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  • Ms. America Teaches Emergency Preparedness

    Ms. America - Deseret News Julie Harman dons her Ms. America crown - via Deseret News

    On Tuesday, September 29, Julie Harman of Midvale, Utah, was crowned Ms. America. Her title gives her the opportunity to spread her message of self-reliance across the nation.

    Harman wrote in a biographical statement that self-reliance “goes to the heart of everything I’m about.”

    She became a single mom at age 28, according to her biography. Her life as a single mother with two daughters, starting her own business and facing money troubles, caused her to realize she had to rely on herself, she said in a platform promotional video on her web site, http://www.libertywithjulie.com.

    “I realized over the years of being a single mom that there were many instances and moments in my life where I wasn’t sure if I was prepared,” she said. “I knew that I had to search deeper. I had to figure out whether or not I was truly prepared.”

    Her platform focuses on “five points of preparedness”: act responsibly, be informed, commit to a plan, decide and deploy, and encourage others.

    “Self-reliance is something that isn’t just about food storage. It’s a message that goes across the board in many facets of life,” she said in her video.

    This includes emotional preparedness.

    “There are moments in life when we may feel that there is no one else there for us, or no one understands what we are going through,” she wrote in her biography. Such moments can lead to a downward spiral of depression or anxiety where recovery takes far longer than just a moment.

    She worked to overcome the tough times in her life by focusing on her own health and mental strength, she wrote. She based her mission statement on those experiences.

    “Self-Reliance is the ability to strongly perform from one’s own abilities in different areas of life. As we each become more personally PREPARED, we inherently become more RESPONSIBLE citizens to society as a whole,” she wrote.

    Ms. America

    Harman is a strong supporter of first responders like firefighters and police officers.

    “I actually consider them the heart of every community,” she said in an interview with KSL, a Utah-based NBC affiliate.

    She feels individual preparation helps first responders, she said in the interview.

    Desmond Johnson, a paramedic for the Unified Fire Authority in Salt Lake County, said he appreciated that message, in a story in the Deseret News, a Utah newspaper.

    "There are only four to eight of us at a fire station at a time, and we can't be everywhere at once," he said in the story. "If people have some view of what is going to happen, whether it is small-scale or large-scale, it won't be complete chaos."

    Sheroes - Ms. America Sheroes - via libertywithjulie.com

    She also works for empowerment of women, calling them “Sheroes,” from an organization she represents. In September, she participated in an event with the charity Dress for Success, which helps women afford business clothing.

    She wants to carry her message to what she called the “five areas of community”: businesses, nonprofits, schools, political leaders, and service providers like emergency responders.

    “It was a message that not only I needed to receive, but there were a lot more citizens in the country that needed to receive it as well,” she said in her video.

    One nickname for the Ms. America pageant, which is not affiliated with the Miss America scholarship pageant, is “crown for a purpose.” The title for the competition, open to women age 26 and up, provides recognition to help winners promote a cause, according to Susan Jeske, the pageant’s CEO.

    “Titleholders … are to use their ‘crown for a purpose’ in order to ‘make a difference’ in their communities and around the world,” Jeske wrote on the Ms. America web site.


    - Melissa


    What are you doing to "make a difference" in your community? Let us know in the comments below!


    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Ms. America

  • Tips for Helping Children Cope During Disasters

    On September 8, as part of National Preparedness Month, PBS Kids ran a disaster-themed episode of Arthur, a cartoon aimed at school-age children. On the show, all the characters had to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane: family members leaving, homes and businesses destroyed, staying in a shelter, helping others. The children also faced the emotional consequences of the disaster.

    In the aftermath of a disaster, taking emotional care of yourself and your family can be hard. Yet, especially for children, that care is vital.

    Helping Children Cope - Images“How much are young children affected by events that take place around them? A lot,” according to Zero to Three, a nonprofit organization for early childhood development. Even though they may not understand the meaning of what they see or hear, children absorb the images that surround them and are deeply impacted by the emotions of the people they rely on for love and security.”

    A great way to take care of children emotionally is let them help with emergency preparation.

    In the Arthur episode, the character Muffy happily described how her family prepared for the upcoming hurricane.

    “Oh, the Crosswires are super prepared. We have a generator, tons of spring water, both sparkling and distilled, and three cases of smoked trout.”

    Children can help make emergency kits. They can practice fire and other disaster drills. They can learn emergency contact information.

    “Social science research and anecdotal evidence support the idea that children who have learned about emergency preparedness experience less anxiety during an actual emergency or disaster,” according to Ready.gov.

    Helping Children Cope Turning off the television is a great way in helping children cope with disasters. Too many negative images can really pay a toll on their emotional well-being.

    After a disaster, turn off the TV and be careful following other media, say Cynthia Moore and Paula Rauch, authors of an e-book about helping children cope that was written for the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. The need to follow every update can exacerbate adult anxiety, which children sense. Young children may think repeated images are new ones, which can make a disaster seem even worse than it is, they wrote.

    Instead, listen to children and talk to them after a disaster. For young children, that means playing with them, naming feelings and helping them color or tell stories.

    “Answer children’s questions according to their level of understanding: ‘Yes, a bad thing happened but we are keeping you safe,’” said the Zero to Three guide.

    Children Serving - Helping Children Cope Having children serve those effected by disaster is a great way in helping them cope with the same event.

    A great way to help older children cope is to get them involved helping others. It can be as simple as writing letters or making cookies for friends, or helping collect supplies for others in need. On Arthur, the title character built a web site to help pet owners reunite with their pets.

    “Helping can be incredibly healing and empowering,” according to Ready.gov.

    Talking is also therapeutic for older children. If they have suffered a loss, let them know the trouble won’t last forever. Keep it casual and find another trusted adult if they won’t talk to you, said a Ready.gov guide, “Helping Children Cope.”

    With all ages, “bear in mind that talking with your child involves more listening than talking,” Moore and Rauch wrote.

    When taking care of children, don’t forget to take care of you, recommended the guide from Zero to Three. Get back to a routine as soon as possible. Share feelings with family and friends. Eat well, exercise and get rest. If necessary, get professional help. Take time to enjoy your children.

    You can find all sorts of resources online to help children prepare for and cope with disasters. Here are a few.

    The e-book, Community Crises and Disasters, by Cynthia Moore and Paula Rauch, is a guide to help families deal with disaster. It was written for the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. The authors are health care professionals who work in a family crisis center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

    Ready.gov has a section devoted to children with games and resources for parents, educators and children.

    PBS Kids made a companion site for its emergency preparedness specials. It has videos, activities, a coloring page, and guides for adults.


    - Melissa


    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Helping Children Cope

  • Blood Moons and Jewish Holidays: Should You Prepare?

    Blood Moon Cycle - Jewish HolidayMy husband is Jewish, and I’m an astronomy fan, so we’re both looking forward to the evening of September 27. That night we’ll get to see a total supermoon eclipse, when the moon appears larger because its orbit brings it closest to earth. And if we wish, we’ll do it from his sukkah, a structure set up for the Jewish holiday Sukkot.

    Those of us who live in the western half of the United States have been lucky enough to have seen three other total lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015. All three have fallen on one of two Jewish holidays, Passover and Sukkot.

    Jewish Holiday

    Passover and Sukkot, in addition to their spiritual meaning, are great reminders of the need to prepare for what’s to come. They can also be good times to review emergency plans, because they take place about six months apart.

    If you’ve seen Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (“M-o-h-ses!”) you know the origin of Passover. The week-long festival commemorates God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt and their freedom as a new nation, as told in the Book of Exodus in the Bible.

    It is one of three biblically-mandated travelling festivals during which Jews once went to the temple in Jerusalem to worship. Today Jewish families celebrate at home. However, they still remember the travelling aspect of the holiday.

    They eat special Passover matzah, a large cracker with no leaven, a rising agent. Matzah represents the haste with which Israelites left Egypt: so quickly their bread didn’t have time to rise, according to Louis Jacobs in The Book of Jewish Practice. When modern Jews make matzah, they may only take 18 minutes to roll out and cook the cracker after they add water to the flour. That way, the flour doesn’t have time to produce its own leaven, according to Jacobs.

    Today, many disasters can force you to react in less than 18 minutes. Fire, for example.

    Fire - NBC News - Jewish HolidayOn July 28, a fire started about 7 miles northwest of Wenatchee, a small city in central Washington. Within half a day the fire grew to almost 4 ½ square miles. 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 lives nearby. “Some people were only able to get their purse. They grabbed a few legal documents and stuff like that.”

    Ready.gov recommends you prepare “five P’s” for quick evacuation: people, prescriptions, papers, personal needs and priceless items.

    Passover could be a good time to prepare those “five P’s” and then practice your preparations.

    Sukkot Booth - Jewish HolidaySukkot is another travelling holiday from a Biblical commandment. Observant Jews eat and may sleep outside in shelters with roofs made of branches.

    “You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall dwell in booths. In order that future generations may know that I made the people of Israel live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 23:42-43)

    Booths are not fun if it rains. In fact, tradition says observant Jews should go inside during rain, according to Jacobs. Do you have a place to go if you must leave your home in a weather-related disaster?

    Case in point: most emergency shelters won’t take pets, according to the Humane Society of the United States. If you have pets, you’ll need to ensure before a disaster that you have a place for them to go.

    The other half of Sukkot observance is waving four types of plant branches and fruit that ripen in September. Great Jewish philosopher Maimonides wrote that the commandment to take those plants is a way to give thanks to God for harvest bounty, according to Jacobs.

    September is a traditional time for harvest fairs and winter preparation. It’s also a great time to inventory food and water storage. Children have just started school, so with any luck the house is quieter for a few minutes. In some places, stores have case lot sales with inexpensive bulk items. Sukkot, which falls in September and October, can work as a time to build and inventory short-term and long-term storage.

    The Jewish holiday calendar is a lunar calendar, meaning Jewish holiday dates are based on phases of the moon. Easter is determined the same way. So, while uncommon, it’s not surprising eclipses occasionally fall on Jewish holidays. Some people see omens in these eclipses. That’s fine. If an eclipse, or four, reminds you to prepare, that’s great. If a holiday works instead, that’s terrific. What’s important is to establish a regular time to prepare and review preparations and then observe that time, well, religiously.


    - Melissa

    Jewish Holidays and Blood Moons



    Jacobs, Louis, The Book of Jewish Practice. Behrman House, Inc., West Orange, NJ, 1987.

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