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  • 6 Ways You Are Not Prepared For Disaster

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    In regards to a May 7 story from the Weather Channel web site ( described “10 Things You’re Not Doing to Prepare for Natural Disasters,” I conducted a non-random, tiny sample size survey of 11 friends and relatives to see what they were and weren’t doing. Some of them said they felt pretty prepared for an emergency.

    I asked 11 questions based on the story from The questions and results are at the bottom of this post.

    Let’s look at the top six things people weren’t doing.


    Do you have a disaster plan for your family?

    Not Prepared? Be Prepared!Only two people surveyed said they have a disaster plan.

    “I have a plan if there’s a [house] fire,” one said.

    A disaster plan covers what you might face in your area: wildfire, hurricane, or winter storm for example. Where do you meet if some of you are away? Do you shelter at home or evacuate? What are your escape routes? It should answer all those questions.

    FEMA has multiple templates for disaster planning including a “Family Communication Plan" and “Emergency Financial First Aid Kit.”


    Have you set aside a few hundred dollars in small bills?

    Not Prepared - Dolla billzSeven survey participants had not.

    “But we do have an emergency fund in a bank,” one said.

    You need cash for about a week, suggested Ann House, coordinator of the Personal Money Management Center at the University of Utah.

    “In three days, usually the electricity is back on, the heat is back on and stores are up and going, so if you want to be on the safe side, [keep cash for] a week. The rest can go in the bank,” House said.

    Another respondent had cash in larger denominations.

    House said that might not work.

    “If you were out of water and somebody came by with a water selling wagon, you might be giving the person a $100 bill for water. It’s $1 bills that are going to come in handy for emergencies,” she said.


    Have you got a full first aid kit including prescriptions?

    Not Prepared - First Aid KitOnly three participants kept a first aid kit ready with prescriptions.

    FEMA’s pamphlet “Preparing Makes Sense for People with Disabilities and Special Needs” recommends keeping enough daily medication for at least a week along with copies of prescriptions and dosage information.

    Many insurance providers won’t allow you to get more than a month’s supply of prescription medicines. One survey participant said his family keeps their prescriptions where they can grab them as they’re going out the door. That way they don’t have to get around insurance to obtain extra medicines.


    Have you practiced for a disaster?

    Not Prepared - PracticeFive said they had.

    One survey respondent said her church congregation hosted a community disaster event a couple of years ago. She didn’t say if she’d practiced since then. FEMA recommends practicing at least twice per year.


    Is your car ready for a disaster, including a gas tank at least half full?

    Not prepared - gasSeven said no.

    Start by getting a car kit together. It should include emergency supplies, tools, and a change of clothes, according to

    Next, make sure the vehicle is in good condition. Then plan where to go and how to get there. provides a commuter emergency plan where you can fill out alternate routes and modes of transportation.

    Most importantly, keep your gas tank at least half-full, Gwen Camp, director of individual and community preparedness for FEMA told If you hit gridlock during an emergency and your tank is empty you might not make it to a gas station.


    Have you stored at least three gallons of water per person in your family?

    Not prepared - with waterCamp told you should store at least one gallon per person per day for drinking, cooking and sanitation.

    FEMA offers information about how to prepare and store water including bottle types to avoid and how much bleach to sanitize water.



    How are you doing in your emergency preparations? In what ways are you not prepared? You can take the survey and see my results below.


    - Melissa





    How many of the following things have you done to prepare for an emergency?


    Y             N             1. Do you have enough food for your family for three days?


    Y             N             2. Have you set aside a few hundred dollars in small bills?


    Y             N             3. Do you have all your important records stored somewhere safe and easy to obtain?


    Y             N             4. Do you have an out-of-area emergency contact?


    Y             N             5. Have you stored at least three gallons of water per person in your family?


    Y             N             6. Do you have a disaster plan for your family?


    Y             N             7. Do you have a place to stay in an emergency, especially if you have pets? (many places won’t allow them)


    Y             N             8. Are you trained in CPR and/or first aid?


    Y             N             9. Have you practiced for a disaster?


    Y             N             10. Is your car ready for a disaster, including a gas tank at least half full?


    Y             N             11. Have you got a full first aid kit including prescriptions?






    Table 1:

    Yes No Maybe/No answer
    1. Food for 3 days 11 0
    2. Savings in small bills 4 7
    3. Records easily accessible 8 3
    4. Out-of-area emergency contact 8 3
    5. Three gallons of water per person 7 4
    6. Disaster plan 2 7 2
    7. Emergency shelter 10 1 "our car"
    8. First aid trained 6 3 2 "not certified"
    9. Practiced for a disaster 5 5 1 "somewhat"
    10. Car prepared for disaster 6 5
    11. First aid kit with prescriptions 3 7 1



    Graph 1:

    Survey Graph

    Posted In: Additional Reading, First Aid and Sanitation, Planning Tagged With: small bills, gas tank, not prepared, water, disaster

  • Are You Prepared for Financial Crisis?

    Greece's Central Bank As Investors Face Wipeout Huffington Post

    As I watch the financial crisis unfold in Greece, which has been going through its Great Depression for the last five years, and in China, which is facing a stock market crash suspiciously like the 1929 Wall Street one, I am thankful for a slightly more robust economy here in the United States.

    “It’s unlikely we’re going to have a big crisis like [the Great Depression] again if we heed what’s going on and do some tweaking,” said Ann House, coordinator of the Personal Money Management Center at the University of Utah.

    Not that it matters that much from my family’s perspective. We’re going through a micro version of an economic collapse. Two weeks ago, my husband lost his job. We have tried for years to prepare for economic emergencies. Here are some things we did well – and not so well.

    We built up a short term and long term savings and emergency fund.

    House recommends taking savings out first, via direct deposit, rather than putting away what’s left at the end of the month.

    “I know if I keep extra money in my checking account, I will spend it until it’s gone,” she joked.

    My husband’s office automatically deposited part of his paycheck into a retirement fund.

    In addition, we owned a short term savings to prepare for things like holidays. Then we created a third savings account for emergencies – especially medical bills.

    Hooray for us. Only 29 percent of Americans have an emergency savings, according to a survey from Bankrate, so that puts us ahead, right?

    We didn’t save enough. Our emergency fund was gone by June. We thought it was plentiful because we didn’t realize this year would be the Year of the Instacare (not to be confused with the Year of Soils). My husband needed surgery, I endured dental work, a son had chronic ear infections and a daughter caught pneumonia. We’ve spent more time in doctor’s offices than some doctors.

    When my husband lost his job we had enough in short term savings for two months’ expenses if nothing went wrong.

    Money Flies AwayUnfortunately, just before he lost his job his car wheezed its last wheeze, necessitating its replacement. Since then we’ve needed to replace four tires in the family car; part of our sprinkler system broke; my income decreased and more medical expenses popped up. Yes, this was our last two weeks. We’re readjusting our expectations.

    Most financial planners recommend saving enough for six months’ worth of expenses. We should have done more to get to that level.

    House also recommends organizing important paperwork.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s “Emergency Financial First Aid Kit” is a great resource to organize important papers, House said.

    The 44-page booklet includes four sections that identify what information to collect and keep, like social security cards, insurance policies, prescriptions and emergency contact information.

    We keep our important documents – birth certificates, loan paperwork, insurance information, etc., protected and handy. Some is in a fireproof, waterproof safe. More is in an independent hard drive and in cloud-based storage.

    Hooray for us, right?

    Important advice: If you put stuff in a safe, don’t lose the key.

    House suggests keeping up to $1,000 in cash with a 72-hour kit. After all, a coronal mass ejection can knock out an ATM almost as easily as a Greek government order.

    We keep an emergency storage with food, water, clothing, shelter and money.

    Hooray for us, right?

    Not necessarily. The cash is all in larger bills.

    “If you were out of water, and somebody came by with a water selling wagon, you might be giving the person a $100 bill for water. It’s one-dollar bills that are going to come in handy for emergencies,” she said.

    Our family could keep emergency kits better updated. The last time I checked one daughter’s emergency bag I found diapers. She was six.

    Finally, House encouraged reducing debt and improving credit scores.

    House said more than 60 percent of prospective employers check credit scores, so a good score can mean the difference between getting and missing out on a job. It takes time and effort to improve a credit score: remembering to pay all bills on schedule, keeping oldest credit cards and paying off other debt, and painstakingly searching credit reports for inevitable mistakes. All three credit bureaus must give one free credit report per year.

    We improved our credit scores and eliminated credit card debt.

    Hooray for us, right?

    Well, yeah. Hooray for us. We’ve got to do something right.

    Oh, and if you hear of any positions in emergency management, law enforcement or writing and editing, please let us know.


    - Melissa



    Interview with Ann House: July 7, 2015

    Posted In: Budgeting Tagged With: financial planning, debt, Greece, financial preparedness

  • Washington Wildfire Hits Way Too Close to Home

    Wenatchee, WA. is a city of about 35,000 that’s nicknamed the Apple Capital of the World. It sits between the Columbia Rivera and the Okanongan-Wenatchee National Forest in central Washington.

    Washington Wildfire - NBC News NBC News

    On June 28, a fire started about 7 miles northwest of Wenatchee. Fed by 100-plus degree temperatures and high wind, the fire exploded through bone-dry sagebrush and grass. Within half a day the Washington wildfire grew to almost 4 ½ square miles and blasted into a development on the northwest edge of Wenatchee. Twenty-nine homes burned to the ground that night, according to an official fire report.

    “The wind changed, and the fire came so quick, that people … had five minutes to get out of the house,” said Karen LuBean, who witnessed the devastation from her home in East Wenatchee across the Columbia River. “Some people were only able to get their purse. They grabbed a few legal documents and stuff like that.”

    A Red Cross shelter at a high school reported 155 people checked in Sunday night.

    Embers from the fire jumped at least five blocks to a recycling center and buildings that contained what Karen believed was ammonia and other chemicals. They caught fire, and the resulting fumes forced people indoors for a half-mile radius with instructions to turn off air conditioners and cover doors and windows. A full four miles away, the air stung Karen’s eyes. Three businesses were destroyed.

    Washington Wildfire Firefighter - ABC News ABC News

    At the height of the fire, 336 firefighters were attacking the blaze. Five days later, the fire was 98 percent contained and almost all fire crews were home. Three people were treated for minor injuries, according to the official fire report.

    Karen’s family is well prepared for emergencies. They have 72-hour kits and important documents scanned and stored on the computer. They have an evacuation plan. Even so, she feels she could be more prepared.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests five Ps of wildfire evacuation preparation in its booklet “How to Prepare for a Wildfire.” They are People, Prescriptions, Papers, Personal Needs and Priceless Items.



    The best way to protect family members and pets is create an emergency plan. This plan should include evacuation maps and instructions for young children, carriers for pets, plans for people with special needs and utility shut-off directions, according to FEMA’s

    Karen said her family has an evacuation plan but wants to revisit it.

    “We’ve gone over our escape routes in the past but it’s been awhile,” she said.



    Karen must take thyroid medication, so she said prescription preparedness is “number one.”

    This includes having a supply of medication and copies of prescriptions. It also includes backup medical equipment batteries, glasses and hearing aids, according to FEMA.



    Karen says most of her legal documents are scanned.

    “If we could just grab the computer and go, we’d be fine.”

    FEMA recommends storing important documents on a cloud-based service or an external hard drive or thumb drive in a fireproof, waterproof box.

    Important documents include government-issued ID papers, prescriptions or warranties for medical equipment, insurance paperwork, rental or mortgage agreements and photos or movies of each room in the house. FEMA provides an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit to help identify records to keep safe. It is available at

    Karen has adult children living all over the country so after she scanned copies of important papers like birth and marriage certificates, she sent copies to everyone.


    Personal Needs

    FEMA says personal needs include clothes, food, water, first aid kit, cash, phones and chargers, and items for children and people with disabilities or other needs.

    Karen already has food, water, clothes, first aid supplies and two types of radios. She is adding masks.

    “I think I need to revisit my 72-hour pack,” Karen said.

    She especially wants to replace food.

    “Unless they’re MREs, they’re not that tasty after a year or two,” she joked.


    Priceless Items

    FEMA defines priceless items as pictures, irreplaceable mementos and other valuables. Karen includes photos and family history in her list.

    Washington Wildfire Destruction Reuters

    Last week, Karen got a pointed reminder of the importance of being prepared. The Washington wildfire in Wenatchee exploded from nothing to devastation in 12 hours. Karen said her dentist’s home was barely spared but the home of another acquaintance was destroyed.

    “For a whole city block on both sides, almost every house was just burned to a crisp,” she said.


    - Melissa


    How do you prepare for wildfires? Let us know in comments!

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Washington, Wenatchee, wildfire, Prepare

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