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  • Preparing Your Car for Winter Weather

    via Denver Post via Denver Post

    In many parts of the United States, the first snow has already fallen. In some places the storms were doozies: Parts of Reno, Nevada received 10 inches of snow on November 11 and Denver saw its first blizzard in five years on November 16.

    So, isn’t it time prepare your car for winter?

    First, make sure the car is running well, said Rolayne Fairclough, a spokesperson for AAA Utah.

    “Take it in and have a mechanic prepare it for the winter,” she said.

    Make sure the battery is fully charged, because it’s weaker in cold weather. Mechanics can test it or some car parts stores will test it for free, according to an article in Kiplinger.com, a financial planning site. If you know your battery’s powering down, you can replace it at your convenience and at a better price, the site said.

    Make sure hoses and belts aren’t cracked, Fairclough said. Winter can increase cracks and cause breaking. Also make sure the exhaust system is leak-free so carbon monoxide doesn’t fill your car.

    Whether you choose all-season or winter tires, make sure they’ve got enough tread, Kiplinger.com said. The web site for The Tire Rack, a tire vendor, demonstrates a coin-based way to check the tread.

    Its site points out that at 1/16 of an inch, the minimum tread required by law in most places, “resistance to hydroplaning in the rain at highway speeds has been significantly reduced, and traction in snow has been virtually eliminated.”

    Winter TireYou may have been told to under-inflate tires to give them more surface area. That only helps if the snow is deep and soft, said the Kiplinger.com story. On a normal drive, under-inflated tires act more like hydroplaning tires because they don’t grab the pavement as well as fully inflated tires. Also, remember tires lose a pound of pressure for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit temperature drop.

    Make sure your brakes are in good condition.

    Check windshield wipers and wiper fluid too. Windshield wiper blades have a lifespan of about a year, according to the Kiplinger.com story. In places that get especially cold, put an antifreeze solvent in windshield washer reservoirs, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

    Putting windshield wiper fluid in a car. Don't forget the antifreeze!

    Make sure all the fluids are full and clean, especially antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid. If you live in a really cold area, make sure the antifreeze solution is good for temperatures 40 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation site. Car parts stores carry an antifreeze tester that’s less than $10, according to Kiplinger.com.

    Check to make sure leaves and debris haven’t filled the opening below the hood and windshield: they can block water flow, according to Kiplinger.com. Also make sure nothing under the car is loose or hanging down so it doesn’t get torn out if you drive over deep snow. Finally, clean and wax headlights.

    The second step is to make sure you’ve got an emergency kit, Fairclough said.

    Keep cold weather gear like blankets or a sleeping bag, boots, a coat, and gloves in the car, she said. Aluminum “space blankets” can fit in a glove compartment.

    Bring a power source for cell phones, a radio, and a flashlight with extra batteries.

    Believe it or not, a candle can heat a whole car’s cabin, Fairclough said. Carry matches too, because extreme cold can freeze some lighters.

    Add water and a metal container for melting snow or drinking. Also bring high-energy food like candy, raisins, nuts, dehydrated fruit and jerky. Don’t forget toilet paper.

    Auto Kit Keep an auto emergency kit in your vehicle, just in case.

    Finally, take tools and equipment for the car: signaling equipment like bright cloth or flares, chains, booster cables, a nylon rope, and a shovel, and sand or kitty litter for traction.

    In a pinch, you can use the car’s floor mats for traction, Fairclough said.

    “A lot of people just don’t put a shovel in their cars,” she admitted.

    Third, take a few minutes to prepare before you go anywhere. Dress for the weather. Carry a cell phone and charger and make sure to tell someone your departure time, route and expected arrival time, suggests the North Dakota Department of Transportation. Check road conditions before you leave.

    Keep the gas tank more than half full, Fairclough said.

    “If you’re detoured, you have some flexibility and don’t have to worry about running out of gas,” she said.

    Finally, drive for the conditions. Although winter months see fewer fatal crashes, they see more small ones, Fairclough said. Typically they’re from people driving too fast and too close together.

    You can find detailed hints for what to do if you get stranded in winter at the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s web site.

    Have a safe winter!

     

    How is your car prepared for winter weather?

     

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  • Tropical Storm Erika is Coming. Are You Complacent?

    After 10 years without a hurricane in Florida, residents have lost interest in preparing. With tropical storm Erika traveling up towards Southern Florida, it’s high time to prepare.

    Tropical storm Erika - Path Tropical storm Erika's projected path

    Just yesterday it was thought that tropical storm Erika was expected to become a category 1 hurricane when it reached Florida, which means it would have wind speeds between 74 and 95 miles per hour. That’s definitely enough to do quite a bit of damage. Today, however, the storm is not expected to reach hurricane strength. But that doesn't mean it won't bring strong winds and a lot of rain. As Erika passed the small Caribbean island of Dominica, it left over two dozen people dead in the wake of severe floods.

    The Orlando Sentinel reports that tropical storm Erika could find its way to South Florida by Monday morning, and if that happens, it “will be too late to start planning.”

    The lack of hurricanes for the last decade has instilled an air of “it can’t happen here, it will happen to someone else” within many of the people, according to Orlando Sentinel. For folks in Florida, the time to prepare is almost past. But there is still time.

    True, tropical storm Erika could still miss Florida and hit somewhere else, but if you were living there, would you want to wait and find out? By then it will be too late.

    Floridians, it’s high time to prepare.

    Tropical storm Erika - FloodingFor the rest of you readers out there, what have you become complacent about? Florida isn’t the only state to be effected by natural disasters. Tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and even winter storms can really make a mess of things. And then there’s job loss, stock market crash, and other economical disasters. These can be just as bad – or worse – than the natural ones.

    According to an in-depth study in regards to people’s emergency prep, a 2012 public safety survey suggested that “despite an increase in the number of disasters, too many Americans remain disturbingly complacent.” This complacency causes a failure to act in time to sufficiently prepare.

    Now it’s time to look deep into your soul and ask yourself, “Am I too complacent?” If you are, you can start preparing now. Turn over a new leaf, if you will. If you aren’t, then congratulations! You’re an inspiration to us all. If you’re not sure, then you may need to check your emergency preparations and make sure you have what you need. Even if you aren’t complacent, it’s still wise to check over your emergency prep every so often to make sure everything is still in good condition and ready to go should a disaster happen.

    In the past, perhaps you were able to “ride out” a storm or disaster. According to the University of Buffalo, this “can lead people to feel complacent when receiving emergency warnings.” Maybe the disaster wasn’t as bad as it was broadcast to be, or maybe you were just on the outskirts of the storm. Or, perhaps the local emergency services came in to save the day. A University of Newcastle scholar is afraid that people have become too reliant on emergency services. Such overreliance “leads to a disempowered society.”

    When disasters head our way, the last thing we want to be is disempowered. Take the steps now to be prepared, so when a stronger storm than you’ve seen comes, you will be the one in power, not the disaster.

    Tropical storm Erika - Vigilance Be vigilant to disasters, both seen and unseen

    Florida may not have had a hurricane in a decade, but that doesn’t mean they’re gone for good. Just because you haven’t been in the path of a tornado doesn’t mean you won’t. As the saying goes, we’re sitting on a railroad track and the train is coming. We just don’t know when it will reach us.

    Likewise, we’re all in the path of all sorts of disasters. We just don’t know when they will hit us. National Weather Service meteorologist Will Ulrich hopes that, “regardless of [Erika] or any tropical system, people already have a plan in place.”

    And that’s our hope, too. Regardless of the disasters approaching – now or in the future – we hope you will already be prepared.

     

    Have you ever wished you were more prepared than you were for a disaster? What was it like? Let us know in the comments below!

     

     

    Tropical storm Erika - Hurricane Page

  • Why You Need to Begin Your Disaster Planning

    When do you start thinking about disaster planning?

    Disaster PlanningAlthough we don’t need to dwell on thoughts of disaster every moment of every day (what kind of life would that be, anyway?), we should still keep them in mind throughout the year. I know, I know, but you don’t even want to be thinking about major snowstorms in the middle of the summer, tornadoes in January, job loss working at your sweet job, or earthquakes in…wherever and whenever! And why not? Probably because it’s not snow storm season in the summer (unless you're in Canada...) and tornado season starts in the spring, not January, so you’re just not thinking about it. But here, come in a little closer to your monitor and I’ll let you in on a little secret: that’s what they want you to think. The longer you put it off, the easier it is for those disasters to come at you without warning.

    Diabolical, if you ask me.

    But, believe it or not, there is a way to counter these evil schemes. It’s called planning. It’s what you do before road trips, mapping out your college career, and yes, even before a crisis or disaster happens. There’s no sense in waiting until you see the twister on approach or you get that pink slip from your boss, because by then, it’s too late.

    Disaster planningThere are a number of different areas in which you should keep in mind for disaster planning. Food, water, and shelter have been discussed ad nauseam on this blog, however those are still some of the most crucial areas in preparation. I think we all understand the need to prepare for disasters. If an earthquake or tornado or flood comes strolling through town, it can not only ruin your home, but local grocery stores, farms, and other places that provide you with food. You might not have running water, so you’d need some sort of backup. And if your house gets washed away or crumbles to the ground (or is just far too unstable to trust during the night), you’re going to want some sort of shelter for you and your family.

    Losing a job can be just as devastating. Although your home is still intact and your faucets work, you no longer have an income and still have four mouths to feed (or five, or six…). Having an emergency food storage will not only help you financially (because investing in food is a real thing), but will help bring you at least some peace of mind knowing your family is still being fed during the interim of finding a new job.

    But of course, you know why you should plan. But now the question is what should you plan. Although each individual and family is different and has their own individual needs, there are still some basics for planning that you should keep in mind. Ready.gov has, as usual, some great ideas for how and what to plan.

    You may want to start with a family emergency communications plan. This should include things such as everyone knowing where to meet following a disaster if your home is evacuated, out-of-town emergency contacts, school and work contacts, and medical contacts. Make sure your kids have your phone numbers memorized, and remember: if it’s not an emergency, text; don’t call. Text messages may have an easier time getting through and won’t tie up phone lines that emergency workers will need.

    Use technology to help communicate with loved ones that you’re OK. The internet is the third most popular way for Americans to get their information regarding a disaster and let their friends and loved ones know they’re safe.

    Disaster planning - Safety CheckA personal example of this comes from the Nepal Earthquake. The morning it happened, I woke up with an alert on my phone that a huge quake had hit Nepal. It sounded bad, and I hoped it just sounded worse than it was. Then, I remembered one of my good friends was over in Nepal doing humanitarian work. I immediately went to Facebook to see if there was any news from him. Well, there was. Facebook was on it, and the Facebook Safety Check alert popped up on my screen right after I logged in. It said I had one friend in the affected area, and he was marked as safe. Then I found a status update of his. As it turns out, he was in the airport, just about to leave Nepal when the earthquake struck. He and his group were fine – just temporarily delayed. I learned all that from Facebook, and then I stopped worrying about him.

    So you see, Facebook can be a great way of making sure your friends and family know you’re alright. Of course, Facebook is just one way to go about it. Find a way to make the Internet work for you.

    Next on the list is knowing where your utility shut-offs are. According to ready.gov, “natural gas leaks and explosions are responsible for a significant number of fires following disasters.” Shutting off your utilities after a disaster can really save your home – and your lives. Find the shut-off valves for your natural gas, water, and electricity, so if there is a concern, you’ll know where to go.

    Disaster planning - Dolla bill (y'all)Financial preparedness is something we don’t always think about, but should still plan for. Have some extra cash stashed somewhere in your house (preferably in bills no larger than $20), because there’s always the possibility that credit and debit machines won’t work. Also plan to have adequate insurance for your home, car, and belongings. Along with this, have your important documents and records in an easily accessible location. Doing all this will help you recover faster from disaster.

    Lastly, plan ahead to be prepared with safety skills. First aid and CPR classes can provide the knowledge and skills you need to help save and protect those close to you. By receiving official certification from the American Red Cross, you’ll even be protected when you give aid to others. Without that protection (as sad as it is to say), you could face lawsuit, so make sure you plan ahead so when the time comes to help, you won’t be afraid to.

    Well, I hope this gives you a good starting place for planning ahead for disaster. Of course, there are many other areas to plan for, such as shelter, heat, and sanitation. But this should get you started. Check out our other blog posts to learn more about preparing for disasters.

     

    Additional Reading:

    How Good Sanitation Can Save Your Life: http://beprepared.com/blog/18189/good-sanitation-can-save-your-life/

    4 Reasons Why You Need an Emergency Shelter: http://beprepared.com/blog/18157/why-you-need-an-emergency-shelter/

    How Emergency Food Storage Can See You Through Unemployment: http://beprepared.com/blog/18089/emergency-food-storage-can-see-unemployment/

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