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.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What do you really see?

I pride myself on being fairly observant.  When called out by my children (who else…) about “never noticing anything,” my response is always that I noticed, but that I simply chose NOT to say so.  Believable or not, we often DO tick off things in our heads as “done, done and done” but may not be.

So, you think you are pretty observant?  Watch this video and see how good you really are:

Yeah, I think I am pretty smart and I only saw one thing! [And it wasn’t the bear!]  It made me wonder – do we really just SEE ourselves as prepared for [fill-in-the-blank] emergency, but aren’t?  So, in honor of September, National Preparedness Month, I am giving you a little “cheat sheet” that I used to make sure I am prepared.  How would yours go?


I know I have water
I recently counted the bottles and I have 8 full bottles
I have a first aid kit
I opened the first aid kit and placed a new box of large bandages in there
I have food
I found a half-eaten can of nuts, which I had to finish, then I put a new one in my car.
I have extra shoes
THAT’S WHERE THEY WENT!!! Put in a pair of shoes that I don’t wear very often.


I know I have water
I had 2 bottles (who drank all my water!) so I put 6 more under my desk.
I have a first aid kit
I opened the first aid kit and replaced the Avengers bandages with Star Trek. Of Course.
I have food
I had Goldfish, 4 bags of fruit snacks, 24 bars of granola bars and 9 Hershey bars. And one Ghirardelli Cherry Tango Dark Chocolate bar.  OK, now I don’t.
I have extra shoes
I liked the ones from the car better, so I switched.


I know I have water
I have two 30 gallon barrels and they need to be refilled.  Get with it, Sue!!!
I have a first aid kit
I have enough first aid material for a small mass casualty event. Bring it on.
I have food
I have lots of canned food and freeze dried fruit.  And 4 large cans of baked beans.  Note: Add Beano to the first aid kit!
I have extra shoes
I have enough shoes to make Imelda Marcos smile.  And they are everywhere it seems.  Ok.

There is much more to add to each kit, of course, but that’s it.  Just use those keen observation skills to grab all of those other items you think you might need in whatever emergency situation – from a blackout to a large magnitude earthquake.  Be prepared, my friends.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A July 18, 2015, a Los Angeles Times headline read:
“Flames sweep over freeway; motorists run for their lives.”
( You probably saw the photos of the horrific fire that suddenly blew across I-15 at Cajon Pass.  Traffic on that freeway came to a halt when a brushfire created such a dense smoke that drivers could literally not see.  And when the flames quickly followed that smoke, people panicked and ran.  For good reason.

But here is the headline that you did not read: 
“Man Saves Lives with Flip Flops.”
OK, it was not a real headline anywhere (but here), but it could have been.  Less than a half mile north of the flame-roadway intersection sat Robert Leeper.  He, his wife and two small children were headed home after a fun weekend when traffic came to an abrupt halt.  He could see the smoke and flames in the distance and determined that it was not heading their way, so he just had to wait with the hundreds of other cars as they tried to figure out a way to turn around and go back north.  That’s when he saw them coming.  Dozens of people fleeing the flames and coming his way.  Because Robert was a geologist (Cal State Fullerton grad!), had worked in law enforcement for nearly a decade and was simply a really nice guy, he intercepted many of those approaching with water, snacks and--as hinted before—flip flops.

We have all traveled this way before, right?  Driving back from Las Vegas can often be very long and boring, so you take the kids’ shoes off and maybe your own and you “veg out” until you start seeing the planes flying in and out of the Ontario Airport and civilization again.  Chances are that you ate before you piled into the car, so you “didn’t need” any food until you got home, nor, heaven forbid, something to drink because then you will have to stop three or four times…  Anyway, it is not unimaginable to find people sans food, drink or shoes in their cars – which is apparently what happened to several motorists on the I-15 freeway.

Robert was prepared.  Not necessarily for this situation, but generally for any situation.  In a big cooler, he had lots of extra water bottles and granola bars that he passed out to thirsty, hungry evacuees.  He and his family had been enjoying some water sports that weekend, so he had a few pairs of flip flops, in various family sizes, which several of the panicked souls gratefully put on their bare feet.

Robert looks at life this way:  “Any number of hazards can occur at any time, so you have to be prepared.”  He also had some good advice for anyone faced with a similar situation: Keep an emergency kit in your car at all times.  Especially if you are traveling through long stretches with no or few services, you need food, water and emergency supplies – made in an easily accessible and portable kit.  If people had just taken a moment to be calm and assess the situation, they could have grabbed those kits and improved their situations tremendously.

So, thanks, Robert, for being such a great guy and model of emergency preparedness.  To those not yet (this) prepared, you now have the gold standard.  Go be like Robert.