Friday, September 9, 2016

Keep the Horse Wagons Hitched!

The recent fires have been devastating -- bigger, quicker and sooner than we have seen in our lifetimes.  But along with tales of sadness come a few notes of hope.  An elderly couple were rescued in the nick of time by brave fire crews and someone’s cat was found unharmed in the some smoldering debris.  But what struck me were those who did not have to evacuate, but were ready to do so.  Maybe it was the imagery, but when I heard of horse owners who keep their horse trailers always hitched to a truck in fire season, that seemed so smart.  They understand where they were vulnerable, then prepared for it.

The world has seen its share of disasters so far this year…Enormous snowfalls in the Atlantic Northeast in January, Floods in Louisiana (again!) and West Virginia, fires in many parts of California, deadly earthquakes in Ecuador, Italy and Japan.  Between the natural disasters and the manmade ones, one can get pretty discouraged, so I thought I’d bring you a few photos and short stories about things that make us feel that we can survive and survive well.

In 1999, a tornado hit Oklahoma, the likes they had never experienced before.  The force was so great that a 10-month old girl was literally ripped from her mother’s arms and out the window.  Even as the mother was later being taken to the emergency room, she begged authorities to look for her baby.  To everyone’s amazement, the child was found in the mud more than 100 feet from the house, alive and unharmed. [Oklahoma’s Own, February 23, 2012.]

In May 2013, a tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma.  This woman was prepared and knew what to do.  She was stunned but resolved that the storm had taken everything from her.  Then “the love of her life” was found.  Maybe you have seen this video, but it is worth viewing again:

This is a great photo, too.
In the flooding after Hurricane Katrina, some people who lost their homes refused to be rescued unless they were allowed to bring their pets with them.

From  Human Society Volunteer rescuing dogs after Hurricane Katrina.

From  Rescuers help elderly woman from flood waters in India.

From:  Japan Rescue Dog Association looks for survivors of the Japanese earthquake in February 2011.

Be prepared, my friends.

Monday, March 7, 2016

If you are short on time (sorry, I just can’t help but tell a long story), just remember this: PREPARING for disasters will not prevent a disaster from happening, but it will make going through them a heck of a lot EASIER.

By now, we have all probably stopped writing 2015 and gotten used to 2016. Or at least the 5s are fairly easy to make into 6s.  But, I wanted to share some information now that really hit a chord with me. I recently heard a presentation about a survey of people’s fears.  Surprisingly or not, “politics” was the greatest fear of the 1500 or so American surveyed across the U.S.  I’ll have to plead “no comment” on that at the moment and focus on their subsequent fears – man-made and natural disasters.

The crazy thing is – even knowing what they fear -- an overwhelming number of people refused to do anything to prepare for them:  “If I don’t admit it exists, then it doesn’t exist. Oh, and please don’t touch my candy house and unicorns…”

Fortunately, we have little to fear from tornadoes, hurricanes and tsunamis, but our troubles will come from Ma Earth giving us a good shake, an extended drought causing wildfires, or El Nino creating floods and mudslides (no, really, we ARE getting rain…one of these days).  And while these are typically big and rarely occurring events, we are “bugged” constantly by something else…skeeters.

Infections of the West Nile Virus is at a low right now, but the Zika virus, spread by the day-time biting Aedes species mosquito, is gaining a foothold here in Orange County. Mosquitoes carrying these viruses can cause tremendous harm to certain individuals, so take their presence seriously.  Do not allow ANY STANDING WATER in which they can breed… patio plant saucers, bird baths, anything that holds even a drop of water. Cover rain barrels with mosquito netting too.  Go to the OC Vector control site for some tips:

I suffered a tremendous loss on January 4, when I lost my mother.  She was 96, and plagued by memory loss, but she was cheerful every day and always saw the best in everyone and everything. Even when confronted with something she didn’t like, she just uttered a deadpan, “whoopee” and moved on.  I think she feared nothing. Or maybe forgot that she did.  In any case, she greeted every day with determination and spunk – and I miss her dearly.

So, there is stuff to fear, but I am confident we can all do something: Put supplies in your house and car and make family and work disaster plans.  It may not always be fun to do, but just give it a “whoopee” and move on.  You’ll be fine.

Monday, November 9, 2015

El Nino: More than an excuse to buy new boots

Before I get to today's useful preparedness tips, I'd like to share a story.  You all know the story of Pavlov's famous experiments with dogs.  He rang a bell in anticipation of giving them food, and before long, the ring of a bell caused the dogs to salivate just in anticipation of their treats. [Actually, what he did to dogs was not even remotely so nice, so we are all best believing this version instead…] But it was conditioning.  Do something at a stimulus.  Well, last week, I had the pleasure of attending the taping of Dancing With The Stars.  And yes it was wonderful.  For the uninitiated, audience members at these gigs are expected to get involved in the excitement. For anyone who knows me, this is right up my alley.  When they say to show them you are excited, I did just that...Jump out of my seat, throw my arms up, give a big "woo-hoo!" and clap, and they want you to do this for pretty much anything that goes on during the show. Anything. So, during that nearly 3-hour show, I was up and woo-hoo-ing at nearly every intro and cute dance move, or anything else even remotely “amazing.” 

That was Monday afternoon.  Move forward about 36 hours to the American Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Academy -- A really pleasant affair at the Anaheim Convention Center with a few hundred like-minded people early Wednesday morning.  I was seated fairly near the front when a Red Cross representative stepped to the stage to welcome us.  As he turned to introduce the event’s Master of Ceremonies, Pavlov rang a bell in my head and I was up and out of my seat before you could holler “you’re not where you think you are.”  Fortunately, my senses kicked in just before the peak of my stance and before my arms shot up, and I realized that no one else was rising.  At all.  Immediately, I went to the “oh, I’m just standing a little to re-adjust my slacks,” mode with a slight smile, smoothing the back of my pants and nod to my fellow table mates before sitting back down, relieved that I caught it all before the woo-hoo kicked in, along my extreme embarrassment.

So, what does that have to do with today’s topic, El Niño? Perhaps not much, but the imagery is good…  El Niño forecasters are not 100% sure we will completely flood, but the conditions are out there for a pretty wet, albeit warm, winter.  And there are some important things to do NOW:

Check your roof and clean out your gutters.  Make sure water does not pool near the base of any structure, so if you have slope issues, fix them.  Getting some sandbags and plastic sheeting are probably a good idea too.  Painting exposed wood will keep your structure strong and dry.  You thought you had ants before? HA!  The rains will really bring them in.  Caulk cracks and other entrances and maybe hire someone to help you with pest strategies.

Go ahead and buy new wipers.  You probably need them anyway.  And check your headlights and tires.  All of those are important to safe driving in the rain.

Help keep the water where you want it and loosen your soil as much as possible to allow rain to soak in.

Take photos of your house now.  It will help a lot with claims later.

Go to to sign up for county-wide alerts (Orange County, California--other counties/states have them too).  Know what is going on so you can prepare yourself and your family, especially if you are traveling.

Now once you have done all of that leap up and give yourself a hearty DWTS woo-hoo! You deserve it.

Be prepared, my friends. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Awareness helps you prepare for the unexpected!

For me, the classic example of awareness and anticipation is the interaction between Inspector Clouseau and Cato in the Pink Panther films:
Man:  Why don't you get out of those wet clothes? You could catch pneumonia.
Clouseau:  Yes, I know that. I will do as soon as I get home, provided that idiot Cato does not attack me first.
Man: Why don't you just tell him not to?
Clouseau: Believe me, it's not that easy. I have given him instructions to attack me wherever and whenever possible, and it has now become a matter of pride with him to try to outsmart me. I guarantee that at this very minute, his fiendish little brain is plotting some new ambush.
Which, of course, he does…  [Really, it is an 8 minute “educational” video!]

While it is doubtful that any of us need to anticipate a threat of Clouseau’s kind, it is imperative that we begin to develop a type of awareness that could very likely save your life.  Look around.  What do you see?  Besides that closet you swore you’d clean out last year and a few pesky cobwebs, begin to look at your surroundings in a new light:
--Look at your neighborhood, see your neighbors.  How are they prepared for emergencies?
--Look at the road you travel every day.  Do you know how many overpasses and high voltage wires cross your daily path?
--Look at the class room, the hotel room, the airplane exits.  Are you prepared to exit correctly, even if smoke is blocking your sight?

No one wants to live the life of Henny Penny, but it is prudent to anticipate what could happen and plan for it now.  Be aware of your surroundings and how they would affect you in a disaster.

So, put down The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo for a few minutes (and I KNOW how hard that is!) and take the time this weekend to think about “What if?...” and plot your own ambush – on disaster.