safety

KN, p. 278 “Hurricane Season Opened June 1st”

Hurricane Michael, 2018

Hurricanes do BILLIONS of dollars in property and business damage every year. Wind and rain slam the coastal regions of the planet with a ferocity that man-made structures can’t survive. 

 

A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds above 74 miles per hour. Called typhoons and cyclones in other regions of the world, there’s no doubt that the challenge of living through ‘the big one’ should scare us all into taking precautions. And with good reason.

 

Even at level 1, the least powerful of hurricane categories, winds of up to 95mph can knock people off their feet, disintegrate roofs, and send debris flying through the air. Remember Katrina and the personal and economic devastation it inflicted in 2005? That was an over two hundred mile wide, level 5 storm, with shrieking winds up to 175mph, the most costly hurricane the U.S. has experienced. And it’s not even the largest hurricane on record. Windows blown out, buildings collapsed, vast low-lying areas underwater for weeks, many uninhabitable neighborhoods in the aftermath – that is the norm for such an enormous weather event.

 

Government agencies can help with re-establishing communications, getting water and clothing to the victims, and assisting with rescue efforts, but this can take weeks if roads are impassable or if manpower is limited. Enter volunteer groups – essential to any recovery and rebuilding process. Unfortunately, it can take months – sometimes years – before decent housing can be built for everyone who needs it. Even if homeowners can foot the bills for repairs, a shortage of skilled construction people and supply chain issues with construction materials themselves, puts a huge hold on any recovery efforts.

 

A friend of ours lived on other people’s couches for three years after Superstorm Sandy while battling insurance companies and waiting for builders to arrive.

The debris at the curb is a partial pile of former studs, cabinets, and flooring removed from inside the shell that remained standing. A six foot wall of sea water had surged down the street from the beach 1/4 mile away and poured through every access point in every house in its path.

The boardwalk that had been on that beach? Torn up by the force of the wind and water thrashing it, sand dunes fill the place where boards used to be.

 

More than one storm has left thousands of people homeless. Masses of people trudge toward refugee tent cities, in search of a safe place to sleep and eat. Power is gone after the big storms. Forget about food and fresh water. Superstorm Sandy occurred in late October when the temperature drops to forty degrees at night in the northeastern USA. There was no heat/power for weeks in some neighborhoods while power companies tried to get the grid back online. Many people had to rely on the kindness of complete strangers for bare necessities.

For the vacation destinations that depend almost exclusively on tourist dollars to support existing roads and housing, and count on food crops to feed the residents, storms can create a level of chaos and devastation that is difficult to come back from. After two major hurricanes within three years, an acquaintance abandoned his house in the Caribbean and left, never to return. Government officials told him the infrastructure in his section would take years to restore.

 

How can you prepare for hurricanes?
Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. Pouring rain, high winds, and tornadoes occur hundreds of miles inland from where a hurricane or tropical storm makes landfall. My Carolina cousin’s house is over 200 miles from the coast, but during Michael lost the roof and more. Plus, all the grass and topsoil surrounding the house washed away in the torrents of water flooding the streets. Gardens, trees, shrubs, flowers? Mostly gone, as also happened to farmers providing food for the area. Michael was a mere Class 2 hurricane when it reached that section of the State.

 

Make a Plan
Make sure everyone in your household knows and understands your hurricane plan, including work, child care, pets, food, water, evacuation, and changes to the daily routine.

 

Are you in an Evacuation Zone?

You may have to evacuate quickly if you live in an evacuation zone. Learn your evacuation routes and practice with your family and pets well before an actual storm hits. Investigate where you will stay if you can’t return home for a week or more. Follow the instructions from local emergency managers. They don’t make recommendations lightly.

 

Review Important Documents
Make sure your insurance policies and personal documents (such as ID) are current. Put copies in a safe deposit box at the bank or other secure location. A friend who lost everything in a fire had no backup documents. It took over six months to prove she was who she said she was in order to file claims, because there were thousands in the same situation and the system was overloaded.

 

Get your home ready
Clean the gutters, stow the outside furniture, hang hurricane shutters if you have them, or board up the windows.

 

Get your tech ready
Keep your cell phone charged when you know a hurricane is on its way. Consider buying backup charging devices for your electronics – you may need to use your laptop while the storm is passing, if wi-fi is working.

 

Help your neighbors
Help senior adults, or anyone else who may need assistance to get ready for the storm.

 

Supplies
Have enough supplies for your household, including food, water, medication, disinfectants, masks, pet supplies, etc. in your go bag or car trunk. After a hurricane, you may not have access to these supplies for days or even weeks.

 

Experience has shown that since we cannot change nature, the best plan is to get out of the way until storms move on or dissolve. If we evacuate before they hit, at least lives can be saved, if not property.

 

Whatever the type, natural disasters are overwhelming to the communities struck by them. Contact your church to see if it is doing a clothing/food/water collection and donate whatever you can. Ask if the church is sending a reconstruction team to one of the affected towns. Contact your local branch of Habitat for Humanity and ask what you can do to help as a part of their Disaster Relief Program.

For more information about preparedness in your region, check out your town’s website or call the city manager’s office to see if pamphlets or a what-to-do list are available. If that doesn’t exist, follow the local TV station’s coverage of approaching storms. If it’s a big one coming, there are usually shelters set up ahead of time and locations are mentioned on the air.

Stay safe and help keep the body count down. You can’t outrace these monster storms.

 

KN, p. 273 “On the Road: Traveling During the Pandemic”

A family member needed lots of help after surgery and since we had a couple of weeks of Covid down time, we volunteered to pitch in. The tricky part was that she lived in western Pennsylvania, and a last minute obligation meant that we had to stay overnight on the drive out there.

 

Overnight. On the road. During the Pandemic, when some restaurants would be closed and protocols would be different from previous trips for every single public rest stop.

 

We couldn’t merely toss clothes in the suitcases and hop in the car; we had to plan for all kinds of contingencies. Normally, we carry a handy AAA travel guide for the States in which we will travel. It lists hotels and restaurants by town, so when we’re ready to stop, we call from the road to make reservations for dining or hotels. This time, we had to call before we left the house since Sheila needs a walk-in shower and a place with an elevator. No tubs or stairs for us right now, and those requirements limited our hotel choices.

 

We discovered from the phone calls that breakfast was going to be problematic at the hotels. Breakfast buffets were a no-no. We could pick up go-bags at the front desk that contained a bagel and boiled eggs which was good for some happy travelers, but not for us. We elected to eat at a Denny’s we knew to be near our chosen hotel, in order to get hot food.

 

Restaurants all along the route required masks. Once we entered, we saw that every table had more space than usual between it and the next, and sometimes, empty tables had signs that said: ‘not available.’ In one place, the manager placed empty mop buckets on the ‘forbidden’ spots. Yup, a definite deterrent. We did need to use our surface wipes on the restaurant tables in two of the places, since the waitstaff missed quite a bit. BUT, the extra space was in some ways relaxing – less noise and no crowds are a plus.

 

The take-out places had decals on the floor that marked where you could stand to give your order and pick up your food. Not everyone followed the rules, but most complied.

 

The highway rest stops were cleaner and more organized than we had ever seen them. Areas in front of map displays were cordoned off and ‘no browsing’ was enforced. We told the staff members which maps we needed and they handed them to us. The vending machine operation seemed to be the same as always.

 

The hotels had contactless check-ins and checkouts, but a surprising touch at one was the seal on some doors to the rooms. The seals meant that the room had been sanitized after the last guest. The seal was broken only by using the key to gain access. Another plus? The hotel lobbies and rooms were cleaner than we’d ever seen them before. Not a smudge, dust bunny, or stray fingerprint anywhere. The hotel pools were open, but could only be used if reserved ahead of time; one family/group at a time.

 

These were our essential travel supplies that before the Pandemic would have been unnecessary:

 

  • Handi-wipes
  • Masks
  • Medical gloves
  • Surface wipes

 

We have returned, with mission accomplished, and have been tested as Covid-free, but we didn’t take sanitation for granted anywhere.

 

For other “On-the-Road” travel tips, check out:

 

Stay safe out there and have a great time!

 

 

KN, p. 129 “Christmas Shopping and Home Safety”

 

 

‘Tis the season for shopping, shopping and more shopping! Even with Black Friday, online stores, the Pandemic, and Cyber Monday thrown into the mix, the malls are still more crowded at this time of year than at any other.

 

Elbow to elbow, crowded.

Wait 30 minutes for a cold cup of coffee in the mall, crowded.

So much noise that you can’t hear the Muzak, crowded.

 

Unfortunately with the crowds, come a few pickpockets and pocketbook snatchers and package thieves. So, what can you do to cut down on the chances of getting robbed after you’ve slaved at your job to earn the Christmas money? Here are a few easy tips.

 

  • Gals, I know this is a tough one, but if you can…leave the pocketbook at home. If that can’t be worked out, take a pocketbook that can be worn with the strap across your body. Under no circumstances should you carry a pocketbook dangling from your hand while walking through the mall. At the very least, use a shoulder bag and rest the straps on your shoulder while holding onto it securely.

 

  • Guys, don’t put your wallet in your back pocket. That’s a pickpocket’s dream.

 

  • Don’t leave the cash register until you have put your cash and/or credit cards away. People behind you in a rush? Too bad. Give ‘em a big smile and let ‘em wait until you have put the money stuff away and your pocketbook is closed.

 

  • Try to do your shopping during the day – lunch hours are good and the stores are less crowded. If you are shopping after dark, go with a pal.

 

  • If you are buying lots of gifts and need to make trips to the car to unload packages, put them in the trunk. Bags in the backseat are an open invitation for a thief.

 

  • Use the restrooms in the stores where you are shopping (and have bought something). Much safer.

 

  • Stay off the cellphone in the parking lots. You need to stay alert to people that might be following you. If someone is following you, head straight back to the closest mall entrance and report the incident.

 

  • Park as close as possible to the well-lit entrances of the stores. If it’s after dark when you leave, ask a security guard to walk you to your car. Once you’re in the car, lock it right away and leave.

 

You’re done shopping and you’re home. What should you do to reduce the chances of getting burglarized?

 

  • Don’t put your Christmas tree in the front window for all to see. At least turn off the Christmas lights and close the curtains when you’re not home. Burglars case the neighborhoods this time of year for likely targets.

 

  • If you’re going skiing or to a beach for the holiday, cancel the paper and the mail. Either one of those piling up is a clear signal that nobody is home.

 

  • Contact the police department and let them know you’ll be away on vacation. Many towns have a neighborhood watch program and a patrol officer might check on the house while you’re gone.

 

  • Don’t hide spare keys under rocks, in flowerpots, or above door ledges.

 

  • Don’t post information about your trip on Facebook or Twitter or any other Social Media site until after you return. We’d love to see your photos of the trip, not the photos of the missing new TV and the burglarized house.

 

Above all, use common sense, stay safe, and enjoy the holidays!

 

*Photo by Patti Phillips

 

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