Weathering YOUR Storm

I've been "gone" a long time, I know.  The forecast of Hurricane Sandy encouraged me get back in the groove.  Anticipating the problems and coverage of such a large scale disaster reminded me of the importance of what we do here at Everyday Providence. You can take simple and effective steps today to take care of your loved ones in a disaster or other chaotic times.

I began National Emergency Preparedness Month (September) with a bang, a conference, and a plan.  And then my life went absolutely crazy.  We had been living in tiny (albeit lovely) temporary housing, waiting for a perfect and permanent residence to be available.  My husband called during the conference to announce that we were moving as soon as I got home.  We're now putting the finishing touches on the move, and I wanted to share a few things I learned (or remembered) along the way.

  • Don't try so hard to keep things interesting in the kitchen during times of change. Your well-stocked pantry can help keep meals going when life gets hectic.  Pancakes and waffles from a mix, canned soup and crackers, hot and cold breakfast cereal, frozen dinners (bought or made in advance), and easy family favorites can help you put familiar food on the table without the hassle and dishes of complicated meals.
  • Give yourself a break! Pick your top priorities and let a few other things go.  We tried to eat somewhat healthy meals (priority #1), but we stopped recycling and we used paper plates occasionally for the few days of the move.  
  • There are only 24 hours in a day.  Know that you have to let something go.  We put packing boxes and relaxation (family) time above cleaning.  When we were out of the old place, we gave it a good scrub.  When we were moved into the new place, a once-over cleaning removed a week's worth of dirt.
  • It's ok to ask for help.  Twice we invited friends and neighbors to help with moving and unpacking.  A fresh set of legs and a new perspective helped rejuvenate us with the overwhelming task.  I love helping others, knowing that I've made someone's day better.  Let someone else do that for you, too.
I used these concepts when we were new parents (2005), when we lost power three times in six months with small children (2007), and in these weeks as we moved (2012).  Got any tips that make your life easier when the seas get a little rough?  I'd love to hear your ideas, too. Share your story with me here.

Day 6 - Stored Water is Critical

If you've been following Everyday Providence for long you've heard us emphasize water storage. During a disaster, municipal water sources can be damaged, contaminated, or simply inoperable. Yet, in a disaster situation you need clean water all the more for drinking and sanitation.

You need to store at least a gallon of water for each day's use per person in your home. Three days of reserves is the minimum, but seven to ten days of utility loss is certainly possible. That's a lot of water, so storage in your home becomes a concern.

We recommend that you start by storing at least one case of bottled water for each person in your home. Plastic bottles do have a limited shelf life and need to be rotated. If you buy new cases and add them to your supply, while using the oldest case first, you are set!

You can also prepare and store your own water at home. Prepared and stored in a large food safe container, today's tap water can become tomorrow's emergency supply... if you store it now! (For safety, follow qualified instructions to store your own water.)

My favorite take-away from the conference that I'm attending has been canned water! It has a 30 year shelf life, so you can buy it once and forget it. It is stackable, so it will not crush and collapse when stacked up high! And it's stored in smaller 24 ounce containers, so you can share and carry water if needed.

However you decide to do it, you need to stash some water with your disaster kit now!

Day 4 - A bag to carry your stuff in

I need to state clearly that there are times when you should NOT take the time to grab ANYTHING. There are emergencies when seconds count and you need to GET OUT! Researchers find that people often disregard the urgency of a crisis situation and stop to collect personal belongings on the way out the door. When you make your emergency plan, be clear with your family about when you do (storm warning) and when you do not (house fire) have time to grab supplies.

That said... At home, in the car, and at work, you need a bag as part of your disaster kit. I do an exercise at offices where they have 5 minutes to collect what they need to take with them during a weather related evacuation. Whether they choose to save critical corporate documents or if they decide to grab snacks and first aid supplies, participants in this 'scavenger hunt' of sorts find that they fare better when they have something to toss their stuff in.

You don't necessarily need to purchase a new bag to carry your stuff. Today, I'm attending a state emergency management conference, and one of the vendors handed out these nifty reusable shopping bags. This is exactly the sort of bag that you can fold up on the bottom of your desk drawer at work. I bet you pull it out and use it before an actual disaster strikes. That's OK, your disaster supplies should solve a variety of problems. Just don't forget to replace it!

Day 3 - Nail Trimmers... Super tool?

Since 9-11, carrying a pocketknife can be tricky business. However, with rare exception, nail trimmers are allowed most places that check for or restrict weapons. I have found that nail trimmers can be a handy tool for so many things beside personal grooming.

Clipping a stray thread, cutting strings, and tape, or even (maybe) cutting out a coupon. OK, we all know we'd just tear that one, but work with me here... these really can be a useful thing to have on hand.

And nothing bothers me more than chipping a nail with no way to fix it.

Day 2 - A Flashlight so you can see what you're doing

I mentioned in a recent post a moment when the power went out at a conference I was attending in Las Vegas. Temporary power was restored in minutes (maybe seconds... Time goes slower in pitch darkness.) and we were evacuated from the building immediately. That incident instilled in me the importance of carrying a light source with me. I love this teeny-tiny flashlight because it's lightweight and I can easily carry an extra battery with me.

In that dark moment in the Las Vegas convention center, everyone flipped on their phones. But if we had been forced to depend on cell phones for extended lighting, we would have been compromising the battery life of our primary form of communication and source of information. Keeping a tiny flashlight in your purse, pocket, briefcase, backpack or keychain will certainly be invaluable many other times and not just in an emergency.

Remember that batteries stored in a flashlight lose charge even if they are not used. Remember to switch out these batteries frequently (or carry an extra set), so they'll be ready when you need them.

National Preparedness Month - Day 1

Today marks the beginning of National Preparedness Month. In remembering the events of September 11th, America has emphasized this month since 2004 as a time to prepare for disasters like terrorist attacks, storm effects and earthquakes. Each day this month we'll highlight a preparedness gadget, tip, or concept that you can add to your family's disaster kit or emergency plan.

After a storm or earthquake, the utility lines to your home may be affected. When utility lines are disrupted inside your home, further damage and danger may occur. Gas leaks may cause explosions or poisoning. Leaking water pipes can cause property damage, personal injury, or electrical incidents. A 4 in 1 emergency tool is designed to

Planning Four Rows Deep and Four Columns Wide

Preparing for an emergency requires all sorts of unpleasant ideas like forethought, discipline, self-control and persistence. All kidding aside, our vigilance to protect our family and our property is fundamental to building a solid foundation on which to grow our lives and happiness. When we must replace, revamp, and recapture the tools and resources we have already acquired, we are behind the curve.  Preparation can save lives, money, resources, heartache, time and momentum in our lives, both in disasters and everyday.

We've shared already about PACE planning, having a Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency plan for large and small functions in your home and life.  Whether it's making a phone call, opening a can or getting out of town, you need to have more than one plan in place to stay safe and sound.  PACE means that you

What's in your pantry?

I adore this post about stocking a pantry.  A friend recently introduced me to Lindsay's blog at  In her article, she lets us peak into her kitchen pantry, describes her inventory, shares her ideas, and posts pictures for those of us (like me) that think a picture is worth a thousand words.  At Everyday Providence, we talk a lot about stocking a pantry.  But the benefits of a well stocked pantry are often overlooked, and the getting started can seem overwhelming.  Check out these basic benefits and motivations for keeping a pantry in your kitchen.

Dalmatians, and Popcorn, and Fires, Oh My!

This year at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, the many agencies promoting family safety messages overflowed.  My brain was packed full of information about staying safe around grain bins, electrical wires, on a bicycle, flying an airplane, driving a car, and by getting medical exams.  But every year my favorite location is always the fire safety tent next to the Illinois Fire Museum.

You don't have to go to school to learn these lessons!

As I plotted and planned with my "work group" on how we were going to save the world, I was shocked by a side-conversation with a classmate who is a local Emergency Manager. In his community, he had recently offered "FREE" disaster preparedness classes.  No one came.  For weeks he sat in his meeting room on Friday night and waited and waited and no one ever came.  He felt helpless, hopeless, and discouraged.  "People just don't care about preparing for disasters," he complained.

I disagree!

What's going to happen? How can I be ready?

I don't relish the idea of going days without power (or a shower).  Honestly, I hope to avoid it altogether, but let the record show that my home averages once a year without power or water at some point.  We are dependent on utilities, communications, and technology like never before, but still we need to function when they fail.  And we are each unique - with individual needs, certain resources and our own tolerance for mayhem.  Be certain that your own preparedness will support you and your family when our modern life caves in.  Hopefully these questions will help you begin or build your state of preparedness.
  • Do you have a specific disaster kit at home that will support your family for three days without help (at least a flashlight and batteries, some food, bottled water, and a first aid kit)?

Smart Phones, Smart Users?

Americans have tipped the scales.  Surveys now indicate that the number of smart phones being used exceeds that of traditional cell phone styles. 

So what?

As smart phones become integrated into our everyday lives, we need to be aware of how we can (and already do) depend on this technology.

Under the Weather... Literally!

Today the temperature soared over 100 degrees again, tomorrow the forecast indicates rain... and hail, tornadoes and thunderstorms.. all in the middle of the worst drought in 50 years!  We cannot get away from the weather, but we can prepare for it.

Plan ahead to stay safe. - Whether you are facing heat, wind, water or other calamities, your emergency plan should tell you where you'll go to seek shelter.  And remember that you may not be at home when disaster strikes.

Keep supplies on hand. - Maybe the lights go out. Or perhaps your pharmacy is transported to the land of Oz, you'll need a disaster kit stocked with a flashlight, food and water, and first aid and medication to get by until things get back to normal. And a kit in the car and a work may prove as useful as your home disaster kit.

Information in: Information out - When the skies (or dams, volcanoes, and other disasters) break loose, your crisis communication plan will help you know what's going on, how to get help and what to expect next.  And your friends and family will be worried; your plan will tell them (and you) who to call for status updates. Always consider that communications are more challenging with no power.

What you don't know could hurt you!

As I was traveling from St. Louis to a class in Columbia, Missouri, I took this picture out the car window. Can you see the tiny structure in the distance with vapor rising from it? It's Callaway nuclear power plant. I am reminded that anytime we travel, we are exposed to new and changing risks.

Where I live, I'm not in immediate danger of radioactive contamination from a reactor. I also have little concern for tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes or wildfires. The tallest building near me is only a few stories, and the outdoor warning sirens are tested the first Monday of every month at 10:00 am. But...

When you or I travel even a couple of hours from home we face new risks, new procedures and new warning mechanisms. Although we may not (and likely cannot) be aware of and prepared for every risk we will pass by, we CAN be aware that we are unaware. We can keep our heads up and remain mindful of our surroundings. IF an emergency comes our way, we can be prepared to react in an informed fashion.

Drought + Wildfire + Heavy Rains = A Mess!

As some Colorado residents return home to sift through the remains of possessions recently consumed by wildfire, a second wave of disaster has swept though as thunderstorms douse the parched ground only days too late.  But with all of the landscape decimated by fire, the deluge flows unchecked across the land creating rivers of mud filling basements, sweeping away roadways, and burying the last remnants of the fire swept neighborhoods.

What can we learn from this?  We can't stop wildfires, thunderstorms, flash floods and mud-slides, right?
  • Disasters often cascade -- One event may create other problems that lead to additional emergencies. (A power outage leaves you without food AND without a way to pay for food, if you don't have cash on hand.)
  • Efforts to mitigate (prevent) one disaster may also thwart other impending difficulties. Plan to stop the far-reaching effects of a disaster early.
  • Preparedness can address more than just life safety.  Your peace of mind and emotional health need  protection as well.  Imagine a priority order to what you will protect in your life and plan for those priorities.
  • At our house, the family evacuation plan includes taking a small chest (located near the front door) that contains our family's most precious possessions, heirlooms and irreplaceable photographs. 
Preparing your family today with a disaster kit and an emergency plan and practicing that plan may save your life and your favorite crystal vase.


9-1-1 is down... Now what?

What will you do when you dial 9-1-1 and nothing happens?  Several years ago much of Illinois and St. Louis (where I live) experienced the smallest rumblings of an earthquake.  At the epicenter near the far side of Illinois there was little damage and few injuries with the jolt measuring 5.4.  At least one 9-1-1 call center in Indiana was completely overwhelmed with calls and was offline for about 15 minutes.  It's possible that people with serious medical emergencies couldn't get the help they needed because 9-1-1 operators were answering calls of, "What was that?"

About 11:00 am today, Madison County Illinois 9-1-1 was unreachable, possibly due to a cut fiber optic cable.  And with today recording the 9th straight day with triple digit temperatures and no relief in sight, emergency medical calls are inevitable with heat and respiratory related emergencies.

Part of your preparedness should include alternate local phone numbers for emergency services like fire, police, ambulance and hospitals.  Post these near a phone, an exit, or in a conspicuous place in your home so that you can easily access them if you need them. Store them in your cell phone as well.

Dentition in Disasters

From the ancient Egyptians to the American pioneers, we've always had trouble with our teeth.  More recent advances in nutrition, medical practice and dental care have improved the condition and longevity of our teeth.  And our lives are better for it.  We live longer and we can still chew our food when we're 60. Yum!

Have you ever had an aching tooth?  It's agony.  You can't wait to get to the dentist.  What would happen if we had a dental emergency in the midst of another disaster or delay?

Imagine you're on a four day hike or that it's the second day after the "big storm" and no one has power yet.  You are happily munching your lunch, flashlight in hand, when "CRUNCH!"  Applesauce isn't supposed to make that sound, your filling just came out.  Oh, no! There's no way you're gonna see a dentist today.  What do you do?

Your local pharmacy or drug store probably carries just what you need.  Temporary fillings! Yep, in a pinch you can replace a filling or reset a crown with a $5 tube of dental magic.  Hopefully, it will tide you over until you find yourself relieved to be reclining in that chair, a bib on your chest and a light in your eyes! But these products can only save you the discomfort and inconvenience IF you already have a tube in your kit when you need it.

Is this safe to eat?

I found this bottle of tea in the fridge at work. The manufacturer's date is June 2009. Now, I don't make a habit of drinking long abandoned beverages from the kitchen at work, but... wait maybe I do. (This isn't the first time this has happened.) Anyway, it's fine and delicious.

In other times and places, far from our air conditioned and refrigerated world of grocery stores, shipped produce, fresh meat and plastic bottles... in those times and places people understood how to keep food for a long time. They also knew which foods would not keep. Our modern conveniences have eliminated the need to understand those things, but as we have lost that knowledge, we have become fearful.

Some foods expire (like fresh milk), others are just better by a certain date (a jar of peaches), and some are ok to eat for years and years (like whole beans and grains). Most store bought canned and bottled goods are fine to eat or drink as long as they were stored appropriately (in a cool, dark, dry place) and as long as the container is undamaged. Canned fruits and veggies could last 50 years! Really! If you open it and it looks good and it smells good... it's probably fine to eat.

You need to rotate through the items in your pantry.  Use the oldest (or soonest to "expire") first. As you stock up on your family's favorite foods in your pantry, take a minute to remember which items will last longest, prepare easiest, and taste delicious to everyone at your house.  Keep a little extra of those on hand... just in case.

Certain Flashlights May Not Be Enough

During a conversation recently, a friend told me about the emergency flashlights in her home.  They plug in and store at an electrical outlet, recharging constantly, and when the power goes out they turn on automatically to shine on the floor providing emergency lighting.  "Are those your only emergency flashlights?" I asked. They are.

Here are my concerns:
  • In an emergency, the charge may fail too soon if the flashlights come on automatically.  Let's say you leave for work Friday morning at 7:30 am, and your home loses power shortly after.  That night you go out to dinner and a movie with a friend right after work.  You arrive home at 10:00 pm to a dark house with no working flashlights because these flashlights have already been shining for 14 hours!

The Case for Bottled Water

Do you keep one case of bottled water for each person at home?  There are lots of ways to store water for an emergency, but start off easy with one case for each person.
  • Bottled water is ready to go when you are - no prep, no mess, no hassle. It doesn't require additional preparation, no filter, no container, no worries.  And when it's gone, you have refillable bottles left to reuse until trouble subsides.  (Then you can recycle them.)
  • A case of single serve containers are affordable ($3-6 dollars).  That's your 72 hour supply.

Titanic's Lost - How shall we remember?

In Halifax, hearses wait to receive bodies from recovery operations.
An alphabetical list of the passengers and crew of the Titanic follows.   Names in bold indicate survivors.

Abbing, Anthony
Abbott, Eugene
Abbott, Rosa
Abbott, Rossmore
Abelseth, Karen
Abelseth, Olaus
Abelson, Mr. Samson
Abelson, Mrs. Hanna

Titanic's Story Remembered - How do Titanic's many cities remember her?

Statue on street in Belfast
The cities closely linked to the Titanic still offer a front row seat to tourists and scholars interested in the mystery, drama and history of Titanic's demise.  Each city's museums, exhibits, and memorials share perspective and details of the events that shocked the world.  Whether you travel many miles or research with the click of a button, these links will help immerse you in the majesty and misfortune that was and is Titanic.
  •  City of Registry - Liverpool, England -

Titanic Still Teaches Us - What can you do to stay safe at sea?

Safety on the water is always a concern.  I've enjoyed three Caribbean cruises, two house boats, many passenger and car ferries, and several city tour boats without incident, but I prefer to be overly prepared in any situation.  I searched for some good "Staying Safe on a Cruise" websites and blogs, but I came up surprisingly short.  Most information provided helps you steer clear of crime (pickpockets, abductions, etc.) on larger boats or cover basic physical safety on smaller craft.  Those are paramount to be sure, but when I step onto a boat, especially a big one, I want to think of the other things that might go wrong and be prepared to avoid or endure them.

  • Food and water - On both of my most recent cruises, I took some snacks and bottled water, just in case.  They mostly sat there until the last day of the cruise.  But if there was a food contamination scare or if we had drifted for days at sea with no power, I was ready.

Echoes of Titanic - Do modern sea accidents compare?

Collision of the Costs Concordia
Photo: Rvongher
On January 13, 2012, the MS Costa Concordia took an unscheduled pass very close to Giglio Island in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the western coast of Italy. The ship ran onto a reef that gashed the side of the ship, flooding and partially sinking the ship which drifted at sea until it ran aground. Thirty of the 4252 passengers and crew were confirmed dead with two still missing.

Titanic's Tragedy - How did we try to prevent a repeat?

Photographic Print of the Iceberg
Believed to have Sunk the Titanic
The Titanic disaster inspired an unprecedented number of safety regulations and organizations to help minimize future losses.

Titanic Sets Sail - What went wrong?

Lifeboats Recovered from the Titanic
From 'The Pageant of the Century'
Published by Odhams Press Limited 1912

On April 10, 1912, the Titanic set sail from Southampton, England, for her maiden voyage. On April 15, the Titanic sank.  With her, 1,517 people perished.  She was one of the the largest, most lavish, and safest ships on the seas.  How could this have happened? 
  • On Sunday, the day of the crash, the ship's lifeboat drill was cancelled for unknown reasons.  During the evacuation, the lifeboats were not filled to capacity, and many believe this is due to the crew and passengers' lack of familiarity with the equipment and procedures.

One Day Without Shoes

On Tuesday, April 10, join others worldwide for One Day Without Shoes, an event that promotes awareness that millions of children worldwide risk injury and disease because they don't have even one pair of shoes to protect their feet.  Most of us enjoy blessings that keep more than one pair (...more than five? ... more than ten?) of shoes in a pile by our front door, in our closets, under our beds.  And you and I also have the means to bless others with our time, energy and finances.

The Facts:
  • Some children are not allowed to attend school because shoes are required and they do not own a pair.

Titanic Tweets

The tragic sinking of the Titanic ocean liner triggered many enduring changes to the fields of safety management, disaster response, and maritime regulation.  We'll be sharing our thoughts on those subjects in the coming weeks, as we remember the 100th anniversary of the ship's calamity on April 15. In the mean time, you might enjoy exploring these two offerings from the UK's largest history publisher.

The History Press is currently telling the Titanic's story through a Twitter account, @TitanicRealTime. They will be chronicling the Titanic disaster as it occurred in real time with tweets from the captain, crew and passengers telling the story of this star-crossed voyage. (You can view the Twitter stream without an account.)

Here's a sample tweet:
                                10 Mar
Exactly a month now before Titanic’s journey begins, I cannot 
wait to see her completed and on the ocean!

The same publisher also released an iPad app on March 15, Titanic: Her Journey. According to the website, the app “collates the knowledge of the world’s foremost Titanic experts in the most interactive way to date”. It includes rare archive footage, archive photographs of its construction, detailed ship plans and survivor accounts.

First Day of Spring as a Springboard for Preparedness

I love lists, calendars, and routines.  My crazy, busy, hectic schedule, as I'm sure many of you experience, creates the need for reminders to keep me on track.  I like to use the first day of spring as a "springboard" for my own emergency preparedness. (It falls six months before and after September, which is National Emergency Preparedness month.) It also serves as a great pivot point between cold weather and warm weather preparedness. (Not forgetting, of course, that we still have the potential

Watch This!

I couldn't have said it better myself.  Thanks to the Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee who produced this with funding support from the Kansas City Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Committee's Urban Area Security Initiative grant.  We love it, so keep it coming!

Flood Safety Basics for National Flood Safety Awareness Week 2012

Photo by Val Huffman
When it rains, it pours! And when it pours, the water has to go somewhere, right? On average, flooding is the #1 cause of severe weather related deaths (more than tornadoes).  And most of those flood deaths are caused by vehicles swept away in moving waters!  Take a minute and educate your family about flood risks (especially younger drivers). 

... and then something surprised me!

They say you'll learn something new everyday if you're looking for it.  I stumbled on a new blog yesterday and poked around for a few minutes.  I was particularly interested in the unexpected graphic at the top of the page. The white cross on a green background was reminiscent of the Red Cross logo. (The Red Cross is actually a trademarked logo; it's theirs and a person needs permission to use it.) But this green cross of sorts was new to me.

Building Speed on the Information Superhighway

Everyday Providence has experienced a tremendous response since our launch in September 2010.  Thousands of readers in the US and across the world have found the information and resources they need to protect and prepare families, homes, and offices. Many radio listeners are introduced to simple preparedness ideas through our radio promotion.  Our Twitter and Facebook posts provide easy access to new articles and an interactive environment to learn, plan and share emergency preparedness ideas.

Preparing for Troubled Times: Political Unrest and Civil Disorder

Egyptian Flag
As today marks the one year anniversary of the political revolution in Egypt, I am reminded that Everyday Providence has had little to say about political unrest and civil disorder.  I pray that you never come face to face with those harsh situations, but there are circumstances that move people to act.  The discussions surrounding man-made emergencies are more delicate and emotional.  A family that is not directly involved in unrest may still be affected by its impact on a community.

Fire Safety Is Always at the Top of the List

Stories and statistics support taking fire safety seriously, yet each year we continue to see victims of accidental house fires.  Home fires and injuries are so very common and so very preventable.  Make certain that your family and home are protected by following every one of these tested fire safety tips. Each of these tasks are cheap and easy.  

Oatmeal: Pantry Staple, Survival Food, or Decadent Indulgence?

Oatmeal by: Spencer Ritenour via Park Slope Lens
Did you know this is National Oatmeal Month?  Apparently more oatmeal is consumed in January than any other month.  And no wonder!  Oatmeal is versatile, so start your oatmeal to-do list with a warm bowl of hot cereal but don't stop there.  (It's ok if you don't actually have an oatmeal to do list.)  Oatmeal is cost effective, and we all need that after countless holiday splurges.  Oatmeal is whole grain, so we can get more mileage out of our New Year's resolution to get healthier. Oatmeal lowers your cholesterol and may reduce your risk of heat disease, no really!

Quick Starting a Disaster Preparedness Plan for Your Family

© Darko Kovacevic |
You can take a few simple steps to be more prepared.  Really! It can be simple.  Most people don't give much thought at all to planning for emergencies.  They just do what everyone else does (like put jumper cables in the trunk and smoke detectors in their halls) and hope for the best.  Those ideas are a helpful, but you can easily do more.  Give it 10 minutes right now.  Grab a pencil and paper and let's get started.  (If you've already started a kit and a plan.  Great job!  Use this article to review, refresh and update your plan.)