Sunday, August 21, 2016

When Your Country Tells You to Prepare, It's a Good Time to Listen

This was an interesting article about the German government warning its citizens that they need to be prepared with a stockpile of ten day's worth of food and five day's worth of water.  It states that "people need to prepare appropriately for a development that could threaten our existence."  Pretty strong wording that.

So while I am glad that I am not in Germany (their recent immigration policy or lack thereof was a complete disaster), the message in this article is appropriate for everyone on the planet and should be heeded.

After a disaster of any sort (natural or man made) the government probably won't be getting to you any time soon if the disaster is larger than a small incident.  They are still just barely starting to clean up after the massive flooding that hit Louisiana two weeks ago, and individual help (aside from emergency care and the emergency shelter system) is a long way off.

This means that you need to be prepared to take care of yourself for a period of days to weeks should a disaster happen.  The more you can do for yourself the less you will need to rely on a system that may or may not be able to help you (and certainly not quickly).

This means:

  • stockpile bottled water
  • stockpile easy to cook food
  • have alternatives for shelter, cooking, and heating
  • be in as good health as possible
  • have insurances (of all kinds)
  • keep good records (a home inventory, all financial and insurance records, etc)
  • be prepared to defend yourself and your family
  • keep cash on hand in the event ATMs don't work
  • stockpile critical medications
  • develop alternative communication plans to reach friends and loved ones
  • develop an evacuation plan
  • have basic medical and survival skills
  • know which friends and neighbors you can depend upon during a disaster
  • know which friends and neighbors may need help during a disaster 
  • teach your kids all of the skills you have learned (they may need to help YOU during a disaster)
  • make connections in your community (there is an advantage during a disaster to being on a first-name basis with the fire chief, police chief, local doctors, governor, etc)
  • be able to stay home for a month if necessary (note this is harder to do than it sounds as people are so unused to doing this sort of thing)
  • know what resources are available in your community (water sources, food sources, in addition to emergency shelters, etc)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Are You Ready to Evacuate? 10 Tips

Within the last week, thousands of people have had to suddenly evacuate their homes.  At least 20,000 had to evacuate in Louisiana due to flooding, and 82,000 people were forced to evacuate from a wildfire that went from a small fire at the side of the road at the Nevada-California state line to closing a major interstate highway and burning 25,000+ acres (it is still not contained).  Scary stuff.  To make sure you are ready to evacuate at a moment's notice, consider these tips:

  1. See if your home owners insurance will cover the most likely natural disasters in your area.  If not, you may need a special rider for such events.
  2. Pre-plan for a variety of locations to evacuate to (hotel, friend's house, vacation cabin, etc).
  3. Put money aside for an emergency evacuation.  You will need to pay for gas, hotel costs, food costs, and possibly an extended stay away from your home in the event it is destroyed by the disaster that is causing you to evacuate in the first place.
  4. Have your evacuation kit ready to grab within minutes.  This should include your bug out bag as well as a box of your most important items (family mementos, important documents, anything that can't be replaced should your place burn to the ground).  Extra water and food should also be tossed into your vehicle on the way out as well.
  5. Have a (paper) map of multiple evacuation routes away from your home.
  6. Have the local news pre-set on your vehicle's radio so you can listen for evacuation news while you are leaving.  Of course if you see a possible disaster coming your way, stay informed with up-to-the-minute news via TV, internet, social media, and/or radio.
  7. Have an evacuation plan for your pets and livestock as well.  You should have leashes and crates for smaller critters (dogs, cats, etc) as well as food and water pre-packed for them.  If you are unable to evacuate your livestock, at least set them free and let them seek their own shelter from the disaster.  More info on the topic here.
  8. Evacuate earlier than needed, if possible, if you have a family member that is ill, infirm, or immobile.  Also, anyone who would be medically impacted by the impending disaster should leave as soon as possible (ie: someone with severe asthma should be nowhere near a wildfire).  Be sure to bring the person's meds and seek help by calling 911 if you are unable to transport a loved one due to their medical condition or immobility.
  9. Check on your neighbors on the way out if you have time.  Make sure they know about the impending need for evacuation and assist them in any way possible without putting your own life at risk.  The elderly may especially need help or advice on evacuating.
  10. The last thing to do before you leave should be to close and lock all doors and windows in your home, turn off utilities if appropriate, and put a sign on your door with large lettering saying them home is evacuated at date and time.  Add your cell number at the bottom of the sign in case anyone needs to get a hold of you. 
More info on evacuating can be found here, here, and here.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

During the Las Couple Weeks of Summer... can...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

10 Ways to Save Your Life (Taken From Recent News)

In no particular order...

  1. Wear your seat belt.  These people would probably still be alive if they did.
  2. When involved in a plane crash, leave your bags and GET OFF THE PLANE.  Obviously you will want to always have your wallet, passport, and cell phone on you at all times.
  3. Use common sense when determining what activities you and your children participate in.  A tiny 9 year old shouldn't shoot an Uzi, a tiny 10 year old shouldn't go on a 5G ride (physics 101 folks).  I'm particularly wary of temporary ride set ups.
  4. Be aware of your surroundings when playing Pokemon Go.  Obviously anyone can be a victim of a random attack but Pokemon Go players seem to be particularly targeted lately.
  5. And young women should reconsider jogging in remote places.  Yes it sounds sexist but women alone in remote areas make a very easy target for criminals.
  6. If you live in the desert Southwest (or Kuwait or much of the Middle East) you know to take care when a haboob, or dust storm, is heading your way.  Stay inside, don't drive, if you are driving pull way over, wear a mask, etc).
  7. Ditto flash flooding.  But note (like in the case of the kid killed by an alligator at Disney World) people who go on vacation need to make themselves aware of the local hazards before they arrive at their destination.
  8. And don't leave your kids in the car (ever...whether it is hot outside or not).
  9. Of course during the summer, be aware of wildfire danger.  Both near your home and near your vacation destination.
  10. Finally, always be aware of your surroundings.  Even if you are carrying, that isn't a guarantee of safety.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Unexpected Job Loss: 10 Tips

I headed over to my friend's shop a few days ago and found it odd that no one was there.  The place is usually pretty busy with nearly a dozen employees, many customers, and people just hanging out but that day everything was locked up (doors, service bays) and it was quiet.  I thought it odd but figured maybe there was some sort of emergency or something.  Today I dropped by again and the windows had been boarded up and a "sealed by eviction court" sticker was across the doors.  Uh oh.

Obviously this came as a shock to me (we aren't close friends but I would drop by once a month or so to shoot the breeze and talk business) and I am guessing it came as a shock to the employees as well (unfortunately).  Hopefully everything will get straightened out but this situation only reinforces the need for everyone to be prepared for an unexpected job loss.  Here's how:

  1. Your very first task after you read this should be to put together an emergency fund of six to nine month's worth of expenses.  Obviously this isn't a quick or easy activity but it could be the difference between mild discomfort if you show up at work and the doors are padlocked shut and homelessness.
  2. Always have a few side hustles going.  Multiple streams of income will make you feel a whole lot better--and much more financially stable--should one of your streams of income suddenly dry up.
  3. Be an exceptional worker/employee.  People notice those who go above and beyond at their jobs (plus have a good attitude and good work habits).  This way if you need to find a new job, people will be more likely to recommend you for employment opportunities that they know of.
  4. Pay attention at work.  This situation at the shop probably didn't come as a surprise to the employees if they were paying attention.  Calls by creditors, late paychecks, not stocking as much inventory as usual...there are many red flags when businesses are running out of money.
  5. If you find yourself suddenly unemployed, sign up for unemployment benefits immediately.  This will get the process started and insure you have some sort of income coming in.
  6. Sort out pressing job-related issues including what will happen with your health insurance, pension, 401k, if you qualify for any sort of severance, etc.
  7. Take a week off to chill and regain your equilibrium.  Obviously such a shocking event will make you run through the gamut of emotions.  Let them all settle before going out to find another job.  Running around in a panic is not a good idea (your desperation will be apparent to possible employers) so settle first then look for work.
  8. Cut your expenses immediately.  If you suddenly don't have a big income coming in, don't live like you do.  While you should always live below your means, there are probably some things you can cut immediately to save money (change cell phone plans, cut cable, don't eat out, etc).
  9. Create a daily schedule even if you don't have the structure of a regular job.  Get up at the same time every day, exercise each morning, spend a few hours on work-related activities (updating your resume, applying for jobs, networking, etc), volunteer somewhere, etc.
  10. Determine what you want to do with your future.  Maybe you don't want to go back to the same sort of work, in that case look at job retraining opportunities, go back to grad school, or take a year off and travel.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

20 Garage Safety Tips

In no particular order...

  1. Unless you are actively working in your garage, keep the garage door closed (an open door can be an invitation to thieves or worse).
  2. Unless you are actively working in your garage, keep the door between your house and garage locked.  Many people don't lock a door on the other side of a locked door but it is an added deterrent should someone gain access to your garage (at least they will have a difficult time accessing your house if this door is locked).
  3. Don't park your car in your driveway and leave the garage door opener in it.  It is a simple thing for a thief to break your car window, get the opener, then open your garage door (and then access your house because reason #2 above).
  4. Don't leave your garage door opener in your vehicle when you leave your vehicle with the valet (this will give them your car, your address on the registration, and access to your home through the garage).
  5. When you back out of your garage and hit the garage door opener to close the door, make sure it closes completely (the sensor on the door can sometimes sense something in its path, open, and the garage door will stay open until you come home!).
  6. Keep your garage neat and organized.  Having junk all over the floor of your garage is a good way to cause falls, cuts, etc.
  7. Lock you car doors even when the vehicle is in the garage.  Again, going back to #2, it is yet another precaution to keep thieves from easily accessing your stuff should they breach one locked door.
  8. Store chemicals and fire hazards (like chemical-soaked rags) appropriately.  Info on how to do this here.
  9. Don't store certain items in the garage ever (like extra cans of fuel which could cause an explosion and wipe out your house as well as the garage).  Other items not to store in the garage can be found here.
  10. Keep a charged fire extinguisher in the garage in case of emergency.
  11. Make sure your garage door opener is of the newer variety which has a reversing mechanism when it senses something in its path.  The old door openers won't sense that there is a child, pet, or other item in its path and this can prove deadly.
  12. Keep your garage "kid proof" (even if you don't have kids).  Safely store ladders so they can't fall on someone, never leave electric tools (like saws, trimmers, etc)  plugged in when not in use, use locking cabinets for dangerous items, etc.
  13. Back your vehicle into the driveway/garage.  This is a safer way to park a vehicle (you can easily see what is in front of your vehicle and prevents back-over accidents when exiting your parking area) and a faster way to exit your parking area in an emergency.
  14. Beware of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.  This can happen when you run your vehicle's engine in the garage, when you move your barbecue into the garage during rainy weather to use it, etc.
  15. Soak up any spills/vehicle oil leaks/fuel leaks from the floor of the garage.  Besides being a slip and fall hazard, this can also be a fire hazard if not cleaned up immediately.
  16. Make sure the lighting in your garage is adequate.  Many garages have a single light which doesn't help much if you are working on a project over in the corner of your garage.  All areas of your garage should be lit up, especially areas here you will be working with tools, table saws, etc.
  17. If you have a video/audio/motion detector security system in your house, don't forget to add these systems to your garage.
  18. Don't allow kids or pet to hang out in the garage unattended.  This can be dangerous for a number of reasons including high temps in an un-air conditioned garage, the possibility of kids getting stuck in a refrigerator or freezer which is kept in the garage, accessibility to poisons, etc.
  19. Consider installing a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your garage.  This is an added level of safety (but note that some of these appliances can be very sensitive to dust and very high/very low temperatures).
  20. If you store kid's sports equipment in the garage, make sure the kids can easily access the items (ie: kid's shouldn't have to climb up to reach their roller blades, life their bikes off of high bike holders, etc).