• California Drought: Four Months in Review

    This post is the first installment of a three-part series highlighting the 2014 California Drought. 

    All the western states, including California, are naturally subject to periods of drought. But according to B. Lynn Ingram, University of California Earth Science professor, a study of tree rings shows California’s current drought to be the most severe in the last 500 years.

    Not only did California receive zero rainfall this January (normally the rainiest month of the year), recent past conditions have illustrated the decline in moisture. In 2013, California received a total of 7 inches of rain; the average yearly total is 22 inches. The Sierra snowpack, which gives California 1/3 of its water, was 88% below normal as of January 30, 2013.

    In early 2014, Governor Jerry Brown declared the state a “primary natural disaster area,” and President Obama announced over $190 million in drought aid. With almost twice as many fires and acres burned between January and March of this year than last year, California needed more than light rain and overcast skies to pull them from this drought. Unfortunately, over four months later, California has not seen the type of precipitation to pull them out of the drought and reduce wildfires in the state.

    The lack of rain over the past few months has led some, such as the Santa Clara Valley Water District, to alert cities and companies that only 80 percent of requested treated drinking water will be provided for the rest of the year. The companies and cities losing this water typically provide it for about 1.5 million people. However, it’s not only thirsty cities receiving less treated drinking water, but irrigated farmlands are forced to turn to alternate sources of water such as wells.

    During our lifetimes, we’ve become accustomed to California being the garden of the nation, producing nearly half of the fruit, nuts, and vegetables for the whole country. The sight of fallow fields, blowing dust, or browned seedlings failing in the heat is an image we associate more with the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma back in the 1930s than with California. But that may not be the case this year unless there’s a significant change in the weather.

    National Journal reporter, Marina Koren, believes that in order “to break its historic drought, California would need to see 9 to 15 inches of precipitation in one month. That’s more than half a year’s worth of average rainfall for the state.” This lack of precipitation for the state has created water restrictions.

    A water restriction for both irrigation and drinking (whether due to drought, a chemical spill, or another emergency) is a great reason to keep your [water storage] up to date. Check out these articles to learn more about the importance of water storage:


    -Sharon, Kim, and Angela

    Come back in the next couple of days to check out the rest of our California Drought Series:

    Part II “The Effects of CA's Driest Year"

    Part III "How does  the CA Drought Effect your Grocery List?"


    Photo Courtesy of the Huffington Post via the Associated Press








    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: natural disaster, drought, California Drought

  •  Reduce, Reuse, Re-trash

    Spring is here, and summer is just around the corner, which means garage sale season! Up in my neck of the woods, as soon as we get two sunny Saturdays in a row, the signs start popping up like daffodils at every intersection. And while I’m an acknowledged sucker for old suitcases and cheap art, my mission this year is to work on our outside space—specifically to gussy up the garden a bit.

    Which is why I was stoked to find this article from Mother Nature Network: “10 Beautifully Useful Things Made From ‘Useless’ Trash.” Okay, a few of them are a little mod, even for me, and the jury’s still out on that bracelet. But the old window as a cold frame is unequivocally genius, and I’m having visions of a softly lit garden party with those bottle lanterns

    The subject of the article is one Nathan Devine, an artist, designer, and dumpster diver from Australia. Devine runs a website called Retrash.com and will publish a book of the same name later this year, full of ideas for everything from bird houses to jewelry. And not only does this fire the imagination, when perusing retirees’ driveways for fabulous old junk—it makes me re-evaluate my approach to spring cleaning! I could haul that broken kids’ dresser down to the dump, or I could plant my herbs in it. Hmmm…

    Do you remember our post from last year, “Thinking Outside the (Planter) Box”? I’ll be checking there for some tips on the kinds of materials and containers that work best for growing food, before heading out on my secondhand-treasure-hunting expeditions this summer. Maybe I’ll post pictures of the good stuff I collect and re-use, and I’d definitely love to see yours!




    Photo Courtesy of Mother Nature Network

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: garden, gardening, garden tips

  • Calm Like Bode

    I love stories like this. Maybe it’s because we all need more happy endings. Or maybe it’s because I hope like crazy my kids would do this well if things went seriously south. Or maybe the lesson is for me, a reminder that if a nine-year-old can keep his cool in a crisis, maybe I should stop having chest pains every time I lose my keys.

    In any case, Bode Birdneau is my new role model. The star of the ABC News headline, “Boy, 9, Treks Across Miles of Snow to Rescue Dad,” Bode knew it was up to him to find help when his father injured himself on a snowmobile in Lake Tahoe in early April. With no cell phone reception and no idea where to find civilization, Bode set off across the snow. Miles later, he ran across a group who were able to send a message to rescuers by radio, and his dad—who had to be airlifted to a nearby hospital for emergency surgery—was saved.

    It’s a great story, but here’s the kicker:

    “Bode's mom, Tina Shaw, credits youngster's even-keeled demeanor for the rescue. ‘I was so upset, but then I thought he is such a calm kid, he is so grounded, he is such a hero,’ his mother said.”

    How many of us would have the presence of mind to stay calm and do the hard thing in a similar situation? It’s one thing to gather provisions and supplies for an emergency; it’s quite another to come up with creative solutions to problems in the heat of the moment. So, if you’re not a natural Bode Birdeau (and heaven knows I’m not!), what can you do to keep your breathing normal when something goes wrong?

    I love the lesson from this article, “Sleep When the Wind Blows.” The idea is that the better prepared we are, the less prone we’ll be to panic in an emergency. Read it for yourself, then download every single list you find here—everything from essential phone numbers to emergency kit checklists—and get started on all that peace of mind.

    Want some more help? Here’s a handful of useful articles with tips for emotional emergency prep.


    Keep your cool like Bode, and be the hero of your next emergency!


    Photo Courtesy of ABC News

    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • 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

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: preparedness, emergency preparedness

  • Helens-volcano

    This month marks the anniversary of the eruption of Mount Saint Helens; a day Washingtonians still talk about. Considered the most deadly volcanic eruption in US history, the blast killed 57 people, caused over a billion dollars’ worth of residential and infrastructural damage, and forever changed the lay of the surrounding forests and rivers.

    To mark the season, the US Geological Survey has issued its annual qualified all-clear. According to experts, the magma levels in St. Helen's are once again building up, but this is just a natural part of a volcano's process of pressurizing and releasing gas and magma. In other words, as Reuter's reports, quoting the USGS, "this is to be expected with an active volcano and does not indicate ‘the volcano is likely to erupt anytime soon.'" Whew.

    However, it also turns out that Helens isn't the only volcano we have to worry about here in the US—and I'm not just talking about our non-contiguous brothers to the north and west.

    According to Mother Nature Network (MNN), of the more than 160 volcanoes that have erupted in the US in the last 10,000 years (five minutes, in geologic time), several of those are due to, er, blow off steam any time now. Alaska and Hawaii predictably figure into those forecasts—but so does the Cascade Range, stretching from Washington down into California. MNN.com's answers to the question posed by the article titled, "Which U.S. volcanoes are likely to erupt next?" should put any Westerner on guard.


    Preparation for a volcanic eruption includes some unique precautions that most of us probably haven't considered in the course of our general emergency prep. Here are a few good resources to consult when formulating a volcano-related plan.


    Volcano Safety Tips from National Geographic

    Volcano Safety from Weather Wiz Kids

    Volcano Preparedness from the American Red Cross

    The Yellowstone Super Volcano – Are You Prepared? from your friends at Emergency Essentials


    Just because it hasn't happened in your state or in your lifetime doesn't mean the possibility isn't there. Expand your repertoire of disaster preparedness by teaching your family volcano safety this month!

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: natural disaster, volcano

  • Beat the Heat: Staying Safe when Temperatures Rise

    May 23rd is National Heat Awareness Day. Here are our tips for staying cool and healthy during spring and summer.

    When we think about weather-related emergencies, we tend to concentrate on the big and obvious ones. Specifically, we concern ourselves with staying warm and dry in the midst of storms, power outages, excursions gone wrong, and other situations where the cold and wet become threats.

    Don’t mistake us—exposure to the elements is a big deal. Cold, however, isn’t the only element around. It isn’t even the most dangerous. Did you know that heat, not cold, is responsible for the most deaths in an average year ? The chart below depicts a side-by-side comparison of weather-related fatalities. Heat even causes more fatalities than tornadoes, floods, and rip currents.


    NOAA weather fatalies chart

    Photo Courtesy of NOAA.gov


    There are a lot of ways to warm up when a power failure cuts off your heat supply. But what if power is your first line of defense against heat stroke? Here are some measures you can take to beat the dangerous heat in an emergency situation.

    1. Make water your best friend. First and foremost, stay hydrated. In severe heat, experts recommend drinking not just copiously, but frequently in order to replace fluids lost through sweat. In addition to drinking it, we can maximize water’s cooling properties in other ingenious ways. Wetted towels hung near open windows will cool a breeze; a lukewarm bath or shower can lower body temp; and a cold compress, especially on the body’s pulse points (wrist, armpit, and groin) can do the same job more efficiently.

    2. Unconditioned air can still be controlled. Keep the atmosphere from reaching the stifling point and find the cool where it’s hiding by being air-wise. Use heavy fabric to block heat-generating light coming through windows. Cook outside in order to keep smoke, steam, and other hot vapors from invading your living space.

    Besides keeping hot air at bay, it’s important to find ways to invite cool air in. Open windows at night to create a cool cross breeze, remembering to close them before the sun heats that breeze up again. And if you can’t keep the main living area cool enough to be comfortable, go lower—dark basements stay cooler, and even a downstairs family room floor will be a few degrees better than a bed upstairs.

    3. Work with, not against, your body’s cooling mechanisms. A nice tall drink may sound perfect, but caffeine, alcohol, and excessive sugar actually increase your body’s need for water. Even worse, caffeine is a diuretic, which means it will cause your body to lose more water. Skip the soda and opt for water.

    Counterintuitively, spicy food may actually help your body cool down. The capsaicin in certain peppers and spices induces sweating, which cools the body down. Just be sure to replace the sweat with plenty of fluids.

    Other ways to regulate your body’s temperature include avoiding unnecessary exertion; wearing light, loose, cotton clothes; and minimizing insulation when you sleep (floor is better than bed, alone is better than cuddling, etc.).

    4. Be stingy (and creative!) with power. Don’t open refrigerators and freezers unnecessarily. Use coolers and buy ice to keep cold food handy day to day. An additional perk might be the functional air conditioning in a grocery store or other public building. And don’t forget to keep batteries stored for handheld fans.

    Sunshine is pleasant, but if the bulk of our warm weather preparations have to do with fitting into our swimsuit or getting a nice base tan, we could end up in more danger than we anticipate. Stay safe and cool as the weather warms up!


    -Stacey and Angela








    Posted In: Uncategorized

  • Surviving a Wolf Attack

    After the recent film The Grey, and other similar thrillers where our heroes are stalked by ravenous wolves, it’s only natural that when we think about being in the woods with a wolf pack stalking us, we get a little antsy.

    Well, I have some good news for you: in the last 100 years, there have only been two documented incidents of fatal wolf attacks in North America. That tells me that the chances of it happening to me or you are pretty low. Even so, it’s always good to be prepared because you definitely don’t want to be that one fatality over the next 100 years.

    So, what do you do if you’re attacked by wolves? Oliver Starr, who has raised dozens of wolves and did field work for wolf rehabilitation in Yellowstone, answered this question on Quora. He suggests that one would have to work pretty hard to be in close proximity to wild, healthy wolves, especially since they are generally cautious to fearful of humans, and because their territories are typically extremely large. But, he does have a few suggestions for surviving a wolf attack.

    1. Don’t run.Wolves hunt prey that is on the run, and typically if their prey doesn’t run, they don’t pursue the attack. And, you wouldn’t want to look like running prey, now would you?
    2. Don’t stare the animal down. Wolves see this as a challenge or a threat. Avoid eye contact.
    3. Don’t turn your back on the animal(s).
    4. Get big and scary. If you have anything available (shirt, jacket, arms, etc.) raise it above your head. Shout at the animals and, if you can do it without being vulnerable, throw a few stones at them.
    5. Back away slowly. If possible, position yourself with your back against a wall/fence and move toward an exit if you’re in an enclosure.
    6. Be careful not to fall or act scared. This could encourage an attack by looking vulnerable.

    If things get really bad… curl into a ball and protect your face. Obviously, the best protection is to be mindful of your location and avoid predatory wildlife whenever possible, but keep this inventoried in your  “How to Survive…” bank. If you ever chance upon a wolf or two (or seven), hopefully you’ll emerge unscathed (and maybe even get to make a movie about it!).


    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Survival, survival tips

  • Could you Survive an EMP?

    Are you ready for a blackout triggered by an electromagnetic pulse? Experts such as Peter Vincent Pry, the executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, warn that the civilian world isn’t as prepared as they should be.

    An electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, is a burst of electromagnetic energy that can come from nuclear missiles detonating in Earth’s atmosphere or from super solar flares (explosions on the surface of the sun) that reach our atmosphere. This burst of energy is capable of disabling or even destroying electronic devices connected to the grid (cellphones, computers, television, toaster, etc.) whether or not they are plugged in.

    According to Watchdog.org, “Electricity is the lifeblood of the modern world. Food, transportation, medical facilities, and communication systems all need it to function.” In our daily lives, we use electricity for even the simplest of tasks: cooking our food, washing our clothes, lighting the dark, charging all our technological devices, and more.

    Not only would an EMP interrupt daily tasks, it would prove detrimental to many people’s way of life. The kicker is… we could prevent it, but we don’t.

    To read more, check out Watchdog.org’s article “Experts: Civilians not ready for EMP-caused blackout

    If the electric grid went down in your area, would you be able to survive? Think about the following questions:

    • How will you keep your perishable foods safe to eat?
    • How will you light your home?
    • How will you provide warmth?
    • How will you communicate with loved ones?

    If you can answer these questions, then you are on your way to preparing for a blackout. Make sure you add the appropriate gear to your emergency supplies. Consider adding some of the following:

    Also check out these other categories for more gear that could help you survive a blackout:


    Adding the right gear into your emergency supplies will make a huge difference if you find yourself without power for days on end. Learn more about what you can do to stay safe and prepare for an EMP-caused blackout with some of our Insight Articles:

    What preparations have you made for a blackout?





    Photo Courtesy of WatchDog.org

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: solar power, communication, power, Blackout

  • What do Daylight Savings and Heart Attacks have in common?

    Most of us struggle when it comes to turning our clocks forward in the spring for daylight savings. That one little hour seems like an eternity of sleep that we must suddenly give up. But being groggy the next day or two is not the biggest issue that comes from lack of sleep—did you know that during this time we’re at a higher risk for heart attacks? Especially those already vulnerable to heart disease.

    This lost hour of sleep may be the culprit of these sudden attacks. Fox News reported a study which shows the number of heart attacks increase by 25 percent on the Monday after daylight savings begins, and then drops in the fall by 21 percent on the Tuesday just after we’ve turned our clocks back. Previous studies have shown that there is a link between lack of sleep and heart attacks.

    “Our study,” said Dr. Amneet Sandhu, a cardiology fellow at the University of Colorado in Denver who led the study, “suggests that sudden, even small changes in sleep could have detrimental effects.”

    The study researched hospitals in Michigan over a four year period and only researched those admitted and treated by the hospitals rather than including those who immediately passed away as a result of a heart attack.

    To read more about Sandhu’s study, check out Fox News’ article, “Daylight saving time linked to heart attack, study shows.”

    Since sleep is so important for your health, it’s important to get enough of it every night…even in an emergency. Sleep naturally provides the energy you need to go about your day without relying on caffeinated drinks or other options. This is especially important in an emergency where you may need to stay more alert than normal.

    Preparing you and your family for an emergency can help you sleep better at night if a disaster strikes. Without all the worries of how you’ll provide for your family, you can get a good night’s rest. If you haven’t already, start preparing yourself and your family by building a food and water storage supply, and by including essential gear such as light, communication tools, hygiene supplies, and more into your preparedness supply. The better prepared you are, the less you’ll stay up at night worrying about a crisis or emergency.

    Check out the following sources for some good tips to help you get a better night’s rest:


    What tips do you have for getting a good night’s sleep?





    Photo Courtesy of Fox News

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: First Aid

  • Measles on the Rise

    What do New York City and Orange County, California have in common? Celebrity sightings. Overpriced real estate. And a recent measles outbreak that has made residents nervous. Experts are calling it the worst epidemic of this particular disease in decades. In early April, there were 25 confirmed cases in NYC and 21 cases in the OC (read the CBS news report here).

    As of May 15th, the measles outbreak has spread to Ohio where 68 cases have been reported in six counties. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 187 cases of the measles outbreak nationwide this year.

    Measles can be fairly scary, with rare but very serious possible complications. Prevention, however, is fairly straightforward. The Mayo Clinic recommends isolation (measles is highly contagious through body fluids) and vaccines (which had nearly eradicated the disease in North America). If you live in areas where outbreaks are being reported, authorities are asking that you contact your doctor and give the office heads-up, so that containment protocols can be put in place—contaminated clinics being a possible culprit in the NYC measles cases.

    There is a larger issue at work, though, as measles is hardly the only infectious disease to spread quickly and threaten the population with an epidemic. Most of us remember the swine and bird flus, SARS, and West Nile virus. Some of us might even remember the Asian flu or Hong Kong flu. Pandemics like these can inspire spectacular, worst-case-scenario kinds of fears (remember Outbreak?). Or they can inspire proper preparation.

    So what can you do?

    • Second, stay healthy. Epidemics and pandemics most typically (though not exclusively!) affect the physically vulnerable: children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. Need some motivation? Read our post on fitness for survival. Eating right and exercising regularly are only half the battle. Remember what your mom taught you: cover your mouth when you cough, wash hands frequently, and stay home if you’re sick to avoid infecting others.
    • Third, make sure your food storage and other essentials are in good shape, in case of a hunker-down situation. The ABC News article mentioned above suggests storing food and supplies for at least 7 days (Ha! Amateurs…). And don’t forget to store things like respirator masks and vinyl gloves to minimize contact with infection.

    Remember, natural disasters aren’t always big and loud. Sometimes they’re microscopic. Keep your families safe, healthy, and prepared with these resources.


    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: First Aid

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