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  • In Case of a House Fire...Plan Ahead

    House FireOn the night of March 30, a fire ripped through a block of apartment buildings in Brooklyn, N.Y. Though no one lost their lives, at least 35 families were displaced. Three buildings burned and two others were damaged.

    The New York Times described the struggles of the next few days for several families.

    “How the days, even weeks, after a fire play out for someone it has displaced are largely determined by what that person can grab in the seconds before escaping,” wrote Times reporter Michael Wilson.

    The American Red Cross helps at about 70,000 house fires every year in the United States, an average of one every eight minutes, said Rich Woodruff Red Cross Communications Director for the Utah Region of the American Red Cross.

    When they’re thinking about preparing for a fire, many people remember 72-hour kits or go bags. Some even remember to gather extras like diapers and prescription medication. Here are a few things Woodruff said people tend to forget when they’re planning for rapid evacuation.

    First, have an evacuation plan and rehearse it. Map two exit routes and arrange meeting places in case household members get separated from each other. Also arrange meeting places and phone contacts out of town in case of a widespread emergency. Ready.gov has templates to make planning easier.

    “Let’s say at 3 a.m., the smoke alarm goes off, and you can’t see well. Instead of panicking, you have a predetermined route,” Woodruff said.

    Second, plan for pets. Pets are often overlooked in peoples’ emergency plans, Woodruff said.

    When packing a grab-and-go kit for household members, pack one for pets. Pack things like food and a water bowl. Make sure each pet has identification, like a collar or microchip. The Red Cross has a pet first aid app and other pet preparedness information.

    For a few days after the Brooklyn apartment fire, according to the New York Times story, one resident, Luke Moffitt, worried about his cats. He’d opened a window on the way out so they could escape, but he hadn’t seen them. He was lucky. When firefighters allowed him to enter his apartment, he found them inside. A building superintendent who raised pigeons on the roof of another building lost all of them.

    hard drive connected to the computer with vital documents House Fire

    Third, keep digital copies of important papers either in the cloud or in a place like a safe-deposit box. These include papers like wills, vital records, financial and legal information and ownership records. One of the greatest struggles for people displaced in the Brooklyn fire was finding and recreating vital records, the New York Times story reported.

    For example, the Red Cross gave out preloaded debit cards to fire victims, but adult family members had to have identification to receive them. The Rondon family had five adults and an infant living in their apartment. Only one adult, away during the fire, escaped with his ID. Two others found ID copies by calling an employer.

    The Quinones family needed their son’s birth certificate and proof of residence to get into temporary housing. They got a letter from their son’s pediatrician since they didn’t have a birth certificate. They had to get a form signed by their landlord and notarized since they had no lease on hand. A few days later, demolition workers recovered their battered file cabinet that contained birth certificates and other important papers.

    On average, people have two minutes to escape from a burning house, Woodruff said. When the Brooklyn blaze began, one man was on his way to the shower. He escaped shirtless and shoeless, no phone, no wallet. Emergencies aren’t convenient. But preparing for them can make the aftermath a little more bearable.

    The Red Cross has emergency preparedness apps like first aid, emergency alerts and preparedness for kids.


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  • Tips for Improving Home Accessibility and Safety as We Age


    Accessible House - via Flickr by Living in Monrovia Image via Flickr by Living in Monrovia


    Tips for Improving Home Accessibility and Safety as We Age

    Research from AARP finds that 73% of people ages 45 and older want to remain in their current residence as long as possible, while 90% of older adults ages 65 and older wish to do so. For many seniors, this decision is motivated at least in part by finances. With the cost of senior living on the rise – from independent living communities to assisted living and nursing homes – staying in a private home can offer substantial savings over moving to an expensive senior housing complex.

    In order to age in place, however, it’s often necessary for seniors to make home modifications to ensure accessibility and safety as the activities of daily living become more challenging. Still, the cost of such modifications is often a more affordable approach than paying for care in a senior living community. These tips will help you improve home accessibility and safety:


    Keep Costs Down By Hiring a Trustworthy Contractor

    Some home safety improvements, such as eliminating clutter and ensuring clear walkways, can be achieved on your own. But for homes that require more extensive modifications, such as installing a bathroom on the first floor, you’ll need to hire a contractor.

    Finding a trustworthy, efficient contractor is one way to keep the costs of your home modifications as low as possible. Eldercare.gov provides advice on what to look for in a contractor. The site suggests finding a contractor that is “licensed, bonded, and insured” and checking with friends and family members to get recommendations.

    You might also check out consumer review pages to find quality contractors in your area. As the YP page for Massachusetts roofer, Duval Roofing, shows, it and similar sites offer an easy way to see what other customers have to say about area contractors.


    Embrace Technology

    Technology such as medical alert systems and remote monitoring tools can facilitate better communication between family, caregivers, and healthcare providers to keep aging adults safer in their homes.

    For older seniors, technology adoption may be initiated by a family member but is typically well-received. The Merrill Lynch-Age Wave survey found that 76% of retirees “are interested in technologies to monitor their health at home such as sensors, alerts or medication reminder apps,” and 64 percent expressed interest “in home technologies that connect them with family and friends, such as video chat and interactive devices.”


    Install Hand Rails and Grab Bars

    One in three older adults experiences a fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, one in five falls causes a serious injury, such as a broken bone or head injury, making falls a major risk to the health and safety of older adults who choose to age in place.

    Installing hand holds in key areas is a great way to protect against falls. Ensuring that existing hand rails are sturdy in stairways can help to prevent accidents on the stairs, and installing grab bars in other areas where older adults are prone to falls – such as in the bathroom – can help seniors safely enter and exit the bath tub or shower. Other modifications, such as the use of non-skid surfaces in the shower and installing carpeting on stairs, can also help to reduce the likelihood of trips and falls.


    Ensure Adequate Lighting

    Poor lighting is another issue that can increase the likelihood of slips and falls. But dim lighting can also lead to other accidents, such as turning the stove top temperature too high or taking the wrong medication. Check light bulbs throughout the home and use the maximum wattage safe for use with light fixtures. In some homes, particularly older homes without many built-in lighting options, adding light fixtures to areas that are generally dim can also improve visibility.

    The National Institutes of Health suggests that each room, entryways, and outdoor walkways should be well-lit, as well as stairways, ideally with light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs. Nightlights should be placed in the bathroom, hallways, bedrooms, and kitchen. Make sure that lamps are easily accessible on either side of the bed, and store a flashlight in an easily accessible bedside area for quick access in an emergency or power outage.

    With more older adults choosing to remain in their own homes as long as possible, more resources are becoming available to facilitate safe aging in place. Advancements in technology allowing for remote monitoring and care-giving, innovative safety adaptions for the home, and financial assistance options for seniors who require more extensive home modifications are just a few of the options that today’s seniors can take advantage of to live safely and happily in their own homes long into their golden years.



    Angela Tollersons is a former business owner turned full-time mom. The mother of a son on the autism spectrum, she truly believes that every family is special in their own way. She started ForFamilyHealth.net with her husband to provide parents a resource for information, ideas, and inspiration on giving children of all abilities healthy and happy lives. Angela lives in the ’burbs of North Carolina and is an active member of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center and Parents Helping Parents.



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  • 4 Things Everyone Should Do to Prepare for an Economic Recession

    Some economists are suggesting an economic slowdown is imminent. Others say the next one is probably a while away. Either way, it’s wise to prepare financially now for what’s to come.

    “The key to keep in mind is that anything can happen. Therefore, always prepare for any possible emergency,” said Kaylee Chen, a peer mentor at the University of Utah Personal Money Management Center, in an e-mail.

    Chen recommended four steps to prepare for an economic downturn: Have a savings, have necessities like food storage, learn a new skill and mentally prepare.

    Budgeting for the Recession Start saving now for the next recession.

    First, have or start a savings.

    Peter Dunn, a financial columnist for USA Today, suggested that more people have been saving since the 2008-2009 recession because they’re thinking about it. Chen said she hadn’t necessarily been seeing that.

    “People are definitely more aware of the idea of saving. However, following through and acting on it is a different situation,” she said. “I find a lot of people are still spending.”

    She suggested budgeting based on the 50/30/20 rule. Fifty percent of income should go to fixed expenses. These are expenses like a house payment and utility bills that must be paid.

    Thirty percent of income should go to discretionary expenses. These are more flexible expenses like groceries, gas, and entertainment that can be adjusted.

    Twenty percent of income should go toward investing or financial goals and saving for emergencies. Chen recommended women put 12 percent of their salary in long-term investments and men 10 percent.

    “The reality is that women live longer and make less income than men,” she said.

    She recommended people talk with a financial planner yearly.

    “They will work with you to plan for children’s college, travel, or retirement,” she said.

    The important thing is to start saving.

    “Even as small as setting five dollars aside, it’s still a start,” she said.

    Homemade Year Supply - Recession Food might be hard to come by during a recession. Prepare while you can by obtaining an emergency food supply.

    Second, keep some necessities like food storage.

    In any emergency, whether it be short-term or long-term, it’s important to recognize nobody can do everything by themselves. Therefore, one of the necessities to build is a list of resources. These can include a church or non-profit organization. It’s also useful to network to develop a list of where to go for extra help in case of job loss or other emergency.

    A column making the rounds online that was said to have been written by a man who survived Hurricane Sandy pointed out that networking is useful for many aspects of emergency preparation.

    “Quote, ‘A man with a chainsaw and knows how to use it is a thing of beauty.’”

    Learn camping skills -  RecessionThird, Learn new skills. Like chainsaw wielding.

    These can translate into side jobs for additional income. Chen used the example of a piano teacher. Secondary skills can be useful when a person is younger because it helps them faster achieve their financial goals. When a person is older and around retirement, a side job can help them with retirement savings.

    Finally, mentally prepare for bad things to happen.

    One key to mental preparedness is to get out of debt. Chen encouraged a budget or lifestyle change. Dunn suggested decreasing spending by 10 to 15 percent over time.

    “You’ll tighten the budget before you are forced to tighten the budget,” he said.

    Another is to practice caution in an investment portfolio.

    “When the market goes down, many people get scared of the market and take out their money. You do not want to buy high and sell low,” Chen said.

    KiplingerStock Market - Recession, a finance education web site, pointed out that markets quickly recover. Since 1945, the site said, markets that have lost 10 to 20 percent have rebounded in just four months on average. Bear markets, with losses of 20 percent or more, have had an average recovery time of just 25 months.

    “If you’re in middle age, consider making a portfolio less aggressive,” a Kiplinger column said. “No single sector should claim more than 5% to 10% of your holdings.”

    Very few people can affect global markets. But they can take care of themselves and their families.

    “Understand that you have no control over the economic downturn,” Chen said. “Honestly, all one can do is to wait.”

    And, she added, a person can start taking these steps even during an economic downturn.

    “It’s never too late,” she said.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Recession

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