Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Beaches, Beer and... Ballistic missiles?

 On January 13, my husband and I were winding down from our fabulous 11-day vacation on Maui.  For the first ten days, we were able to enjoy some great Maui-brewed beer, wander lovely beaches and generally have a relaxing time. Until Day 11. I was packing for our afternoon flight when my cell phone emitted an emergency alert. We all know that sound – it is the one that comes with the Amber Alerts about potential local child abductions.  They are always worrisome and, as a parent, sad, but when my husband picked up my phone and said, “Um, I think you might want to see this…” I was puzzled. “An Amber Alert?”
     “Well, actually, it says that there is a ballistic missile headed to Hawaii…”
     OK, planning for disasters is what I do every day. But I have to say that this gave me pause…  Let’s see, I have written plans for earthquakes, fire, civil unrest, floods, pandemics…  Dang, not one for ballistic missiles! What should we do?
     I did what most people were evidently doing-- Going out on the balcony and shouting to others on balconies – “What does this mean? What should we do?”
     The condo came with a binder on how to do laundry, requests to keep sand on the beaches, and the best places to eat breakfast, but, perhaps not surprisingly, not a thing about ballistic missiles.
    Then I did what I figured one does in the 21st century…I turned to Twitter.  However, when I searched for anything “missile,” I got the same thing my trip to the balcony got me – “What does this mean? What should we do?” And, of course, “Is this a hoax?”
     On TV we found, perhaps logically, that the owner had gotten the “sports package” so the only thing on every channel was some type of sporting event. Now I know that sports are really big, but somehow I thought maybe something like a missile strike MIGHT interrupt at least the bowling and darts channels for a while.  Eventually, a scrolling message appeared with the same message, along with “If you are indoors stay indoors, if you are outside, seek shelter indoors.”
     The scientist in me started to contemplate just where the safest place would be.  After considering several scenarios, I realized that on some level it really didn’t matter.  In fact, it seemed more like a situation of “luck” in terms of where you were in relationship to where the missile landed.  My thought was, “Is sitting in this condo on the top floor any better than sitting on the beach a few hundred yards away? And the beach has a much better view!” 
     After a very long 20 minutes or so, the TV finally announced that it was “mistake” and that no missile was on its way.  And because of some procedural obstacle, the actual Amber-like alert to recall the first message was not sent until 38 minutes after the first warning, which for those not getting an earlier “oopsy” message must have seemed much, much longer.
     While it certainly makes for an interesting vacation story, it really did give me pause.  Given North Korea’s recent activities, this was certainly plausible in my mind.  It also gave me some work to do.  It never seemed that necessary a few years ago to add “missile strike” to our emergency plan.  On one hand, it seems a little crazy, but on the other, well, it’s best to be prepared.
     I am attaching a video of what I believe happened in the Hawaii Office of Emergency Operations on that day.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VimTTtmTbmQ  It seems as plausible as anything else I’ve read.
     Enjoy and stay prepared, my friends.

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 pbs.org.  Human Society Volunteer rescuing dogs after Hurricane Katrina.

From ifrc.org.  Rescuers help elderly woman from flood waters in India.

From: www.telegraph.co.uk.  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: http://www.ocvcd.org/

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 http://bos.ocgov.com/alertoc/alertoc.asp 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.