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  • Prepare for Winter...In the Summer

    Today marks the last day of July, which means winter is coming.

    Wait, what? But…don’t we still have August left? And what happened to September and October?

    Alright, you caught me. Those months are still on the calendar, and we can get really nice weather those months (fall weather is amazing, after all). But the truth is, winter is coming, and while it may still be a few months off, it is wise to start preparing for it now.

    Prepare for Winter...before everyone takes all the thingsAs is the case with most severe weather, we sometimes wait until the storm is looming ominously before us before we run to the store and grab some necessities. While this works sometimes, other times it can leave us without the essentials we need. This is one reason why it is best to be prepared well in advance. And, some things are just easier to prepare for while the weather is still nice. If you wait until it’s cold and snowy, some things may be harder to accomplish (not to mention that’s when everyone else starts getting ready, too, so prices may go up and contractor availability may be hard to find).

    Without further ado, here are some ways to prepare for winter…in the summer.

     

    Winterize Your Home

    Winterizing your homePrepare for Winter...Bundle Up Your Home is one of the best things you can do to prepare for winter in the summer. Make sure you have sufficient insulation in your home, and most especially in the attic. Hot air rises (at least that’s what my science teachers always said), so if your attic is poorly insulated, that hot air will escape through there.

    Caulking the drafty areas around windows and doors will also keep that warm, inside air from escaping (and thus saving you all kinds of money). Weather stripping is another good idea for the gaps in doors and windows, too.

    Other things you can do to prepare for winter is cleaning out your furnace, replace air filters, and have that chimney cleaned out.

     

    Prepare Your Car

    Prepare for WInter...Car PrepThe first really cold or snowy day of winter usually has me searching for my ice scraper. It’s usually hidden somewhere that I can’t remember since I haven’t had to use it all spring, summer, or fall. Before the cold temperatures come, gather together the essentials that you’ll need in one location, so when the frost does come you can easily find it again.

    Summertime is also a good time to stock up on needed supplies and tools for your car, and even a car emergency kit (more on that in a second). Consider replenishing and updating your first aid or emergency kit. Get a shovel for your trunk (the 4-in-1 Mini Folding Shovel even fits in your glove compartment).

     

    Build Your Emergency Kit

    Emergency kits are lifesavers. There are certain things you should have in your winter emergency kits, including items that provide warmth, alternate power, and of course, water and food. Build a 72-hour kit before the storm comes, because once it does, you may not be able to get out. Let me illustrate that with an almost-personal example.

    Prepare for Winter before the stormA number of years ago before we were married, my wife was trapped in her home with her family during a huge ice storm. They couldn’t leave for days because of the slick roads. The power was down and heat was at a premium. Fortunately, they already had what they needed. If they had waited…I can’t imagine how unpleasant that experience would have been. Instead, when she talks about it, she talks as if it were all some grand adventure. Which I’m sure it was, since they were prepared.

    For your vehicle, consider keeping sand (for traction), a shovel, extra blankets, hats, gloves, and other warm clothing, and some emergency food and water rations. Bright colored flags or signs will also help people see you should you get stuck or stranded in a blizzard.

    For your home, the same things should be kept, as well as rock salt for melting ice on walkways. You will most likely be able to have more supplies on hand, since your home is a bit bigger than your car’s trunk, so use it! Plan ahead, and when the storms come, you’ll be ready and you’ll also be able to think of it as a grand adventure rather than a stressful, how-will-we-manage type experience.

     

    While there are plenty of other things you can do to prepare for winter, it really depends upon you, your home and vehicle, and your individual needs. The important thing for you to remember is to prepare for winter. Sure, it’s still super hot outside, but that’s the point of preparing. If you put it off, you may have an unpleasant first storm. If not…well, the snowmen are waiting to be built!

     

    How do you prepare for winter in the summer?

    Posted In: Planning Tagged With: winterize home, winter is coming, prepare for winter, summer, Winter

  • Preparing Pets for Emergencies

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    Preparing Pets - FloodIn May 2011, storms and spring runoff combined to produce some of the worst flooding in a century in Memphis, Tennessee. The local government ordered more than 1,300 homes evacuated.

    Some people had to evacuate so fast they left their pets behind. Others took pets but found housing them in hotels was costly – if allowed at all. The American Humane Association, which sponsors an animal rescue group that travels to emergencies, reported it took in 187 animals. It pulled 50 of them from the flooding, including a cat that bore four kittens after its rescue.

    When preparing your family for emergencies, don’t forget pets. Preparing pets is just as important.

     

    ID your pet

    Preparing Pets with TagsYour pets should have current ID tags in case you get separated from them. The Humane Society of the United States suggests putting an out-of-state contact on the back of the tag, since an evacuation might force you out of your home. Pets with microchips in them have been found halfway across the country, so if possible, get your pet microchipped and enroll it in a recovery database, said the Humane Society.

    “If your pet gets lost, his tag is his ticket home,” said ready.gov.

    Once you’ve tagged your pet, make sure you keep its records handy in a waterproof container.

    Your pet’s records should include a veterinary history and name of your veterinarian, feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues, in case you have to board your pets apart from you.

    You need a current photo of you with your pet along with its description. That can help others find your pet and prove it’s yours if you get separated.

     

    Make a pet disaster kit

    “Keep in mind that what's best for you is typically what's best for your animals,” said ready.gov.

    Pets need disaster kits just like people do.

    The Humane Society of the United States has a great checklist for a pet disaster kit.

    It suggests packing food and water for five days (check out our freeze-dried pet food, great for long-term storage). Remember a can opener. Though your pet doesn’t need a gallon of water per day, the checklist recommends keeping an extra gallon of water on hand to clean your pet if it gets exposed to chemicals or flood water. You also need equipment to collect pet waste: a cat litter box with litter and a scoop and garbage bags.

    Preparing Pets with Meds, etc.You should have first aid supplies for your pets as well as for your family, including medicines and a pet first aid book.

    “There are many minor injuries you can deal with at home before going to a vet, especially in an emergency or when you can't get in to see a doctor quickly,” wrote Deann Shepherd, director of communications for the Humane Society of Utah in an email.

    A pet could end up staying in a carrier for hours or longer. The Humane Society of the United States recommends a carrier large enough to allow a pet to stand comfortably, turn around and lie down. Small pets should have a secure cage with blankets or towels for warmth and any species-specific needs. Also bring leashes or harnesses. If possible, a pet’s bed and toys from home are useful to reduce its stress.

    Other useful items include paper towels, trash bags, grooming items, and bleach.

     

    Find a safe place to stay

    Most shelters won’t take pets. See if you can arrange for friends or relatives outside your immediate area to shelter you and your pets, the Humane Society said. If you have more than one pet, you may need to house them in separate places. A kennel or vet’s office might board your pets. Or, though this will be more costly, you can track down a pet-friendly hotel.

    The Humane Society has a list of online resources for pet-friendly hotels, reproduced below. Be aware that many hotels will have a pet surcharge.

     

    Find Pet Friendly Hotels:

    Bringfido.com
    Dogfriendly.com
    Doginmysuitcase.com
    Pet-friendly-hotels.net
    Pets-allowed-hotels.com
    Petswelcome.com
    Tripswithpets.com

     

    As a last resort, ask your local animal shelter if its staff can watch your pet, the Humane Society said. However, be aware that shelters often have limited resources.

     

    Plan for your pet in case you're not home

    Ask a neighbor or nearby family member to take your pets if you’re not at home when there’s a disaster. Give that person a key and show them where your pets are likely to hide and where you keep emergency supplies. Make sure that person knows your pets and vice-versa.

     

    What solutions have you come up with for preparing pets for disasters? Tell us in the comments!

    Posted In: Planning Tagged With: preparing pets, pets, disaster

  • Preparing Children with Emergency Signs

    Preparing children for emergencies is essential for families. You can train most children, even young ones, how to react to a disaster. You should create an emergency plan for natural and human-caused disasters, then practice at least twice a year so everyone knows where to go and who to contact in case they need to evacuate, recommends the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

    However, babies can’t be trained. Pets usually have trouble following an evacuation plan. Some special needs family members can’t be trained or may have trouble communicating or moving. Some use medical equipment like concentrated oxygen, which is explosive in a fire.

    Preparing Children - Baby on BoardThough not for everybody, emergency signs can be useful to those populations. These include window stickers that indicate children’s bedrooms, oxygen signs, medical alert stickers and bracelets, and car signs like, oh, yeah, “Baby on Board.” “Baby on Board” signs were so ubiquitous in the mid-1980s they even inspired a song on “The Simpsons.”

    The advantage is simple: the more information first responders have, the better, said Trooper Josh Lewis from the Colorado State Patrol.

    An autistic boy from his church congregation wandered away from home, which caused an hours-long search. Fortunately, the boy wore a medical alert bracelet.

    “Should law enforcement come across him and see … the medical alert bracelet, we would much rather have the information than not,” Lewis said.

    Medical alert stickers are available.

    Preparing Children - Autistic ChildEmergency signs are useful on cars too. A sign like “Autistic child may not respond to verbal commands” or even “Baby on Board” helps first responders be more alert, Lewis said.

    “Any time we respond to a crash and see a car seat or anything that has to do with a kid in a vehicle, we are going to scour the area,” he said.

    Advocacy groups often recommend emergency alert window stickers for apartment buildings, said Ken Willette, division manager of the public fire protection division of the NFPA. They help responders know where to search first. Private homeowners may also post the stickers.

    “It’s all about life and safety. If people feel comfortable putting up a warning label or sign to let first responders know they might need special services, that’s a good thing,” he said.

    Preparing Children with OxygenOxygen signs are not voluntary, Willette said. Many states require people to post an oxygen sign if they have compressed oxygen cylinders in their home. Remember the movie “Apollo 13”? A single spark in its oxygen tank destroyed the spacecraft.

    Emergency responders like to know if they’ll be facing something like that. Wouldn’t you?

    Voluntary signs like child stickers in windows can come with disadvantages, according to the NFPA.

    First, they can create a false sense of security and imply that children should wait for rescue. Parents need to teach children to respond immediately when the smoke alarms sounds, know two ways out of every room, crawl under smoke, gather at a meeting place and call the fire department from outside a burning building, according to the NFPA.

    Second, emergency signs can suggest vulnerable areas in the home to intruders. They also open up owners to the abuses from bullies. A mother in Utah who had an autism warning sign for first responders on her car came out one morning to find somebody had defaced it with stickers that read “spoiled brat” and “unetitled” (sic).

    Preparing Children - Tag their roomFinally, and most importantly, when children change rooms or grow up, the window signs need to change rooms or be removed. Firefighters could waste vital rescue time looking for a child who isn’t there, a NFPA brochure said.

    With all that in mind, if you choose to use emergency signs, or must use them by law, follow two directions. Make sure the signs are visible and take them down when they don’t apply. Whether or not you use emergency notification equipment, do contact emergency services in your area if you have family members with special medical needs. Some fire departments can enter that information so it will show when dispatchers access an address, Willette said. If you have medical equipment that requires electricity, tell power companies so they can prioritize that during outages.

    “As long as you feel comfortable, first responders would much rather have the information than not,” Lewis said.

    Emergency notification signs, bracelets, and stickers are available in many places. I found them for sale with a simple Web search and on Amazon.com. Some fire departments sometimes have free window stickers. I also found free printable signs with a Google search. As you see, preparing children is more than just teaching them about disasters. It's about informing others around you to take extra care as well.

     

    - Melissa

    Posted In: Planning Tagged With: emergency sign, baby on board, preparing children

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