• How to Not Burn Down America With Fireworks

    “It's going to be pretty tender fire conditions out there.”

    This fireworks season, that’s the fear not just for this Bozeman, MT fire chief, but for many more officials throughout the country. In many states, extended periods of heat and drought have made conditions very unfavorable for Fourth of July fireworks. With fireworks, there’s always a risk of starting a fire. Because of the heat and lack of moisture, that threat is even worse.

    Family FireworksAlthough you may have a tradition of having your own firework show, that may not be the best idea this year. According to one fire prevention specialist, “the best way to avoid the risk of starting a wildfire this holiday weekend is to attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals.”

    I know, I know. Where’s the fun in that, right? Well, part of the fun could come in not burning down your entire state (or at least your neighborhood). Even fireworks that you might think are safe can be a huge danger to the dry grass and trees. For example, did you know that sparklers can burn at 2,000°F? That’s hot enough to melt gold! So uh…try and keep those away from dry tinder, OK? Thanks.

    Fireworks BanIn order to prevent wide-spread devastation, many counties – and even a few states – have imposed a ban on fireworks. Some Oregon towns have decided to do away with their municipality firework shows altogether. If that thought saddens you (which it very well could), you can take solace in the fact that by foregoing such activities, you are saying “Thanks, America” by not burning it up. And America thanks you, too. If you don’t think that’s a very good reason, then let’s go back to Oregon for a moment.

    The spokesman for Portland Fire & Rescue gives a very compelling reason for these bans. In the case of Oregon, “on the weekend before the Fourth of July last year, Portland firefighters battled three fires. This past weekend, the count was 80.”

    Yeah…that’s quite a jump in number there. So instead of adding to that number, be prepared to cut back on your firework usage this Fourth of July. Even though it may seem like this Independence Day restricts your independence in the use of explosives, it’s for a good cause. However, if you are able to still use fireworks (hooray!), please take precautions to avoid setting fire to your city.

    Some good rules to follow are:

    • Always soak your fireworks before tossing them in the trash
    • Store exhausted fireworks in a bucket of water
    • Keep a source of water nearby (see above)
    • Don’t point or aim fireworks at homes
    • Keep fireworks away from grass, brush, leaves, and anything else that could potentially catch fire (such as your home – see above)

    Another good rule of thumb is to always use common sense. Before you start lighting off fireworks, ask yourself, “Is there anything within close proximity that could potentially start a fire if this firework goes off in an unexpected direction?”.

    Because that happens, too.

    Fireworks SafetyAnd while you’re at it, practice firework safety for yourself, too. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of things blowing up and making loud noises and spewing out pretty colors and stuff, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do that and still be safe.

    I say this because my sister had the unfortunate experience of having a firework fly into her face. Fortunately, it was a small one and it didn’t explode on impact. Unfortunately, it still exploded just after it ricocheted off, damaging her teeth and burning her face somewhat. That was about seven years ago, and after getting braces (for the second time in her life), she’s back to normal.

    Do you think she expected that to ever happen? I doubt it. And yet it did. So while you’re keeping the grass and trees safe, keep yourselves safe as well.

    And on that fun note, I hope you all have a wonderfully exciting Fourth of July and enjoy the festivities wherever you are! Go out and have a blast (literally)!


    'Murica & Fireworks


    How do you celebrate the Fourth of July? Let us know in comments!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: wildfires, fireworks, 4th of July, Independance Day, America

  • 6 Ways to Prepare People with Special Needs and Disabilities

    Special Needs - CannonLast week, my family went to a minor league baseball game. We love these games because we can sit so close to the action. We were right above the bullpen.

    One thing was strange. My 10-year-old special needs daughter kept asking, “Where’s the cannon?”

    Finally, we identified the “cannon.” It was the sound of the baseball hitting the catcher’s glove.

    We’re adding earplugs to her emergency preparedness bag.

    The American Red Cross booklet, “Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs,” offers six steps to be prepared.


    Create a personal support network

    A personal support network is a group of at least three people from every place a disabled person spends time. Their job is to help prepare and assist that person if disaster occurs.

    They need to know the capabilities and special needs of the disabled person, like how to use a wheelchair or give medication, according to a FEMA pamphlet, “Preparing Makes Sense for People with Disabilities and Special Needs.”

    They also need to know the person’s evacuation plan. At least one other person should have a key to the disabled person’s home.


    Complete a personal assessment

    A personal assessment is a list of daily needs and resources. It includes questions like these from the National Organization on Disability. The questions help with planning.

    • Do you use communication devices?
    • Do you depend on accessible transportation?
    • Do you receive medical treatments (e.g. dialysis) on a regular basis?
    • Do you need assistance with personal care?
    • Do you rely on electrical equipment or other durable equipment?
    • Do you use mobility aids such as a walker, cane, or a wheelchair?
    • Do you have a service animal?


    Get informed about resources in your area

    Disaster assistance resources include warning systems like reverse 911 and special needs registries.

    The area where my family lives has a reverse 911 system. It’s easy to sign up for it; I enrolled using my smartphone while my husband and I were out running errands.

    Many communities ask people with special needs to register with the fire or police department. Those who need electrical equipment also should register with the local utility company.


    Make a plan

    Actually, make two plans.

    Plan for those with special needsA communication plan includes contact information for family members and friends, work and school, and emergency organizations. Ready.gov and The Red Cross have forms for this information. Everyone should have an out-of-town contact because it’s often easier to make long distance calls after a disaster, according to the Red Cross booklet.

    Families should also determine escape routes and emergency meeting places outside their home and neighborhood.

    A woman from the U.S. who had trouble walking described her escape plan to a United Nations disaster preparedness survey of people with disabilities. It started with having supplies loaded in her car.

    “I would then put my cat in her carrier, go out to the car and drive up to my brother’s house, 10 miles north, where I will be helped by family members and be safe,” she wrote.


    Assemble a kit

    Brad and Robyn Mann, who write a column called Sleeping with MS, described how they learned the importance of a disaster kit. Their town, more than 20 miles inland, flooded during Hurricane Irene in 2011.

    First responders began evacuating the town. The Manns had 20 minutes to prepare.

    “I panicked. We needed to assemble and pack essential clothing for four children, two adults, along with prescription medications and vital documents. All this needed to be ready in less time than it takes me to get dressed!” they wrote.

    June Isaacson Kailes, a disability policy consultant, suggested packing two weeks’ worth of medical equipment.

    “Make sure to pack enough medical supplies like syringes, ostomy bags, catheters and padding to last that long. Know what you are able to carry in a fanny pack, backpack or drawstring bag hung from a wheelchair, scooter or other assistive device. Do what is realistic for you,” she wrote.


    Maintain the plan and the kit

    Minor problems can become major events with my special needs daughter. Several months ago, a nearby transformer blew out. It was evening and rapidly getting dark. My daughter panicked. I had my cell phone and its flashlight, but only about 10 percent of charge remained.

    Phones can be critical when preparing for special needsFortunately, I had a flashlight handy. Unfortunately its batteries were dead. By the rapidly diminishing power from my phone’s light, I found batteries and got it working. My daughter calmed down.

    I learned three lessons. First, keep my phone charged (maybe I haven’t learned that one yet). Second, know where emergency equipment is and keep it in easy access. Third, make sure my emergency kit isn’t out of date.

    Day-to-day life when dealing with special needs is exhausting. Yet it’s especially important for individuals with disabilities and their families to somehow find time and energy to prepare for emergencies.

    The American woman with walking difficulty who was interviewed by the UN said being prepared helped her develop confidence.

    “I must say that being this way … has been quite a learning experience as well as one for teaching myself how to be resourceful,” she wrote. “I may be slow, but I’ll always get there”



    - Melissa


    What are some other effective ways you've found in preparing for those who are disabled or have special needs? Let us know in comments!

    Posted In: Additional Reading, Emergency Kits Tagged With: disability, Disaster prep, special needs

  • 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

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