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  • Storing Food Safely in the Summer Heat

    Author Carol Lynn Pearson once imagined a disastrous food storage location in her book, “The Model Mormon Mother’s Notebook.”

    “Crib mattress sprouting!” she wrote. “Find other places to store wheat.”

    Actually, below a crib might not be the worst place to put long-term food storage, if it’s done right. Now that the summer heat is here, it’s time to consider if your long-term food storage is in a safe location.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends storing nonperishable food in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.

    “Never put (canned goods) above or beside the stove, under the sink, in a damp garage or basement, or any place exposed to high or low temperature extremes,” the USDA advised.

    summer heatIt’s especially important to store food correctly during the summer for several reasons. First, high temperature can cause food to break down faster. A general rule of thumb for chemical reactions is that reactions double their rate for each temperature increase of 10 degrees Celsius. There’s too much variability for that rule of thumb to apply constantly. But, heat will cause food in storage to break down faster. This breakdown changes food’s appearance and flavor, and can cause nutrient loss.

    In addition, many types of canned foods contain bacteria called thermophiles, which prefer high temperatures, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They don’t grow under normal storage conditions, but do and can cause spoiling at high temperatures (50-55°C). That’s 122-131°F, but the USDA says temperatures above 100°F can damage canned goods. The USDA recommends keeping food at temperatures below 85 °F, and most experts prefer below 70 °F.

    “The risk of spoilage jumps sharply as storage temperatures rise. In fact, canned goods designed for use in the tropics are specially manufactured,” according to a USDA fact sheet.

    Exposure to sunlight can cause rapid temperature changes, as anyone knows who’s touched a metal slide during the summer. These rapid transitions are also bad for food storage. Also, light can cause nutrient loss and a change in appearance for food in glass containers, according to Jan Rasmussen from the University of Minnesota extension service.

    Frozen cans can have more acute problems. As liquid inside a can freezes, it expands. That can cause the can to bulge, creating microscopic holes large enough for bacteria to enter. Cans are unsafe if they are frozen, thawed, and refrozen, according to the USDA. Frozen cans can, however, safely be defrosted in the refrigerator.

    “If the canned food is still frozen, let the intact can thaw in the refrigerator before opening. If the product doesn't look and/or smell normal, throw it out. Do not taste it,” the USDA fact sheet advised.

    Shelves - summer heatAlso important: keep food storage off the floor. First, it reduces the likelihood of pests getting into the home and food. Second, cement floors can be damp. Cans and metal lids on glass jars are usually made of steel and can rust on a damp surface. Rust puts tiny holes in cans, which can allow bacteria to enter. Discard heavily rusted cans or those with rust inside. Rust that a paper towel can wipe away is not serious, according to the USDA.

    With canned goods, watch for these warning signs: loose or bulging lids on jars, dented, swollen or leaking cans, or food that smells bad or looks cloudy when it shouldn’t.

    “If the cans look ok, they are safe to use,” the USDA fact sheet said.

    According to the USDA fact sheet, canned foods are safe indefinitely if not exposed to temperatures below freezing or above 90 °F. High-acid canned food like tomatoes and some fruit will keep their best quality for 12 to 18 months; low-acid canned food like meat and vegetables will for 2 to 5 years.

    Keep food storage in a climate-controlled area away from windows and moisture (we recommend storing your food at temperatures less than 70 °F). Put dry goods in plastic or glass containers or cans to keep rodents and bugs out. Put newer food storage items behind older ones.

    And maybe avoid crib mattresses.

     

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  • 3 Ways to Increase Your Odds of Surviving an Earthquake

    Christchurch, New Zealand - March 12, 2011: surviving an earthquake

    Earthquakes—as well as other natural disasters—scare us because of their randomness. We never know when something might happen. And once a disaster strikes, along comes death and destruction.

    Despite the fear that comes with natural disasters, you shouldn’t necessarily spend your time worrying about when the next earthquake might come about and end your life. In fact, you have a greater chance of dying by comet impact (1 in 20,000) or even from an accident at home (1 in 26,000). According to Dartmouth, the odds of dying in an earthquake in California (where those things are quite common) is 1 in 2,000,000.

    If you’ve ever entered a giveaway with 2 million entries, you quickly realize your chances of winning are not good. Likewise, your chances of surviving an earthquake are extremely high with those odds. That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t still be prepared. A little forethought can be the reason you make it through.

    Although there is a randomness factor as to when an earthquake will strike, you can still stack the deck in your favor. When the random event happens is moot; what matters is what you do to prepare for it. By minimizing the randomness, you’re more in control, and better able to protect yourself and your family.

    Here are five things to do to beat Mother Nature at her own game.

     

    Prepare Your Home

    surviving an earthquake by mounting a TV

    If you were to shake your entire house, what would fall down? Pictures on walls, bookshelves, and televisions are the first things that come to mind. Essentially, tall, heavy, and expensive objects should be secured, be it through putty (i.e. for vases or stand-up decorations) or wall mounts (i.e. for bookshelves or televisions).

    Move potential hazards away from your bed. This means if you sleep underneath a shelf, don’t load it with heavy objects that could fall on you should an earthquake happen during the night. You can also secure your cupboards with safety latches (just like the ones you use to keep your toddlers out of the cutlery drawer), thus keeping the plates, cups, and other things housed up there from falling and injuring anyone underneath.

     

     

    Drop, Cover, and Hold On!

    Drop Cover HOLD ON, NELLY! Image courtesy of Shakeout.org

    Don’t try and run. Chances are you’ll just be knocked off your feet by the shaking anyway. Instead, drop to the ground, take cover under something sturdy (like a desk or a table), and hold on until the shaking stops. If there is no convenient sturdy object to hide under, taking cover in an inside corner of a building is the next safest place to be. Drop down and cover your neck and head with your hands and arms.

    If you’re inside, stay there! Don’t run out. In a story in the LA Times, two women fleeing a building during the 2003 Paso Robles earthquake were killed when bricks fell down on them. Had they stayed inside, they would have been just fine.

    If you’re in your bed, do not get out. Stay there, hold on, and cover your head with your pillow. Getting out of bed could put you at risk of both falling objects as well as broken glass and other debris on the floor.

     

    Have Emergency Kits

    Following a disaster, what might life be like without an emergency kit? Without one, you could be out of food, water, or supplies to help keep you warm at night with no power. First aid supplies are very useful, especially to patch up cuts, wounds, and other injuries sustained during the disaster. Once the earthquake stops, medical personnel will be focusing their time on the most critically injured, so if you’re not on that list, you’ll be fending for yourself for possibly days.

    Make sure you have an emergency kit that fits your needs. You can get a pre-assembled emergency kit, or make your own from items you get yourself. The pre-assembled kits should have water pouches (or other form of portable water), as well as food and gear to at least cover the basics.

     

    While the odds of surviving an earthquake is high, you can increase your chances even more by being prepared well in advance. Take time today to evaluate your emergency preparedness plan and supplies and make any changes and acquisitions you need to be ready for anything.

    May the odds be ever in your favor.

     

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  • How to Keep Your Family Safe If You are Temporarily Displaced

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    Safety should never be viewed as a stationary concept. It should be mobile, shifting, and changing to adapt to whatever situation you throw at it, all the while, continuing to keep you and your loved ones as safe as possible. However, safety does not just appear readily prepared on a silver platter. It involves meticulous planning and forethought in order to ensure that every base is covered and no stone is left unturned. When it comes to your safety, it is always best to plan far in advance, and to plan for the possibility that the worst possible outcome can occur (Murphy’s law if you will). This gives you the opportunity to always be prepared and it decreases the chances of a situation getting the better of you and your loved ones.

     

    In the world we live in today, events of catastrophic proportions are not necessarily uncommon. There is nothing crazy about being prepared. On the contrary, it is the best thing for you. Often times, after a life-changing disaster occurs, some families are rendered temporarily displaced. For instance, there are many families that are displaced in Southern California due to the methane leakages, and even more that were displaced up north due to wildfires. There are many people who plan for disasters, but there are not many people that have plans that keep their families adequately safe while they are temporarily displaced. The fight to continue to keep your family safe does not end once you come out unscathed. The playing field merely changes.

     

    Temporary displacement can pose huge challenges to families even if they plan ahead for it. There are many people who wonder what exactly you need to do in order to plan for temporary displacement, and how you can stay safe during this period. Well, take your time to read through this and we will walk you through all the steps that will help you keep your family safe in the event that you are temporarily displaced from your home.

     

     

    Crafting a Safety Plan

     

    The first, and most important, part of ensuring that your family remains safe while they are temporarily displaced begins with crafting a safety plan. Having a well-crafted and well thought out safety plan can go a long way to determine just how safe your family remains while you’re on the go.

     

    The ideal safety plan for your home should cover every facet of danger that your family could face. This ranges from fire damage, water damage, earthquakes, and a host of other possible outcomes. It is imperative that your safety plan outlines how you should evacuate your home and how to remain safe while doing so. There are a few key things that need to be taken into account while you are constructing this safety plan.

     

    First, you want to make sure that every room in the house has at least two viable exits since this drastically increases the chances of someone getting out alive. Also, it is important to make sure that you and your family picks a central location that is in close proximity to your home to serve as a rendezvous point. In doing so, you gain the ability to make sure that everyone is accounted for.

     

    In addition to the steps listed above, it is imperative that you and your family members are in constant communication about the safety plans you have in place. This is especially important for children, as there are many ways kids may undermine your security. It is also a good idea to make sure that you make emergency kits, and place them where they can be easily accessed. The emergency pack should have copies of all-important documents (health information, banking info, driver’s license etc.) so that you still have access to a semblance of your life even when you are on the go. The emergency kits that you make should be stored in a safe, dry and easily reachable location, preferably not in your home so that it is still accessible if your home is compromised. It is crucial for you to only put basic necessities in your emergency kit. These necessities should include food and water supplies as well as extra cash, medication, radio (burner phones if you can afford a few), first aid kit, and other supplies that might be more specific to your family.

     

    Crafting a well laid out safety plan is the first step to making sure that your family remains safe at all times while they are displaced.

     

     

    Stick Together

     

    IMAGE_2 - displaced

     

    It is easy for people to get lost and torn apart when disaster strikes and everything around you is moving at such a fast pace. This causes short-sightedness and forgetfulness, and it is easy to leave things behind and to inadvertently split up with people. In order to keep your family safe while you are temporarily displaced, it is important that you all stick together while you navigate your next move. However, life does not always hand us an ideal situation, so it is best to be prepared for the possibility that you might lose track of someone. In order to deal with this, make sure that each member of your family has some means of communicating with each other. Also, set up several rendezvous points that are all in close proximity to your home. This will allow your family members to meet at designated locations if you are ever split up or if there is a break in communication for a little while, which is highly possible.

     

     

    Find Shelter

     

    Once you have your family together, the next step of making sure that you all remain secure involves finding an adequate shelter that will house you for a while. The type of shelter that you are privy to is sometimes dependent on the nature of the disaster you are faced with, and how far reaching it might be. In some cases there is no form of alternative shelter close by. This can sometimes be camping out in a hotel room for a few days, or it can be living in a tent provided by the Red Cross. Regardless of what it is, make sure that you continue to keep your family safe. Safety will involve constant communication as well as being wary of strangers. It is important to keep your valuable items and your emergency resources well secured (this can be done by adding cable ties, padlocks, etc. to your emergency supplies) while you are away from your home, and most likely among other people who you do not really know.

     

     

    Emergency Kits and Survival Skills

     

    IMAGE_3 - displaced

     

    It is extremely important for every member of your family to be adequately equipped with an emergency kit and an emergency pack of their own. In the event that you are split up for a little while this will make sure that everyone has enough resources to survive independently. It is important to keep your loved ones safe when they are right by you, but it is even more important to keep them safe when they are not around you. This means that you have to equip them with the necessary tools for them to do so. Each emergency kit should have the necessary items that will help your family member last on their own for at least 3 days. The most important part of this kit should be water, food, and first aid supplies.

     

    In addition to this, it is best to train your family members in basic survival skills before a disaster hits so that they are not left wanting. These survival skills should include everything it will take for them to survive on their own and the means by which they can accomplish this. These include, but are not limited to:

     

    • Having an attitude that will help them calmly assess and evaluate situations
    • Learning how to manage water supplies and how to obtain clean, drinkable water
    • Learning how to build a fire
    • Practicing life saving skills like Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

     

     

    Conclusion

     

    Family means a lot to people, so it comes as no surprise that wanting to keep them safe is a major priority. Hopefully, you are never faced with the grim situation of being temporarily displaced. In the event that you are, the basic steps listed above should be an amazing starting point that will help you keep your family safe while you are in this transition stage.

     

     

    Author Bio

     

    Ralph Goodman is an expert locksmith and the resident professional writer on locks and security over at the Lock Blog. The Lock Blog is a great resource to learn about keys, locks and safety. They offer tips, advice and how-to's for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.

     

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