Friday, December 19, 2014

The 7 rules for protecting your valuables BEFORE disaster strikes

 This is not an endorsement of the 
company that authored
Flood Damaged home in Serbia
the article at the link below, but an endorsement of doing some serious planning for the loss of your home.  I know no one likes to think their home may burn down but they do. In 2013 the NFPA documented 1,240,000 house fires. Or that a quake or other natural disaster may make your home uninhabitable.

Document your goods
I can remember in the 70's inventorying my household goods before they were shipped to Europe, it was boring, and a hard slog. Writing down serial numbers, colors, etc.

But today all you need is your smart phone and a note pad.
So this holiday season make it a fun opportunity, grab a loved one, a glass of eggnog, your smart phone and go on a hunt to document your valuables.  Focus on Art work, collections, Jewelry, electronics. (Don't forget to take a picture of any notes you made- serial numbers, Cost, etc.) Snap away, then upload to a website (Yahoo, MSN, DropBox) something that will survive if your house doesn't.  I wrote back in 2011 about using the web to store valuable documents, and the same goes for pictures of your valuables. You can review it here and another one here.  I either own the internet or think its a good idea :)

So here is the article, get started.
The 7 rules for protecting your valuables BEFORE disaster strikes

Happy Holidays


Sunday, November 2, 2014

All Hazard

Often times you will hear Emergency Management in your communities talk about "All Hazard Planning", what you may not hear is the words "Risk Based".  While the planning process lays out who does what in a disaster, we do want begin planning for the most likely and build our planning effort towards less likely events.

So as you and your family, friends look at what to prepare for start with this nice info-graph from

Also take some time to chat with your insurance agent about your coverage. 

Back to the info-graph, find your state, look at the hazards for that state and start from their. 
I live in Washington State and it list forest fire, but I live in the city of Seattle so that is not a high concern for my family (but what about smoke?, What if you are on vacation on the other side of the mountain during fire season?) All good questions, that should inform your preparedness.

As a bonus here is FEMA's State and Local Guide (SLG) 101 Guide for All-Hazard Emergency Operations Planning

Happy Sunday

Sunday, September 28, 2014

L.A. Prepares for the Big Quake Amid the Questions of When and How Large - Is your city prepared

 My promise in the beginning was not to use scare tactics and to try to make things bite sized for you to prepare for disasters in Where to Start
This week I read with interest how  Los Angeles has begun to look at the pieces in the public forum so their citizens understand it. They have been planning for a long time, but articles like this one show you the citizen the types of things they are worried about and planning for.
LA Prepares for the Big Quake Amid Questions of When and How Large  Its long (more than 30 seconds) but worth the time to read it all.

Why do I think its important citizens read this? Really two reasons:  
1.  Honestly, most of what we do in emergency management is not recognized by the public as it seldom produces perceptible results to the public in the short term.  But it does produce things that may save lives in the long term.  Pay attention to the discussions of water and transport in the article.  Pay attention as your government makes budget cuts, if the Emergency Managers are on that cut list you WILL have a harder time surviving and recovering from a catastrophic event. 

 2.   If you read this piece and pay attention to the main points they are making you can look at your planning and say okay I need to do a little more in that category, and that one looks good for now. But you are conscience of the need, and that makes it more focused.

And if you read this and think, okay I have put this off long enough- awesome. Start here and dig in, a little at a time, planning takes time.

Good Planning


Sunday, September 14, 2014

You've lost that preparedness feeling (sung to the tune of "You've lost that loving feeling")

Why do we constantly talk about preparedness?  I know some people may tire of it, but its necessary.  Why? 

Well we do not have it as part of our memory and or we think it can't happen to us.  Lets look at two examples; one of a group who survived not because they had a back pack by the front door (a good idea though) but because they recognized the danger as it had been passed down and another group that didn't follow their traditions. 

In 2004 the Tsunami in the Indian ocean killed over 230,000 people in multiple places, but one island had zero deaths or casualties.  The Andaman Islands inhabited by the Mokens (Sea Gypsy's). When rescuers arrived they found them safely atop a hill!  Their culture had passed down stories that when the great water receded it would flood the land.  

And in 2009 the earthquake that hit L'Aquila that killed 309 people and pretty much destroyed every home.  This is a case where the scientist were convicted of sending a message that..."interfered with the local “earthquake culture”, a set of entrenched habits and reactions such as, for example, that of spending the night outdoors after the occurrence of medium shocks."

So what does your culture or habits in our modern wired always on society tell you to survive and thrive after a disaster? I'm not sure, but surveys seem to say we aren't prepared for the hazards we face.  A 2009 survey showed 57% reported making some plans, but only 44% had a household plan where to go and and what to do (think like a Moken).

So we keep repeating the message and asking you to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

And now you probably want to hear the song here

Disaster Dave

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The headline says it all

This morning Napa and SF were awakened by an Earthquake, and the headline read
"The Bay Area just got hit with its largest earthquake in 25 years".

So why is that important? I often hear people say things like "Earthquakes happen on a longer schedule, it may not happen in my lifetime".  Excuse me, I would like to point out that twice in 25 years is a pretty short life.  So for those of us in a seismic  area, can we all just change our posture a little and understand that it could happen in our lifetime (pretty sure I have at least 25 more years).

And for the rest of America and the world, Hurricanes, Cyclones, Tornadoes, house fires, forest fires, ice storms, power outages (I know I left some out) don't really have a "geological clock " so you need to prepare too.
So where to start, if you aren't a reader of mine here are some links to posts I have written on planning and preparation.

Northwest Quake - where will you be  
Can you find all your important documents...
and my most recent post   Its about an investment......In your family's well being.

 Don't do everything today, but get started. tick,tick tick.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Its about an investment...

...In your family's well being.

According to the National Priorities Project we have spent somewhere north of $767,000,000,000 on Homeland security since 2001and sadly we really don't know what it has bought us. But this isn't about what we did or did not get, this is about how much have you spent since 2001 (or this year) on making sure your family is ready for The Apocalypse (just kidding). 
But really are you ready for the next storm season? Check here in September for the forecast for this winter.
Do you have an evacuation plan in case there is a forest fire
Do you have water stored? Why store water, that's silly, there is water in my tap. Did you see Toledo's water warnings ?

So look at your local grocery and watch for sales on bottled water and stock up on a couple of cases per person (and don't forget Fido he drinks water too)

Put away a few cans of Dinty Moore beef stew & bags of rice

Get trained in Wilderness First Aid    Usually available through REI.

Take some time this summer and prepare just a few steps. You will be glad you did... when something happens and you have made an investment and are prepared. 

Happy dog Days of August 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Recovery is a Long Road...

Transportation Safety Board of Canada
I came across a story this weekend on the train wreck in Quebec Canada and was struck by two things.  First that it had been a year since that happened, and what a horrible disaster, a town literally  blown off the map.  And the second thing was in the story they mentioned that they were getting ready to commemorate the event but "Many townspeople aren't ready for it."

So in our short attention span world of 30 second sound bite news and expecting your coffee order in seconds, how long do you think it will take you & your community to recover from whatever disaster that could befall it? Whether it is something like a tornado, earthquake or tornado or even a train derailment in the dark of night, how will you recover? And what will you do when the one year anniversary comes and you still aren't whole? 

Some things to think about: 
  • When was the last time you reviewed your insurance with your agent? 
  • What is his/her name & phone number?
  • Where is your policy? Is it some place safe in case your house is affected (that's what the policy is for, right, so why keep it in the house)?
  • How will your family reconnect if separated?
  • What if you can't reenter your neighborhood for days? Weeks? Ever?
  • Does your local government have a plan to help the city recover?

So not a panic point, just take the extra time this weekend to think about these questions.  And please don't dismiss this as "it can't happen here", these communities and others are still in recovery:

Sandy recovery 

Moore Oklahoma recovery


Disaster Dave

Friday, April 4, 2014

Its times like this that things look different

For those of us in the Seattle area it has been a long two weeks, with the slide in Oso Washington touching all of us in some way.  But once we step back from the response and take a day off and look at our beautiful area, I tend to take the beauty at face value, but under the beautiful hillside is...    Don't get me wrong your local public servants in emergency management take this personally, we spend our time trying to educate you and our elected officials to the dangers in our beautiful state.
The things that make our state and region beautiful are some of the same things that can in the least make life hard or even kill you.  A fellow emergency manager, Eric Holdeman wrote a great piece this week on why you won't listen entitled Living with Risk: but don't you love the views . You should read it and decide which one you are.
I know there hasn't been a major earthquake here in your life time, but your life time is not the measuring stick of when a quake will strike, but it could end your life.  Sorry I digress.

Lets just assume you fall into one of the categories in Eric's article and be done with it.  So if you  are determined to live on the side of a hill, or a few feet from the ocean, or in a high rise, at least do a few things to up the odds in case you are wrong.

Look for things you can do to minimize danger.
You live on or under a hillside:
  • Pay attention to the weather - more rain = more chance of a slide
  • Get involved in the community make sure the politicians are aware that you are aware
  • Seek a professional on putting plants that will hold the ground and drink water
  • do some internet research on your home area
You live on the ocean/sound:
 You live on a river:
Because it can happen here
prayers for those lost in Oso and their families

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Three Years since 3-11

I have written a couple of posts, and done several presentations on lessons learned from my time spent responding to Typhoon Yolonda in the Philippines; there were some good reinforced learning points for us. If you want to see a disaster (and recovery) that is more in line with what we in the Northwest will experience you need to look no further than the Earthquake and Tsunami Japan suffered just three years ago.

This morning the Seattle Times ran a good piece on where Japan is three years after the Tsunami.  Why just the Tsunami, because the quake really didn't on its own do much damage, the Tsunami on the other hand caught their planners off guard, and many perished, and many more were displaced as their homes near the water were destroyed.  Read the article in the hyperlink above, I'll wait for you here!

So what have we done here? Lots of planning, exercises and thought has gone into what we will have to deal with. And much more needs to happen, but the bigger question is what have you as individuals done to prepare?  If you have read any of my other blog posts you know I believe in the individual being prepared. 

Recovery WILL take a long time. I talk a lot about the things we take for granted in our daily life, look HERE to see how long it will take to get basic utilities back.  Seriously, 1-3 years for our major roadways.

The problem we in Emergency Management have selling this as a REAL event to the general public is, well ...apathy coupled "with it hasn't happened since 1700 and it won't happen".  But what if it does and you haven't done anything? Not only will you feel stupid, you may also cause you or your family to suffer more than they had to.

How big was the Tsunami compared to say "The Hammering Man


CREW - a great site for resources and explanations 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What if your disaster gets out classed (or people forget)

What happens if you are in the process of recovering from your disaster and a larger (more sexy) disaster occurs?

I was in the Philippines recently deployed as a volunteer response team member  for ShelterBox.  I was assigned a mission to do follow up from the Bohol 7.1 earthquake, which got upstaged by Typhoon Yolanda. The Philippines largest Earthquake in 23 years upstaged by the strongest Typhoon ever.
Many of the people of Bohol that I talked with felt that after only three weeks the aid agencies left for the bigger (sexier) disaster. 

In defense of the aid agencies the death toll was 200 vs 6000+ dead and they didn't leave, they moved appropriate (in most cases) assets to the bigger event.

So how do you keep the focus on your disaster? Maybe you can't; but you can prepare to do what you can.

Have a plan before it happens, have the players ready to begin recovery as soon as something happens.
Have the political players in the loop early to keep the focus on your event.
Have your Public Affairs folks working to keep getting the message out, covering the local response angle.

Try this test. Write down places and events that are disasters right now.  Then go to one of the international aid groups and see where they are? What are they doing? Did you realize that happened? Was on going? People were suffering?

Now imagine that is your disaster and most people have forgotten about it?


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Life goes on around you

Destroyed home in Loon, Bohol

I returned from the Philippines last Saturday and have been thinking about what to share,
and there are a couple of things of interest for this blog. 

My past disaster experiences have been in the immediate aftermath of the event.  But for this deployment we are two months on from the event and in a different case 3 months on. 

When I arrived in Cebu it was apparent that this was not a disaster area.  I left and went to Bohol Island with my partner to do follow up on the 7.1 Earthquake in October(3 months on).  We checked into our hotel in the main city, no cracks, no damage to see.  

But 1.5 hours up the road it was a different story. Buildings down, bridges down, large landslides, it was a mess.  As we worked through the disaster area verifying there were still people in need, I kept seeing people along the main road digging a trench by hand.  Finally I asked someone what part of the recovery that was; oddly enough it was a project to bring high speed Internet to Loon (city we worked in) that had started before the quake.  

This popped up again when I was working in the port to clear our containers through customs and the port.  They were back to business as usual; we were still in disaster mode.  All around us life was getting back to normal.
So what happens when you are still working on your disaster and life 10-40 miles away is normal? Some things to think about:
  • Don’t let them forget you are still working on recovery, don’t rub their face in it, but do let them know things aren’t back to normal
  • Do ask for help; I did at the port I told the people helping me I was bring in aid for their countrymen, it did move things along (I still had to pay, but it moved along).
  • Report out on what has been done and what is left to do. (If you are following ShelterBox you will see we do that on a regular basis.  We plan to be working in the Philippines until April on this disaster, we need to remind people it happened and 6,000 + people lost heir lives and millions lost homes and businesses).

That’s all for now
It’s not over till you say it is


Sunday, January 5, 2014

It's an hour after a disaster; do you know where your children are?

In November 2013 FEMA in partnership with Department of Health & Human Service and the Red Cross and several other organizations released Post Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide Approach.

This document listed lots of roles (responsibility's) for  local, State, Federal governments and Non Profit partners in caring for and reuniting children with their families after a disaster.  They did not assign any "roles" to the parents.  The intent of the document is to make sure everything is done to accomplish that, but it starts with you the parent. You don't have to read it, but if you wish you can find it at the hyperlink above. 
Having had unaccompanied minors show up at a shelter is not a good feeling, it is a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.  So what can you do so the government doesn't have to do anything or at least make their job easier.

1. Have a family disaster plan. I have written about this before and it is where everything starts. As the report points out, not only have a plan but "child reunification cards" a simple card with contact info (including an out of area contact) and places to meet.
2. Talk to your child care facility and/or schools. What are their plans? Ask to see them? Make sure ALL of your contact info is on file with the school/child care facility. 

3. Know your children's friends family's (an extension of know your neighbors). 

4. What is your local emergency managements plan for reunification? Remember the "roles" I talked about? Ask some questions.
5. Do you have a medical care waiver signed at your son's school or child care facility?
Read up on HIPAA and FERPA so you are informed, both of these are designed to protect privacy but are often misquoted and/or misunderstood.  

6. Always heed warnings from local emergency managers or  the weatherman. Make sure everyone leaves home prepared as possible for the day.  This may not seem like part of the plan, but it is!
7. And of course please do talk to your children (and spouse, parents, etc) about disasters and the planning you have taken to make sure everyone is safe.
This is one New Years item to take care of soonest.