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  • Majority of Puerto Rico Without Power Following Electrical Plant Fire

    puerto-rico-blackout-via-nbc - Puerto Rico Most of the island was without power - image via NBC

    On Wednesday, September 21, a huge fire at a southern Puerto Rico power plant caused a blackout in 1.5 million homes and businesses.

    "The entire island is without power," Angel Crespo, director of Puerto Rico's fire department, told the Associated Press.

    As of Thursday afternoon, more than a million were still without power, including my mother-in-law, Ruth Lezcano.

    She told her son Jimmy that her main concerns were lack of water and uncomfortable heat and humidity.

    The blackout knocked out pumps at water plants, leaving her and many others without water.

    Fortunately, she had water storage. She keeps five five-gallon buckets (like the “Homer” buckets from Home Depot) full of water in case of hurricanes. She’s been using a bucket for each activity that uses water, like washing dishes, bathing, and flushing the toilet.

    “She hasn’t been able to do laundry for a bit, other than light stuff she can wash in the sink,” her son said.

    The blackout left islanders uncomfortably hot. The temperature on Wednesday and Thursday in the suburb of San Juan where she lives was 87 degrees, according to Weather.com. At night, it fell to 77 degrees.

    The power loss created more problems than just temperature discomfort.

    During the blackout, Jimmy was worried because he couldn’t contact his mother via her cell phone.

    “She probably had it turned off to save power,” he said.

    We sell small generators and other emergency power equipment that are excellent during this type of emergency.

    Ready.gov recommends keeping cell phones charged and having an alternate power source. Also, have an emergency contact outside the immediate area that all family members can use to pass information about their safety.

    buying-ice-via-fox-news - Puerto Rico Locals had to buy ice to keep their food at a safe temperature - image via Fox News

    Lezcano, who is diabetic, also had to worry about her insulin. Insulin manufacturers recommend storing it in the refrigerator. Insulin supplies in use may be kept at room temperature (between 56°F and 80°F). High temperatures could cause her insulin supply to go bad.

    Ready.gov recommends that people with special medical needs make backup power plans and contact their power company before an outage so it can prioritize getting power to their home.

    Although one Twitter user jokingly compared the blackout to “The Purge,” a movie in which crime is legalized for 12 hours and emergency services are suspended, Lezcano said there didn’t seem to be any more crime than usual. She was concerned about running low on supplies: traffic was snarled, and lines were long at supermarkets and gas stations, according to USA Today.

    Police officers directed traffic at major intersections all day Thursday. Four were hit by cars.  One person was hospitalized after being trapped in an elevator overnight, according to USA Today. Another was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from a leaking generator. Broken generators also caused 15 fires around the island. All the fires were extinguished, and no one was injured in the blazes.

    Lezcano was hoping the power would return Friday. In the meantime, she sat outside and people-watched, her son Jimmy said.

    “She was bored because she couldn’t have her Netflix,” he joked.

     

    February - Power Banner - Puerto Rico

  • How Political Rallies and Demonstrations Prompt Better Emergency Preparedness

    election Time to talk about the elephant in the room...

    Politics.

    It’s all over the news, and now you’re reading a blog about it. But this isn’t your generic “Vote for Pedro” blog. This article instead examines the rough time this country is having during the election season, and what it means for personal preparedness.

    No matter who you support in this election, chances are you see the other candidates as wacky and dangerous to the country. Chances are those supporters think the same thing about your candidate. So who is right? That’s beside the point. The point is, the majority of Americans don’t seem to be very pleased with one or more of the candidates, and that has already led to some protests and demonstrations.

    We’ve talked about protests and civil unrest on the blog before, but never (as far as I’m aware) in the vein of politics. Of course, politics can be a touchy subject, so we’ll steer clear of the candidate’s platforms and focus on the emergency preparedness side of what’s going on. Let’s look at what’s happened so far.

    Trump Rally election

    Back in March 2016, a certain candidate held a rally in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. Well, some people didn’t want others to attend, so they blocked an Arizona highway that led to the location of the rally. Trucks were towed out of the way, and people were arrested. All in all, a fairly subdued display, however annoying to be blocked from getting to town if you live there.

    In New York City, however, more protesters marched in a show of solidarity and determination. In this instance, tear gas was used to disperse the crowd and keep them from moving past barriers. For civilians in the area, that’s looking a little too dangerous.

    Over and over again in the news we hear of protests turning violent, demonstrations getting heated, and tensions rising whenever politics is even mentioned. As Election Day comes steadily closer, fears of escalating violence is something on the minds of many. Even after the elections, what then?

    One thing is certain, however, and that is uncertainty.

    Uncertainty is actually quite normal these days. Natural disasters, the economy, civil unrest…there are many events that could strike without warning and change lives. So how are you supposed to deal with all this uncertainty? It’s simple, really.

    Prepare.

    We’ve talked about preparing for natural disasters numberless times. But when it comes to preparing for civil unrest and the uncertainty which is our future? Basically, prepare much the same way as you would for any other emergency. Emergency water, food, and gear will get you through pretty much anything. Of course, having some extra emergency cash on hand is a great idea, too, just in case ATMs don’t work and you need to buy something really important.

    The examples of rallies and other election mishaps aren’t intended to stir up fearful emotions. Rather, they are just another reminder of what could possibly go wrong, a reminder that even our own communities can be affected, and a reminder that above all, the time to prepare is now.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner election

  • Hanjin Shipping Declares Bankruptcy: Stranded Cargo Prompts Financial Preparedness

    Hanjin Shipping

    On August 31, Hanjin Shipping declared bankruptcy. The South Korean company’s declaration left $14 billion worth of cargo and more than half a million containers stranded offshore, as ports fearful of going unpaid refused to allow the company’s ships to dock or unload.

    So why should we care?

    First, Hanjin Shipping transports 8 percent of manufactured goods that enter into the United States. Look around. Imagine if one item of every 12 you see suddenly became unavailable. It adds up fast, doesn’t it? Companies like Wal-Mart and Target are twiddling their thumbs while they wait for Hanjin to work out how it’s going to pay to get everything unloaded. Even if they don’t have anything on the ships in limbo, they still have to try to find other ways to ship their goods. Samsung, for example, is considering sending smartphones and devices in cargo planes to accommodate its U.S. market. That’s going to cost extra.

    And this time of year, as retailers order more goods for holidays, there’s not a lot of extra shipping space to go around. Already, freight prices for Asia-U.S. cargo have jumped 40 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal. Honestly, what are the odds retailers won’t pass any of these costs on to consumers?

    Second, for the moment, fewer manufactured goods are reaching the U.S. Though no one is predicting shortages, and every financial planner predicts the bankruptcy mess will be sorted out by the end of the year, it means supply could be temporarily reduced, again driving up prices right around the holidays.

    “This is not impacting store shelves now,” Nate Herman, a senior vice president for the American Apparel & Footwear Association, told The Wall Street Journal. “It will impact store shelves if the situation isn’t resolved.”

    pipeline-colonial-pipeline Hanjin Shipping Leaking oil pipe in Alabama - Image via Colonial Pipeline

    The world is a global marketplace. A bankruptcy in Asia can cause the cost of goods to increase in Indianapolis. A leaking oil pipe in Alabama can cause fuel shortages and governors to declare states of emergency in six states.

    “The key to keep in mind is that anything can happen,” said Kaylee Chen, a peer mentor at the University of Utah Personal Money Management Center, in an e-mail. Add, “anywhere.”

    “Therefore, always prepare for any possible emergency,” she said.

    Start by building long-term food storage. And don’t be afraid to use it when you need it.

    Early in 2015, avian influenza affected more than 35 million egg-laying hens, or 12 percent of the domestic population, according to a June 22, 2015 blog from the American Egg Board.

    The USDA’s Egg Market News Report said for the week of June 22, 2015 a dozen large eggs sold for a $2.35 national average. The average price over the previous three years, for the same week, was about 95 cents.

    If you have powdered eggs when eggs prices are sky high, you can use them instead. This 2010 article in the Deseret News, a Utah newspaper, tells how to use powdered eggs in everyday cooking.

    Second, have an emergency savings.

    Kayleen Chen, a peer mentor at the University of Utah’s Personal Money Management Center, suggested the 50/30/20 rule. Fifty percent of a paycheck should go toward fixed expenses, like house payments and utilities. Discretionary expenses that can be adjusted, like grocery bills and fuel, should take up about 30 percent. Twenty percent should go toward short-term savings, an emergency fund and retirement.

    Hanjin Shipping Containers

    The short-term savings fund is for future expenses like holidays or a down payment. An emergency fund helps when things come up like car repairs or doctor bills, to avoid paying for them with high-interest debt like credit cards or short-term loans.

    Women should put 12 percent of their salary toward retirement; men 10 percent, Chen said.

    “The reality is that women live longer and make less income than men,” she said.

    Third, get out of debt. Interest never stops, even when you’re struggling.

    Consider learning additional skills that can translate into side jobs for additional income or to help get out of debt. Chen used the example of a piano teacher. She also encouraged a budget or lifestyle change. Peter Dunn, a financial columnist for USA Today, suggested decreasing spending by 10 to 15 percent over time.

    Personal finance collapses like job loss, divorce, medical emergencies and retirement are far more common than a major shipping company’s collapse. Creating a long-term food storage, getting out of debt and saving can reduce their impact.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner Hanjin Shipping

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