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  • Crisis City: "Disney World for Emergency-Response Instructors"

    Crisis City: "Disney World for Emergency Response Instructors"

    Gunshots, screaming, dust clouds rising from a recently collapsed pile of concrete rubble. It could be a scene from a disaster film. Or it could be a training course at Crisis City, Kansas’s premier emergency response training facility. A collection of simulated disasters—from train wrecks to burning skyscrapers—spread over 45 flat acres in the central part of the state, Crisis City has been called “Disney World for emergency-response instructors.”

    According to a recent write-up about the facility in Popular Mechanics, other similar facilities exist—notably Texas A&M’s TEEX and Georgia’s ginormous 830-acre Guardian Centers. The purpose is to train the professionals in a setting that is both safe and realistic—a tricky engineering feat, the article points out! Everyone from local firefighters to FEMA responders can practice pulling mock victims out of collapsed subway tunnels or train dogs to find survivors after a tornado.

    The principle at work here is a simple one: practice makes perfect…especially when adrenaline is high and critical decisions need to be made quickly. And while monster facilities like this can be booked for a small fee (somewhere in the neighborhood of $23,000 a day, reports Popular Mechanics), you can put the same principle to work with your family on a much smaller scale.

    Have an evacuation plan? Practice it. An escape route in case of fire? Make the kids act it out. A phone tree in case of emergency? Call it. Whatever plans you have in place, make an activity out of practicing them regularly, until those responses become second nature. Because it’s not just the professionals that need to act quickly when disaster strikes!




    Photo Courtesy of Popular Mechanics

  • Mom's 5 Tips for Weathering Thunderstorms

    Mom's 5 Tips for Weathering Thunderstorms

    To this day, I love a good thunderstorm. I think it’s because when I was little, my family would gather in our screened-in porch and watch the clouds roll in. We’d drink punch and eat popcorn, and we’d huddle together to listen to and watch for the cracks, booms, and bolts in the sky. I would smell the wet heat rising from the pavement, and I would wish, wish, wish that the power would go out. I wanted that cozy, let’s-huddle-together feeling to last even after the clouds had rolled away.

    Now that I’m a parent, I realize that my happy childhood feelings about thunderstorms were made possible because my parents were prepared for whatever storms might bring—and whatever they might leave behind. I recently checked in with my mom to get her insights on how to prepare for this kind of sudden, potentially serious stormy weather.

    Mom’s 5 Tips for Weathering Thunderstorms:

    1. Weather gear. My mom reminded me that it’s a good idea to have certain items on hand that will make weathering the actual storm itself a comfortable, less wet experience. Ponchos, raincoats, galoshes, umbrellas, long johns, and thick wool socks can make rainy seasons (and puddle stomping) downright enjoyable. Also, they can help protect you from getting too wet and cold, which can be helpful if stormy weather turns into power outages, and you don’t have an easy way to get yourself warm and dry.

    2. Windows. The first thing to do when storms are coming is to close your windows—especially the ones you don’t usually think about or see (basement windows, garage windows, etc.). This alone can prevent a lot of unnecessary seepage.

    3. The light and the bucket. My mom says that a smart person once told her to put a working flashlight right near her bed, so even in the middle of the night, she wouldn’t have to go fumbling around storage closets or bins to find the things she would need in the dark.

    She says it’s an even better idea to fill a plastic bucket with all of the first things you’ll need when the power goes out (e.g., flashlight, battery-powered or hand-cranked radio, batteries), and store it someplace easy to remember and easy to reach. If both the light and the bucket are ready to go and easily accessible, you’ll have sucked the scariness right out of the first moments of a power outage, and you’ll be ready to find your emergency gear without much hassle.

    4. Power. If the storm is serious, you may lose power. There are lots of workarounds for this, but the most important thing is that you’ve thought about it in advance and are ready to go. My mom’s preferred cooking device is a sterno-powered foldable camping stove similar to the Single Burning Folding Stove. With this and a can opener on hand, warm meals are easy to prepare.

    She points out that also having a fireplace and marshmallows can turn an otherwise dismal blackout into a fun family event. (Note to self: Keep marshmallows on hand for emergency purposes. And punch. And popcorn.)

    5. Floods. If the rain comes down too quickly or for too long—or both—flooding is a real possibility. My mom’s number one tip is to keep your gutters clean. Clogged gutters can make flooding much worse than it might otherwise be; but, if gutters are clear and able to do their jobs, they can direct excess water to places it should go (like away from the house).

    If the storm is forecasted to be a big one, sand bagging areas of potential weakness can be helpful. Also, putting up cellophane and caulking around garage doors adds an extra layer of protection. Having your burner or furnace installed on blocks can prevent you from losing them at a critical time. Likewise, taking everything off the floor can keep most of your stuff safe and dry. Mold is a real problem, so be sure to inspect flooded areas and ask for expert help, as necessary.


    I like the idea of being able to act now in ways that will help my children have the same safe, prepared, ready-for-anything feelings my parents gave me. I feel lucky that my parents’ preparations allowed me to enjoy the beauty of this crazy earth, including the beauty of a thunderous rainstorm. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)  That is a gift I want my children to have, too.

    --Sarah B.

  • Severe Flooding Follows Tornadoes in the Southeast

    Severe Flooding Follows Tornadoes in the Southeast

    Natural disasters can sometimes cause a domino effect of other disasters: an earthquake can cause a long-term power outage, a drought can cause a wildfire, and the high-speed winds of a tornado can quickly turn into a raging flood.

    Many in the Southeast are learning that one storm can cause another as the tornadoes that sprawled across over a dozen states this week have not only left behind twisted cars and destroyed homes, but also brought on severe floods.

    Florida was one of hardest-hit states, where Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency after 20 inches of rain fell in 24 hours, killing at least one and leaving others stranded, according to Fox News

    “There’s a lot of water on the ground,” the governor said to Yahoo News. He also anticipates that more flash flooding is still a real threat.

    In some areas, flooding reached up to four feet, other locations flooded more. Across numerous states, floods trapped people in homes, vehicles, and other buildings. Yahoo News reports one elderly woman dying in Escambia County after being unable to escape as the high waters surrounded her vehicle.

    "We were rescuing people out of cars, out of ditches, out of homes," said Mitchell Sims, the emergency management director for Baldwin County. "We are still getting reports of people trapped."

    When preparing for an emergency, it’s common to overlook the fact that one disaster can trigger another. It’s important to prepare as well as you can for all types of disasters. Are you prepared for a tornado and a lightning storm? Do you have duct tape for your windows for a hurricane and sandbags for flooding? As you stock your supply, are you thinking of how to prepare for multiple disasters?

    As you work on your preparedness, check out the following Insight Articles for some helpful tips for staying safe in a variety of disasters:

    Have you ever been caught in a “secondary” disaster triggered by a first? What happened? Share your story and expertise in the comments







    Photo Courtesy of Fox News

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