Saturday, December 22, 2012

How to talk to your kids about disaster

I came across this post and thought I would guest post it for your reading.  Preparing and not explaining to your kids what could happen could cause more problems, consequently explaining above their comprehension level could cause a problem.  



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Make a Plan Redux

What did you do this weekend while watching the folks in NJ? My wife turned to me and said "Its been awhile since we looked at our plan and stuff, I would feel better if we took some time this weekend and refreshed."  And she was right. So what did we do:
  1. Pulled out our food go bag and dusted it off (it was pretty dusty too) checked the dates on the food, went through the bag to refresh in our minds what was in it. Got her go-kit from the car and checked it.  
  2. Then we went in the kitchen and took food out of the cabinet and looked at the food in the freezer and figured out how many days of food we have. My wife pointed out a few things she wishes we had in the cabinet.  I told her then we need to make that a permanent food stuff we buy.  I don't want to store food, it goes bad, better to work it through your meal planning.  We talked about keeping the freezer closed, but cooking the meat first and saving the cans for later.  Luckily we have a gas stove, while its not a for sure that there will be gas, depending on the disaster but its better than electricity.  (Note: just as an added note we talked about not heating the air with the burners- my wife is not an emergency manager)
  3. Then we talked about our evacuation plan, our out of state contacts, how to get to the airport without the freeways in play. Our in Seattle locations to meet and/or leave messages.
  4. Looked at our red packages where we keep cash and important documents we can pull and run with.
  5. The last thing we did was check our document on the web.  We both have important documents (DD214, Insurance forms, Copies of passports, mortgage numbers, etc) scanned and placed in a couple of secure online locations.  One is Drop box, the other is a email account with a tough password (not my pet or place I was born) 
So now its your turn, lets learn from what we are watching in NJ and make sure we are ready.  Lead by Example.  Then forward to your non - emergency manegement friends and family.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Falling into Fall

Well if you live in the Northwest like I do, we have fallen into fall, Monday was sunny and 70, by Weds it was grey and raining.  Don't get me wrong, I like the rain in the Northwest; but falling into fall is followed by slipping through winter.  So lets take a couple of minutes this Sunday to prepare.

Car- Make sure you have a blanket in the trunk, along with a change of warm clothes (Think walking in the snow or pouring rain wearing a dress or suit pants- brrr) Shoes you can walk in the snow or ice in; if you are a bus rider, put those items at work.  A couple bottles of water and maybe a snack.  Something we have in our car is a charger for our phones, Ipad and computer.  Not only if stranded but also if power goes out.

House/Condo/Apt - Deck furniture put away if it might blow into a window or the street. Plants, winterized.
Check your downspout for blockage, then follow the run off pattern to the street and make sure your local drain is uncovered.  If it has a lot of stuff in it, call the city and tell them it might be stopped up.

Indoors- Prepare for power outages. What is your plan for extended power outages if they happen. Do you have a fire place? Generators? (you know to not run them indoors or near air intakes - right)
Friends who might have power?  A list of hotels that take pets nearby?

So even though its not too bad out now, think about the last snow storm (Jan last year for the Northwest) and prepare while it is nice out.

Happy Fall

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Why do we wait? The question all of us in Emergency management think about. Your turn; what can we do to get you to prepare Before disaster strikes?  Tell me what you want to know? What guidance do you need?


This will be a backwards Blog, your turn, email me at


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Do you have an evacuation plan? Written Down

About two years ago I wrote an emergency plan for the residents of the building we live in; I wanted to make sure they had something to start from since in a big disaster I will be busy.  After reading this article, I think I need to see if anyone has moved forward.
 Evacuation Plan

Have you written a simple evacuation plan for your family?  Of course you will be there to lead the evacuation you have in your mind, but what if you aren't home?Things to think about?
  • When to evacuate? And When not to?
  • Where should you go? What if its raining? Or snowing?
  • What to take? Do you have a go bag by the door?
  • Contact list? - Someone to take you in? Hotel? Insurance agent? Other Family?
Don't get bogged down, look out your front & backdoor. Pick a place to meet that is close, but out of danger from the hazard (Fire, flood)
Try not to cross busy roads.
Don't make it immediately in front, you'll be in the Fire Departments way.

Do this today. One page should do it.
PS: if you are in a condo or duplex or Apartment, share with neighbors


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Solar Storm

Imagine something so powerful it can knock out communications and the power grid… and you can’t see it!   I know that is why I have been holding off writing this blog post, it sounds like science fiction.  But in fact it has happened.  In 1989 a Quebec power grid went down causing millions of dollars damage.  A Solar Storm on the sun caused this financial disaster.

On the plus side these solar storms (Sunspots) cause beautiful auroras in the Northern skies.

Even FEMA is thinking about what to do about this hazard.  Why is this important?  A large event could damage our electrical infrastructure badly; and we aren’t talking about replacing fuses.  These are large electrical parts that are not kept around for replacement because they are so costly. 

So what do we as folks on the ground do? Unfortunately I am not sure there is much we can do; the world we live in runs on solid-state electronics; our cars, I-phones, Radio, pretty much everything.  While its true you could protect your I-phone from EMP by taking steps you can find on the Internet.  But if no one else does and the Power grid is down…

You can read and become informed, start with the links in this article.
You can make sure your elected officials know this is important.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Disasters are never easy

By now you must have figured out that I am not a prepper who focuses on “TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt” (EOTWAWKI), there are plenty of people blogging about that out there.  I try to think practically about the everyday disaster.

A very important event happened recently that calls into question how our country can handle a disaster of infrastructure.  The East coast suffered a debilitating storm that brought high winds that uprooted trees, smashed houses and damaged our electrical infrastructure.  In our nations capitol region 90% of the folks who lost power won’t get it back for 7 days says Pepco (the local electric Company). But even worse, Verizon who handles 911 calls was down with no fall back, and no real explanation.  

So now you are thinking, but we pay lots of money in taxes, how could our nations capitol area be so impacted? What if this was really bad; like a terror attack or a bigger quake than they had last year, or a hurricane? 

So, what should you do to not be affected by this type event?

You can plan! Do you have a generator? Do you know how to use it safely?  Do you have a plan for refueling it? (no electricity generally means no gas stations) Do you have water? Do you have an evacuation plan to leave the area ?   

Yes leave!  If you don’t have power for a week, that means no fans, air-conditioning (or heat), you probably can’t cook , your refrigerator will not keep food cold, and a whole host of other problems. Now is a good time to take a vacation, visit the family.  
If you can't leave, look for cooling/warming (seasonal) on the Red Cross website, or local emergency management website. 

But no matter what, seriously, have a plan.  Disasters are hard, but they much less difficult if you have a plan.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Situational Awareness --- theres an app for that

I have talked about planning, connecting with family and friends and one of the things I haven’t talked about at length is situational awareness.  As our friends at Wikipedia define it “Situation awareness involves being aware of what is happening in the vicinity to understand how information, events, and one's own actions will impact goals and objectives, both immediately and in the near future.”  So it’s being aware.  How?
 It IS more than the 5 o’clock news; below I am going to list some websites and apps that you can use to become more “aware”.  Most are websites and apps (I am addicted to my I pad for awareness, and most of these apps are free) but you can just use the supplied web link to save in a folder in your favorites on your computer, you could name it…Situational awareness!

Weather Underground- one of the first web based weather sites. Lots of good info here
PDC World Disaster Alerts – List and shows physical disasters worldwide (one of my favorites)
Wind Alert – important if you are someplace cold, or forest fires, or wind surfing
Shelter View – Red Cross open shelter list. In case you need one, or a loved one calls from out of town, you can direct them in a disaster
FEMA – disasters & maps- where are declared areas, links to hurricane maps, flooding, etc
Tsunami Evac –shows inundation areas- certainly for per-planning before that beach vacation
Apple Store
The weather Channel – need I say more
BBC (British Broadcasting Company) its often good for an outside view of our news reporting
Twitter- it’s not for teens anymore- Most local Emergency Managers are on twitter for emergency information at the very least. You can learn a lot by searching and picking and listening

So there you have it, a beginners list for building situational awareness. Often times things that affect us begin far away, so it’s best to pay attention beyond the five o’clock news show. And remember by time it makes the 5 o’clock news its already old news.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Text First

The link below is evidence that the text is king (or queen)! After a disaster do not tie the phone lines up, but use short texts to your family members to ask "R U OKAY?", "Meet @ Jason's".
By learning to text and making sure everyone knows how, you will decrease everyone's stress point in the aftermath of a disaster by being able to communicate quickly and efficiently.

Last point for those of us over 50, honestly if you have never text-ed on your phone ask your kid; allow them to become involved in the family preparedness and be the teacher for once.  In this instance they probably are smarter than you.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Be Ready for any disaster

 So it is that time again, time to talk to you about your disaster kit.  Why? Because its hurricane season, its tornado season and its always earthquake season where I live.  We just finished a two day exercise called Evergreen Earthquake 2012.  Lots of death, injuries and some very surprised people in the Emergency Operation Centers.  Why?  Because they realized that they couldn't get the assets to open a shelter in 1,2,3 days.  That is normal for a major event.  So imagine your house, condo apartment fell down during a Hurricane, Tornado or Earthquake.  Now what?
 I do not want to tell you what you already know, make a plan, figure out what you need and start slowly to put it together.  A nice list in the below article.

Thanks for preparing, so we in Emergency management don't have to worry about you for a few days in an event.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

"So how do I learn all this stuff?"

I was recently asked the question above; well there are a few ways you can help educate yourself and your family.

The first is to attend a training session put on by either your local emergency manager or the Red Cross.  Both do their part to get the word out and assist the public in preparing for disasters in your area.

Another is go to the big guy and take some online FEMA courses. These are free and online; they can be taken at your pace, on your schedule.

The last place I wanted to point out are a couple of companies that have taken the step of simplifying and reducing in size what you need to know for a price.

  • The first is the Quick series which has a rather large library of booklets to cover many things, but of course this blog is focusing on Emergency/Disaster Preparedness.
  • The second is the Informed Guides like the one above their guides are both pocket sized and available for download to your smart phone. I personally like this book better, but its about what appeals to you.
So there you have it, some sources for you to take advantage of to help prepare your family/home/your life for emergencies or disasters.

Don't wait prepare today


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Communication tips

When even small disasters happen communications is a problem, and there are things you can do to prepare.  This link fema-how-to-communicate-before gives some very practical tips on what to do in advance to prepare.  A couple of items on the list that deserve expansion are:
  • ICE - I know we have all been putting In Case Of Emergency (ICE) contacts on our phones,but now that a lot of phones are computers they lock.  So how to get to the ICE on a SMART phone that is locked.  Theres an AP for that.
  • Call Forward - Your land line to your Cell if you have to evacuate.  If this is possible its a great idea,so that if you can't re-enter your home you have access to accounts (bank ,Pizza, etc) that read your home phone number to provide service.
So take a few minutes and read this linked FEMA document and plan out your communications.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

If you can't work...

I recently read an article about business recovery , unlike other doom and gloom articles it was actually uplifting.  They did the right things and their business survived. So what about you!
I have spent the last few months working with you on preparing your home and family for disaster, which is all well and good.  What about your workplace?  Whether you are the owner, manager or employee you have some responsibility.  If you are the owner or manager you are responsible to make sure there is a plan and it is exercised. Yes you did a fire drill to make the local fire folks (and your insurer) happy but what else have you done to protect your business.
  • How will you make sure your employees are safe (you better care, you can't open without them)?
  • Do they know how to get in touch with you (besides your office phone)? 
  • Do they know how to contact each other for support (offer or ask for)?
  • Where are your customer records stored (box in back or in the cloud)?
  • Do you have an alternate place to work?
  • Do you have adequate insurance for the hazards where you work (the hazards could differ from where you live)?

Even if you aren't the owner/manager you have a responsibility to ask questions, understand your place in the plan.   If you are reading this (and probably other things like this) you might be the person with the most knowledge and in a position to help.

Do one thing today

Sunday, March 18, 2012

But which disaster do I prepare for?

First the party line - prepare for ALL Hazards.  Most of the preparation you do can help you in any emergency or disaster that might befall you.  In emergency management, we categorize the disasters we prepare for in their simplest form as Frequency vs. Risk because there are things to plan for AFTER all hazard that are specific to a hazard. In short its about learning what hazards may affect you.

For example, the frequency for snow vs. the risk of a snow "storm" in Seattle would be High Frequency/ Low Risk (HF/LR) because we typically (in the last three years) get one to two snow storms per year; but the danger is low (short of falling on your butt). 
On the other side is an earthquake (we live in a seismic area) which has a Low Frequency/ High Risk of when it happens (LF/HR).

So what does all this mean? It means that while you should prepare for snow (stay home) you need to pay attention to the LF/HR too.  Just because an earthquake hasn't happened for 500 years, and only has a 10%-14% chance in the next 50 years doesn't mean it won’t happen; and it will be worse than a snowstorm.
Just because you did not experience landfall of hurricane the last two years, doesn't mean it won't this year, or next.
For the LF/HR event, you will likely be on your own for a longer period, so you must plan accordingly.

Now look at our area and write down all the hazards you can find out about (hint- check your local emergency management site for information), then do a little research and classify for Frequency & Risk. 

Now plan accordingly.

Any questions?
disaster dave

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Do it yourself

My blogs to you have meant to help you make headway in preparing for emergencies/disasters.  There is much I think I can teach you as this is what I do for a living.  But there is much you can do for yourself and I want to highlight a step you can take for yourself.  Most are free and will make you look like the most prepared person in your office.

There's an App for that  This is a one page from the Department of Health and Human Services.  There are apps for your I phone/I pad.  Most are free, some cost a few cents.  Imagine having all of your medication on your I- phone using My Medications from the AMA - if you have to evacuate you have it. 
One of my favorites is Disaster Alert - every morning I check it to see whats going on in the world. Imagine sitting around at work and just casually mentioning "did anyone hear about the earthquake off Vanuatore.

In this age of I phones and other phones that act as a computer, there are things you can do to make yourself more prepared. Do it this weekend.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Take Time to Learn

My blogs have been written to help you make headway in preparing for emergencies/ disasters.  There is much I think I can teach you as this is what I do for a living.  But there is much you can do for yourself and I want to highlight two steps you can take.  Both are free and will not only make you more prepared and look like the most prepared person in your office.

There's an App for that  This is a one page from the Department of Health and Human Services.  It puts a lot of apps in one place; most are free, a few cost a few cents.  But imagine having all of your medication on your Iphone - if you have to evacuate, you have it.  One of my favorites is Disaster Alert - every morning I check it to see whats going on in the world. Imagine sitting around at work and just casually mentioning "did anyone hear about the earthquake off Vanuatu this morning."

MetEd  Like anything else in your life you will  do a better job if you are informed.  So take some time on this FREE website and learn about the disasters that affect you and your family.  Learn how & why fire travels the way it does/ how and where Tsunamis affect us and many other very well put together training.

By taking action on these two items in the next week you will be more likely to  prepare if you understand why you won't be able to live in your home after a major quake, or why the police tell you to leave during a forest fire.

Take some time, take some might enjoy the training.

Disaster Dave

PS: there was an earthquake on Vanuatu an hour ago

Friday, January 27, 2012


Good Morning,
 This falls in the preparedness category.  In the past few years we have told people of the importance of placing an ICE contact (In Case of Emergency) in your cell phone.This number keeps EMTs, or the hospital from trying to guess who to call if you are hurt and can't communicate.  Awesome idea, huh!

Now with the advent of Apple Phones and Androids which are much more than just phones, we have started locking our screens. So how does anyone get to your ICE contact?

By using this app ICE Standard - The Emergency Standard Card App for iPhone.  It works great, it shows up on your lock screen, and granted its not as cute as your puppies for wallpaper...but it might save your life. UPDATE now one for BlackBerry  and ANDROID phones.
The android model is being developed, but for all of us who are Apple owners download this (FREE) and set it up on your phone and more importantly, your kids, spouse/partners/ parents phone.
It could save your life; your puppies probably won't even if they are cute!

disaster dave

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I just spent a week working in our Public Health Emergency Operations Center.  As my first emergency operation in this sphere I got to hear and try to help lots of people who live their everyday lives with some need to support them:
Electricity for: Breathing, special medical beds, wheel chairs, warmth.
Containerized Oxygen for breathing

And while I am sympathetic and want to help, I am struck by how quickly some of these folks got to the point they were calling for help.  And don't get me wrong that is why we in Emergency Management are there to help; but first... So if you are one of these folks, or a care giver or family member, please start now to do a few things.
  1. Have a list at least three deep of multiple phone numbers and address for resupply of the needed item (medication, Oxygen, etc)
  2. Have your city emergency manager's office phone number on hand- they are there to help
  3. Know where your city's community centers are, even if you never go (a place to get warm and plug into electricity during the day)
  4. Make friends in your neighborhood, often the next block could have power when you don't
  5. Have your local Red Cross phone number available to see if they have disaster shelters open
  6. And of course if its life or death call 911
It is ALL about you...making local connections and building a plan


Call if you care II

On January 15th I posted a blog with the title above minus the II. On January 16th we began our slide into the worst weather to hit the Seattle area in while. I'm not prophetic, its just dumb luck on part to be so topical.  So now that we have come out the other side with over 200,000 customers having lost power I think I want to amend my blog. 

While the author of the book is studying disasters of great magnitude, even our little snow/ice/wind storm this last week caused a good bit of suffering.  So not only should you call if you care to save someones life, you can also call to provide warmth and comfort to friends, family and neighbors who may be without power.

Caring should not only extend to life saving but also just to plain helping others. So when the next ____ happens even if its not a killer event, be thoughtful and call if you care.

Disaster_ Dave

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Call if you Care

The book I am currently reading is Thomas Drabek's The Human Side of Disaster.  While he covers lots of stuff you probably won't be interested in and that's okay; that's my job. The author goes into great detail about two things that interested me very much, which means it’s something I think you should know about.

So in this blog post I want you to do something for someone else. Yes that is right, today no talk about what you should plan or pack for a disaster.

Evacuation by invitation - You are watching TV and see that an area where your friends/family live and it looks like they should probably leave because of a developing disaster- call them!  Even if you only have floor space, it could save their lives.  People do not want to evacuate to a Shelter (only a small percentage actually go to a shelter), having someplace to go will make the decision easier for the man in the family.  Which leads us to the next point

Evacuation by Compromise- Women tend to be convinced sooner to evacuate than men are.  But men will evacuate to keep the peace.  The author points out that we make decisions everyday and do things in a relationship because it’s about compromise.

Tie the two together:
" Marge you know we have space for you, come over and lets watch it on TV, if nothing happens you  and the family can go home in the morning"

While you may not want people sleeping on your living room floor you could make the difference in your family/friends survival...

But my family lives on the other coast
So what if they live far away? Call anyway and if it looks bad encourage them to evacuate, sometimes a push from afar makes the difference. "Well if Jethro on the other coast thinks we are in danger..."

disaster dave