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The Emergency Essentials Blog

  • Trapped in Traffic: Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving

    For Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law, his wife, and a few cousins drove from Utah to California to visit family for the holiday. As they were driving back to Utah the following Sunday, the weather turned sour. It wasn’t snowing heavily – just light rain and sleet, according to my brother-in-law – but that didn’t stop a wreck from happening 80 miles away from their home.

    winter-traffic winter drivingFortunately they weren't involved, but traffic was at a standstill. They would later discover that a semi-truck had jackknifed on the freeway, blocking all lanes. My brother-in-law took a side road – along with everyone else on the freeway – in order to get around the accident. As it turned out, traffic slowed to a crawl – and then full on stop – on that road as well. They moved six miles in an hour and a half. It was 8:00 at night, and they had work and school the next day.

    Later, they learned what had caused the stoppage on the access road – another semi-truck had jackknifed.

    Such experiences can be very frustrating. Fortunately, they all made it back safe and sound. The only casualty was a bit of sanity and some much needed sleep. But they’re alright, and that’s what matters.

    Winter has arrived here in Utah, and if it hasn’t arrived for you yet, it could very soon.

    We talk a lot about preparing your home and food storage for emergencies and disasters (which also includes winter), but today we’d like to help you get your car ready for winter driving conditions.

    First off, how’s your car’s emergency kit? Just like in your home, your car should be prepared with the essentials, just in case you slide off the road or are otherwise stranded in the cold. Ready.gov has a list of necessary items for your car’s kit. Some of those include the following:

     

    • Shovel
    • Windshield scraper
    • Flashlight
    • Water
    • Snack food
    • Blankets and warm clothing
    • Road salt/sand
    • Booster cables

     

    These are some of the basic necessities that need to go with you wherever you travel throughout the winter. Of course, you may have special circumstances and needs which you should prepare for as well, such as medications, pet supplies, or other such items.

    Thinking back on the experience of my brother-in-law, what might have happened if they had things not worked out for them? My first thought is gas.

    What would their trip home have been like if their gas tank had been low going into that traffic jam? During a chilly winter night, they could have been stuck without heat. Blankets, hats, mittens, and other warm clothing would have been a very welcomed resource in that situation. Fortunately, their gas tank was full enough until they could reach the next town (the towns are spread out quite far in the area in which they were stuck, so things could have been a lot worse).

    winter driving

    If they had been stuck on the road, snacks and water would not only do wonders for their morale, but help keep them hydrated, alert, and functioning properly in the event they needed more than just corn ships. Flashlights would have been useful in checking under the hood in case of car trouble (or having light by which passengers could read while they wait). A traffic jam is one thing. Sliding off the road in the middle of nowhere and having to wait for help to arrive would certainly require an emergency stash of gear.

    And the list goes on.

    You see, we never can plan for disasters (including two jackknifed trucks blocking two roads on one trip). That’s why it’s so important to have emergency gear and supplies in your car. The example scenarios above are only meant to give a hint of what could have been – the possibilities of what could have happened are many.

     

    Winter_Storm_Blog_Image2 winter driving

  • Second Tornado Season: Autumn Tornado Rips Through the South

    Winter has arrived in many places the country, but for some Southern states, warmer weather mixed with powerful storms brought destruction and death. In Alabama, a tornado killed at least three people Wednesday morning, according to NBC News, with two more later confirmed dead in Tennessee. One of the reasons this tornado may have been so disastrous is because it happened in the early hours of the day while people were still sleeping.

    Rain and high winds continued on Wednesday, with a tornado watch that lasted until noon local time.

    Tornado season lasts through July, but according to Weather.com, autumn is an unofficial “second” tornado season. This second season begins in the latter half of October and lasts all the way through November. Throughout October and November, severe thunderstorms are more likely to occur. As such, tornadoes are also more likely.

    The severe storms and tornado that hit the South occurred on November 30, the last day of the second tornado season.

    november-tornadoes-via-weather second tornado seasonTornadoes can happen in most states in November (see map). The most active outbreak during second tornado season was in November, 1992. 105 tornadoes struck in 13 different states from Texas through to the Carolinas. 26 people were killed and 638 people were injured during this three-day outbreak.

    Because it’s not as common to see tornadoes after July, complacency is an issue that can affect anyone. However, as we’ve seen in this case, tornadoes can and do happen throughout the year, even when we least expect them.

    Being prepared for tornadoes year round is an important part of preparedness. And it’s not just tornadoes. Earthquakes can strike without warning, day or night. Hurricanes can come before or after the season officially ends. Wild fires can blow up any time of the year. Many disasters won’t give advanced warning, so make sure you have everything you need while the skies are clear.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner Second tornado season

  • How is Your Cyber Security this Cyber Monday?

    It’s Cyber Monday. Your e-mail inbox is probably flooded with announcements of one-day deals. (Especially if you haven’t checked it since before Thanksgiving; you may also have gotten announcements about Black Friday sales, Thanksgiving sales, weekend sales, Early Bird sales, Early Access sales…the list goes on, and on, and on.

    If you’re shopping, or browsing, be careful. Here are some tips to help keep you safe, from staysafeonline.org and the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team.

    First, be careful where you shop. Make sure the vendor you’re dealing with is a reputable one. If you haven’t heard of the vendor, look it up and look for reviews.

    Check the site’s privacy policy. Some vendors share your information with partners and allow others to add your e-mail address to their mailing lists.

    Secure Internet with Cyber SecurityWhen you’re at a site, look at the URL. Fake websites may look identical to real ones, but the URL may use a different spelling or domain, like .com rather than .org. If you’re submitting personal information, make sure the address reads https:// or that it has a closed padlock icon. (The padlock icon may also be in the bottom right corner of the browser window.) This means the information you submit is encrypted while it’s being transmitted. The website Understanding Web Site Certificates tells more about what to consider.

    Also, be aware that some online stores and resellers on sites like eBay are selling toys recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC), according to a report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (PIRG). For example, PIRG was able to buy a $15 Disney Gadget Pencil Case that was recalled in August 2015.

    The CSPC lists tips for toy safety here, and provides a searchable database for recalled products here.

    Cyber Security Computer Crime: Internet Phishing a login and password

    Second, don’t click on an e-mail link or a link from a social media site to go to a vendor. It could be a phishing attack. Phishing attackers send e-mails or use links to pretend to be trustworthy vendors, like a credit card company. But their links will take you to a malicious site that sometimes looks like the real one, where they can steal your personal information. Instead, type in the vendor’s name or perform an internet search for the vendor.

    Third, keep your internet security software and apps up to date.

    “Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system is the best defense against viruses, malware and other online threats,” according to staysafeonline.org.

    Finally, follow these other online safety tips.

    Online shopping with Cyber Security

    Use a credit card, preferably one with a low credit limit, for online purchases. Credit card laws that limit your liability in case of fraud may not apply to debit cards.

    Check your bank statements and credit reports regularly. Everyone is allowed one free credit report per credit bureau per year, and some states allow more.

    Use a separate e-mail address just for shopping, and be careful about any information you give online. Treat your personal information like you treat your bank information.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner Cyber Security

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