaken but unhurt. A couple of hours later I dropped off my colleague at her apartment. I went in with her. It was amazing.

The kitchen looked as though a whirling dervish had gone through every cabinet and cupboard and just tugged and thrown things out into the middle of the room. Broken glasses of relish and jam were mixed with dishes and pots and pans; fruit was mushed in with books and flour and, I remember, a broken bottle of vinegar. Broken flowerpots, broken fishbowl. (Who know where the fish was?) Plates and cups smashed, with a colander lying on top of them. Half the leftovers from the refrigerator, its door hanging open. Everything already starting to smell and spoil.

What a mess!

Large cabinet with metal tiedowns
Secure heavier items

Step One — Take a Safety Inventory.

To start to prepare your house, simply do a walkthrough and take an inventory of WHAT WILL FALL OUT OR FALL OVER?

Step Two — Build Your Action List.

Now, systematically begin securing your home against this potential damage. Here are some ideas and some of the tools or equipment you’ll need.

* Rearrange storage. Put heavy things on lower shelves, precious things behind cabinet doors. Keep dangerous or toxic materials in low cabinets, too.

* Get latches for your cabinets. Easy, cheap to install.

* Use adhesive putty (“Museum putty”) to pin down collectibles or art work on shelves.

* Strap down computers, monitors and TV screens. (Over 300 people were killed from falling TVs last year, not even in earthquakes!) Strapping kits are available at home improvement stores.

* Fasten bookcases and wardrobes to the wall. Our recent purchase of bookcases at Ikea automatically included earthquake angle brackets.

* Keep books on the shelves, even if the bookcase doesn’t fall over. String a piece of fishing line across the shelf in front of the books, or use specially designed elastic cords.

* Wine bottles?  Take a good look at your wine collection. Figure a way to restrain the bottles by enclosing them.

* Your refrigerator or dish washer may creep or fall in an earthquake. You can fasten it to the wall (to the studs) using plumber’s tape (metal straps with holes) or Velcro fasteners. Get some expert advice here before you attach anything to the refrigerator back.

If you’ve read this far, you realize that each house is different.

Action item: Do the walk-through today! If you have children, enlist their help. Start taking steps to make your home safer. (You’ll sleep better as a result, too.)

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. You’ll find some specific recommendations for safety fasteners, straps, etc. right  here.