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  • Where to Begin Your Hurricane Preparations

    The skies are clear, the winds are calm, and there’s no report of any weather-related threat on the radar. What a perfect day for getting disaster ready! But where do you even begin with your hurricane preparations?

    When the sun is shining, it can be difficult to think about the urgency of being prepared for a natural disaster – especially a hurricane. But that’s exactly when you should be thinking about it. When the clouds come and the winds start blowing, it’s more than likely that it’s too late to begin.

    Never fear, though, because today the skies are clear (at least at the time of this posting), which means it’s time to make sure you’re ready for the next tropical storm. Where do you begin? At the beginning, of course! Follow these steps from ready.gov and you’ll be ready for whatever storm blows in!

     

    Know Your Hurricane Risk

    If you live pretty far inland, chances are you won’t be feeling the brunt of the storm. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks for those living farther away from the coast. In fact, Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states – that’s half the continental United States! No matter where you are, there’s something to be said about being prepared.

    If you are on the coast (or at least close by), the threat is much more real, the winds more powerful, and the flooding more severe, so plan accordingly. If you’re unsure of what your risk is, the image below shows the frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms by county.

     

    Hurricane risk by state - FEMA Hurricane risk by state (via FEMA) - Click to enlarge

     

    Make an Emergency Plan

    Without a plan, being effectively prepared will be mighty difficult. It’s not that you can’t do it without, but plans make it easier to keep things together without having to remember every small detail. Write your plan down, post it where you can see it, and even keep one in your emergency kit so you have it to refer to.

    Your plan will differ depending on your situation, location, and many other factors. If you have pets, include them in your plan as well. Small children, seniors, and those with disabilities will likewise require special attention. What do you need to prepare with before the first warning comes? What should you do when there is a warning? These are some things to consider when making your plan.

     

    Restock Supplies

    Empty ShelvesIf you wait until the hurricane warnings come, you may find your grocery store’s inventory to be virtually empty. To avoid that rather unpleasant inconvenience, take time today to stock up on emergency food. This can be extra cans of food from the store during your regular shopping trip, or even something more long term, such as freeze-dried meals.

    Freeze-dried food has a shelf life of 25 years or more (as long as it’s stored properly), so once you get it, you won’t have to rotate it for a very long time, unlike your canned goods from the local store. Those you’ll need to rotate much more frequently. Another perk of freeze-dried food is that it’s already cooked. Meaning, if you’re power’s out, all you need to do is add water, wait a few minutes, and voila! Dinner is served.

    Water is also a vital part of your supplies. During a hurricane, as well as after, your water supply might be cut off, or even contaminated (flood water does that to your drinking water). Water filters are an excellent option to have on hand. Also consider storing water in your home, be it in water barrels or just 2-liter pop bottles. Each person needs at least one gallon of water per day for hydration and light sanitation, so the more water you have the better off you’ll be. And, if you have freeze-dried food, you will want more water so you can rehydrate your food, thus allowing you to actually eat your food.

    Other supplies to keep stocked are batteries, chargers, cash, first aid, and flashlights, among other personal supplies that are necessary for you and your family. Remember, make sure you have everything you need before the radar picks up a dangerous looking blip. Otherwise, the things you need might be hard to come by.

     

    Flood Insurance

    Most home insurance policies don’t cover flood damage – that’s additional. However, depending on where you live, you might be able to get by without it. FloodSmart.gov can help you identify your flood risk and thereby help you decide if flood insurance is right for you.

    If you do decide you need flood insurance, you may not want to wait too long. Most flood insurance policies take effect 30 days once you purchase it. That means, if you see a hurricane is coming and then get insurance…you still won’t be covered if you get flooded. When it comes to flood insurance, you will definitely want it well in advance.

     

    Hurricane route marker

    Familiarize Yourself with Local Emergency Plans

    Your city or town will have an emergency plan in place. Learn it and know it well so you won’t have any hesitation when the need to execute it arises. Know the evacuation route to ensure not getting lost on your way out.

     

    Stay Tuned

    If a hurricane is heading to your area, you’ll want to know about it as soon as possible. To make this possible, Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) will come to your phone free of charge whenever there’s an imminent threat, such as a hurricane. Aside from these automatic messages, keep an eye and ear open for weather alerts on the TV or radio for specific instructions. Above all, when the order is given to evacuate, do so immediately. The longer you linger, the less likely you will be to get out safely.

     

    Fortunately, hurricanes give us at least a day or more of warning before they come for a visit. However, once we’re apprised of their arrival, the time to prepare is all but past. Start getting prepared now so when the next disaster comes, you’ll be ready for it.

     

    Hurricane_prep_03

  • Keeping Pets Safe During the Dog Days of Summer

    Jack Russell dog sitting in front of a domestic electric fan - dog days

    As we enter the dog days of summer, it’s a great time to think about dogs, cats, and other pets, and how to prepare them for the summer’s heat.

    A pet outside in hot weather is like a person outside in hot weather — only in a fur coat and barefoot, said Deann Shepherd, the director of marketing and communications at the Humane Society of Utah.

    So start preparing with grooming and skin care. Don’t shave a dog or cat; fur helps prevent sunburn. But do get shedding fur off and provide pet sunblock (available online and at pet stores).

    Avoid walking with pets on asphalt — its heat can burn the pads of pets’ feet.

    Just as people need more water during the summer, so do pets. And just as most people don’t enjoy drinking hot water, neither do pets, Shepherd said.

    Change the water in pet bowls throughout the day so it doesn’t become too warm. Consider adding ice to the water. If you’re taking a pet outside for a longer time, bring a collapsible water bowl.

    Change the animal’s diet too.

    Freeze-dried Dog food - dog daysWet pet food can spoil faster in summer’s heat, so use more dry food. Freeze foods pets normally eat, or make treats like frozen meat or peanut butter popsicles. Emergency Essentials sells freeze-dried pet food that can work as a warm-weather treat.

    Avoid freezing hazardous foods like onion, grapes, avocados, and chocolate. The Humane Society has a list of foods to avoid.

    Learn signs of heat sickness in pets. Since dogs and cats don’t sweat, they can easily overheat, Shepherd said.

    The easiest sign of heat distress is panting. That’s how many animals cool themselves. Shepherd suggested pet owners also watch for lethargy and disinterest in normal activities, excessive and ropy salivation, brick red gums or a dark mouth, fast pulse, and vomiting or diarrhea.

    The fastest way to cool a pet is with cool — not cold — water. The American Red Cross says a garden hose is the easiest cooling tool.

    If that’s all too hard to remember, the Red Cross offers a pet first aid app.

    Pets are most likely to overheat in a car, whether the windows are open or not. Pet owners should never leave animals in a vehicle on a hot day, even for a few minutes. Shepherd recalled an experiment in which the Humane Society of Utah director sat in a car with the windows cracked open for 20 minutes on a 91-degree day. The temperature in the car hit more than 120 degrees.

    “For a pet, it would have been fatal,” Shepherd said.

    She said the best place for a pet on a hot day is inside in a cool room.

    “If you can’t take a pet into [wherever you’re going], just leave them at home,” she said.

    Finally, prepare pets to spend time outside by making sure they are tagged with microchips and keep microchip information updated. Shelters look for microchips when they are brought lost or runaway pets. The Humane Society of Utah offers free microchip clinics throughout the year, Shepherd said, and many other places offer microchip insertion for $20 to $30.

    Talk to animal experts about other ways to prepare pets for summer. Reptiles will often hide under rocks or in shade; hedgehogs can be especially particular about temperatures, Shepherd said. It boils (pardon the pun) down to this: treat pets as we’d like to be treated in the heat.

    “If it’s hot for us, of course it’s hot for them,” she said.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - dog days

  • Hot Heat Fuels Dozens of Fires

    It’s simple. In the western United States, heat begets fire. As of June 26, 27 large fires are burning in 10 states. The worst situation is in California, where years of drought and tree death combined with temperatures above 100 degrees have contributed to six large fires. Here’s a look at some of the fires and some things we can learn from them.

     

    Active Fire Map June 27, 2016 - via someone

     

     Erskine (Calif.)

    “It was a firestorm,” one evacuee from the fire in South Lake, Calif., told the Los Angeles Times in an elementary school/evacuation center. He didn’t know if his house was still standing.

    The fire blasted into existence the afternoon of June 23. Fed by a 40 mph wind, temperatures above 90 degrees and bone-dry grass, it traveled 11 miles in 13 hours.

    It burned through power and phone lines, knocking out both landline and cell phone service. Sheriff deputies, going door-to-door to warn residents, had to run from the fire. A couple died trying to escape. Three firefighters were injured.

    So far, more than 225 buildings and almost 60 square miles have burned. Another 2,500 homes are still threatened and six communities evacuated. The fire is only 10 percent contained, and evacuees may not return home because of fears wind shifts could send the fire in different directions.

    When it comes to fire, be prepared to run for it. Have go-bags packed and in an accessible place.

    An evacuee, Magan Weid, told the Los Angeles Times, “Everything was flying into your eyes. I didn’t have time to get glasses. I literally just grabbed a bag with miscellaneous crap. I didn’t have time to get anything together.”

    Include prescription medicines and copies of prescriptions. One evacuee worried because she and her husband left without his heart medication.

    “I don’t know where to go,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

    Have copies of vital records. In her haste, one woman left behind her Social Security card and birth certificate. All she had were her pajamas and contents of her car.

    Keep a full tank of gas. One man said he and his neighbors created a mini traffic jam in their haste to leave. Another jumped into his car only to discover its tank was low. Fortunately, he made it out.

     

    Reservoir/Fish (Calif.)

    Dual fires northeast of Los Angeles have burned about 5,000 acres since June 20. 858 homes were evacuated. On June 22, residents of 534 were allowed to go home.

    When you’re preparing to evacuate, be prepared for a long stay.  Have something to do in your go bag. Have a way to recharge a phone. Make sure you’ve got a place for pets. Many shelters won’t allow pets unless they’re service animals.

     

    Dog Head (N.M.)

    Fire via AP Home burning - photo via AP

    The Dog Head fire in central New Mexico burned almost 18,000 acres and destroyed 12 homes and 44 other structures. It is 90 percent contained.

    It could have been worse if thinning out dead trees had not taken place, said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, who toured the area June 24. In California, according to a report released June 22, 66 million trees have died in the last five years, and only 77,000 have been cut down.

    If you live in wildfire country, clear an area about 30 feet around your home of anything that might burn, like wood piles, dried leaves, and brush. Keep the roof and gutters clean.

     

    Saddle (Utah)

    Lightning on June 13 caused the Saddle fire in southern Utah. A voluntary evacuation is still in place for the nearby town of Pine Valley. The fire spread in part because three times in a week, drones grounded firefighting aircraft.

    Don’t be stupid. This time of year, as temperatures climb and vegetation dies, the western U.S. is a tinderbox. Fire restrictions are in place in southern Utah and Arizona. Obey them. Don’t do anything that might ignite dry vegetation. When there is a fire, be aware of emergency vehicles.

     

    Cedar (Ariz.)

    Firefighters are beginning to consider the aftermath of the Cedar fire, which has been burning since June 15. The fire, which burned 46,000 acres, was 60 percent contained Sunday.

    It burned during a period of horrendous temperatures. Six people died from heat. Temperatures exceeded 120 degrees in parts of Arizona.

    Ready.gov has several suggestions for keeping safe during extreme heat.

    Excessive heat warnings and heat alerts are still in effect in many places in the west. Be smart and be safe, especially during the holiday weekend ahead.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Fire

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