This blog has grown out of a weekly newspaper column I write. Enjoy.
A prudent person forsees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. Proverbs 22:3 (NLT)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Disaster Preparedness Month

    Each year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (F.E.M.A.) designates the month of September as Disaster Preparedness Month.  The idea is, I’m sure, to nudge would-be preppers to get off their couches and finally do something about preparedness.
    Winter months are approaching, bringing with them news of blizzards, winter storms coming in off the Pacific, and even as I write this, Hurricane Florence is threatening the eastern seaboard.  According to F.E.M.A.’s website (www.ready.gov), now is the time to take that CPR or first aid class.  Also check your insurance policies and find out if you actually have the insurance coverage you’re going to need in the face of the disasters you might face like flood, earthquake or tornado.  Additionally, now is a good time to start setting aside a little cash to cover the costs associated with an emergency.  Besides, when disaster strikes, ATMs are usually disabled and all the money in your checking and savings account down at First National will do you no good.  Only the cash you have on hand will be accessible and available for purchasing goods or services.  What few items are usually available during emergencies.  Likewise, now is a good time to review the process for shutting off water, natural gas and propane valves.  And don’t forget to locate the right-size wrench in a handy location.
    F.E.M.A. has designated a theme for each week of the month.  Week 1:  Make and practice your plan.  Week 2:  Learn Life Saving Skills  Week 3: Check Your Coverage.  Week 4: Save For an Emergency.  For a more complete list of specific activities, go to www.ready.gov.
    Following these simple themes each week will raise your preparedness level and make you more ready for whatever winter throws at you.  
    Here’s a new offering from F.E.M.A.:  Text PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA) to receive  preparedness tips on your phone.  Keep in mind that standard messaging and data rates apply.
    Likewise the Red Cross (www.redcross.org) has several suggestions for the month.  Their focus is on evacuation and highlights of their list include the following:  1.  Follow the instructions of the authorities when it comes to evacuating.  They know more than you do.  2.  Keep your gas tank topped off when you hear a storm is coming.  After the power goes out it’s usually difficult to make gas pumps work.  3.  Decide ahead of time where you are going to go.  Either Aunt Tillie’s or just getting your RV to a safe place requires prior planning on your part.  And don’t forget to give Aunt Tillie a call to let her in on your plan.  4.  And lastly, don’t forget your pets.  Pick up an extra sack of dog (or cat) food.  Also get a one-gallon canteen, fill with water and include it in your plan.  Pets need water too. 
    As always send your comments and questions to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.  Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, barnesandnoble, and other online booksellers.

Tactical Air Support

Every so often, I’ve had questions from readers regarding food supplies.  Somewhere, folks have gotten the idea the government (or some relief agency) has massive amounts of food and supplies stockpiled in their neighborhood ready to roll out when the need arises.  Truth is, there are no stockpiles, only what individual families and some charitable organizations have on hand.  Back in the Civil Defense days of the 1950’s, there were some isolated M.A.S.H. units tucked away in undisclosed public buildings.  (That’s Mobile And Surgical Hospitals, for those of you who don’t remember the TV series of the same name.)  The last unit I knew of was located on the grounds of a regional airport in my home county.  The only reason I was aware of it was because it fell to my shoulders to dismantle and dispose of the fifty-year old cots, equipment and supplies.  The only things lacking were the personnel and current medicines.
Today there a few isolated community “prepper” groups who have acquired a storage container or two and have begun accumulating supplies, but nothing significant.  Certainly not sufficient to provide for an entire community in the event of disaster.  Government officials assure us they will swoop in with supplies if there is ever a major earthquake event or notable disaster.  We’ve all seen how well that worked with Katrina, Andrew and a few other hurricanes in the Southeast.  Although I will admit F.E.M.A,’s responses have much improved since Katrina. 
Recently a news article came my way announcing an exercise conducted the weekend of July 12-15 here on the Oregon Coast.  Titled “The Cascadia Airlift Exercise”, the article says the 173rd Fighter Wing of Little Rock Air Force Base will be bringing some C-130 aircraft to Oregon to participate.  They will practice loading and unloading cargo from the C-130s giving their crews the opportunity to evaluate their aerial logistics capabilities in the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.  The article goes on to say the airmen will be testing aircraft arrival plans, parking plans, cargo loading as well as fuel and maintenance support.  For further information, check out Klamath Alerts website at https://klamathalerts.com.  (Used by permission.)  I’m grateful for this effort and would encourage more of the same.  Just in case!
Many Oregonians are aware of the threat posed by the Cascadia Subduction Zone and its violent history.  While it’s good to see planners are taking steps to mitigate any disaster, it is still vitally important for individuals to have their own preparation plans.
No matter where you are, take a few minutes to send your congressman or senator a quick email and ask what the disaster preparations are for your locale.  Now is the time to get your representatives thinking about covering your backside in the event of an emergency. I’m sure this just might turn into an opportunity for you to get involved and make a difference for your community.
Send your comments and questions to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.  Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.

School Shootings

Hardly a week goes by anymore that we don’t hear of a school shooting.  A generation ago such an incident was entirely unheard of, and the term “school shooting” was a foreign concept.  Now we all know immediately what happened.  Some nutjob decided to make a name for himself by shooting up a school, including the taking of innocent life and more often than not, taking his own life when he’s backed into a corner.
Every time this happens, I seem to have difficulty sorting out my feelings.  Anger, that this could happen to innocent lives, both students and teachers.  Frustration that we, as a nation, can’t seem to put a stop to these tragedies.  And then there’s always the call by high-decibel politicians for more and stricter gun laws.  If a person is deranged enough to shoot up a school, is he really going to be deterred by one more law?  
This is the nightmare every school administrator prays never happens.  Police officers train and school administrators plan for what they hope will never happen on their watch.  Lockdown drills are held in schools all across the country. Some states even require periodic lockdown drills.  But no amount of preplanning can cover every contingency.  Every police officer, paramedic and emergency room worker knows that scared people behave badly.  That’s when dozens of mildly (to not-so-mildly)  anxious parents begin arriving at schools to pick up not only their own children, but in some cases, their friends’ kids as well.  Phone calls clogged lines into the administrative offices, and traffic flow problems restrict the movement of school busses. Add to this certain school policies designed to keep kids safe by restricting who can pick up whom and you’ve got the recipe for a secondary disaster.  
Now take this to the next level.  Let's suppose there is a natural disaster.  We’ll use “earthquake” just for the sake of discussion.  The roads are busted up, the phone lines are completely down, electrical power is out and the schools are full of our kids.  Have you discussed this scenario with your family?  Do you have a plan to reunite your family if this happens?  Even if schools can deliver your children home, is anyone going to be there?  Who have you authorized to pick up your children at the school if you can’t get there?  Do your kids know what to do?  These are all questions families need to address and get settled now, before something happens.
Likewise, schools need to work on disaster planning.  Is there a drill that can be designed to simulate a disaster and how do we pull it off.  Something that goes beyond the lockdown or the “soft lockdown”.  How do we make it work when nothing else (like phones) does?   Fire drills are proven to save lives and have for decades.  Lockdown drills, unscheduled school closure drills and serious disaster drills will save lives as well.  
As always send your questions and comments to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com. Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com and other online booksellers.

More About Water

Some months back, I was asked to speak at a Disaster Preparedness Fair.  After my prepared remarks, an innocent-looking “seasoned-citizen” lady raised her hand and asked if I could explain the difference between filtering and purifying water.  
Storing water is the number-one item mentioned on both the Red Cross and F.E.M.A.web pages.  We humans are designed so that water is a necessity and to deprive ourselves of water for very long is not recommended.  I had mentioned, during my presentation, that a means of purifying water is one of the essentials if you’re going to consider yourself prepared for a disaster.  
My response to the question went something like this:  Filtering is just that.  Causing the water to pass through something (a filter) that removes the offending elements. Elements such as bacteria, bugs and other things that can make you sick.  Purifying can be infusing the water with chemicals such as chlorine to kill the bacteria, parasites, or other illness-causing factors.  Boiling is the simplest way to purify and requires no chemicals.  Either boiling or chemically treating the water is an effective way of achieving purity or drinkability of your water source. 
Later, when I had returned to my book-booth, the innocent-looking questioner came for a visit.  After reminding me she was the one who had asked the question about making water drinkable, she informed me she was a retired microbiologist.  Talk about being set up!  “So, how’d I do?” I inquired.  Her response indicated I had somehow muddled my way through and provided an acceptable answer.
Water is that thing we so easily take for granted.  And here in our country, pure water is a given.  Bottled water is so common, and so commonly purchased we don’t give it a second thought when we pick up a case of purified/filtered water at the store.  Consider this, in the event of a disaster, the supply lines are interrupted, the stores aren’t getting their shipments and the municipal water supply isn’t producing.  The water in the rivers or rain falling from the sky may be your only option.  Are you set up to purify or filter? Either way will make water useful for your drinking needs.
Personally I have a Big Berkey filter that uses two ceramic filters to remove the creepy-crawlies.  There are other kits sold online that will do the same thing.  But the primary thing to keep in mind, if you get sick from drinking contaminated water, your chances of making it through the disaster just got worse.  So be prepared to either purify or filter.  Either way works, but getting ill from impure water is not an attractive alternative.  Especially during a time of disaster.
As always send your comments and questions to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.  Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.

Decisions Decisions

Back in my flying days, I read with interest stories of airplane accidents.  Several months following an accident, the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) usually issued a detailed and very complete report on what led up to the accident.  More often than not, the accident was not a sudden, traumatic event causing an accident.  But rather a decision made by the pilot or an incident occurring several hours before the event that led to disaster.  Maybe it was failure to top off a fuel tank, or a decision to fly in spite of a bad weather report.  Sometimes it is a culmination of seemingly insignificant decisions or events that result in a “tipping point” leading to an unfortunate conclusion.  
Last Friday, my 18 year old grandson received a call for help from one of his friends.  It seems the friend was stranded in a remote area. “Can you come pull me out, we’re stuck in the snow?”
My grandson filled me in on what was happening and I quickly loaded him with tow strap, extra gasoline, and a few other items we thought would come in handy.  His 4 x 4 Toyota Tacoma is equipped with traction tires and is in good running order.  He had already contacted another friend to accompany him on the mission.
It seems as though the stranded friend was on his way home from college for the weekend when a multi-vehicle accident had clogged the interstate.  He and his companion had made a decision to cut across the Coast Range mountains of Southwestern Oregon from Grants Pass to the Coast.  Normally this Forest Service/BLM road is easily passable in a car, but this time of year, there is often snow accumulation at the higher elevations.  Things went pretty well for about an hour after leaving the Interstate, that is until the pair reached one of those higher elevations. Topping a hill, they ran into snow, and then plowed their way down hill.  All was good until they came to another rise, this one covered in deeper snow which stalled their two-wheel drive car.  Turning around, they found they were unable to climb back up the snow-covered road and there they were, unable to go either way.
Providence had smiled on the stranded couple by granting cell phone service even in this remote area.  Those of us who play in the backcountry know all too well coverage can be sketchy at best in many locations. In this case, they were able to successfully make a call for help.
When I interviewed the young man, he said they were equipped with some granola bars, some bottles of water and a few bottles of Gatorade.  Even if they had to spend the night, there were also blankets in the car.  He agreed leaving the Interstate wasn’t the best plan, but at the time he and his companion agreed they could save some time taking the back roads when their option was to wait four hours for the traffic to clear.
This story has a happy ending for several reasons.  Cell phone coverage made it possible to call for help.  The rescue team was able to reach the stranded vehicle and get them back onto a bare, snow-free road.  Finally the stranded pair, although making a questionable decision to use the back roads, had enough snack food, drinks and blankets to survive a short time without major discomfort.
I was reminded of the family from San Francisco a few years back who became lost in this same general area.  They tried to take a similar shortcut and lost their way in the maze of logging roads and ultimately were stranded by snowfall.  After nine days the husband/father struck out on foot to seek rescue.  His body was found a few days later.  The mother and both children survived.  
This kind of story has always fascinated me.  The little things folks do or didn’t do can make a difference between survival or not.  Life and death.  And many times those choices are made hours or even days before the event.  The lesson is this:  When you venture out into the arms of Mother Nature, be wise, she’s not always in a nurturing mood.
As always, send your comments or questions to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.  Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and lives in Myrtle Point, Oregon.  He is the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of US,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.

Going Viral

Going viral in our time has come to refer to a video or photo that gets coverage or viewership all across the internet in very short order.  According to one definition I found on Bing:  “Viral” is the adjective form of the noun "virus.". Something that's viral is figuratively something  spread from person to person the way a virus spreads a sickness such as a cold or flu. Everyone sent the video to their friends until thousands or millions were watching it.
For the past few weeks a virus has ravaged the Robinson house with a vengeance!  First my 11-year old grandson, then the 18-year old, my wife and finally, yours truly.
Notice I haven’t used the term “flu” as that would be an inaccuracy.  Many serious colds or some viruses are generically referred to as the flu as we really don’t feel good and sometimes the symptoms mimic flu symptoms.  But that is rarely the case.
In my case, I made a trip to see my own doctor.  He made some suggestions regarding the medications I already take and sent me home with some specific instructions. Not once did he use term “flu.”  It also happens that my wife works for a pediatric office.  The doctor she works for jokingly considers me his oldest patient. 
There is no disaster like feeling like you’d have to recuperate in order to have the strength to die.  I won’t go into the details here, but you’ve all been there and we all have horror stories about symptoms.  So there’s no need to get descriptive.
One doctor I spoke with offered some suggestions:  One is to wear rubber gloves to avoid passing germs.  Likewise use lots of hand sanitizer.  These alcohol-based products kill germs on contact, besides they come in various flavors so you can choose your preference.  My wife uses bleach-based cleaners  to clean the sink, counters and bathroom fixtures.  Studies have also if you keep the temperature in your home higher, you are more susceptible to disease than if you keep your home cooler.  For example if you keep your living room temperature at 75 degrees fahrenheit you are more likely to catch a bug than if you keep your temperature at 65 degrees.  Of course you may have to snuggle on the couch, bundle up or drink some hot chocolate, but the experts say it is healthier to keep your house cooler.  Opening the windows to freshen the air is also a good idea as well.  So just chill! (Sorry.)
As always, send your comments and questions to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.   Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of, “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other online booksellers.

New Year’s Resolution

I can’t seem to find anyone who actually makes New Year’s Resolutions anymore, much less find anyone who has actually ever kept those self-promises.  But here’s one for you:  (Raise your right hand) I hereby solemnly resolve to begin to make preparations for disaster.  I will begin by sitting down with my life mate and make a list of things we may need to accumulate to survive any disaster.  Then we will begin building our kit.
The  East Coast is just now recovering from a “bomb cyclone.”  (Has anyone else never heard of a bomb cyclone?)  The National Weather Service defines a bomb cyclone as weather system that undergoes a sudden, drastic drop in atmospheric pressure and quickly intensifies.  Think a blizzard with hurricane-force winds.
A few days’ warning from the weatherman still seemed to have no effect on the general populace.  Reports of empty shelves at the store and long lines at the gas station were common.  One person said he had gone to the store simply for bread and milk, only to find empty shelves.  “Sheltering in” became the order of the day when the storm hit as it was unwise to drive on the snowy, icy roadways. 
Now would be a good time to bring your bag to the kitchen table, (tell your wife I said it was ok and that you’ll clean it all up right away) empty it out and go through your stuff.  Be on the lookout for jerky that’s way past it’s “best by” date, or stale crackers and any other food that is no longer edible for whatever reason.  Make a note to replenish and add to the food items you carry with you.  Check out those little packages of tuna and crackers the next time you’re at the store.  Some contain mayonnaise and even relish to mix and put on the crackers.  They’re a great snack and come in handy when the grandkids need a snack even when there’s no emergency.  Hey when a kid is hungry and you’re out somewhere, that IS an emergency!  I personally carry a couple cans of Spam in my bag.  Most of the American population goes into “Yuck!” mode when Spam is mentioned, but when sliced and fried, I convinced my kids it was “camping bacon”.   Some folks I met from New Zealand had purchased two cases of this delicacy and were shipping it home (at considerable expense) because they couldn’t get Spam at home. Don’t turn up your nose too quickly, it is protein and stores handily for a reasonable period of time. 
Then pick up a few extra Band-Aids and re-supply your First Aid kit. You DO have a First Aid kit don’t you?  Research shows that 44% of households in the U.S. don’t own a First Aid kit.   Make sure those little bags of gauze pads and other items are still sealed and not torn open or have otherwise lost their sterile integrity.  If your insect repellent is of the aerosol variety, check to insure it hasn’t all leaked out for some reason.  Consider buying the little pads that are just wiped on the skin.  They don’t take up as much room and aren’t as messy in the event something has accidentally pushed the button on the spray can.
Check your flashlight to make sure the batteries are good.  Consider carrying extras in your bag.  Seems like my flashlight gets used more often than any other item in my bag.  So I keep it handy and replace the batteries often.
Now check out your supplies inventory in the house.  Same thing goes, if you’ve “borrowed” from your toilet paper supply, restock. Make sure your supplies are bug-free, rodent-free, moisture-free and otherwise intact.  Your emergency lighting, cooking implements, and other equipment should be tested, cleaned and stored away in that special location until needed.  Sometimes peace of mind is as simple as a quick tune-up.
As always send your questions and comments to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.  Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.