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  • The Pillowcase Project - Preparing Children for Emergencies

    How much of your stuff can you fit in your pillowcase?

    No, I’m not talking about your major haul from trick-or-treating at Halloween. I’m talking about in the event of an emergency, what do you have around the house that you would need to take with you that can fit inside a pillowcase?

    Pillowcase Project - Red Cross Pillowcase Project via Red Cross

    The Red Cross has a program called the Pillowcase Project in which children learn all about local hazards, basic coping skills, as well as family and personal preparedness. One of the ways this program helps children learn about emergency preparedness is by using their pillowcase as an impromptu emergency kit. The pillowcase makes it easy to carry their belongings and emergency supplies, and they can even decorate their pillowcase with useful information, such as steps to take during an emergency.

    FEMA has a printout of things children should have in their emergency kits. Items include toothbrush and toothpaste, change of clothes for three days, water, food, and flashlights with extra batteries. The list also includes comfort items, including books, games, puzzles, and a favorite stuffed animal or blanket.

    Having these personal toys can help bring a feeling of normalcy to an otherwise frightening situation. If you think it will be tough for you to go without your modern comforts, just think what it must be like for them! These comforting toys can really go a long way in helping your children cope during an emergency.

    Make sure your children know what they should bring before an emergency happens. This means you will need to find a way to go over this information with your children multiple times until they understand and know exactly what it is they need to do.

    When discussing disasters with your kids, try not to alarm them overly much. Staying calm yourself during an emergency can really help with your children’s demeanor.

    In the event of an emergency, swift action must be taken. There usually isn’t a lot of warning time before an evacuation happens. In the case of a fire, evacuation must be immediate. That means there won’t be time to decide what to take, or even scarier, which of their favorite toys to leave behind.

    Of course, children aren’t always going to be at home when a disaster comes. Besides teaching them about things to grab at home, also teach them about proper ways to act at school, their friend’s house, or anywhere else they may be.

    Teach your children how to properly prepare for emergencies. The Pillowcase Project is just one method, but there are other ways to teach your children. Find the method that works best for you and your children, and makes sure they know what to do when an emergency happens.


    How do you help your children prepare for disasters? Let us know in the comments!


    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Pillowcase Project

  • Preparing the Elderly for Emergencies

    preparing the elderlyHurricane Katrina was devastating to health care providers. Hospitals and clinics flooded or lost power. Almost 100 kidney dialysis clinics in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama closed, some permanently.

    A representative from a company that manages dialysis clinics described the result: “More than 7,000 displaced patients packed into our open clinics, which were not immediately staffed to handle them all.”

    According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of older adults have some kind of functional limitation, like chronic health problems, impaired mobility or diminished sensory awareness. This can make them vulnerable in an emergency. Sixty percent of the people in Louisiana who died from Hurricane Katrina were over age 60. So planning for emergencies is especially important for seniors.

    One group of older adults from Rochester, New York, described how an ice storm that caused a two-week power outage impacted them.

    “If we had only taken a few simple steps to prepare ourselves for such an event, we could have eliminated many of the hardships we had to endure,” they wrote for a Red Cross booklet about senior preparedness.

    They recommended three ways to prepare: get a kit, make a plan, and be informed. Unless otherwise specified, the ideas below come from their Red Cross booklet, “Disaster Preparedness for Seniors by Seniors.”


    Get a Kit

    In addition to a basic emergency kit with food, clothing, and water, seniors should personalize their kits with extra supplies. These can include extra eyeglasses, medication, hearing aids and batteries, oxygen and assistive technology. Label bags and equipment with a name, address and phone number. Keep support equipment in a designated place so it’s easy to find.

    preparing the elderlySome medication, like insulin, requires refrigeration. The U.S. Food and Drug administration recommends that if power has been off for a while, those drugs should be discarded. However, if they are necessary for life, they may be used until a new supply becomes available. Medication exposed to excessive heat and flood water can also become unsafe. So keep medication in a waterproof container and check it for exposure before use.

    Not many people can afford spare hearing aids. In an earthquake-prone area, use Velcro to attach a hearing aid case to a flat surface so it will be readily available and won’t shake off.


    Make a Plan

    Have a plan for how to evacuate and how to shelter at home. Share it with caregivers, friends, and family members. Be honest about abilities and limitations. Know home caregivers’ emergency plans. Keep phone numbers handy – carry them in a wallet or post them by a telephone.

    preparing the elderlyKeep copies of vital records in a fireproof container or safe-deposit box. Vital records include birth, marriage and social security certificates, insurance information, wills and deeds and records of possessions. Health care records are also important. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an online tool, called Blue Button, to help people bring together their electronic health records.

    After Hurricane Katrina, 85,000 people had trouble getting social security checks through the mail. The AARP Foundation recommends people switch to direct deposit. Go to the U.S. Department of the Treasury web site, godirect.org, or call 1-800-333-1795. The Treasury Department also has a prepaid debit card option for people with no bank account.


    Be Informed

    Know what types of disasters are more likely, and prepare for those.

    “Seniors living in Florida need to know how to prepare for a hurricane, while older adults in the Midwest should stock up for blizzards and floods. In California, people should prepare for earthquakes and wildfires,” the CDC recommended.

    Be aware that scammers come out after a disaster. Operation Emergency Prepare recommends six steps to keep from being scammed.

    1. Don’t pay cash to a contractor for home repairs and never give your credit card number unless you are paying the bill with it.
    2. Be sure you have a signed contract detailing the work you want to have done and don’t make a final payment until the work has been done to your satisfaction.
    3. Make sure that any contractors, plumbers, electricians, or roofers are bonded, licensed, or registered in your state. You can check their license status with your state or Better Business Bureau.
    4. Try to get several bids before agreeing to any work; a one-third down payment is considered appropriate.
    5. Beware of home repair loan brokers who guarantee you a loan if you first pay a fee.
    6. If you suspect you have been taken advantage of, call your state attorney general’s office.


    As the CDC points out, in an emergency, older adults are a great resource. With their experience and knowledge, they can be preparedness leaders. It starts with preparing themselves first.


    What can you do more to be better at preparing the elderly you know?


    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Preparing the elderly

  • 13 Rare February Tornadoes Blow Through Gulf States, More on Alert

    Tornado Reports - NOAA Note: Several reports of the same tornado may be plotted on this map - image via NOAA

    Tornado season is generally thought of as a spring thing. Historically, tornadoes are a rare sighting before those spring months. This last week, however, has seen 13 confirmed February tornadoes, with more confirmations likely to emerge as surveys continue. More tornado watches are in effect for some Eastern states, including North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.

    March through June tends to be the busiest months for tornadoes, as illustrated in the graphic below. But what about February tornadoes? Looking at that image again, it show just how rare February tornadoes are. Although they are rare, the folks at US Tornadoes determined the annual average February tornadoes we can expect are between two and three dozen. At its peak, that may seem like a lot of tornadoes, but when you think about it, the low end is only two, which is just an average as well. Still, February is generally considered a quiet month for tornadoes.

    Tornadoes by US Counties - February Tornadoes Image via US Tornadoes

    When it comes to scheduling disasters within a specific time frame, that’s something we just can’t do accurately. Sure, we can deduce when the busiest months are for certain disasters, but as we see in this scenario with 13 confirmed tornadoes in just 24 hours, they will come when we aren’t expecting them.

    Once we receive a tornado warning, we have mere minutes to get to a safe location. That’s not very much, especially if all our emergency gear is strewn all over various rooms of the house. So how does one go about preparing for a tornado? Start by following these three steps from Ready.gov:


    Build an emergency kit

    Having an emergency kit packed and ready will safe you precious minutes packing up last minute supplies. Instead of running around trying to find what you need, just grab your bag on your way out and be confident that everything you need is right in your hands.


    Listen for Radio Updates

    NOAA Weather Radio and commercial radio and television newscasts will give you all the latest information and developments regarding severe weather. When instruction is given by local officials, be sure to follow their council.


    Look for Signs of Approaching Storms

    Dark, greenish skies and large hail is one red flag that a tornado could form. Large and low-lying clouds (especially rotating clouds) are also cause for concern. When a storm approaches, make sure to take shelter immediately.


    Tornadoes can form very quickly, leaving you without much – or any – warning. Don’t think you can outrun one or stand outside watching if it looks to be going the other direction. Tornadoes can change direction without notice, and can travel very quickly. Tornadoes can even form at night, which makes those especially dangerous since it is dark, and most people are sleeping and unaware of the danger.

    We’ve seen a lot of tornadoes this week alone, with more predicted to come. Even if there is no tornado present, strong winds can still wreak havoc on property and be a threat to lives. Take caution during any storm, and when you do get the watch or warning for a tornado, be extra vigilant and act immediately.


    For more information on tornado preparedness, visit www.beprepared.com/tornado-preparedness


    Disaster_Blog_Banner - February Tornadoes

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