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  • Mississippi Wildfires and Why We Must Be Aware of Local Disaster Threats

    Forest Fire Mississippi PostWhen I think of wildfires, I generally think of them happening in California, Washington, Alaska, or Australia. Certain states just never have to worry about such things, right? Wrong. Just before Valentine’s Day 2016, a wildfire raged in Mississippi and into Alabama, burning more than 4,000 acres.

    Mississippi is a fairly humid place, which might lead a person to believe that wildfires can’t happen there. After all, water beats fire, and if the trees and grass and other plant life aren’t being drained of their moisture in dry, desert-like heat, then what’s the worry?

    As we can see, there’s always a worry. Actually, wildfires aren’t that rare an occurrence in Mississippi, or other humid states, for that matter. The average number of wildfires in that state annually is close to 4,000, and an average of 110,000 acres are burned each year.

    But why is this important? For me, just because I don’t think something happens, doesn’t mean it doesn’t, or is even infrequent. In the case of Mississippi, for example, wildfires aren’t rare at all. So why don’t I hear much about them? Maybe it’s because they’re not as devastating as other states’ fires. Maybe it’s because I don’t live near that area, so the news just doesn’t get to me. Or maybe it’s because they are so common that it just really isn’t news anymore. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that these things do happen, whether I think about them or not.

    So what else goes on that I don’t know about that I should be aware of? More specifically, what should I be aware of here in Utah? I know wildfires can be a problem, and drought is always a lingering threat (not as bad as California, but we still get it here).

    In a traditionally dry location, we probably don’t think about flooding very often, but you know what? It happens! Actually, because it’s so dry, flash flooding is more than likely during a good downpour. Living pretty close to the mountains can also bring water down fast, and could even trigger landslides.

    Saltlaketornado - Mississippi Wildfire Post A tornado rips through downtown Salt Lake City in 1999

    Tornadoes, though, are something we just don’t get. Our elevation and climate or something just deters those whirling winds. Except…not quite two decades ago a tornado tore through Salt Lake City. But according to science, that should never have happened, right? Apparently not. This is just one more example of things happening that we really didn’t think could. I bet those people that were affected by the tornado won’t forget that anytime soon…

    Of course, there are so many things that could happen here at any given time. But I didn’t know that the Mississippi wildfires were a thing, so perhaps there’s more to my location than I’ve stopped to think about.

    Being prepared for a disaster involves knowing what to be prepared for. If you are aware that wildfires are a danger in your neck of the woods, you probably have an emergency kit or bug-out bag handy, just in case you need to get out quickly. If you live in a drought-stricken area, you probably have alternate options for water that don’t involve rain. No matter your location, there are certain disasters that are more prevalent than others, and being prepared for those can keep you and your family one step ahead of the game.

    My challenge to you is to do some research about the potential threats in your area, make a list of how you need to prepare for these threats, and then go do it.

    Get prepared.

    You can never predict when a disaster will strike, or how hard you’ll be hit.


    Research the threats in your area and let us know if there were any new threats you learned about!


    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Mississippi

  • Wake-up Call: Mild Earthquake Spurs Unprecedented Demand for Emergency Kits

    Hurricane Katrina Seeing the effects of Hurricane Katrina helped many people start preparing for emergencies.

    For Shelly Robertson, of American Fork, Utah, seeing people on TV during Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath caused her to begin preparing an emergency kit. For Tina Koeven, from Pleasant Grove, Utah, a practice earthquake evacuation taught her she needed to make an emergency kit portable. For people in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, a mild earthquake December 29 prompted enough demand for emergency kits that one store temporarily sold out.

    All these people learned to be prepared from their experiences.

    “To be effective learners we must (1) perceive information, (2) reflect on how it will impact some aspect of our life, (3) compare how it fits into our own experiences, and (4) think about how this information offers new ways for us to act,” wrote Marcia L. Conner, who trains organizations about how to help their employees be effective

    BC Earthquake - via CityNews The 4.3 magnitude earthquake in BC reminded folks how close they are to impending disaster. - via CityNews

    Let’s use her model of learning to break down the case of the British Columbia earthquake as a wake-up call. The earthquake was moderate: Natural Resources Canada measured it at 4.3 and there were no injuries or damage. One man said it felt like a truck passing by. It took place late at night about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the city of Victoria, just over the northern border of Washington State.

    So, some people in British Columbia perceived information: there was an earthquake. They reflected about how it would impact them: What damage could a large earthquake cause? They compared how it fit into their experiences: they might need to leave their homes or be without resources. And they thought about how to act: We might need an emergency kit.

    The result: a British Columbia emergency preparedness company, 72 Hours, had to backorder personal emergency kits because so many people bought them, reported CTV News, a Canadian TV news network.

    "We hear people say they've been meaning to get prepared and they've procrastinated, and this was the wake-up call," 72 Hours employee Brian Fong told CTV.

    Tina Koeven had a wake-up call from a mistake. Her church held an earthquake drill. Congregation members pretended an earthquake hit and evacuated to the church building with their emergency supplies. Koeven, who lives next door to the building, had her emergency kit in a large duffel bag.

    “By the time I’d dragged the bag to the church … I wanted to lay down and die because I couldn’t go anywhere else,” she said. “Or be like the [early American] pioneers and throw stuff out along the trail.”

    She’s considering other ways to carry her emergency kit.

    It’s possible to learn from others’ mistakes too. In fact, a brain imaging study published in 2010 in the online journal NeourImage suggested it might be more effective.

    Brain Our neural activity tends to be stimulated by our competitor's errors (as in the example shown here) rather than their successes. Credit: Dr. Paul Howard-Jones and Dr. Rafal Bogacz

    Researchers had study subjects play a simple game. They found that when a player’s computer opponent was taking a turn, the player’s own brain was activated as if they were performing the action. The study found players’ brains were more active when their opponent made a mistake.

    “This suggests that we benefit from our competitors' failures by learning to inhibit the actions that lead to them,” the study authors said.

    Shelly Robertson decided to build an emergency kit after seeing TV accounts of people stranded during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A cascade of mistakes kept them from getting assistance for days.

    “There wasn’t any way to get people help, and we live in the U.S.,” she said. “It really unnerved me.”

    She built an emergency kit containing things like food, emergency blankets, cooking and heating gear, and a radio. She also included candy and toys for her children.

    “You don’t want to just survive,” she said. “You’ve got to give them something to do while you wait for help to arrive.”




    What events have given you a wake-up call to start preparing for emergencies? Let us know in the comments!



    Marcia L. Conner, "Learning from Experience." Ageless Learner, 1997-2007.




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  • Christmas Shopping for Emergencies

    It’s possible to build an emergency kit on a budget, said Maralin Hoff, nicknamed the “Earthquake Lady,” from the Division of Emergency Management in the Utah Department of Public Safety

    “We think an emergency kit is going to cost an arm and a leg. No. It’s a shoestring. It’s that easy,” she said.

    Stockings - Christmas ShoppingIf you’re looking for last-minute Christmas gifts, emergency kit supplies can make great stocking stuffers.

    “I’ve started a new tradition. Every Christmas, I give my children and grandchildren … something new to add to their emergency kit,” Hoff said at a 2010 emergency preparedness expo shown on YouTube.

    That’s how Shelly Robertson, of American Fork, Utah, built her emergency kit.

    “Really, it’s all about having a budget,” she said, adding that she asks for emergency supplies for Christmas gifts.

    At the emergency preparedness expo, Hoff showed emergency kits built almost entirely of items from dollar stores.

    Robertson found small bottles of medicines like acetaminophen and Ibuprofen, glow sticks, trash bags, hand sanitizer, and travel size toiletries at the dollar store.

    Dollar whistles are useful gifts, Hoff said. They’re louder than shouting.

    “Every [emergency] kit should have a whistle,” she said.

    Trekker II-  Christmas ShoppingRobertson looked for Christmas sales for more expensive items. For example, she found mess kits on sale at a recreation outlet store. She found many items discounted during Emergency Essentials’ Black Friday and December sales. There, she bought an emergency radio that she loves at a discount.

    “I highly recommend it,” she said. “The most expensive thing was the radio. Everything else was $5 or less.”

    Among her $5 or less purchases:

    Emergency reflective sleeping bags. She prefers them to emergency blankets because there aren’t edges to deal with.

    She also loves our New Millennium energy bars because she wants lightweight emergency food her children will eat.

    “They taste kind of like cookies,” she said.

    Hard candies: she says they’re nice for when children are sick.

    Flashlights and batteries. She puts fresh batteries in every year and uses the old ones.

    A $5 cook stove with heating tablets. She thinks that was a gift.

    “Mostly, just take a look around at what you already own, then buy a few specialty items,” she said. “There’s a lot you can pick up for very cheap, on a very limited budget. Think about what you need, and what you can substitute for it, and just go for it.”


    What emergency items are you getting (or hoping to get) for Christmas?


    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Christmas Shopping

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