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  • Prepared with Prescriptions: 5 Tips to Being Medically Prepared


    Karen LuBean, of East Wenatchee, Wash., remembers when her pharmacist could provide a year’s supply of her prescription thyroid medication. It cost between $250 and $300, and she kept unused medication in the freezer.

    Insurance companies usually won’t allow that anymore. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests ways you can prepare if you take medicines daily or use medical equipment.

    First, if possible, keep at least a week’s worth of medication on hand. This includes all prescription medications and anything you need for treatments.

    Here are some ways to do it.

    FEMA recommends you refill prescriptions on the first day you can do so, not when you run out. Some insurance companies will allow refills a day or two before the date on the bottle. Over time, those early and on-time refills can add up to a decent emergency supply.

    Some pharmacies will allow you to get a few days’ supply of your prescription before the insurance company’s time limit if you pay the full price. My family learned this when I accidentally destroyed a bottle of my daughter’s prescription medication. Be warned: this can get costly. We had to pay $20 a pill for an inexpensive generic drug.

    Shelly Robertson, of American Fork, Utah, can’t get an emergency supply of medication because of insurance limitations. So she keeps all her prescription medication near her front door. That way, she can quickly grab them if she must evacuate her home.

    Second, FEMA recommends you keep written copies of prescriptions, over the counter medicine and orders for medical equipment in an emergency kit. Note dosage and allergy information as well. This information is also handy when you’re seeing a new physician, have to go to an urgent care clinic, or are traveling and don’t have access to your doctor’s records. Consider keeping an electronic copy on a flash drive.

    Medicine - perscriptionThird, rotate your stock. This goes for prescription medicine and consumable medical supplies, but also for first-aid kits. Did you know that sealed alcohol-based wipes dry out after a few years? I learned the hard way. If you have a first-aid kit in your emergency supplies, update it at least yearly. Also, pay attention to prescription expiration dates. Liquid-suspended antibiotics, for example, last only a few weeks.

    It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to build a first-aid kit. Robertson buys most of hers at a dollar store.

    “I got aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen, Excedrin, all those little bottles of hand sanitizer and petroleum jelly,” she said.

    She bought hard candies and throat lozenges for her children to suck on if they have colds. She found BurnFree pain relieving gel for under $5 at Emergency Essentials.

    “That stuff is like a miracle,” she said.

    Fourth, if you get routine treatment at a clinic or receive services like home health care, treatment or transportation, discuss emergency plans with your service provider. They may provide a list of backup providers.

    Fifth, remember other personal needs. If you have glasses, make sure you’ve got a backup pair in emergency supplies. If you use a hearing aid, keep spare batteries.

    If you use powered medical equipment, make sure you’ve got batteries and a backup plan. As the U.S. Department of Energy pointed out, after a disaster, you will not be highest priority of government and utilities. They’ll be getting power plants online and making sure medical facilities and first responders have the electricity they need.

    That being said, utilities can put a higher priority on restoring power to your home if they know you have a medical power need.

    It takes effort to prepare for emergencies when you have medical needs. It takes extra time to check dates on bottles; to make lists of prescription medication; to coordinate with caregivers and utilities; to rotate supplies and prescriptions. That doesn’t matter to LuBean. Since she must take her medication daily, keeping it in her emergency supplies is a “number one” priority.


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  • Apple vs FBI: Should Apple Weaken the Security Protocols They Created?

    Apple CEO Tim Cook Apple CEO Tim Cook is pushing back against the FBI's order to unlock the attacker's iPhone

    The FBI has asked for Apple’s help (or rather a federal judge has ordered Apple’s assistance) in unlocking the iPhone used by the assailant of the San Bernardino terror attack in December 2015. Apple is pushing back, according to a release by Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.

    So why won’t Apple help a federal investigation? Well, they have been. Apple has allowed the FBI access to anything they need, including their engineers to advice those involved in the case. But when asked to “remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically,” Cook and his company have put their hands up in front of them and have essentially said, “Whoa, there. Slow down!”

    Of course, there are two sides to every story. Is one group right? Or do they both have valid points? And most importantly, what does this mean for cyber security on your mobile devices?


    Apple’s Case

    Apple LogoThe FBI has asked Apple to basically create a new operating system that will get around specific security features on the perpetrator’s phone. Cook, while responding to the FBI with respect, made it clear as to his thoughts:

    “The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”

    The security systems built in to the iPhone’s operating systems protect millions of Americans from expert hackers and cyber criminals. Apple fears that, to build weaknesses in to such defenses, this would undermine not only the many years of developing security protocols, but also the trust and safety of millions of people.

    Cook worries about other fallout that could accompany this action. If the government forces them to create these “back doors,” as they are called, Apple fears the government “would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”

    While there may be more to this debate, this is one of the main issues Apple has which has caused them to oppose the order.


    The FBI’s Case

    Lock Screen Apple iPhoneIt is still uncertain if the attack in San Bernardino was ISIS related, but the FBI is trying to get to the bottom of it. Except, they have run into a slight problem. The iPhone used by one of the attackers is locked, and if those trying to unlock it have too many unsuccessful attempts, the phone will delete all data, thus protecting the privacy of its owner. The FBI doesn’t want that to happen.

    If they can get in to the phone, however, it may shed more light on who the attackers had spoken with and where they had been, which could then in turn help discover any ISIS factions they may have been in contact with. And so, since they are unable to access that information without risking losing it all, they have turned to Apple, the phone's creators, for help.

    Apple, as noted previously, has declined their help in the matter. This raises a concern for FBI Director James Comey. “Encryption is a problem in our investigations,” he said. “It is also a great thing and therein lies the challenge.”


    Cyber security is just as important on smart phones as on computers. But, when it interferes with a federal investigation, should it be compromised, if only just slightly? What are the implications? Apple fears “upgrades” to their security that would make it easier to break in to an iPhone could have serious consequences, such as paving the way for other breaches of privacy “and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”

    Now, this doesn’t mean it would happen this way, but it’s a concern Apple had. And so the question remains: Should Apple help the FBI and create a back door for easier access of data but help the investigation and potentially protect other would-be victims? Or should Apple hold their ground and not delve into this rabbit hole?

    There are valid points and concerns to both sides of this argument, but the demands of the FBI does cast a shadow on the future of not just smart phone security, but cyber security in its entirety. As addressed above, should Apple be coerced to crack their security, that could mean a lapse in security for everyone. Only time will tell where this leads, however, but as for now it’s a good reminder about how important this debate is.

    For more information on cyber security, check out this article on denying hackers access to your home through wireless router security.


    Let us know about your thoughts on the Apple/FBI conundrum in the comments below!


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  • Wake-up Call: Mild Earthquake Spurs Unprecedented Demand for Emergency Kits

    Hurricane Katrina Seeing the effects of Hurricane Katrina helped many people start preparing for emergencies.

    For Shelly Robertson, of American Fork, Utah, seeing people on TV during Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath caused her to begin preparing an emergency kit. For Tina Koeven, from Pleasant Grove, Utah, a practice earthquake evacuation taught her she needed to make an emergency kit portable. For people in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, a mild earthquake December 29 prompted enough demand for emergency kits that one store temporarily sold out.

    All these people learned to be prepared from their experiences.

    “To be effective learners we must (1) perceive information, (2) reflect on how it will impact some aspect of our life, (3) compare how it fits into our own experiences, and (4) think about how this information offers new ways for us to act,” wrote Marcia L. Conner, who trains organizations about how to help their employees be effective

    BC Earthquake - via CityNews The 4.3 magnitude earthquake in BC reminded folks how close they are to impending disaster. - via CityNews

    Let’s use her model of learning to break down the case of the British Columbia earthquake as a wake-up call. The earthquake was moderate: Natural Resources Canada measured it at 4.3 and there were no injuries or damage. One man said it felt like a truck passing by. It took place late at night about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the city of Victoria, just over the northern border of Washington State.

    So, some people in British Columbia perceived information: there was an earthquake. They reflected about how it would impact them: What damage could a large earthquake cause? They compared how it fit into their experiences: they might need to leave their homes or be without resources. And they thought about how to act: We might need an emergency kit.

    The result: a British Columbia emergency preparedness company, 72 Hours, had to backorder personal emergency kits because so many people bought them, reported CTV News, a Canadian TV news network.

    "We hear people say they've been meaning to get prepared and they've procrastinated, and this was the wake-up call," 72 Hours employee Brian Fong told CTV.

    Tina Koeven had a wake-up call from a mistake. Her church held an earthquake drill. Congregation members pretended an earthquake hit and evacuated to the church building with their emergency supplies. Koeven, who lives next door to the building, had her emergency kit in a large duffel bag.

    “By the time I’d dragged the bag to the church … I wanted to lay down and die because I couldn’t go anywhere else,” she said. “Or be like the [early American] pioneers and throw stuff out along the trail.”

    She’s considering other ways to carry her emergency kit.

    It’s possible to learn from others’ mistakes too. In fact, a brain imaging study published in 2010 in the online journal NeourImage suggested it might be more effective.

    Brain Our neural activity tends to be stimulated by our competitor's errors (as in the example shown here) rather than their successes. Credit: Dr. Paul Howard-Jones and Dr. Rafal Bogacz

    Researchers had study subjects play a simple game. They found that when a player’s computer opponent was taking a turn, the player’s own brain was activated as if they were performing the action. The study found players’ brains were more active when their opponent made a mistake.

    “This suggests that we benefit from our competitors' failures by learning to inhibit the actions that lead to them,” the study authors said.

    Shelly Robertson decided to build an emergency kit after seeing TV accounts of people stranded during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A cascade of mistakes kept them from getting assistance for days.

    “There wasn’t any way to get people help, and we live in the U.S.,” she said. “It really unnerved me.”

    She built an emergency kit containing things like food, emergency blankets, cooking and heating gear, and a radio. She also included candy and toys for her children.

    “You don’t want to just survive,” she said. “You’ve got to give them something to do while you wait for help to arrive.”




    What events have given you a wake-up call to start preparing for emergencies? Let us know in the comments!



    Marcia L. Conner, "Learning from Experience." Ageless Learner, 1997-2007.




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