• Preparing With Disaster Apps

    Your smartphone can save your life.

    It’s true! Now, it probably won’t jump in the ocean and pull you safely from a rip tide, and it more than likely won’t put out the wild fire that’s coming dangerously close to your home. Instead, it can save your life by providing you with all sorts of disaster apps dedicated to helping you be prepared in the event of a crisis.

    Red Cross Disaster AppsVector Button - Canada Flag IconAnd, because it's Canada Day, and the Red Cross' logo is red and white (is that too big of a stretch? Nah, it's good)... I want to take today to talk about what the Red Cross is doing to help people use their phones to be prepared. They have put out a host of apps all dedicated to helping you be safe, even without a wireless or data connection.

    For example, the Emergency App monitors 35 different types of severe weather and emergency alerts, such as floods, tornadoes, wildfires, extreme heat, earthquakes, and more. So no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you will be alerted if there’s a disaster that could affect you and your area. Aside from just alerting you to issues, it also includes tips to make disaster prep plans, where to find shelters in your area, and a “Family Safe” function to allow you to see if your loved ones are safe if an alert is issued for their area.

    More specific disaster apps focus on a particular disaster, such as hurricanes or tornadoes. In these specific disaster apps, you can monitor and track hurricanes and other storms, find shelters, and earn badges by taking interactive quizzes about that particular disaster. These apps also provide you with information on what to do before, during, and after a disaster.

    Monster Guard Disaster App Red Cross

    There’s even an app for kids, called Monster Guard. Monster Guard is a game that teaches kids aged 7-11 how to prepare for real-life emergencies, whether you're at or away from home. Throughout the game, kids are able to practice what they learn within the levels, thus helping them instill that knowledge in their minds.

    So not only does it give you information you need, but actually helps teach you that knowledge so you don’t have to rely on it in the moment. Because in the moment, you might not even remember you have that app. And if you do, you’re probably going to want your hands free.

    Preparing for disasters isn’t what it used to be. Technology has made it easy to learn about disasters, and therefore be ready for them. Just a few quick taps on your phone or tablet will open up a wide world of information, utilities, and aids that will help you and your family be ready for pretty much anything.

    Now all you have to do is actually use them.

    It’s one thing to have the app on your phone or tablet, but it’s something else entirely to actually utilize it. How many apps do you have on your mobile device that you never use? I’ll be honest, my phone is packed full of apps, and I only use a handful of them. I think I’ll use them eventually, but really, they just sit there gathering digi-dust.

    When you download these Red Cross apps, make sure they don’t get lost in some folder titled “May Use Eventually.” Use them frequently so you can always have that all-important knowledge in your mind, so when the time comes to actually use that information, you won’t have to worry about knowing the right thing to do. While these apps are designed to help us during and after a disaster, they also have important information to help you prepare before one shows up, so the aftermath won’t be so bad.

    With this kind of media easily accessible, it is my hope that you take the time to download and familiarize yourselves with these apps. Preparedness fits in the palm of your hand. Don’t forget to look down at it once in a while.

     

    p.s. Happy Canada Day!

     

    How do you use media to be prepared? Let us know in the comments!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Planning, Practice Your Prep Tagged With: Canada day, red cross, disaster app

  • Bird Flu and Egg Shortage

    Bird flu causes egg shortagePicture this. You go to the supermarket and grab a carton of a dozen eggs. You open it and find four missing. So you pick up another carton. Same thing. You try again. Every carton contains only eight eggs.

    Thanks to avian influenza (bird flu), that’s what happened to companies that produce liquid, frozen, dehydrated, and freeze dried eggs.

    As of June 17, avian influenza had affected more than 35 million egg-laying hens. Businesses making egg products like dehydrated eggs lost more than 30 percent of their hens, according to an American Egg Board blog. That’s two out of every six eggs.

    “America’s egg farmers are working hard to find sources for their manufacturing partners and food service customers. However, due to the current supply disruption, there may be some shortages,” the blog said.

    Like human influenza, many strains of avian influenza exist.

    Most are low pathogenic, which means poultry don’t get very sick. Some are high pathogenic, or deadly to domestic flocks. Some can kill 90 to 100 percent of birds in a flock in two days.

    Bird flu carrierWild water birds carry the disease and usually don’t get sick, according to the CDC. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service believes those birds likely brought the virus to the U.S. Once here, it may have passed from bird to bird through contact with feces or through the air in poultry houses. The virus could have flown from farm to farm on water birds, hitchhiked on contaminated vehicles and clothing or, though unlikely, been blown by high wind carrying dust and feathers. Scientists have found the virus on the shells of eggs.

    The CDC identified three high pathogenic strains in this year’s outbreak. None of them seem to jump easily from birds to people, though one is similar to a strain that made people sick in Europe, Asia and South Africa.

    “These specific viruses have not caused infections in people anywhere in the world,” said Alicia Fry from the CDC, in an April 22 news conference. “While we are cautiously optimistic that there will not be human cases, we must be prepared for that possibility, and we are taking routine preparedness steps.”

    Almost everyone who caught the virus worked closely with birds. People can’t get bird flu from eating properly cooked birds or eggs, said Angela Shaw, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition and extension specialist in food safety at Iowa State University.

    “Avian influenza is not a food borne pathogen,” Shaw said.

    Egg prices caused by bird flu US Department of Agriculture

    Even though we probably won’t get bird flu, it still affects our wallets.

    The USDA’s Egg Market News Report said for the week of June 22, a dozen large eggs sold for a $2.35 national average. The average price over the last three years, for the same week, was about 95 cents.

    Almost all of the nation’s eggs are spoken for. And it’s not like stores can stock a surplus of fresh ones. There’s such a thing as a rotten egg.

    That’s why many retailers and food service customers are having trouble getting products like freeze dried eggs.

    Companies making such egg products are struggling to get enough eggs to keep up with demand. Here’s what the USDA’s Egg Market News Report said about late June’s dried egg supply:

    “Supplies are very light as processors work to supply needs hand to mouth to regular commitments.”

    Individuals can still get and store eggs like the powdered and freeze-dried ones we sell. Frankly, we at Emergency Essentials are lucky: we were able to secure one of the last available shipments of freeze-dried eggs before the shortage became complete. Those eggs should be available though by the end of July.

    Because these eggs are pasteurized during processing, no one has to worry about them containing creepy crawlies like bacteria or viruses.

    Avian flu usually decreases during the summer, because the sun’s radiation more quickly breaks down the virus. However, agriculture specialists are bracing for autumn.

    “We can’t really predict what’s going to happen in the future,” said David Swayne, from the USDA’s Southeast Poultry Research Lab, on April 22. “But once the birds go in the summer up to their northern breeding grounds, it’s really not sure if they will be able to bring the virus back south or not.

    “We have to prepare for that potential option.”

    --Melissa Rivera

     

    Sources

    American Egg Board: http://www.aeb.org/blog/food-manufacturers

    Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/avian-in-birds.htm

    U.S. Department of Agriculture: http://www.usda.gov/documents/usda-avian-influenza-factsheet.pdf; http://www.usda.gov/documents/avian-influenza-biology-outbreaks-qa.pdf

    USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: “Epidemiologic and Other Analyses of HPAI-Affected Poultry Flocks: June 15, 2015 Report”: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/animal_dis_spec/poultry/downloads/Epidemiologic-Analysis-June-15-2015.pdf

    Transcript: USDA and CDC Update to Media on Highly Pathogenic H5N2 Avian Influenza Outbreaks, April 22, 2015

    http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2015/04/0113.xml

    Iowa State University, “Eggs and Poultry Safe to Eat, Iowa State University Food Safety Specialist Stresses,” April 21, 2015: http://www.cals.iastate.edu/news/releases/eggs-and-poultry-safe-eat-iowa-state-university-food-safety-specialist-stresses

    USDA Egg Market News Report, June 22, 2015: http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/pybshellegg.pdf

    Posted In: Additional Reading, Food Storage Tagged With: freeze-dried eggs, egg shortage, egg prices, bird flu, avian flu

  • What Should You Do During a Wildfire?

    “It was so frightening that I couldn’t even cry.”

    Santa Clarita Fire (AP) Associated Press

    That was one woman’s reaction to the brushfire in Santa Clarita, California earlier this week. As of yesterday afternoon, the fire was 95% contained. Firefighters are currently working to extinguish the remainder of the flames.

    We’re not even into July, and already there have been 2,486 wildfires in California in this year. The report from NBC Los Angeles says that number is “up from 1,654 the state has averaged over the last five years.” So far 8,600 acres have burned.

    Wildfires can happen anywhere. And, more often than not (try 90% more often), these fires are started by humans. Nature plays her part in starting fires, too, such as lightning strikes or super-duper hot weather. Whether it’s intentional (ie. arson), from lack of caution and fire safety (such as while out camping), humans are a big contributor to the roughly 1.2 million acres burned each year in the United States. To put that into contrast, 1.2 million acres burning up is like the entire state of Delaware being torched. Sure, it’s not a huge state, but with a population nearing 1 million people, that's a lot of livelihood. Southern California alone has over 22 million people, and its dry, hot climate makes it extremely prone to wildfires.

    Wildfires are fast. They can travel at speeds of 14 miles an hour, engulfing everything in its path. 14 miles an hour might not seem fast when you’re driving in your car, but when you're running...that's quite a pace to keep up. 14 miles an hour just got very, very tiring. That’s one reason wildfires are so dangerous. They can catch up to you without much warning.

    How are you supposed to prepare for a wildfire? First off, you should plan ahead so you know what to do when one does come. If you don’t, you could end up like this family:

     

     

    As seen in this video, not planning can result in a very scary, dangerous situation. So please, plan ahead!

    You should also do things aside from just putting your plan on paper. Make sure the surrounding area of your home is free of debris and dead grass, trees, and anything else that can be used as fire fodder. Having well-watered grass can slow the approach of fire, too.

    Fire Approaching House (NY Times) New York Times

    Once the fire gets too close and evacuation warnings are issued, strongly consider leaving your home. As per your plan you just made in regards to wildfires, grab your most important documents and belongings, hop in your car, and get out of there. Your own safety is far more important than your possessions.

    That being said, you may have the desire to stick around and defend your home. You can do that, but beware: it was very dangerous, especially if you don’t know exactly what you need to do. Perhaps I’ll write up a “How to Defend Your Home from Invading Forest Fires” blog in the near future, but until you know what to do, it’s better to be safe.

    Now, before we get too carried away in our loathing of these wildfires, there is a bit more information you might want to be made aware of. Although wildfires can be quite dangerous and destructive to us humans, they actually play a very important role in nature. National Geographic teaches us that

    “[Wildfires] return nutrients to the soil by burning dead or decaying matter. They also act as a disinfectant, removing disease-ridden plants and harmful insects from a forest ecosystem. And by burning through thick canopies and brushy undergrowth, wildfires allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, enabling a new generation of seedlings to grow.”

    That’s not to say we should be starting fires all over the place. Au contraire, we should do all we can to avoid igniting wildfires in the first place. After all, Smokey the Bear believes that “only you can prevent wildfires.” And, while natural fires benefit nature, man-made fires do not.

     

    Have you been threatened by a wildfire? What did you do to prepare?

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Planning Tagged With: forest fire, brushfire, California, wildfire, Prepare

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