Monthly Archives: June 2013

  • Practicing Your Family Evacuation Plan

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    backpacking family_small


    We’ve all heard the saying, “practice makes perfect.” If you want to get better at fishing, playing the violin, knitting, or emergency preparedness . . . you need to practice. If you have a Family Evacuation and Emergency Plan, you’re ahead of the game, but how often have you practiced it? Just like with learning a new hobby or skill, we have to practice our Family Evacuation and Emergency Plans so that we know what to do and where to go if an emergency hits.

    But how should you practice? Where should you start? What should you do?

    Consider mapping out your Evacuation and Emergency plans over a series of family nights/meetings. Since discussions about the various supplies you’ll need and situations you may encounter during an emergency may be overwhelming, talking about it all in one day may kill the enthusiasm your family has (or you’re trying to build) for prepping . . . Try to get everyone involved in the discussion in some way.

    As a family discuss what your meeting place will be, what types of items to include in your emergency kits, who your emergency contacts will be, and what methods of evacuation you could use (bike, foot, scooter, car). Our Family evacuation plan provides a comprehensive chart on how to create and record  info for your emergency plan if you are unsure of where to start.

    Practice Time!

    Once your family has mapped out your emergency evacuation plan, it’s time to practice. To build excitement and motivation for your drill, you may want to make it into a friendly competition. The ultimate “winner” could choose a treat or favorite dinner if they win. And since you are practicing consistently, everyone will hopefully get a chance to win while also becoming prepared in the process!

    Begin your practice with a goal:

    •  Get all family members to the in-city meeting place by a specific time
    •  Get all members out of the house and on the lawn in _________ minutes
    •  Time the amount of time it takes to get all family members to the out of city contact on _________mode of transportation
    •  Have each person pick one important or special item and get out of the house in ________ minutes (items could be a computer drive, diary, photos, a favorite book or doll, medicine) How long will it take them to decide what’s most important and get out of the house?

    Try to make your practice drills feel like real situations.

    •  Have everyone practice carrying their emergency kits with them as they go to the meeting place
    •  Have them pretend to be asleep in bed and have to get out of the house—have shoes, a flashlight, or glow stick by the bed for easy access
    •  Have them practice using the secondary exits of the house, if the primary exits are inaccessible
    •  Have them practice contacting your emergency out-of-city/state contact to let other family members know where you are (warn your out of city/state contact to expect several calls if you choose to practice this skill)

    Another fun idea for practice is to do an emergency preparedness scavenger hunt/choose your own adventure. This could be both fun and challenging for teens. For instance, leave them notes at pivotal spots on their evacuation route with situations that need solutions:

    • If they go to get their bike to evacuate you could leave note that says “oh no, there’s a flat tire and not enough time to fix it to meet the family in time. What do you do?”
    • Or if they get to the emergency spot, you could leave a note that says “everyone’s late. Who do you call to find out what’s happened?—the emergency contact” and have them call the contact (warn your contact beforehand though that this is just a drill . . . )

    The depth of your practice can range from quick and short basic skills to more intense survival situations. It’s up to you and your family to determine what types of practice will work best. Perhaps start out with the basic skills like just getting out of the house and onto the lawn with an emergency kit. As your family masters the basics, you can then move up to more complex tasks.

    After Practice

    After each drill, evaluate how you did or where you need to improve upon your plan. Additionally, having a good fitness regime will also help you and your family to evaluate how they can improve physically to execute the emergency plan.

    Try to make your practices a consistent part of your family’s life. Consider picking one day every three months to practice with your family. How often you practice really just depends on what works for your schedule. But practicing consistently is key to helping your family become familiar and comfortable with what to do during an emergency.

    Happy Prepping!


    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Family evacuation plan, Preparedness Checklist, Emergency plan

  • Food Storage: What Should I Buy and How Much? The Calorie Count Factor

    "What should I buy?"  "How much should I store?"
    "Are there enough calories to sustain me for the day?"


    These basic questions confront all of us as we try to plan how best to meet the nutritional needs of our families in emergency situations. “Plan” is the operative word here; don’t rush headlong into purchasing foods that sound good or that you think your family ought to eat without researching what the food really contains, what your family’s requirements actually are, and what your best value would be.

    To determine your family’s needs, it would be wise to think first in terms of calories per person per day, and then in terms of nutrients (protein, vitamins and minerals) provided—and finally, in terms of cost per serving. Be aware that in high-stress situations we require more calories than usual to keep minds and bodies operating in peak condition. According to the government’s dietary guidelines, under normal situations most adults need around 2,000 to 2,600 calories per day—more if very active or highly stressed. Children usually need 1,500 to 1,600 calories per day, but remember that they are growing, and by the time you need to use your emergency food supply they may be eating like adults!

    In deciding whether to purchase a product, be sure you can determine the caloric value. This may be especially tricky in kits and combos that contain several different foods. Multiply your family’s estimated daily caloric need by the time period you’re trying to cover. For example, 2,000 calories per day for a month for one person is about 60,000. For three months, that would be 180,000, and for a year, about 730,000 calories. If the "year’s supply" kit you’re considering does not contain at least that many calories overall, you will not be sufficiently nourished if you must depend exclusively on your storage food. You will either need to purchase a kit that provides more calories or plan to obtain extra products—fruit, desserts, baking mixes, grains and cereals, and hot cocoa or other drinks, for example—to supplement your kit.

    If you are purchasing products separately, keep track of the calorie count and serving size as you buy, so you will know where you are in the process. Do not rely entirely on the number of servings listed for each food you purchase, as not all servings are created equal. If a serving of a main dish item is listed one-half cup, ask yourself if that amount will satisfy and nourish a hungry teenage boy—or would it be more appropriate for his little sister? Consider the make-up of your family and buy accordingly. A cup of orange drink, a cup of beef stroganoff, a tablespoon of butter, and a quarter teaspoon of salt all count as a "serving." Depending upon the food choices, a person could consume three servings a day and only get 600 calories. Serving sizes may also vary from one brand or supplier to the next. Familiarize yourself with both the serving size and calorie count for each product you purchase.

    Don’t get overwhelmed by the thought of preparing an emergency food supply. Following the approach we’ve outlined here will help you get your food storage pulled together in an organized and thorough way. Planning and purchasing supplies based on these suggestions will ensure that you have stored enough calories for each person’s daily needs—and enough nutrients that your family will stay strong, healthy, and ready for what lies ahead.

    Posted In: Food Storage, Insight

  • Lessons Learned: Kirsten Survived a Four-Day Blackout

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    In the summer of 2005 Kirsten and her family experienced a four-day power outage caused by lightning striking the area transformer.

    Here’s what she had to say about it.

    My husband and I thought we were prepared for a "common disaster". We were completely wrong.  When power went out for days, we could not run my husband's CPAP machine to help him breathe overnight. We also lost everything in our fully stocked freezer, causing us to lose hundreds of dollars of frozen food.  We also neglected to realize just how hot the house would get in a heat wave with the power out, or that people run the fire hydrants to try to cool off. This made it so that we had very low water pressure, which meant that we didn’t have water to rely on!

    We [were counting] on frozen and cold food storage for our food, and on being able to cook with our electric pilot light gas stove!  While having a small propane cook stove helped, it rapidly became so hot in the house that we couldn’t cook anyway, and all of our cold food stores were ruined.

    I wish we had known to store water; it never occurred to us we wouldn’t have water!  I wish we had more shelf-stable food, more water, and enough battery or generator power to handle my husband's medical needs!

    Kirsten’s advice to preppers?

    Get a generator or several batteries to handle medical needs, have stored water on hand to last at least a week (the amount of time my neighbors were without power during Sandy), and have a LOT more dehydrated foods and shelf-stable foods.

    All too many people assume that they can cook when the power is out, but some modern stoves will not light without an electric ignition pilot! In addition, so many city folks rely on frozen food and their refrigerators (like we did) and that’s simply not helpful if you lose power for very long.

    Thanks for the great advice Kirsten! Make sure you have a way to ignite your oven’s pilot light. In some cases the solution may be as simple as keeping matches on hand. It also pays to be prepared with alternative cooking gear (like a Volcano stove or a Sport Solar Oven).  And of coursewe love the point Kirsten makes about storing potable water. Clean water for drinking is a top priority.

    If you’d like to read more from Kirsten, check out her Be A Prepper blog.

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: electric, Blackout, Lessons Learned, power outages

  • Red Flag Warnings for Western United States



    This morning when I got in the car to drive to work, my husband turned on National Public Radio (NPR). As they told the local news report, they said that a Red Flag warning had been put into effect in the State of Utah. When I heard this, I turned to my husband and asked, “What’s a red flag warning? I’ve never heard of that before.”


    When I got to work, I went to the NOAA website to look up what a Red Flag Warning was. According to NOAA, a Red Flag warning is “means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now . . . or will shortly. A combination of strong winds . . . low relative humidity . . . and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.” In addition to this definition, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) has issued several Red Flag Warnings for Southern California and Colorado.


    As Urban Girl's post Fire Season Safety Tips and Preparedness suggests, we are in the heat of wildfire season. In fact, according to reports from NBC’s U.S. News on June 18th, an Arizona Wildfire burned 5,000 acres of land in seven hours yesterday! Many Prescott, Arizona residents were evacuated from their homes. Arizona police believe that the fire was man-made. Warnings have been issued to campers to be cautious while using fires and putting them out.


    Since Red Flag Warnings are cropping up for certain areas in the Western United States, it is important to know not only the signs of potential wildfires, but also what safety measures that you can enact in order to keep you and your family safe. National Geographic offers some great advice on what to do to protect your home once a Red Flag Warning has been issued, how and when to evacuate, and what to do if you get trapped in a wildfire.


    The Red Flag warnings in California and Colorado are expected to last until 10am PDT Thursday morning given the high winds and low humidity levels. The Utah Red Flag warning will last until 10pm MDT today. This suggests that those living in these areas of the country have time to prepare for potential fire dangers before they occur.





    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • Tropical Storm Barry Forms in Southern Gulf of Mexico



    Remember the other day when Tropical Depression Two was forming in the Caribbean?

    Well, NOAA just released an update today stating that Tropical Depression Two has now become Tropical storm Barry. Since Tropical Depression Two moved its way up to the Bay of Campeche in Mexico, the depression strengthened turning it in to a Tropical storm.

    Tropical Storm Barry is the second Tropical Storm of the 2013 Hurricane season.

    For more updates on the progression of this storm check out these links:

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • 10 Tips for Hiking with "Little Ones"




    1. Choose hikes with a specific destination such as a lake, a spectacular view, or a waterfall. Start small children on short, easy trails at first; gradually increase difficulty as their muscles and ambition grow.

    2. Keep hiking speed and distance within physical as well as fun limits. A good way to judge the pace of a child is to take turns letting them assume the lead. Maintain their pace when you are in the lead.

    3. Enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Stop frequently to observe nature and the little things that a child finds fascinating. They may even discover things you have missed before.

    4. Make your child's feet a priority. Sturdy boots that fit properly will allow a child to focus on the fun and adventure of a hike. At the first sign of redness or blistering feet, apply moleskin.

    5. Take only pictures; leave only footprints. Teach respect of the outdoors. Set an example by carrying out trash and following park or forest regulations.

    6. Take food your child likes to eat and plenty of it. Familiar foods will be more appetizing to a child than traditional hiking fare and even the pickiest eaters seem to have a larger appetite in the outdoors.

    7. Have each child carry a small backpack or fanny pack. The pack should contain water, a survival whistle, flashlight or light stick, a brightly colored poncho, emergency blanket, extra socks, extra food, and a small first aid kit. Depending on the age and ability of your child the items may vary. Teach your child how to use these items in case they are lost.

    8. Take frequent rest breaks and drink plenty of water. When exercising, children lose water faster than adults and are not likely to notice the effects.

    9. Pack extra clothing and be prepared for rain even if there isn’t a cloud in the sky.

    10. Have fun! An enjoyable experience will increase the chances that your child will want to venture out again and again.

    Posted In: Insight, Planning

  • Tornado in Denver

    DIA Tornado

    Yes, it's true. There was a tornado in Denver today. You'd think that because of the mountains, tornadoes wouldn't occur in Denver -- and generally, that's true. Residents report that even when there are tornado watches, tornadoes usually don't form.

    But today, a tornado touched down near the Denver airport. Here's an article from The Houston Chronicle with startling pictures.

    Tornadoes can touch down just about anywhere warm air collides with cold air. That generally produces a supercell where the colliding air streams begin to twist around each other. Here's a great video explanation.

    If you don't know what to do when a tornado watch or warning is issued, you'll probably want to read this article.

    (Photo courtesy of @wolverine2573)

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Colorado, Denver, Tornado

  • Fire Season Safety and Preparedness Tips

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    Tips for Wildfire and House Fire Preparedness - Emergency Essentials

    Wildfire season has already started, and high-profile fires have already started in California and Colorado in the last several weeks.

    This news article gives great tips and suggestions for preventing wildfires and house fires—practical tips, and some I hadn't thought of before, including where you park your car when you’re out and about. Click here to read all 8 tips in the original article. Here’s my favorite:

    Target shooting
    Did you know that by July of 2012, 20 fires had been started last year by target shooters, including the Dump Fire, which burned 5,507 acres and cost $2.1 million to fight? The heat of bullets mixed with the hot, dry earth can be a very dangerous mix. Consider either visiting indoor shooting ranges or taking a couple months off from target shooting during the summer.

    Another tip includes having an evacuation plan. Your plan should include an emergency kit, bug out bag, or go bag, as well as a meeting place away from the house where everyone can meet in case of an emergency evacuation.

    Maryn McKenna shared her first-hand experience with an unexpected fire via Wired Magazine in her article, The Risks You Don’t Think of: A Plea to Pack a ‘Go Bag.’ She and her husband packed for a possible evacuation from their home because of a tree that had fallen on an electrical transformer next to their house. They packed their bags, and ultimately didn’t need them. Here’s what she said about her packing:

    To be honest, I give myself a C. I grabbed the cat’s food and dishes, but didn’t think to take the medication I give her twice a day. I took all the devices that access my stuff in the cloud, but didn’t recall that I keep some things out of the cloud for security; I should have taken the external back-up that sits on my desk. And, if things went very bad, I might have had a hard time dealing with the details; I relied on having web-based banking, but I didn’t think to take the phone or account numbers for any of the utilities. And I committed those fails despite minimal things to distract me: my spouse (aviation engineer) and I (epidemics and disasters journalist, pilot) are pretty accustomed to emergencies; we had only one pet to wrangle; and we didn’t have any small children or mobility-challenged elders to keep calm. And, most fortunate of all, we ended up not having to run.

    In the case of a large-scale evacuation, you will most likely have a few minutes to pack (versus a home fire where you need to evacuate immediately), but only a few. Keep emergency kits, important documentation, and precious keepsakes or photos where they can be packed quickly; that will help ease the stress of an evacuation and leave you with the assurance that you got everything vital out of the house.

    Think you’ll be able to “wing it” when an evacuation order comes knocking at your door? Evacuation: The 10 Minute Challenge, a video created by the Insurance Information Institute, shows the difference planning ahead will make—because those ten minutes will go by a lot more quickly than you’d expect:

    Get ready now for the possibility of a house fire or short-notice evacuation. Check out our pre-assembled emergency kits, get an escape ladder for each second-story bedroom, and learn more of the basics for Before, During, and After a fire in our Insight Article about Emergency Fire Safety.

    Be careful this summer, and stay safe!

    --Urban Girl


    P.S. I have my own tip for you. A couple of years ago we had a kitchen fire at my house (and no, I’m not the one who started it). We started chatting with the firemen who came, and they said that many house fires are started by toasters that short out in the middle of the night. So keep those electronics unplugged when you’re not using them.

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Prepare, Fire Preparedness, Fire Safety, Current Events, natural disaster, evacuation plan, evacuation, video

  • Tropical Depression Two Forms in Caribbean


    Be on the watch for weather updates on Tropical Depression Two (this is the second major Tropical Depression of the 2013 Hurricane season). Although this storm formed in the Caribbean Sea, weather analysts suggest that it has the potential to emerge in northeastern Mexico and could even travel into parts of southern Texas.

    Currently, Tropical Depression Two is expected to move west into parts of Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula over the next 24 hours. Weather analysts believe that it may eventually emerge into the Bay of Campeche on the southwestern Gulf of Mexico. According to the Washington Post, if the storm hits the Bay of Campeche it could intensify creating a major Hurricane.

    But what is a Tropical Depression? And what types of effects could it have on those who live in its path?

    A Tropical Depression is a storm system that includes clouds, showers, and thunderstorms that originate in the Tropics. It is characterized by its heavy wind patterns (up to 38 mph) that blow around a center of low pressure that creates a closed circulation. This means that Tropical Depressions produce heavy rain and strong winds that could damage homes, create power outages, and cause flooding.

    NOAA and will be monitoring the strength of the storm and will have up-to-date information on the route the storm travels. For more information on Tropical Depression Two check out these news stories:

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • Happy Father's Day!


    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Father's Day

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