• Preparing Children with Emergency Signs

    Preparing children for emergencies is essential for families. You can train most children, even young ones, how to react to a disaster. You should create an emergency plan for natural and human-caused disasters, then practice at least twice a year so everyone knows where to go and who to contact in case they need to evacuate, recommends the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

    However, babies can’t be trained. Pets usually have trouble following an evacuation plan. Some special needs family members can’t be trained or may have trouble communicating or moving. Some use medical equipment like concentrated oxygen, which is explosive in a fire.

    Preparing Children - Baby on BoardThough not for everybody, emergency signs can be useful to those populations. These include window stickers that indicate children’s bedrooms, oxygen signs, medical alert stickers and bracelets, and car signs like, oh, yeah, “Baby on Board.” “Baby on Board” signs were so ubiquitous in the mid-1980s they even inspired a song on “The Simpsons.”

    The advantage is simple: the more information first responders have, the better, said Trooper Josh Lewis from the Colorado State Patrol.

    An autistic boy from his church congregation wandered away from home, which caused an hours-long search. Fortunately, the boy wore a medical alert bracelet.

    “Should law enforcement come across him and see … the medical alert bracelet, we would much rather have the information than not,” Lewis said.

    Medical alert stickers are available.

    Preparing Children - Autistic ChildEmergency signs are useful on cars too. A sign like “Autistic child may not respond to verbal commands” or even “Baby on Board” helps first responders be more alert, Lewis said.

    “Any time we respond to a crash and see a car seat or anything that has to do with a kid in a vehicle, we are going to scour the area,” he said.

    Advocacy groups often recommend emergency alert window stickers for apartment buildings, said Ken Willette, division manager of the public fire protection division of the NFPA. They help responders know where to search first. Private homeowners may also post the stickers.

    “It’s all about life and safety. If people feel comfortable putting up a warning label or sign to let first responders know they might need special services, that’s a good thing,” he said.

    Preparing Children with OxygenOxygen signs are not voluntary, Willette said. Many states require people to post an oxygen sign if they have compressed oxygen cylinders in their home. Remember the movie “Apollo 13”? A single spark in its oxygen tank destroyed the spacecraft.

    Emergency responders like to know if they’ll be facing something like that. Wouldn’t you?

    Voluntary signs like child stickers in windows can come with disadvantages, according to the NFPA.

    First, they can create a false sense of security and imply that children should wait for rescue. Parents need to teach children to respond immediately when the smoke alarms sounds, know two ways out of every room, crawl under smoke, gather at a meeting place and call the fire department from outside a burning building, according to the NFPA.

    Second, emergency signs can suggest vulnerable areas in the home to intruders. They also open up owners to the abuses from bullies. A mother in Utah who had an autism warning sign for first responders on her car came out one morning to find somebody had defaced it with stickers that read “spoiled brat” and “unetitled” (sic).

    Preparing Children - Tag their roomFinally, and most importantly, when children change rooms or grow up, the window signs need to change rooms or be removed. Firefighters could waste vital rescue time looking for a child who isn’t there, a NFPA brochure said.

    With all that in mind, if you choose to use emergency signs, or must use them by law, follow two directions. Make sure the signs are visible and take them down when they don’t apply. Whether or not you use emergency notification equipment, do contact emergency services in your area if you have family members with special medical needs. Some fire departments can enter that information so it will show when dispatchers access an address, Willette said. If you have medical equipment that requires electricity, tell power companies so they can prioritize that during outages.

    “As long as you feel comfortable, first responders would much rather have the information than not,” Lewis said.

    Emergency notification signs, bracelets, and stickers are available in many places. I found them for sale with a simple Web search and on Amazon.com. Some fire departments sometimes have free window stickers. I also found free printable signs with a Google search. As you see, preparing children is more than just teaching them about disasters. It's about informing others around you to take extra care as well.


    - Melissa

    Posted In: Planning Tagged With: emergency sign, baby on board, preparing children

  • The Hayward Fault is Overdue for a Massive Quake

    “The reality is a major quake is expected on the [Hayward] fault ‘any day now.’”

    Hayward FaultBay Area residents beware. Tom Brocher, a US Geological Survey Scientist, thinks such a quake is a very real possibility. In fact, the US Geological Survey (USGS) website describes how USGS scientists refer to the Hayward fault as a “tectonic time bomb.” But does anybody know the time it’s set to go off? Probably not. But just because we don’t know exactly when it can happen, we know that it could still happen at any time. That’s why the USGS and other organizations “are working together with new urgency to help prepare Bay Area communities for this certain future quake.”

    You may have heard about the 4.0 earthquake that rattled the East Bay area in California last Tuesday at 2:41 in the morning, and was just one of many earthquakes commonly occurring around the bay area. It produced 13 aftershocks. Although these aftershocks were all very minimal, this fault has been quite an active geological threat. Brocher said they “keep a close eye on the Hayward Fault because it does sit in the heart of the Bay Area and when we do get a big earthquake on it, it’s going to have a big impact on the entire Bay Area.”

    1868 Image - USGS.gov 1868 Hayward Fault earthquake damages the Alameda County Courthouse - USGS.gov

    The last time the Hayward fault released a big quake was way back in 1868. There were thirty people killed and a lot of property damaged. But that was nearly 150 years ago, and the local population is now 100 times bigger than it was back then. How many more lives will be impacted when this next major quake does happen?

    According to Brocher, major earthquakes along this fault system occur about every 140 years. And, just like the behemoth of the Cascaida subduction zone, we are overdue for a big one. Don’t worry, though. This most recent 4.0 quake will “not likely…have much of an impact…on the likelihood of a major earthquake occurring on the same fault.” Rather, Brocher (along with the rest of USGS) is merely stating that there’s an earthquake coming, and like it not (or believe it or not), you could be seeing it any time.

    Speaking of time…did you notice the time when the latest Hayward fault quake hit? It was at 2:41 in the morning. So when I say “any time,” I mean that quite literally. You could see (or feel, rather) this earthquake any time of day, night, or, as we see here, in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t know about you, but I’m usually sleeping at that hour (I say usually, but with a newborn waking up every hour or two, chances are I’ll be awake no matter what time an earthquake hits).

    Hayward Fault can happen at any time tweetDespite the concern of the “certain future quake,” as USGS calls it, they sent out a reminder tweet on Twitter stating that “although a Hayward fault quake CAN happen any time it does NOT mean it’s expected any day now.” So don’t worry, the Hayward fault quake is not destined to go off in the next day or two. Although it most certainly could, what they are stressing is the fact that, sooner or later, that fault line is going to produce a very violent earthquake. They just want you to be ready for it.

    So, how does that impact you? Well, for starters, I do hope you will begin (or continue) preparing. Whether or not the Hayward fault quake happens tomorrow, the next day, or years after you move to the other side of the country, your earthquake kit will help you when you need it. And if not for an earthquake, you can most certainly use it for some other disaster, too (they’re versatile like that).

    Because you could be sleeping during an earthquake, make sure to secure wall hangings, decorations, or anything else that could fall on you in the middle of the night should the shaking and quaking start. That being said, you might as well secure anything that could fall down in your house and become a danger. Pictures, bookshelves, and even kitchen cupboards should be secured.

    While I understand that this news isn’t, well, new, it is still important that we be reminded of potential disasters so we can get our emergency prep together. Who’s really to say when this next big earthquake will strike? What I do know is, though, we all need to continue preparing, because sure as day (or night), if we aren’t prepared, that’s when the disaster will happen. So go on out, get yourself an earthquake survival kit, and be prepared for whatever big one hits your neighborhood.


    Hayward Fault - Be Prepared


    How are you prepared for an earthquake? Let us know in the comments below!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: USGS, Bay Area, Hayward fault line, Earthquake

  • 7 Ways to Beat the Heat Without Electricity

    Beat the Heat - Anomalies NOAA

    It’s hot. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last year and last month were the warmest in 135 years. The U.S. had its second-warmest June.

    In extreme temperatures, power companies sometimes struggle to meet demand, resulting in outages and blackouts. About 55 million people in the northeastern U.S. and Canada lost power on August 14, 2003 after a sagging high voltage line hit a tree. Some places didn’t get power back for two days.

    High temperatures cause about 175 deaths in the United States every year. A 1980 heat wave killed more than 1,250 people. Of all natural disasters, only winter’s cold is more deadly.

    “In the U.S., extreme heat may have greater impact on human health, especially among the elderly, than any other type of severe weather,” said NOAA’s “Heat Wave: A Major Summer Killer.”

    Here are seven tips that will help you beat the heat and stay cool should you find yourself without power.


    Stay in the coolest part of the house or in the shade

    Beat the Heat - ShadeWhen it got really hot outside and her power went off, Barbara Benson used to stay in her basement.

    “You really had to,” she said.

    If you don’t have a basement, the north side of a larger building will be cooler than the south side, according to FEMA’s Ready.gov/heat. Uncarpeted rooms will be cooler. Keep an eye on the temperature inside. It can become warmer than outside.


    Use the windows

    FEMA suggests covering windows during the day. Cardboard covered by aluminum foil or a reflective blanket works as an inexpensive sunlight reflector. We even have reflective blankets that would also do the job nicely.

    If there’s a breeze during the day, open windows across from each other and put a wet towel in front of the windward side window, suggests Angela Paskett, who writes an emergency preparedness blog. Also open them at night so the draft can cool the house.


    Dress cool

    If you’re in the sun, wear a hat. Sunburns can severely diminish the body’s ability to get rid of heat. Your clothes should cover as much skin as possible and be loose and light colored. Natural fabrics like cotton breathe better than synthetic ones like polyester.


    Drink lots, Eat Cool, and Cook Outside

    Beat the Heat - Fruit Fruit is a great way to beat the heat

    If you don’t have to cook, don’t. Well-balanced, light meals with lots of fruit and vegetables are easier to digest, which produces less body heat and decreases water loss, according to NOAA. If you cook, do so outside.

    Drink water even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol, and lots of sugar. Those can cause greater thirst.


    Use water

    To keep her grandchildren cool, Benson built a “Kid Wash,” a PVC pipe contraption with holes punched in overhead pipes. Water flows into the pipes from a hose and drips out like a shower.

    “(My grandkids) love it,” she said.

    Paskett’s blog recommends four ways to use water to stay cool:

    Get in a tub or pool.

    Put a wet towel anywhere you check a pulse.

    Wear wet clothes.

    Use a water-filled spray bottle.


    Check on vulnerable family and friends

    Older people, young children, and people with chronic illness or obesity are at higher risk for heat stroke and death, according to FEMA.

    “Heat cramps in a 17-year-old may be heat exhaustion in someone (age) 40 and heat stroke in a person over 60,” according to NOAA.

    Ready.gov suggests getting to know neighbors to be aware of those who live alone and might be at risk.


    Recognize heat-related illness

    Humans get rid of heat by sweating and sweat evaporation, pumping blood closer to the skin and panting. When the body can’t get rid of enough heat, or has a chemical imbalance from sweating too much, it goes into heat exhaustion.

    WebMD lists signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion: confusion, dizziness and fainting, dark-colored urine, headache, cramps, nausea, pale skin, profuse sweating, and rapid heartbeat.

    To treat, get the patient out of the heat, give them plenty of fluid and try cooling with water and fans. If symptoms haven’t improved in 15 minutes, emergency medical help may be necessary because heat exhaustion can become heat stroke.

    Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature control breaks down. Core body temperature rises above 105 degrees. Other symptoms include fainting, nausea, seizures and impaired mental state. Heat stroke can kill, so if you feel you’re at risk, call 911 immediately and try cooling strategies like wetting the patient or applying ice packs.


    No matter what happens this summer, make sure you find ways to stay cool and well hydrated.


    - Melissa


    How do you beat the heat? Let us know in the comments below!

    Posted In: Heat Tagged With: heat exhaustion, heat stroke, beat the heat, summer, dehydration

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