All Posts by Olivia Bedford

How to Prep Your Kids For Emergencies: Practice

An evacuation can be pretty scary, even for adults. Just as there are all kinds of reasons to evacuate, there are all kinds of unknowns.

  • Do you know where you will be evacuating to?
  • How long will you be gone?
  • What do you need? What don’t you need?
  • Do you even know where your shoes are?

Running around gathering up all your stuff is pretty hectic, even when you have all the answers. From a little kid’s perspective, all that chaos can be overwhelming. You can easily diminish the stress of the event by holding regular evacuation drills with your family.

Practice is the part of emergency evacuation that is least exercised but arguably most important. It’s easy enough to buy a 72-hour kit and explain to the kids what it’s for, but it’s less easy to set aside the time for an evacuation drill. For some reason, this part of preparedness often takes a backseat. This is especially true if you live in an area that hasn’t experienced a natural disaster in some time.

Our First Evacuation Drill

In the spirit of research, (and also in the spirit of practicing what I preach) we finally set aside the time to actually, in real life, do a trial run of our evacuation plan. Here’s what our trial run looked like:

Before our drill, my husband and I sat down with the kids (ages 6, 4, 2, and 2 months) and planned out what we would be doing and who was responsible for what. Each child capable of walking would be responsible for his or her own emergency kit, comfort items, and shoes. Mom (that’s me!) would take charge of the baby and make sure we had all of her relevant supplies. Dad would grab some extra containers of water, and any handy snacks that happened to be in the pantry.

We made excellent time – all four kids were buckled in the minivan along with our 72 hour kits in 4 minutes, 55 seconds. We congratulated ourselves and took a victory lap around the block. It wasn’t until after we unloaded and put everything away that we realized we had forgotten a lot of stuff:

  • We didn’t turn off the main water line.
  • The clothes dryer was still running.
  • We forgot to lock the front door (but not the back).
  • Only my husband remembered to bring a coat.
  • I remembered my cell phone, but not the charger.

My youngest was born with a cleft palate, and I remembered to grab all her taping supplies for her face, but didn’t realize until after our drill was complete that her dental appliance had fallen out and was left behind in her baby swing. If our evacuation had been for real, that would have been an absolute disaster.

We learned some other things, too. Even though everyone knew this was for practice and we weren’t actually in any danger of zombie attack, my two-year-old panicked. “I can’t find my blankie! Where’s my other shoe?” I told her, as I was packing up the baby’s things, that she should check upstairs in her room, but for some reason she could only walk around in circles in the living room worrying herself sick. In contrast, my oldest had his shoes, socks, favorite toy, and 72 hour kit in hand and was the first one to be buckled into the car. The four-year-old cheated and found his own favorite toy and blanket long before I started the stop watch, the second I announced the evacuation drill.

READ MORE: Do most people think clearly and rationally when under the gun with a real life emergency evacuation? Read this.

We experienced a slight hiccup when the 2-year-old was unable to lift her own 72-hour kit. She struggled along with it out to the car for about five feet before collapsing into a puddle of toddler frustration. Only later did we realize that she had been trying to lift her older brother’s kit – the two kits are in identical bags.

My husband, whose brain switched into autopilot when we began our drill, briefly forgot that we had a fourth child. Not until we unpacked the car did he turn to me and ask, “Oh, no! Did we forget the baby?” (No.) In his defense, she was in a really quiet mood at the time.

What We Will Do Differently In The Future

So knowing how our trial run went – the good and the bad – how will this impact our future drills, or even a real evacuation?

  1. We’ll be more likely to remember everything. Even though we had forgotten those crucial items in our drill, knowing what we forgot will mean that we’re less likely to forget those same things in the future. Our focus this first time was on speed. While speed is important, thoroughness is also necessary. With a lightning-fast time of 4:55, we know we can afford to slow down just a tiny bit to take a deep breath while looking around the living room for forgotten cell phone chargers and unlocked doors.
  2. We restructured some responsibilities. Our oldest was perfectly fine taking care of himself, and was the first one ready to go. The two-year-old, though, needed some extra help, so the logical course of action was to give the oldest an extra assignment to help his sister. Next time, he is to gather all of his things and put them by the door, and then offer whatever assistance he can to his younger siblings. My husband and I talked about re-doing our own assignments as well, with my focus being more on the kids (since, you know, I didn’t forget about any of them) while he concentrates on packing up the car.
  3. Identical bags is not a good thing. A four-year-old is capable of lifting a much heavier bag than a two-year-old. We need to get a different backpack for one child, or do something else to differentiate between the two so this mistake doesn’t happen again.
  4. Practice means less likelihood of panic next time. Everyone will know what to expect, what to do, where to go, and who will need extra help. The next drill will happen soon, probably within the next few months, to keep it fresh in everyone’s memory.

What Else Should Be Practiced?

Evacuations aren’t the only thing that we need to drill with our kids. Schools, businesses, and military bases around the world participate in fire and earthquake drills. If it’s good enough for Amelia Earhart Elementary down the street, it’s probably good enough for all of us.

In my neck of the woods, the local government sponsors annual earthquake drills. I’ve taken the opportunity to participate in them with my kids when I can (it usually involves hiding under the kitchen table), and I’ve found this to be very helpful. When the recent earthquake in Ecuador came up as a topic of conversation, my 4-year-old interrupted to say exactly what he would do if we experienced one at home. His personal emergency plan was exactly the one we had discussed and practiced as a family. That’s my boy!

Fire drills, admittedly, can be a little tricky because they often involve climbing out windows. All the more reason to practice! Invest in a decent fire escape ladder, and help your kids become comfortable climbing down them. If you have very young children who cannot climb on their own, then I encourage you, the parent, to become proficient at using a rope ladder while carrying a kid with one arm. I confess this is a skill that I have not yet mastered, but it’s one that I know will be really good to have.

Preparedness Drills to Do with Your Kids

If your kids go to school, they have undoubtedly participated in a school fire drill. Most bus riders have gone through a bus evacuation drill out the back emergency door. Some schools are even conducting active shooter drills as preparedness drills.

But have you had a fire drill in your own home? Have you talked about how and when to exit your car after an accident? Do they know what to do in case there is a shooter at the mall?

Parents tend to TELL their kids what to do instead of SHOW them. We say that in case of fire, we will meet at the big oak tree across the street. What we don’t often do is show them how to actually get to that oak tree. We TELL our kids, “Don’t get in a car with strangers,” but we don’t SHOW them how to fight back if someone grabs them.

As children get old enough to be home or out in public on their own, these drills become even more important because they will not have you to give instructions in an emergency. We need to prepare them, using active drills, to protect and potentially save their own lives.

FIRE!

It’s early in the morning. The kids are still asleep and the sun is just starting to rise. I’ve woken to use the restroom but decide, since I’m up, it’s a great time for a drill. I poke the test button for the smoke detector, go into my daughter’s bedroom and yell, “FIRE DRILL! FIRE DRILL! FIRE DRILL!” She realizes what is happening and rolls out of bed. She hurries to the door and places her hand on it. “The door is hot!” I shout. She turns to the window, unlatches and opens it, removes the screen and crawls out the window.

I then proceed to my son’s room. He feels the door for for heat. “The door is not hot!” He grabs a shirt to cover his mouth, opens the door, and begins to low crawl down the hallway. He makes it all the way to the front door, unlocks it, and goes outside to our meeting point across the street where his sister is already waiting.

After the drill, we talk about the possibility of going to a neighbor to call 911 and what, if anything, they could have done differently.

Sometimes during a drill I throw a curve ball. “The windows are stuck! You can’t get them open!” We then talk about it being okay to use a chair to break the window and place a blanket over the window sill to prevent cuts from broken glass. I have them pick up a chair and practice swing it so they get an idea of how heavy it is and the kind of force they would need to use. Another test: “The cat is meowing in the hallway!” As much as we love them, their job is NOT to go after the pets.

The first time we ran through this drill, I learned that not only did my daughter not know how to work the window locks, but that her skinny arms weren’t strong enough to actually open the window. She ended up practicing opening the window every few days until she figured out a way to leverage her body weight and get them open.

If you live in a two story home, you should have a fire ladder. (You do have one in each upstairs bedroom, right?) But have you actually ever used it? Don’t just have it sitting in the box hoping you’ll never need it. You do not want your child to try to figure out how to use it with a fire burning outside the door. 

Some fire ladders are single use for emergencies only while others are multi-use and can actually be used in a full drill to climb out your window. Even with a single use ladder, you can show your children how to attach it to a window sill, what steps to take to deploy it, and tips for climbing out the window to safety. With a multi-use ladder, practicing  climbing to the ground will reduce the level of fear of the ladder itself during a true emergency. 

Children, young ones especially, need to be reminded that firefighters may look scary with all their gear on. Show them what a firefighter looks like and teach them that there is no such thing as a “stranger” when it comes to someone helping them out of a fire or other disaster. They should go with anyone who is there to rescue them.

Don’t just show your kids the multiple ways to get out of the house if it is on fire. Also show them all the ways your home is protected to prevent fire. Show them the smoke detectors and fire extinguishers and explain how they work. Teach them of the importance of not leaving the kitchen when something is cooking on the stove top and to unplug curling irons and toasters. Remind kids that matches, lighters, and candles are not toys and shouldn’t be used except with permission from an adult, while also teaching how to properly use and extinguish them.

TORNADO / EARTHQUAKE / NATURAL DISASTER

These drills follow the same line of thinking as the fire drill. Even if your area isn’t prone to these types of disasters, teaching your children how to respond to them is still a good idea. Show them some short videos on tornado and storm safety, teach them safe earthquake response, and then later start a drill when they aren’t expecting it.

STRANGER DANGER

“Don’t get in a car with strangers.” It’s good advice, but does your child know how to fight off a larger adult who has grabbed them? You’ve probably also taught your children not to hit or kick or bite. But does that include against strangers who are trying to abduct them? Be sure your children understand that any level of violence from them is acceptable when fighting off someone who is trying to hurt them.

Find a self defense for kids class in your town so they can not only learn practical ways to fight back, but they can also practice hitting and kicking. Believe it or not, most people, adults included, don’t know how to effectively hit another person in their own defense.

CAR ACCIDENT

I was in a fairly serious car accident a few years ago. No one was badly hurt but three cars were smashed up, and fortunately my children were not in the car with me. In the immediate moments after the crash I sat their dumbfounded and needed to be given instructions to get out of the car. I learned that I needed to discuss this with the kids.

If we are in an accident, what should you do? If the driver or another adult is able to give instruction, kids are to comply. But what if the adult is unconscious or otherwise unable to help? If you are able, undo seat belts and get yourself and your siblings out of the car together. WATCH FOR OTHER CARS when leaving the vehicle. If someone is very injured, leave them in place and get help. If they learn nothing else, the two rules for a car accident are: if you’re able to leave the vehicle, do so… and watch out for other cars.

ACTIVE SHOOTER 

This is the hardest one for a lot of families. We worry about scaring our children. We don’t want to even think about our children being in an active shooter situation. But teaching your kids what gunfire sounds like, the difference between hiding and taking cover, and what to do if they find themselves in this situation could mean the difference between life and death.

The run-hide-barricade-attack training response is good for older children in school who will potentially have the ability to make their own decisions in an active shooter scenario. It is also good information for all children who find themselves at other public places (like malls, sporting events, restaurants, etc) when a shooter arrives.

Sometimes when we are in a store or restaurant, I will ask my kids, “If you heard gunshots right now, what would you do?” Depending on their answers and the situation, I might ask additional questions to get them thinking about a plan. For yourself, or for older children, consider this short video training for active shooter response.

HOME INVADER

What’s one of the cardinal rules when we leave children at home on their own? Don’t open the door to strangers! Have you told your children what to do if a stranger comes in anyway? As soon as someone starts to force their way into the house, your children should leave out another door, preferably on the other side of the home and then go to a trusted neighbor for help. If they cannot leave the house for some reason, grabbing a phone and hiding while calling 911 is the best response. Again, don’t just talk about what to do. Actually practice running out an alternate door and going room to room to identify good hiding places.

CPR AND FIRST AID

My children have been very fortunate to be able to participate in “Be Ready Camp” sponsored by the State of Alabama. One of the most important things they learned was basic first aid. They were taught with a hands on approach how to stop bleeding, splint a broken bone, and more.

Children can also learn CPR and use it effectively. If you can’t find a local class that will teach children, talk to your child’s school about teaching a course to students or purchase a kit to bring home to teach your kids yourself.

SOCIAL PREPAREDNESS

This is a new one for my family. While I had given the “Say no to drugs” and “Don’t get into a car with someone who has been drinking” lectures, we hadn’t had real, applicable discussions about these situations. I read an article recently that talked about this very thing and it was a light bulb moment for me. We can’t just TELL our kids not to drink, but instead we must help them find the words to use when the situation happens. Kids often want to say no, but they just don’t know how. I won’t rehash the whole article, but go read it. Failing to know what to do in these social situations can lead to a personal or family disaster just as devastating as any of the other incidents mentioned here.

Children are capable of handling more information at an earlier age than many parents give them credit for. We’ve all heard of the stories where a very young child calls 911, or a child who has been taught survival techniques is able to save their own life. You know your child better than anyone else. Keep the lessons and skills age appropriate.

The idea is not to scare your children or have their thoughts constantly filled with “what ifs.” The discussions and drills I have with my family my seem extreme to some, but it works for us and my kids are well-adjusted, prepared individuals. Decide how much preparedness you want to teach your own kids and begin to drill them. Without the drill, the information might be lost in time. Every skill you give them is one that might save their lives.

A Family Preparedness Assignment: The 30 Minute Evacuation

As I write this, I’m sitting in our family room contemplating what, if anything, I would grab on my way out the door in an emergency evacuation.  As it turns out, other than this laptop, there’s really nothing else of vital importance, except our three dogs.  Scanning my kitchen, I came to the same conclusion.  I’d leave my three sets of crystal stemware behind (what was I thinking when I bought that stuff???) as well as my knife block and pots and pans.

For the most part, items of real, immediate value are found in our bedrooms: changes of clothing, sturdy shoes, toiletries, and some financial records.  My Grab-n-Go Binder needs to be updated as do the clothes in our family 72 Hour Kit.  Could we evacuate in 30 minutes?  As it stands right now, no.  I need to repack our Bug Out Bags/72 Hour Kits and make sure our most important papers are all in one, handy place.

Could your family evacuate in 30 minutes?  Run through this assignment together one night this week, and see how close you are to that 30 minute deadline.  Here are a few steps to get your evacuation plan streamlined and speedy.

  1. Survey each room.  What, if anything, should be included in an emergency evacuation.  Family photos?  A wedding album?  The kids’ schoolbooks?  If you determine ahead of time that nothing in a certain room is worth packing, you won’t waste valuable time searching through drawers or shelves and trying to make on-the-spot decisions under duress.
  2. Make a master list of what must not be left behind and then begin gathering those items into one or two locations.  Make it a point to always return those items to their assigned locations.
  3. Prepare or update a Bug Out Bag for each member of the family.  It should include one or two changes of clothes, including a jacket appropriate to the current season, closed toed shoes and socks, a small, personalized toiletry bag, and two or three items for entertainment.
  4. Mom’s and Dad’s bags might also include a firearm with a supply of ammo and enough cash to pay for a hotel, gas, and unexpected expenses.
  5. Prepare or update a family bag with enough non-perishable food to last three days, a first aid kit including important medications, a way to heat water and food, a portable water filter, maps, and any other items to see you through at least three days.
  6. Do you have cases of water bottles ready to grab?  Where is the water you will pack with you?
  7. Don’t forget your pets.  Determine now if they will go or stay, and then prepare accordingly.  Our turtle stays, sorry, Onyx!, but the cat and dogs go.
  8. How will you prepare your house?  Who will be in charge of making sure that every door and window is locked?  Who will turn off the gas, water, and/or electricity if need be?
  9. Check out your bug out vehicle.  Do you have at least a can or two of extra fuel and motor oil?  Are you prepared to change a tire if necessary?  Do you have an emergency kit including road flares, a jumper cable, and a flat tire repair kit?  Is that vehicle 100% ready to get on the road and go as far as you need it to go?
  10. Where will you go?  Once you’re in your vehicle, along with all your carefully planned and packed supplies, now what?

Once you have your plans and preparations in order, it’s time.  Yell out, “Evacuate!  Evacuate!”, set a timer, and see how close you get to that thirty minute goal.  Evaluate the results.

  1. What was your actual time or did you have to call it quits after two hours?
  2. Who remembered their assigned tasks?  Who forgot?
  3. If your thirty minute goal wasn’t met, what can be done to speed up the process?
  4. Was there anything of importance you forgot to include?

An evacuation is an extremely tense and fearful experience.  Just ask anyone who has had to run for their lives from an oncoming flood or firestorm.  Preparedness helps take some of the panic out of the process, and when the whole family is informed and is involved with the planning, you can count on getting out quickly and efficiently.

 

Situational Awareness: Staying Safe When Life Gets Dangerous

My eldest recently received his learner’s permit, also known as his “temps” in these parts. When you’ve been driving for almost 30 years, there’s a whole lot of stuff that is just second nature. You don’t give any real, conscious thought to looking both ways before proceeding into an intersection, lighted or otherwise. Keeping one eye on the traffic coming your way so as to ensure none of those cars are veering into your lane is just a matter of routine.

To a new driver, though, all of that is new and can be confusing. How do I keep an eye on the road in front of me, the cars around me, the speedometer, and the fuel gauge, while keeping track of where I am and where I’m going, all at the same time? After a while, all of it becomes second nature, though, right? It just takes some time and some practice to develop the appropriate habits.

The same can be said about situational awareness.

What is situational awareness?

For those not in the loop, situational awareness is simply being very aware of your surroundings, and any potential danger around you. Many refer to it as keeping your head on a swivel, always looking around to see what’s what. I like to think of it as taking the blinders off. Entirely too many people are rather oblivious to the world around them. Either their eyes are glued to their phones or they are just lost in thought, sort of drifting through their day. Given the ear buds that are often in place as well, these people may as well be blind and deaf.

In other words, they are easy targets.

By lifting your head and watching the world around you, you’re in a much better position to not only detect and avoid possible threats but react to them quickly and efficiently. I don’t necessarily mean leaping into action like a super hero but rather walking around the open manhole rather than falling into it. Or maybe crossing to the other side of the street so as to avoid the group of questionable looking youths huddled together on the next block.

For many people, the hardest part of situational awareness is putting their phone away and turning off the music, or at least turning down the volume. And just like when you started driving, it might seem as though you’re overwhelmed at trying to pay attention to everything. That will subside after some time and you’ll become used to actually seeing the world, rather than experiencing it through the screen of a phone.

What if you don’t see the danger until too late?

The sad truth is that sometimes you can’t see danger until it is too late. I can’t imagine the horror of being in a place like Charlie Hebdo, the Twin Towers, or the Parisian concert hall that was attacked. Any signs were probably visible to those outside, not inside, if at all. Nonetheless, some people were better situated to survive than others.

One man recounted how he was able to escape from terrorists while the gunmen reloaded. First of all, he had the presence of mind, like the American heroes on a train mere months earlier, to act while they were reloading and able to shoot as quickly. Secondly, he had a seat that was near the front of the theater – near an exit door. He helped at least one injured person to escape with him. Some of his friends managed to find a small room in the building to hide in. Their quick thinking and action may have saved their lives.

When you enter somewhere like a restaurant, seat yourself with your back to the wall, able to see the doors (if there are multiples, watch the main door), and make note of where any exits are. If you can, mentally make a plan for how to get from your seat to each exit with your whole party. Be sure to take into account any obstacles, like a hostess stand or walls. (Some restaurants have half walls that you may not notice if your situational awareness is truly offline.)

If something does happen, you will be better prepared to react. If you have half an eye on the door and notice the tip of a rifle poke through ahead of a black ski mask, how do you think that will affect your response time versus that of someone sitting with their back to the door whose first warning something has gone wrong is either the sound of gunfire or shots, or the expression of someone else in the room?

If you have been practicing situational awareness, then you have a far better chance of realizing what is happening quickly and finding a way to escape or hide until it’s over. That”s not a guarantee, of course, but it’s far better than being one of the sheeple.

Why bother?

An added benefit to exercising situational awareness is that it gives you an air of confidence. Muggers and other ne’er do wells like to choose victims who look timid, afraid, or unaware of their surroundings. Those who keep their heads on swivels are, or at least appear to be, none of those things. They are also more likely to notice a mugger or ne’er do well long before they are able to cause trouble for them.

At least as importantly as noticing bad people on a normal day, being aware of your surroundings means you will notice uneven sidewalks before you twist an ankle or break a heel, friends you would otherwise pass without speaking, and all manner of public notices – including clearance sales and warnings of upcoming road closures. Practicing situational awareness automatically means you aren’t online all the time. If your whole family is doing this, you have automatically cut down on your kids screen time, possibly dramatically. You may even have increased how much you are all talking to each other, although teens are notoriously bad about talking to their parents.

If it isn’t already clear, the idea here is not to behave as though every trip to the post office is a dangerous mission deep behind enemy lines. Rather, it is just to keep your eyes focused on what’s around you, instead of watching for the latest Facebook status updates. We live in a beautiful world, take the time to actually experience it when you’re out and about. And if something bad happens and it helps you survive, all the better.

Test yourself

With a friend, go somewhere with a lot of people, like a park or a mall. Take a few minutes to observe what is going on around you. Have your friend ask you questions about what you saw, heard, smelled, and possibly felt. Try this under different circumstances, such as going to a quieter place. Keep practicing until it becomes second nature.

Now that you understand what you need to do, do it. Don’t use headphones when you are out and about – save them for the house, or when you are a passenger in a vehicle.  Keep your head up. Most importantly, simply pay attention to the world around you. As an added bonus, you’ll start really noticing the (literal) roses, sunsets, and other beautiful sights you have been walking past every day.

Thanks to Jim Cobb for providing insights for this article.

 

Where Do You Start When Everything Has Been Lost?

Again and again, whether by fire, flood, or natural disaster, individuals and families face the challenge of starting their lives from scratch when their homes have been destroyed. Piles of debris are all that remain of homes and lifetimes of memories.  In the initial hours and days following such a disaster, what do you do?  Where do you start when everything has been lost?

In a crisis, it’s easy to lose perspective and fear causes us to, quite literally, not think clearly.  A “To Do” list is needed.  Here are a few tips from my book.

  • You need help! Check to see if a relative or a  friend can provide temporary housing for your family. This is no time to be proud. You need help, and your true friends will be more than willing to do anything they can to help.
  • Wherever and whenever help of any kind is offered, take it!
  • If a Red Cross or FEMA shelter isn’t an option, you’ll have to stay in a hotel or a tent. If you’re a timeshare owner, this might be a good time to use up some of those banked weeks!
  • Access your important documents in your Grab-n-Go Binder, or the one you have stored with a trusted friend, and begin to contact your insurance companies.
  • Move quickly to rent a car, file with your insurance, or get a hotel. Within hours, these resources will be flooded with people in your same desperate situation.
  • Acquire heavy duty gloves, closed-toed boots and work clothes to wear as you sift through debris. This will be hard physical labor, but it will also be emotionally draining to see the ruins of what was once your family’s home. Take plenty of breaks as you search for salvageable belongings and be ready to call it a day when fatigue begins to set in.
  • Kids are going to have a particularly rough time of it. If possible, designate an adult to keep watch over the kids in a location away from your ruined home and keep them distracted with videos, read-alouds, and playground time. This would be an ideal time for a longer-than-usual visit to grandma’s house.
  • It will take time, perhaps a lot of time, before the insurance company evaluates your losses and cuts a check, so be prepared to wait.
  • In the meantime, there will be dozens of decisions to be made. Where will you stay for the duration? Will the kids be able to continue with their schooling or will you need to homeschool for a while? Do you know of reputable disaster recovery companies? Reputable contractors? Roofers? Electricians? If you don’t have these names and phone numbers in your Grab-n-Go binder, now would be a good time to add them.
  • Quickly access any funds you have in your banking account(s). Remember, in an emergency “Cash is King!” If the power is out, chances are that your debit and credit cards will be useless, and vendors may not be willing to accept checks.
  • Use your cell phone or digital camera to begin documenting the damage to your home, vehicle, and property. E-mail the photos to yourself, so you’ll have easy access to them in the future and will be able to forward them to your insurance agent.
  • Document but DO NOT TOUCH or try to fix ANYTHING that has been affected in any way by the disaster. More than one innocent policy holder has found themselves unable to be reimbursed for a claim because they didn’t wait for the insurance adjuster and company to give the go-ahead to repairs.
  • Depending on the time of year and weather conditions, elderly family members, infants, and anyone with chronic health issues should probably relocate somewhere less stressful, where medical facilities are easily accessible. Summer heat and humidity affects them more than anyone else.
  • Now, more than ever, spend time with people who lift you up and always seem to see the silver lining behind every cloud.

Above all, guard your mental and emotional health.  Be willing to seek out a pastor, counselor, or mental health professional and understand that it’s okay to cry and grieve.  Recovery, in every sense of the word, is going to take time.

You really need to become a prepper

Becoming a prepper may have never crossed your mind. Perhaps, thanks to shows like Doomsday Preppers, you associate being prepared for a worst case scenario with paranoid mouth breathers, basements filled with freeze dried food, and families scrambling for hazmat suits.

Well, I’m a prepper. I homeschool our kids, am an avid bicyclist, and love Mexican food and Lord of the Rings! Almost no one in our circle of friends know that we prep because we are just like them — busy with kids, sports, yard work, and job. What makes us different, though, is that, over the past 7 years, we have become better and better prepared for life’s curve balls.

That hardly makes us paranoid nuts!

Just one real life example of losing everything

This video, from the immense wildfire that hit the town of Fort McMurry in Alberta, may change your mind if you’ve never heard of prepping, have slowed down with your own preparedness (after all, life does have its many distractions), or have thought prepping just wasn’t for you.

This cozy living room, complete with a pristine fish tank and cozy pillows and blankets, could be yours or mine and yet, within minutes, it was consumed by fire. I can’t imagine the heartbreak the homeowners felt as they watched this video.

Getting started with prepping is as easy as buying a few extra cans of soup or tuna the next time you’re out grocery shopping. Take that first step!

Disaster Help From The Federal Government (FEMA): Truth Vs. Fiction

When you hear or read “FEMA” (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), what is your reaction? Other than the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), FEMA is the one Federal agency that tends to evoke reactions ranging from hope to despair, anger to annoyance, and fear to paranoia.

Some of the criticism is very fair. As a former FEMA employee, I sympathize with the frustration felt by the public for some of its actions. On the other hand, I don’t buy in to a lot of the fringe theories of “FEMA Camps” or fears that FEMA somehow is preparing to imprison large numbers of Americans. Frankly, I don’t think they could accomplish that!

Federal Disaster Assistance (FEMA)

So let’s talk about federal disaster assistance. The good news is thatthe Feds are SO much better at disaster response and recoverythan they were prior to Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Superstorm Sandy (2012).

Keep in mind that FEMA is mainly the coordinator of the myriad of Federal agencies that are players in disaster assistance. Under the National Response Framework, the federal government’s emergency plan, FEMA actually provides only a few direct services to disaster victims.

Here are some basic concepts to keep in mind:

  • Insurance is the best way to assure your disaster recovery, and is the payer of first resort;
  • FEMA primarily provides disaster assistance to state and local governments, not families;
  • FEMA only financially assists families in Major Disasters;
  • Much of the available disaster assistance is loans, not grants; you must pay them back!

The Legal Stuff

FEMA Disaster Assistance is regulated by the Stafford Act, a federal law. After President Jimmy Carter created FEMA by Executive Order in 1979, he transferred the responsibility for several different Federal disaster activities to FEMA.

The Stafford Act (1988) better defined FEMA’s responsibilities and authorities:

The Congress hereby finds and declares that –

(1) because disasters often cause loss of life, human suffering, loss of income, and property loss and damage; and

(2) because disasters often disrupt the normal functioning of governments and communities, and adversely affect individuals and families with great severity; special measures, designed to assist the efforts of the affected States in expediting the rendering of aid, assistance, and emergency services, and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of devastated areas, are necessary.

(b) It is the intent of the Congress, by this Act, to provide an orderly and continuing means of assistance by the Federal Government to State and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to alleviate the suffering and damage which result from such disasters.

The Influence of Homeland Security

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, FEMA was placed under the new Department of Homeland Security via The Homeland Security Act of 2002. In some respects, FEMA was weakened due to personnel and responsibilities being transferred to other agencies, and the government-wide emphasis on preventing terrorism. Responding to natural disasters was given a lower priority than responding to terror.

We paid the price for that change in Hurricane Katrina.

The nation observed the inadequate response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by FEMA and much of the rest of the federal government. The failures and deficiencies exhibited by FEMA in the response to Hurricane Katrina resulted in the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006. The PKEMRA Act restored to FEMA much of the autonomy taken in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, and strengthened FEMA’s status within DHS. A lot of good changes came out of the pain of Katrina.

Then came Superstorm Sandy in 2012…and criticism of the FEMA response again. In July 2012, FEMA published the “Hurricane Sandy FEMA After-Action Report.” While acknowledging the strengths of the FEMA response, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate recognized the shortcomings:

“We also recognize where work remains to further improve. We still do not go big enough, fast enough, or smart enough. Building on our experiences from Sandy, we will continue our efforts to prepare for catastrophic events and not rest on past performance. We still plan for what we are capable of doing. We still train and exercise for what we can manage. We must plan, train, and exercise even bigger to fracture the traditional mind set. We know that it is reassuring to survivors to see government representatives who are actively engaged in the area of impact. We are an organization in which every employee, full-time or temporary, has an integral role in reducing the suffering of survivors and supporting communities toward recovery.”

FEMA Assistance to State and Local Governments

The Stafford Act established categories of assistance that can be provided to state and local governments in disasters. In many significant events, FEMA can provide financial assistance for major wildfires through Fire Management Assistance Grants, and funding for Debris Removal from public right-of-ways and for Emergency Protective Measures to prevent loss of life or property. But for the average citizen, FEMA has little to offer in minor-to-moderate disasters. Other federal agencies like the Small Business Administration may be able to offer low-interest loans to businesses and homeowners, but that’s about it.

In more significant disasters, if the President declares a Major Disaster, AND designates that Individual Assistance is to be provided to victims, a host of programs and assistance programsbecome available; descriptions are available at:http://www.fema.gov/disaster-assistance-available-fema.

Advice for the Disaster Victim

  1. Document your losses: pictures are so important pre- and post-loss.
  2. Contact your insurance agent ASAP.
  3. Reach out to your elected representatives.
  4. Contact your city or county emergency management offices.
  5. In major disasters, register with FEMA: (800) 621-3362 or http://www.disasterassistance.gov/
  6. Read any correspondence you receive from FEMA very carefully; many claims are denied for lack of a document or two.
  7. Appeal any denials…you have nothing to lose and lots to gain.

Realistic Expectations

Few people are made whole through government disaster relief programs. Homeowners’ and Renters’ insurance is a far more reliable and predictable source of aid after a disaster strikes;especially in the specialty areas of flood and earthquake insurance, your insurance agent can protect you much better than any government program.

You have so much more control over your future when you plan ahead and don’t rely on help from government that may not ever come.

By Jim Acosta

7 Ways to Prepare for an Earthquake

In 1994, a friend of mine was in the Northridge earthquake. She was awakened in the middle of the night by her apartment collapsing around her. She crawled out of the wreckage, wearing nothing but her nightie. She met her neighbors in the street, and, like her, most had cuts from scrambling through broken glass on their way out of ruined buildings. Some were missing. Most were found, but several were dead. It was a long time until dawn.

Hearing her recount the story of surviving an earthquake in the middle of the night made me think about surviving an earthquake in the middle of the night. I’m a thousand miles away from California, but I live on a fault line too. My town has a track record. We’re overdue.

Could what happened to her happen to me?

There’s one important difference between California and my home state, Montana. When she was thrown out of bed, it was a warm night, even though it was in January. Everyone was standing around barefoot in their pajamas. Nobody was cold. Nobody froze to death. But Montana has a nasty tendency to get bitterly frigid on a fairly frequent basis, especially in January. If I get bounced out of bed by an earthquake, it might be below zero outside. Those of us who experience sub-zero temperatures on a regular basis know how bad it would be to stand around in the street wearing nothing but pajamas with bleeding feet and shock coming on when it’s ten or twenty below zero.

She is my friend, and I still hear the fear in her voice when she remembers that night. It was harrowing, horrifying and hard. I knew that if it happened to me on one of those nasty mid-winter nights, it could be a whole lot harder. It might be a very very long time until dawn.

And that’s what made me think, ‘What can I do now that would make it less terrible then?’

I made a list. Then I checked off everything on that list. And if you’ve ever wondered, ‘What if….’ then maybe you should look at this list too.

If you check off everything on the list, then if you’re ever bounced out of bed on a sub-zero night, things might be easier for you.

Take a look. Here’s the list.

After seeing pictures of the wreckage of her apartment, I imagined trying to find my glasses in the middle of that mess. If my glasses fly off the nightstand, fall to the floor, and disappear down some dark and dusty crevice, then I am immediately handicapped. I am hopeless and helpless without my glasses.

So I bought a glasses case on a string, of the type worn around the neck. I tied it to my bedpost. Every night for a thousand nights when I’ve gone to bed, I’ve placed my glasses in that case. They’re never on the nightstand any more. I reach for them automatically in the morning. I always know where they are. They are always within arm’s reach.

Nothing can shake them loose.

That glasses case cost me a buck and it bought me a whole lot of peace of mind. If I’m going to be coping with a quake in the middle of the night, I don’t have to go into the chaos blind. For a dollar, I can always find my glasses.

That is the first thing on the list.

Of course, the electricity went out in Northridge, and it was night, so it was dark. And if the same thing happened to me, I would want light immediately available. Normally I keep flashlights in the junk drawer in the kitchen, and in the basement on the tool bench, and in the car under the seat, but I didn’t want to be in a position where I had to find a flashlight in order to find a flashlight. I didn’t want to waste any time at all fumbling around in the darkness and confusion searching for it. So I bought a flashlight with a wrist strap attached, and I gave it fresh batteries, and I hung it from my bedpost along with my glasses. Then I wondered, what would happen if the batteries went dead? No light, no more! So I bought a package of extra batteries and put them in the draw in my nightstand. I also bought a hand-cranked wind-up flashlight/radio/siren/phone charger. I tuned the radio to the station that’s designated emergency broadcast channel in case of emergency. I hung it by its wrist strap from the bedpost as well. The flashlight cost me a buck, the batteries cost me two, the wind-up one cost me twenty. What will they be worth? Plenty.

That’s the second thing on the list. Got eyes, got light. Good to go.

Where am I going? How am I going to get there?

My friend wanted to get into her car and go somewhere safe, but her car was in the garage and the garage was askew and the garage door would not open. She couldn’t even sit in her car because the doors were locked. The keys were in her purse and her purse was probably on the dining room table, or maybe the kitchen counter, and both places were buried under so many splinters. There was a magnetic key under the bumper but it was dark and she didn’t have a light. She was barefoot and the garage windows had shattered all over the ground. She thought she had a flashlight, but it was in the locked car. (Later it turned out the batteries were dead anyway.) So she just stood around in the street and waited for someone to help her to the hospital.

I don’t want to stand around and wait for someone to show up to help me. If it’s ten below zero, waiting around isn’t an option.

So I had a set of spare car keys made up. I added copies of keys of all the places most important to me—the places I’ll want to check first after a disaster, like my office, and my husband’s business. I clipped the keyring to the wristband of the flashlight hanging on my bedpost. So now, if I’m bleeding and frightened and cold, I can sit in my car and have heat and light and a radio. I’m glad I don’t have a garage, because it will never collapse, trapping my car. I might be able to get to the hospital without waiting for help.

It cost me four dollars to have the keys copied. Keys are third on the list.

If these three things are all you ever do, you will be so much better off when that night arrives than if you never looked at this list at all.

But if you agree that there are many things you can do now that will help you later, then read the rest of the list.

When my friend jumped out of bed, she did it instinctively, without thinking, and without looking before she leapt. She discovered the hard way that every framed family photo had fallen off her dresser top. Every picture on the wall fell. Every window in her apartment shattered. Every mirror broke. The floor was covered with shards of glass. Her injuries came not from the quake, but from cutting her feet while making her way out of the wreckage. In fact, 80% of the injuries treated in area hospitals were for cuts from the knees down.

So I took an old pair of sturdy tennis shoes that I don’t wear any more and I put them underneath my bed.  In one shoe I stuffed a pair of socks, and in the other shoe I stuffed a clean pair of underwear (because if I need ‘em, I’ll be glad they’re there) and also a big bandana. If I’m going to be doing any crying or bleeding or screaming or throwing up, a hanky could come in handy.

To make sure that shards of glass didn’t fall into the shoes, I stuffed them into an old pillowcase. Then, thinking about the sub-zero scenario, I added a few more things to that pillowcase: a pair of jeans (with their pockets stuffed with useful items), a warm shirt, a sweatshirt, a hat, and sturdy leather gloves. There was still room left in the pillowcase and plenty of space under the bed, so I added a couple bottles of water – again, very useful if crying, bleeding, screaming, and throwing up is happening.

In Northridge, it was a long time before water service was restored. In the pockets of the jeans I placed another hanky, a packet of tissues, some hair ties because I hate having my long hair in my face, a chapstick just for comfort, a whistle because it’s so much easier than shouting, and a few mints to suck on just in case there’s throwing up going on. I added another copy of my car key just in case, and I tucked some folding money in the pockets too because the ATMs and credit card machines aren’t going to work as long as the electricity is down. I might need to buy something, and who knows where my purse will be or how much money I’ll have on hand. If I depended on medication, I would stick extra meds in the pocket too.

I stuffed all that into a pink pillowcase, and then I made up an identical kit for my husband and packed it in a blue pillowcase. In my mind’s eye, I rehearsed the scene a few times in which I practiced NOT jumping out of bed, but instead reaching under the bed for the emergency pillow case first. This way I can at least put on shoes to get out of the house, and have clothes to put on while standing around in the street.

Clothing is fourth on the list.

In Northridge, as in most earthquakes, the shaking broke natural gas lines, water pipes, and electrical lines. Water heaters tipped over, and gas and water poured into basements. Explosions and fires popped up all over. The overwhelmed fire department couldn’t put out the fires because the water mains were broken.

So under my bed went two fire extinguishers – one for my husband, one for me – which cost me $10 each. I learned how to shut off the water, electricity, and natural gas to my home. Shutting off the natural gas requires a wrench, so I put a wrench under my bed, and for good measure I tied another wrench to the gas valve. The fire extinguisher and wrench may well end up saving my house from complete destruction while others burn down around me. In my imagination, I rehearsed putting on my shoes, grabbing the flashlight, and running outside to turn the utilities off before the house blows up.

Then I even spoke with my neighbors and found out where they utilities are located, so if they are trapped in their house, or if they can’t find their glasses or their shoes or a flashlight or a wrench, I can turn their gas lines off before their homes blow up. This was partly altruistic and partly selfish, because if their houses burn down, the fire department isn’t going to be able to do anything about it – and if their houses burn, my house may well burn down too.

The Fire Prevention Kit is fifth on the list.

Next I assembled an emergency tool kit with a variety of miscellaneous items that might come in handy.

Communications will be difficult or non-existent, so to hedge my bets I added a telephone that does not require electricity but can be plugged directly into the phone jack. I also added a set of walkie-talkies, along with spare batteries for them. One for my husband, one for me. I put in a battery operated AM/FM radio that clips to my belt. I found out where to tune it for emergency broadcast information and wrote that in magic marker on the radio itself and marked it on the dial. I stuck in a really good Swiss Army knife, along with pliers and a hammer in case I have to help pull people out of wreckage through shattered windows. I also included some extra flashlights and more batteries because I expect working flashlights will be in short supply. This tool kit went into a draw-string bag under my bed next to the pillowcases.

The tool kit and all its contents are the sixth item.

Then I assembled a 72-hour kit using the guidelines at www.Ready.gov. I collected ready-to-eat food, bottled water, a first aid kit, toilet paper, pet food and other items, packing it into a Rubbermaid tub with a locking lid that I stored in my garden shed in case the entire house collapses.

If you have made it to this seventh item on the list, you will be in better shape than about 99% of your friends and neighbors.

At this point I became very interested in learning more about emergency preparedness, so I took emergency response classes, joined the Red Cross, studied FEMA procedures, and teamed up with other people in my community interested in disaster preparedness. I expanded my emergency kit to include everything I might possibly need: dust masks, goggles, knee pads, elbow pads, and hardhats with headlamps; tents and tarps; floodlights, a generator, Coleman lanterns, and emergency stoves and heaters; bandages and soup; duct tape, plastic sheeting, and spare lumber for covering shattered windows; down coats and sleeping bags; crow bars and car jacks and plenty more fire extinguishers. I don’t expect people to go to such lengths as I did, but if they did – it would sure make things easier for everyone when that day arrives.

FEMA statistics show that the average American will suffer three disasters over the course of a typical lifespan, with ‘disaster’ defined as any event that disrupts an entire community simultaneously. When it comes to disasters, there are only two variables, one of which we can control, and the other of which we cannot: There will either be a disaster or there won’t; and we can either be prepared for a disaster, or not.  When combining these two variables, there are four potential outcomes:

  1. There will be no disaster and I will NOT be prepared. (neutral outcome)
  2. There will be no disaster and I WILL be prepared (neutral outcome)
  3. There WILL be a disaster and I will NOT be prepared (negative outcome)
  4. There WILL be a disaster and I WILL be prepared (positive outcome)

We have two choices. We can either wait around for someone to come help us, or we can be prepared to help ourselves. The failure to consciously choose option #2 means choosing option #1 by default. The post-disaster misery index of both an individual and the community as a whole correlates exactly to the proportion of people who choose option #2.

What’s your choice?

Choose wisely.

10 Realities After a Major Flooding Event

So a hurricane has hit your town or a major flooding event. Your family survived the disaster and it’s time to go back into your community and rebuild your lives. Here’s some of the realities that we didn’t expect about our lives after Hurricane Katrina.

EVERYTHING takes longer, and I do mean everything.

Why? Because everyone else in the community needs the same things, too. You may have been to the propane place a hundred times, and never waited for more than 10 minutes, BUT when everyone else in your community also needs propane for their FEMA trailer, the line is going to be long.

As you stand in those ridiculously long lines, you will swap horror stories. “I got 1 ft of water.” “My roof was completely ripped off.” You will be reminded that everyone has it better and worse than you.

Unexpected problems will arise.

If the flooding is more than about 18”, it will get in your outlets and damage your electrical system. It will also damage the motor in your washing machine. “No problem,” you think, “I’ll just go to the laundromat.” Except the one down the street got flooded, too. You drive across town to another laundromat. On the front door, there’s a big sign. “No flood clothes”. They are concerned about the mud and mold damaging their machines.

IF they do accept flood clothes, be prepared to wait a REALLY long time because, see #1. “No problem,” you think, “I’m a prepper. I”ll just do it by hand.” Except, you have spent all your time and energy gutting your house, scrubbing mud and mold off what you could save, and driving around to find a laundromat that will take them. Believe me when I say this won’t be appealing.

Waiting in lines will be an excellent source of communication about resources.

This is how you will find out what is open and what is not, which grocery stores have been restocked. Be prepared to swap tales and chat. This is where you will glean some of your best information.

Flood water isn’t just water.

It is water, mud, car fluids (think about all the cars stewing in the flood), mystery chemicals from people’s garages, and worse, mystery chemicals from businesses like pest control and contractors. IF the water does not drain right away, but instead sits in your house for days, there are things in your home that you will not be able to save that you expect to save.

Pots, pans, and dishes can’t be just washed off. The stuff in the water will permanently etch and damage their surfaces. As an aside, my husband was working in a used video game store after Katrina. The water may damage the machines, but the games themselves MIGHT be okay with a rinse off, IF they didn’t sit in the nasty water for weeks.

Expect months of things not being readily available.

The more commonly used the item is, the easier it will be to replace. My oldest son had just crossed into the “young men’s” shoe sizes. It started to get a little chilly in late October. He was wearing sandals when we evacuated in August. I drove all around town trying to find him a pair of slip on or velcro tennis shoes. No one had them in his size. “No problem,” I think, “I’ll order them online.” By this point, it’s the beginning of November. Shipping is 5-7 days. Not a big deal. The U.S. mail, FedEx and UPS were running again. I would check the tracking.

My package would make it an hour or two away from me, then I would see a message, “Delay due to disaster zone”. My package would then turn around and head north. I would call FedEx and plead for my package to be delivered. It would get an hour or two away and the cycle would repeat. We didn’t get those shoes until the beginning of December, by which point we had already experienced our first freeze. ( I put my son in 2 pairs of socks with his sandals. Not pretty or stylish, but his toes were warm enough.)

Forget about restocking things at thrift stores.

They got flooded, too. When they restock from out of town, everyone else will be there too.

Ever dreamed about when you retire that you and your spouse will hit the open road in an RV?

Yeah, the reality of being forced to live in one is much different. First, if it’s a FEMA trailer, you don’t get to pick it. You don’t get to choose the decor or style that would make the most sense for your family. You get what they give you. Second, you will be storing precious mementos and remnants of your old life for “When we get our house back….” Third, even the items that you replace won’t necessarily be designed for the trailer, because you will be planning for “When we get our house back….”

As businesses begin to reopen, you will have to return to work.

No extra days off to deal with your home because the business needs to be cleaned. There will be less time and more work. Any and all conveniences will be appreciated. Be prepared to eat lots of MRE’s, TV dinners, etc… Remember, the fast food place down the street got flooded, too.

Everyone will be in the same boat. Everything takes longer, but everyone wants businesses to stay open longer, which in turn means, that you as the employee will have less time to do the things that you need to do at your own home.

The hardest thing for most of us will be saying “YES” to help.

People from all over will want to help. They will reach out to your church, school, homeschool group, etc…. They will want to help. The self-sufficient person that you are will look around and think, “I don’t need donations. I have insurance,” “I have savings,” “I have family,” OR “Others have it so much worse than me.”

Learn to say, “Yes, thank you so much”. You see, this person found YOU. They didn’t find that other person that you know needs more help than you. They want to help. When you say yes, you not only let them help but you are given choices. You can use the donation yourself or perhaps pass it on to someone else. Believe me, in a flood you will be “nickel and dimed” to death. There are so many hidden expenses, so every little blessing is huge.

Maybe you could replace your towels yourself, but since towels were given to you, you can afford to replace an extra pair of shoes. OR you can give it to the person that you know needs the help more than you. You can never repay the person who helps you. The $10 that is given when you really need it isn’t just $10. It’s $10 plus hope and the ability to go on. Thank people who help you profusely, but pay it forward later, when to someone else it is $10 plus hope.

Government programs and big charities are very much fill in the blank organizations.

You need food. You get standard issue food boxes. If you have food allergies or picky eaters, tough. The saying, “Beggars can’t be choosy” takes on new meaning. We began to refer to FEMA as “Fix Everything my A$$”. You are told to take the help you get and be grateful. But when you need shoes, and all they have are pants, how grateful can you be? The number one lesson is to be prepared for anything and everything that you can be. Nothing will turn out how you expect it to in a disaster situation.

In a flooding disaster, the first inch of water is the most devastating. The water ruins floors and everything that touches the water.

Be prepared, as well as you can, but expect to find that you weren’t as prepared as you thought.

My Story: Surviving a flood and planning for long-term survival

I will first give you some brief things I went through in 1993 in West Des Moines, Iowa, then I wish to tell you what has changed my mind lately as I poo-pooed my husband with this survival stuff, what brought me back to taking a hard look at our future.
In July 1993, a raging river flooded old downtown West Des Moines. I had just moved in to my soon-to-be new house as a single mom. I had been recently divorced by my husband after 26 years. He was my high school sweetheart, and I thought we would be married for life. My little house represented a new beginning for my daughter and me. I had unpacked everything I owned and headed to the lake on July 6th.

July 10, I was swept out of my house

I went to work that day at my salon a couple blocks away. My neighbor had warned me the flood was coming, but I said that I had to get to work. She just looked at me dumbfounded. I had asked about flood insurance when I was preparing to buy the house. The insurance man advised me against it since I had to be totally devastated in order to collect. I was just renting for a month til the abstract could be brought up to date, so no flood insurance.
It was business as usual at the shop. All the gals were busy as well. About mid-morning  some of my clients came in and starting packing me up and hauling my things at the salon to nearby garages with the threats of flooding. I just kept working. I was in total denial.
Many other business owners came in and convinced me to hurry and get my things outthe door. My crew and I evacuated what we could and hurried over to my house to put up plastic on the outside and put in the attic what we could. I had the car packed up with keys in it. I went up to help sand bag the river a block away only to see it break and come roaring towards my car and my home.
I had a friend take some of my things into downtown Des Moines to store. He and one of my employees had rode the motorcycle back to check on me. I was running towards my car screaming to the man that my keys were in it. He hurried to drive it around the corner away from the raging water in time for me to escape two blocks.
I turned the one way that turned out to be the wrong way, with the river lapping against my tires and coming from the side streets on both sides of me. Thank heavens it was an uphill drive.  After six blocks the water still chased me up the top of a hill in my friend’s yard.
I was safe for the time being My friend and her daughter welcomed me and we went upstairs in her big house, watching the flood waters rise. We expected to have to evacuated any time. That did not happen. We were safe for four days.

Relying on family, friends, and strangers

I suddenly realized I was homeless with no clothes except the ones on my back and my business was full of water. The building that I owned had no flood insurance since there had not been a flood in Valley Junction in 100 years.
Once the water receded, I could go to my house to clean up. There I was inside and feeling devastated at the loss. Wood paneling had bent and bulged out like it was hanging on with a thread. I went in the kitchen, and everything was ruined. The washer, dryer, small appliances, and dishes covered in mud. I opened the basement door only to see the ugly river staring back at me. I was in shock. My brother broke open the window and was able to pump out the water. The house would never be the same.
Thanks to the Red Cross and their hot meals I got cleaning supplies and energy from their help in the neighborhood. People from several churches came to my rescue in cleaning out my home that I would ultimately say good-bye to.
One final thing was to clean out the garage. Thanks to a wonderful friend who lent me a pair of garden boots I was able to use a piece of plywood and scrape the much and mire and a hundred snakes out of my garage. It continued to rain for several days. The day I went up against the snakes in my garage and basement it was raining so hard that when I finished, I just stood under the eaves and let fresh rainwater wash away the bad memories
I was able to find a blanket to put over me. I walked for three blocks in shock looking for help at a nearby church were some people who fed me and let me to a phone bank where I called my son in  DC. The wisdom that came from this 19 year old son was like the balm of Gilead upon my bruised heart. He reminded me that I have faith and God was still there.
He convinced me to call an aunt and uncle, cousins, and nearby friends. Family, friends and strangers helped me rebuild my building. Churches donated money. Clients helped. The local lumber yard donated everything I could ever need. Bankers came and dry walled. Folks came from all over the United States when they heard that our little community needed help.
I applied to FEMA for aid two times. I was turned down because they thought I was too poor to pay them back. I was devastated to learn that all my careful monthly statements prepared by a trusted accountant firm had taken me for a ride, they made no sense.
A wonderful woman banker from my church believed in me and loaned me the money, not once but twice. I paid back the money in five years time. God was good. My business was back up and running. I sold the building after 10 years. I am still a hair dresser in Arkansas after 42 years. I
am still thanking God and all the people that came to help me survive 1993.

Preparing for something else

My husband has lately been involved with survival strategy. Given his involvement in 2 tours of the Vietnam war, he is somewhat of an expert on survival, to say the least.
I must say, I was not too keen on his purchase of guns and ammo. My brothers are very active hunters. I have enjoyed all wild game birds, squirrels, and rabbits. It was not until my husband Tom invited me to go to target practice that I decided to appreciate his skill and, surprisingly, mine at handling a gun.
I can remember so well the 50’s and beginning 60’s bomb shelters we prepared in our basement when ever we moved. Mom always had extra canned goods and a fridge and freezer full of meat, bread, most anything we would need in a disaster.
I still was not sold on the idea that we needed to get ready for an uncertain future. I finally gave in and freed up three shelves in a linen closet where we now have a start of supplies. I have agreed with most things Tom has planned for. I am excited about have a small piece of land we can grow a garden and make ready for any future events.
One day I was in the library at the building where I work. I had visited the library three times that day. I even laid out three or four books reading the backs to see the story lines. The third pass through the library on my break I had decided on a book. I stopped and said a prayer, Lord which one of these books should I read. I want a story with meaning. I was getting ready for some heart test and I needed to lay low for a few days.
Just when I thought I had found the book, suddenly my eyes fell on a book called the Last Light by Terri Blackstock. Noticing it was published by Zondervan, I knew it was a Christian based book. Once I opened the book it sucked me in to where I could not put it down. I laid three days of the Memorial Day holiday in bed reading and resting. One week to the day I started, I finished this book with a whole new perspective on survival.
I looked back to see when it was written, 2005, I was in shock. I learned so much from this book about the end of the world as we know it that it seems to have jump started me into a new awareness that has reshaped my life.
My new goal is to learn all about herbs for health and healing. I want to get on board and dig out my great grandmothers recipes for home remedies. I want to brush up on my gardening days from my youth. We canned everything coming from a large family and we had an acre garden.
I am diving in the Mary Jane Farm Girls magazine and others. I am looking forward to retiring in the near future. Before I do I plan to get the next three books in Terri Gladstock’s Restoration series. May God bless you abundantly today and tomorrow and beyond.

Got the Earthquake Jitters? This list of 23 tips will help you prepare and survive

Do you live in earthquake country or sometimes travel there? Either way, use this list to prepare, and download this Red Cross app for all kinds of earthquake alerts and survival information.

Fore more information, take “Earthquake Basics: Science, Risk, and Mitigation,” from FEMA’s online Emergency Management Institute.

1. Keep inexpensive hard hats handy to protect your head, and your children’s heads, from falling items, including anything hanging on your walls and sitting on shelves. When the earth shakes, everything shakes!

2. Get in the habit of keeping a pair of shoes next to each bed. Cuts and splinters in the feet are one of the most common post-earthquake injuries.

3. I recommend a pair of Crocs-style shoes as  emergency shoes, especially if they have a furry or padded liner. They’re quick to slip on,  oversized—so it takes a while for kids to outgrow them—and wide enough to allow for a pair of heavy socks.

4. Keep a pair of eyeglasses in a secured spot near your bed. If a quake occurs in the middle of the night, you’ll need to see where you’re going.

5. Packed emergency kits are a necessity, since a quake can leave you homeless in a matter of minutes. Have them stored right by the exit door to your home. You might not have time to track them down.

6. Teach your kids the Red Cross earthquake survival technique: “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.”  This is safer than standing in a doorway, which may or may not have structural integrity.

7. Learn and teach “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” even if you don’t live in earthquake country. Earthquakes have been happening in some really diverse places lately, so don’t assume you’re 100% earthquake safe just because you don’t live in earthquake country.

8. Inspect your home for construction and repair issues that will only worsen with an earthquake, such as a cracked foundation or a damaged roof. Take care of repairs now, if possible.

9. Cut down tree branches that are near power lines. In an earthquake, these branches often fall on the power lines, causing them to snap.

10. Know how to shut off the water and gas supplies into your home and where the shut-off  valves are located. Make sure to have the correct tools on hand to do the job and that everyone in the house knows how to do this.

11. Keep an LED flashlight or a headlamp in a secure spot next to every bed.

12. Keep a spare set of keys by your bed, in case your other set is inaccessible or can’t be found due to fallen debris.

13. Have a lanyard that holds a simple photo I.D., including the address and phone number, for each member of the family. Keep each person’s lanyard by his or her bed, either in a drawer or hanging from a bedpost. Instruct kids  to put theirs on in case of an earthquake or another emergency.

14. For very young children, buy a set of safety tattoos that you can quickly apply to an arm or a leg to help I.D. an injured or lost kid.

15. Stay calm. A terrified parent is going to send the kids right over the edge. Practice “survival breathing.”

16. Every framed photo and mirror on the wall presents a danger. If they fall off, the glass will shatter. Consider removing glass from all of the frames or replacing it with Plexiglas.

17. Broken gas lines and power lines can cause fires. Keep at least two or three fire extinguishers  in the house. Know where they are and how to use them.

18. Know where the shut-off valve is for your neighbor’s natural gas line and how to turn off the neighbor’s electrical panel. If their house goes up in flames, chances are yours will, too.

19. A supply of dust face masks can help you breathe if the air is filled with smoke, dust, and other airborne particles. If you don’t have a dust mask, tie a T-shirt or another piece of fabric over your nose and mouth.

20. Keep a basic emergency kit at work to help you survive the quake and assist you with the basic supplies you’ll need to get home. As well, know multiple routes home and connect with others who live in your part of town. If several of you are traveling together, there’s safety in numbers.

21. Teach your kids to tap on anything within reach if they are ever trapped underneath furniture or other debris.

22. Bolt all tall pieces of furniture to the wall. It ain’t feng shui. It’s survival!

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