Category Archives: emergency preparedness

Plan for your pets

What about my pets?

Every time there is a natural disaster in America you hear stories about lost pets. In the confusion of the situation it is not always possible to deal with pets if taking care of pets was not planned for. Having always lived with a large number of pets I understand how the responsibility of taking care of pets can affect so many parts of your life. In some ways they are as much as having small children. Planning for pets can be as simple as having a plan for the fireworks on the fourth of July. We keep our dogs in the basement because it has the lowest noise factor when neighbors shot off fireworks. One year we did not get our golden retriever into the house soon enough and he climbed into a large covert for the night. So planning does not have to be for major events.

In chaotic situations pets can get lost. Having an ID tag and valid license can be major factors in being reunited with your pet. When I lived in Alaska there were always lost dogs in the small towns. In fact the local animal shelter was always flooded with animals every summer as tourists came up and lost their dogs. A very large portion was never reunited with their owners because there was no id on the dog.

  Pets need shelter, water, and food just like you and I do. So plan accordingly. Pets may also have medical needs just like humans so make sure you factor other needs in. Emergency situations are stressful. Many times it helps to pack a toy along or other items they are fond of. Also, make your you have the right equipment to maintain control of your pet.  Unknown areas can present risk to your pet that you may not be aware of. I remember back in my Alaska days there is a popular place called the homer spit. It is a piece of land that goes out several miles into a bay. Well on this spit one summer was a bald eagle who happened to develop a tastes for small dogs. On one occasion a retired couple was looking for their little dog. It was a nice sunny day and they had let their dog run around on the beach.  I had a good idea where their dog may be so I got the man aside and we went to the power lines where this eagle liked to eat his food. Sure enough the eagle was eating his dog. Now it is a federal crime to harm a bald eagle and the dog was already dead. So all the poor guy could do was sit there and watch the eagle eat his dead pet. It was a very crappy moment to watch. So keep Fido with you in unfamiliar surroundings.

Finally, make sure you plan for the risks your pets can face in life.


Do you have time for Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

The TV reality show “The colony” does demonstrate the stages of team building Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. I watched season one this week. It is like survival meets the apocalypse. However you have all the issues of a group of people forming a team.

  1. 1.       Teams initially go through a “forming” stage in which members are positive and polite.
  2. 2.       Reality sets in and your team moves into a “storming” phase. One’s authority may be challenged as others jockey for position and their roles are clarified.
  3. 3.       Gradually, the team moves into a “norming” stage, as a hierarchy is established. Team members come to respect authority of a leader, and others show leadership in specific areas.
  4. 4.       When the team reaches the “performing” stage, hard work leads directly to progress towards the shared vision of their goal.

One interesting thing that was demonstrated that does happen many times in real life is that the skills one has may have little or no value in an emergency situation. However, because one still sees themselves based on their normal circumstance they may over estimate their own importance. For example there was a doctor and ER nurse on the team. In a situation like on the show dehydration and diet issues become problems. From my days in Alaska I remember monitoring water bottles to make sure everyone was drinking enough on long hikes. But no effort was made to make sure everyone was taking in enough water. The other issue was food nutrition. They had mostly nonperishable foods. If your planning for a long camping trip you balance the carbs, fats, and proteins. In a case where you have a limited amount and selection of food you need to not only rations but try to balance carb, fats, and proteins as much as possible. In their case proteins were a major limiting factor but no effort was made to maximize this limited resource. These are medical issues, there were two highly trained medical people in the team, but these issues were not addressed. It just demonstrates that their skills were specialized and not fully transferable to their specific emergency situation.

In season one there were only about a third of the people who had badly needed skills and experience. However, because of a lack of people skills two people with needed skills were undervalued. At the same time votes were taken on course of actions. I have been in many situations, most not emergencies where people who lacked knowledge and experience had a major say on how things were done. In several cases there was not enough time to educate these individuals or they refused to learn. This generally resulted in bad decisions being made. Unfortunately, the people who made the decisions never realized this until it was too late to correct their decisions.  The show did not have a leader it had a committee with everyone getting a vote and the majority winning. In the case of the show this jockeying for position or “Storming” resulted in a lot of effort being put into the wrong tasks.  Because the members had to reach a norming stage before they would allow the people who knew what they were doing to make decisions. Once the team was able to assign some leadership and reached the norming phase they were able to move into the performing stage and get things done.

In many situations in real life there is not enough time to truly build a team let alone allow them the time to establish a leader. That is one reason groups are formed in anticipation of events. It is also why well performing groups are assigned the critical projects. Because forming a team comes at a price.

Here is a small emergency that happens a lot.

Here is a small emergency that happens a lot.

Every year thousands of us who own a car lock our keys in the car. I have done it a couple time over my lifetime. This article talks about this.

Let’s look at the options they outline to deal with this emergency.

  1. Dial 911 – for many this reactive choice is taken.
    Many times this is based on being proactive with safety concerns based on ones surroundings. We have to evaluate the chances of physical harm from those around us. There is a term used for a loan traveler stuck in a nonfunctioning car. That is “a birdie in a cage”, implying easy prey. Again, it comes down to risk assessment and staying safe.
  2. Call for roadside assistance from AAA or travel club.
    I drive an old car that currently has over 200,000 miles. For me a AAA membership is a must because I have a high risk of my car breaking down. I also have the 100 mile towing because I almost never drive this car more than 100 miles from my home. So having my wife and I and our two college student children on AAA is a means to address risk.
  3. Call a tow truck.
    My son found out about this one before he agreed to be added to our AAA policy. He blew an engine on a dangerous hill. I had to go and help him. I he had AAA we would have called AAA right away. Instead he spent about an hour trying to get the car started. During that hour he could have easily been hit by a car speeding on the blind curves of that hill. After I finally convinced him to give up we called the tow truck and had to wait another hour on the dangerous hill. I know that if you had AAA he would not have taken the risks he did.
  4. Get a temporary key from your dealer.
    This assumes that you are in a safe place and that you have access to your dealer. This is not a likely option at night or on holidays. You need the identification number (visible through the lower edge of the driver’s-side windshield). Personally know of one person who got to the dealer only to find they forgot the number.
  5. Buy a car with benefits such as On Star that can open door.
    I will admit in our modern age new ways to address risk appear. When we purchase a car we should do our homework on driving risks. It is very likely that if you seldom purchase a car then safety options have changed since the last car you purchased. You need to think beyond the looks and to the day to day use. For the risk in driving are found in the day to day use of the vehicle. Be proactive where possible in addressing risks.
  6. Keep an extra key handy.
    This use to be one of my best choices. However, I have seen how expensive getting keys for some new cars can become. Higher-end models of cars can cost several hundred dollars for a single key and can only be purchased and programmed through a dealer. In such a case do you purchase On Star and get other benefits? It all comes down to identifying your risks and the options available to you to addressing those risks.

Different people may not see the risks the same way. And it is not uncommon for people to choose different solutions to the same risks. Finally, it is also likely that many will not even think about this risk until it happens to them. Once they experience a risk event the likely hood of them preparing for it in the future increases greatly.

The power of a checklist and a calendar reminder.

The power of a checklist and a calendar reminder.

Have you ever studied for a test and knew you had everything memorized only to forget important things during the pressure of the test? Have you ever had to try to remember the steps to some task that you did months or even years ago? The art of preparedness is to plan in periods of calm in order to use the plan during a risk event or to prevent a risk event. In our modern computer age two of your greatest tools are the checklist and electronic calendars. Many times we have to prepare for a risk event. Things like changing batteries in smoke detectors. Making sure we check fluids in the car. There are hundreds of small routine tasks that can help reduce the big and small risks in life. Since many of us have a computer or cell phone with a calendar, it is now a simple task to set down a couple times a year and schedule these maintenance tasks. By scheduling them you are more likely to actually remember and complete these tasks. Also by doing these tasks you can change you behavior from a reactive person to one who is proactive.

Now the other tools is the checklist. Right now I go to work and every morning for the last month there has been one or more car accidents. It happens every fall in the area I live. When the first snow hits there will the many car accidents. There are checklists for preparing for winter driving. These are proactive tools that can help one prepare. In fact if you check the Internet you will likely find a checklist for almost any common risk an average American is likely to face. These checklists come in two types. The first is proactive, meaning they provide a list of actions to prepare for or to avoid a risk. These can be put into electronic devices, linked to calendars, etc. They make it so you do not have to remember every detail and the order of the details. Much like cooking recipes allow us to not have to remember the details of preparing a dish so long as we know the basics of cooking. Now the second type of check list is one that would be used during an risk event or right after a risk event. These we generally want both an electronic and a hard copy of. This might be as simple as checklist for basic first aid stored in a first aid kit. The may be things to do for a insurance claim kept with important papers. Basically these lists are designed to help us handle the risk event. As such they have to be available in a form that will be useable during the risk event.

So as you thing about preparing for the important risks in your life, give a thought to using your calendars and creating or finding some good checklists.

the importance of chainsaws

Well, Hurricane Sandy has past and thousands of trees are being chopped apart and removed. In many natural disasters the chainsaw becomes an important part of the cleanup. But chainsaws run on gasoline right? We have blended fuels that at alcohol to gasoline, but gasoline with alcohol added can shorten the life of small engines. We add fuel stabilizers and purchase the highest octane we can and this helps. But it still takes a toll. Add to this that gasoline has a self-life it deteriorates over time. Why does this matter. Well, if you have a chainsaw and you know a storm is coming you will want to get fresh gasoline BEFORE the storm and make sure the chainsaw is working properly. You want enough bar oil and a sharp chain. You need to prepare before you know you need the chainsaw. Now let’s look at another scenario. Again, I will go to my favorite extreme case “Doomsday Preppers”. Most of these depend on wood for heating and cooking. But what happens when the gasoline runs out or the chainsaw breaks? Well I remember when this happened to me. It was over four decades ago when I was a teenager in Alaska. We had to move a small bulldozer threw an area of tundra. This is a swamp with moss growing on it. Well, our chainsaws broke!!! So we went back to the cabin and got grandpa’s cross-cut saw, two bow saws, and a number of axes. I have never worked so hard in my young life. Cutting wood by hand is labor intensive. You not only had to cut the trees down you have to remove the branches so you can drag the tree to the log road. I quickly learned the value of a sharp saw or axe. My grandpa had no sympathy for me. He reminded me he cut and dragged every log in the cabin I was sleeping in. And that every year he had to cut and split enough wood to get through the winter. That was back before he had chainsaws. It was a very humbling experience. Well we got the chainsaws repaired and I still value the lessons I learned on the old hand tools. Today there are options that did not exist today. Below are some links to options that could be considered to cut trees without gasoline powered chainsaws.

I am editing this because of a comment I received on this post. That was about how dangerous a chainsaw can be. I have personally seen the results of kickback where the blade jumps up. Of blades breaking and flying into people and other chainsaw accidents. Today’s chainsaws are much safer than the ones I first used. But you have to learn how to use them properly. I am not going to go over proper chainsaw use since there are so many resources that do a great job of this. One thing I will say is that it is always a good idea use that chainsaw for the first time with someone who has experience using it. Where I lived in Alaska there were always old timers willing to teach us teenagers how to safely use a chainsaw. There were also dealers of chainsaws who would have clinics. They showed us how to properly use and care for our specific brand of chainsaw. They also showed us what could go wrong or common mistakes people make. So yes part of being prepared is knowing how to use the chainsaw correctly. You also need to  make sure you have used your chainsaw to actually cut wood. It is a good idea to practice with it at least twice a year. And to make sure your chainsaw is in good repair.

Quasiturbine Pneumatic Chainsaw Electric chainsaws The Timber King Pneumatic Chainsaw Battery 12 types of hand saws Crosscut saws Marshall tree saw Bahco bow saws Fiskar axes Japanese Pattern Crosscutting Timber Saw

Every Thanksgiving

Every year around Thanksgiving, people will be frying turkeys. Now being prepared for an emergency is all about risk. This year several people will be burned and some will catch their house on fire frying a turkey. It’s not like there is not great information on the Internet on how to fry a turkey. We live in a time where one can find good information on so many things. You do have to verify your sources. But for frying a turkey you can watch any number of videos and compare them. So one can hardly blame a lack of information on frying turkeys for the emergencies that will happen this Thanksgiving. I guess it comes down many time to not believing it can happen. Humans are optimistic by nature. I have blogged a bit about this in the past. Because of this we tend to downplay the risk of something happening. We can also get careless while doing something we have done many times. You might call this human nature. Risk is about something having a probability of happened. It is not a sure thing. Think of it as throwing the dice. Sometimes you can have a long time before snake eyes show up. Well in life we tend to down play the risk until it happens to us or we experience it through a third party. We have to understand and appreciate the risk before we can weigh it properly. That is why many times people who move into a new area do not understand the risks of natural disasters in the area. The old timers do understand and prepare. So great communities that are growing tend to develop programs to educate their community on risks members of their community may face. You see firefighters going to schools. You may find smoke detectors being given away. You may see programs before hurricane season. There are countless examples. Unfortunately, for many such efforts are ignored. For those it comes down to a belief that it cannot happen to me.

Can you understand what you have not experienced?

There is a documentary on HULU called billion dollar disasters. It covers several old natural disasters that I remember well. If you take the time to watch these you will notice something. The more a person has some experience with a potential natural disaster the more likely one is to prepare for the risks related to a natural disaster. Many times the people hardest hit are people who are either new to the area where a certain type of natural disaster can occur or people born after the last event so that they have no memory. In some societies oral traditions and stories serve to remind current generations of risks faced by past generations during natural disasters. You would think that in the computer age we would do a better job learning from the past. Unfortunately, that is not true. Before Hurricane Sandy we had Hurricane Irene which was a large and very destructive tropical cyclone. Many people based their understanding of the risk of Sandy on their experiences with Irene. The two events were very different in geography and meteorology. Because of this comparison people were not adequately prepared. It is hard to appreciate that which we have not experienced. This is where education must take place. When one lives in an area where a natural disaster can occur the possibility and impact of such an event must be taught so people can truly understand the risk and make preparations .