• How Can Your Facebook Be Used for Emergency Communications?

    For about a year now, Facebook has been utilizing an emergency communications tool that helps friends know if each other is safe during disasters. Having experienced some disasters myself (albeit minor ones), I can see where this can come in very handy indeed. I’ll go into more detail on Facebook’s disaster tool in a moment, but first, join me as I flash back about ten years ago.

    Philippines Rice Field (Bukid)So there I was, living in the Philippines. One day, we got a pretty nasty tropical storm in the area in which I was living. I was quite a ways south of Manila (the capitol), where cities cease to exist and there’s a whole lot of nothing (except rice fields. There’s a lot of rice fields).

    Earlier that day, I had traveled up to the nearest town to do some much needed shopping and intended to hit up an internet café whilst there so as to let my family know I’m still alive (I would only email them once a week). Before I could get to the internet café, however, the storm blew in and I took shelter in the home of some friends.

    After a few hours of holing up inside, the storm finally subsided. When I went outside, I was shocked to see the damage that had taken place. Large trees had been uprooted, blocking roads and being a general nuisance. Power lines were down. The streets were absolutely flooded. Public transportation wasn’t going back down to where I lived because the roads were blocked with fallen trees.

    Worse still, there was no Internet to be found. That’s right, the storm broke the Internet.

    At this point, there was nothing I could do to contact my family. Fortunately, the storm wasn’t hurricane-strength, so chances are they wouldn’t even know I’d been hit by a storm and suspect a problem.

    But what if it had been something more severe? I didn’t have any way to keep up to date on the news of what was happening or where the best place to go was. Most importantly, how would my family know I was OK?

    Well, I was OK, and the next day I was able to find a place with email, and all was well. This was before the days of smart phones and Facebook (more or less), but since then, technology has increased in such a way that social media had become an effective way of making sure family and friends are safe during disasters.

    When the world turns on us and unleashes disasters on its surface, lots and lots of people turn to Facebook for answers. People want to know if their family and friends are affected, and if they’re OK. Noticing this trend, the good folks at Facebook have created a new tool to help its millions of users check up on others. This tool is called Safety Check.

    Here’s how it works.

    Once activated, Safety Check will use its superior intellect to know if you’re in the affected city or not. That superior intellect will determine where you are based on which city you’ve listed in your profile, the last place you checked in, and the city where you are using Internet. So really, Facebook’s Safety Check will determine your location based on the information you supply.

    Facebook SafetyCheckIf Safety Check determines that you are in the affected area, it will send you a Facebook notification asking if you’re safe. You can then select the “I’m safe” option, or if Facebook got your location wrong (because it’s not omniscient after all), you can select the “I’m not in the area” option. Once selected, your safety status will be sent to your friends, so they can know you’re safe.

    Communications are very important during a disaster. How will you know your family is safe? How will they know you are safe? Or how about getting the latest information during a disaster when power is out and the TV is down?

    Being safe during a disaster can require more than just food and water storage. Knowing what is happening can give you the upper hand when deciding what to do. Facebook has adopted emergency safety into its repertoire. But if you don’t have Facebook or access to that sort of technology, what other options are there?

    I give you three ways in which to communicate during an emergency (without using a phone).


    1. Whistles
    Whistle Give a little whistle...


    Let’s start with the good, ol’ fashion whistle. Having a whistle during an emergency is an easy, energy-efficient way of signaling for help. I say energy efficient in terms of your own energy (although, whistles are also great at saving electricity because, well, they’re whistles). While yelling and hollering can be loud and get attention, it takes more energy to hoot and holler than it does to blow into a whistle. The whistle will also produce a much louder noise than you may be able to produce (unless you’ve got the pipes of an opera singer, then in which case you probably win).

    I used to be a rugby referee, and let me tell you, the only way those players are going to hear you is if you have a really loud whistle. I can yell until I’m blue in the face, but nothing works better than my whistle. I have since re-purposed my ref whistle to be my emergency whistle for my emergency kit. I’m a believer.


    1. MirrorSignal Mirrors

    Another option for communication would be archaic signal mirrors. If you’re lost in the wilderness and looking for a rescue, enlisting the brightness of the sun to join your cause can help others find you in a…flash.


    1. Radios

    RadioRadios are a great option for any emergency. For one thing, radios allow you to tune in to local broadcasts, which means you won’t be left in the dark when you need to know important information. Speaking of not being left in the dark, some radios are even equipped with flashlights! Also, you don’t always have a power source, and there are many hand-crank and solar radios out there that charge up without the use of electricity. Very handy in a pinch.



    Getting the information you need during an emergency can help you prepare, know where to go and what to do, and give you peace of mind that your loved ones are safe. Facebook has seen the need to help people communicate during disasters and have created a tool to help those around the world stay connected during those difficult times.

    Whether you’re a Facebooker or not, it’s important for all of us to know how our family and friends are faring during disasters and other emergencies. Be prepared with a plan for emergency communications during these times.


    What communications devices do you prefer to have during emergencies? What would you recommend to your fellow preppers? Let us know in the comments!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Emergency Kits, Planning Tagged With: SafetyCheck, Emergency communications, facebook

  • 2 Things Japan Teaches Us About Disaster Preparation

    Dark water surges from the sea, the 40 meter wave crashing down upon anything that stands in its way. Streets become rushing rivers, and then an extension of the ocean itself. Boats take to the flooded streets, belly up as they careen through the city. Entire buildings are uprooted from their foundation, tossed and battered as the tsunami waves push them farther and farther away from where they had once rested.

    This may sound like something out of a fantasy novel (because really, a 40 meter wave?), but this is exactly what happened to Japan only four years ago. This video gives you just a taste of the destruction that took place:



    The Great East Japan Earthquake How do you prepare for the unexpected?

    Four years ago, Japan was rocked by the Great East Japan Earthquake – a 9.0 magnitude – which was followed by a devastating tsunami. Now, the effected regions have had time to recoup and rebuild. Japan is now teaching the world what it’s learned from this disaster.

    Every 10 years, the United Nations holds a World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. This year it was hosted in Japan. In particular, the conference was held in Sendai, which, according to the Japan Times, “is a city that is synonymous with resilience to disasters for its remarkable recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.”

    There are two things in particular that stand out from what Japan is trying to do.

    1. Cost effective prior investment
    2. “Building back better” (creating nations and regions that are more resilient than they were before the disaster)


    Cost Effective Prior Investment

    I think the key words here are “prior investment.” Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, the government took aims to make their nation safer when it comes to disasters.

    Richter ScaleThis earthquake registered at 9.0 on the Richter scale, and when talking about it they use words like “unpredictable.” But guess what? It happened anyway, predictable or not. However, despite the unexpected quake, Japan already had preparations in place. Well, maybe not for a 9.0, but they get a 7.0 or 8.0 about once a decade, so earthquakes are something they have prepared for. That’s why they’re urging other nations to get prepared, just in case one of these “unpredictable” disasters strikes again. If something of this magnitude doesn’t strike, there are bound to be other disasters instead. As the saying goes, prepare for the worse, hope for a lesser disaster instead (or something to that effect).

    Japan has also put into place a Disaster Prevention Law. Don’t be fooled, this law isn’t to meant to illegalize disasters (thereby reducing them through incarceration), but to find ways to make them less devastating. One way is through construction. Their high-rises sway like trees when the ground starts shaking. Because of their construction requirements, these buildings can withstand heavy quakes, thus saving countless lives within the buildings. Another way Japan prepares is by having homes and businesses stockpile food and water.

    Sound familiar?

    We talk all the time about storing food and water for those “unpredictable” moments. Fortunately for Japan, it was before the disaster that these preventative measures were put into place. If they had waited until after this massive disaster, many more lives would have been lost. Of course, we’re talking about a global scale here, but we can definitely shrink it down to fit your personal life.

    Tsunami Evac Tower (nikkei) Do you know where you can go when disaster strikes?

    For example, how can “prior investment” relate to you? Well, in the same way the Japanese are gathering a supply of food and water for emergencies, can you do the same? Japan has also constructed tsunami evacuation towers to give people a place for refuge during such storms. Do you have your own personal evacuation tower? Where will you go when your tsunami crashes against you? Do you have preventative measures in place to weaken the blow, or lessen the damage?

    Prior Investment now is the only way you will weather an earthquake, hurricane, accident, job loss, or any form of disaster that could affect you.

    There are several ways to get started with your prior investment. Here are some pre-storm preparations to consider:

    1. Emergency kits
    2. First aid kits
    3. Food storage
    4. Water storage
    5. Contingency plan

    There are many different kits available (pre-made) for your convenience, and at a good price. There are also plenty of individual kit items available, so you can build your own kits or add to existing ones (check out the links above for options and ideas).

    There is time to prepare before those “unexpected” disasters strike. That time is now.


    “Building Back Better”

    OK, so maybe you were caught off guard when disaster struck. What should you do now?

    Well, I’ll tell you what you shouldn’t do. You shouldn’t sit around thinking lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. Just ask the folks in Kissimmee, Florida who had three hurricanes pass through in 2004, or the people in Moore Oklahoma, today digging out from their second tornado in less than 2 years. These are people committed to “Building Back Better.” We should be, too.

    Lightning ThunderThe odds of you getting struck by lightning twice is statistically very low, and the odds of you getting struck even once in your lifetime is 1 in 3000. So if it can happen once, it can happen again. Remember Japan’s 9.0 earthquake? The odds of an earthquake of that magnitude occurring was once in several centuries. Who could have seen that one coming! But come it did. Just because the odds are in your favor, it doesn’t mean you’ll come out the victor.

    When it comes to “building back better,” take a look at Japan’s example. They have become the leaders in helping countries be prepared for disaster.

    There is a saying that goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

    I’d like to change that up, if I could, to something a little more…human:

    “Fool me once, shame on me for not preparing for it in the first place. Fool me twice…well, maybe I’ll get lucky? I hope.”

    We should never let ourselves be fooled, not even once. It shouldn’t happen, since we can all be prepared for anything. But being fooled twice is downright unacceptable. We need to learn from the past, be it our own or the past of others, like Japan. Lightning has struck in the same place twice, after all (or for one (un)lucky man, seven times).

    We can learn a lot from The Great East Japan Earthquake. If you’re prepared before unforeseen disaster strikes, you will be so much better off. If you haven’t prepared…it’s time to take the next step and begin working on preparing yourself and your family.


    Has disaster ever caught you unawares? What happened? Looking back, what could you have done better? Share with us your experiences!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Emergency Kits, Planning Tagged With: be prepared, Japan, Tsunami, Earthquake, emergency preparedness

  • Don't Doubt the Drought

    Water Main CoverIn case you missed it, the state of California just passed a new set of water restrictions in its ongoing efforts to survive what experts are calling the second worst drought in US history. We’ve talked about the drought in this forum before. In fact, we spent a good chunk of 2014 looking at the varied effects of such a widespread dry spell—everything from gardening adjustments and grocery prices to wildfires and rattlesnakes!


    So, while Californians are already pulling out their lawns and keeping a wary eye out for parched pests, the San Jose Mercury News describes residents’ latest requirements:


    “[T]he rules adopted Tuesday:

    Watering Lawn

    • Ban all restaurants, bars and hotels from serving water unless customers ask for it.


    • Require all hotels and motels to provide signs in rooms telling guests that they have the option of choosing not to have towels and linens washed daily.


    • Ban Californians from watering lawns and landscaping with potable water within 48 hours after measurable rainfall.


    • Require cities, counties, water districts and private companies to limit lawn watering to two days a week if they aren't already limiting lawn and landscape watering to a certain number of days a week.”


    Yikes. And if no ice water at your favorite restaurant sounds drastic, it might not be drastic enough. In light of Gov. Brown’s call to cut water use by 20% in 2014, water activist Conner Everts points out, “we are failing”—the state’s water consumption went down by less than 10% last year, leading to the current restrictions. And then there’s Everts’ haunting question:


    “At what point do we accept that this might be the fourth year of a 10-year drought?”


    Water LevelsSo, while California farmers drain the last of what blogger Mark Morford calls “our ‘backup’ water” from the ground, we’ll be sending moist thoughts and rainy vibes westward. However, if you live somewhere supposedly unaffected by the drought, don’t think that you get to stop paying attention. Have you heard the adage, “When the time for decision comes, the time for preparation has passed”? In other words, if you’re not currently experiencing a drought, the time to prepare for one is now!


    As ever, start with good information. Check out the blog posts listed below to learn more about water purification, filtration, and (critically!) storage. Then don’t forget to browse our water products for everything from tablets and filters to barrels and pouches.



    How about you? How has your area been affected? What have you been doing to prep for or thrive during a drought?

    Posted In: Additional Reading, Disaster Scenarios, Planning, Water Storage Tagged With: California, drought, Prepare, water

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