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National Preparedness Month, Weeks 4 & 5: “Practice For An Emergency”

Prep Month 1

National Preparedness Month has been observed in September since 2004 and has already reached its 10-year anniversary. The objective of this declared observance is to encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities. Some of these steps include building emergency supply kits, making a family emergency plan and communications plan, staying informed on disaster information and related risks, and taking advantage of opportunities to get involved in preparedness/response efforts. There are a number of exciting things going on in the preparedness community this month which can be found at http://www.ready.gov/september

The focus of National Preparedness Month Weeks 4 & 5 is on practicing for an emergency. Hopefully, you have done or will do your homework on gathering information about the hazards and/or potential disasters that could harm you or your family members. Perhaps you’ve taken that crucial step in disaster preparedness by building your emergency kit or “go bag” that was discussed last week (refer to last week’s post). And if you’ve really taken your preparedness seriously then you have probably developed an emergency plan for yourself and/or your family (see http://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan). But now what? One of the most important things you can do to validate your preparedness efforts is to practice them. So what does this mean exactly? How might you practice them and what elements should you focus on? Consider the following and get creative with it:

1)      Exercise your emergency plan with your family

a.  Identified evacuation routes (travel)

  •          Practice evacuating to the destinations you have identified by taking the routes you have identified in your plan.
  •          Time how long it takes.
  •          Understand traffic/road construction patterns at different times of day.
  •          Think about possible vulnerabilities of these routes and how they may be impassable (under/over bridges, overpasses, etc.) following a large disaster; in particular, for us southern Californians, a large earthquake.
  •           Drive alternate routes to arrive at the same destination.
  •            Ensure that am radio stations are preset in your car to those            stations that will provide  local disaster information; particularly regarding evacuation routes.

b.  Identified evacuation routes (in home)

  •         Practice the evacuation routes with the family to get outside the home.
  •         Make sure that nothing is obstructing these routes and that doors, windows, garage doors, etc. all open and function correctly.
  •         Test everybody’s knowledge of where the primary and backup meeting locations are outside the home and validate that they are still in safe; open places.
  •          Ensure that everybody has close-toed shoes accessible next to or near their bed to avoid walking over sharp objects.
  •           Time how long it takes for the family to evacuate and did they grab the things identified in the emergency plan (i.e. “go bag,” pets, etc.)

c.  Written emergency communications plan (see http://www.ready.gov/family-communications)

  •       Make sure everybody in the family has the contact information for the out-of-area point-of-contact to check-in with following a disaster. Likewise ensure the out-of-area point-of-contact has the contact information for those family members that will be calling. Validate all contact information is up-to-date.
  •       Call this out-of-area contact person and remind them that they are the primary point-of-contact identified in the communications plan. Also, consider identifying a back-up and tertiary. Make sure that you have a conversation with these back up contacts about this plan.
  •        Ensure that everybody knows what information to provide this person following a disaster (i.e. condition, location, needs, reunification status, etc.)
  •       Everybody send each other a “TEST Emergency” text message.

 

2)      Check your emergency kit or “go bag”:

  •       Pull everything out of you emergency kit and refresh yourself on what’s inside. Many people buy kits pre-packaged which is great but not everybody takes the time to go through it to see what’s inside and understand how everything works.
  •         Make sure others in your home know what’s on the inside and when these supplies might be used.
  •          Check the functionality of these supplies and replace/replenish batteries and anything else that need to be occasionally switched out or that may expire.
  •          Identify any other items that should be added to your kit and fill some of these gaps. The idea is to continuously improve your kit or “go bag” over time.
  •         Put your backpack on your back and wear it or hold it for a little while and get a feel for how heavy it is. Ask yourself whether or not you would be able to carry it for very long.

Testing and exercising the above aspects of your plan and supplies are important but can be made fun at the same time. You may choose to use a disaster scenario of your choice, activate your family’s practice run of this plan without any notice to them, or treat them to ice cream after your family has successfully “survived the zombie apocalypse.” It’s ok to add some humor to it and, in fact, this is one way in which many people learn and retain information the best. It is especially recommended to make these “dry runs” fun if you have small children in the house because this will get them used to and conditioned to some of the actions to be taken in a real emergency.

As we wind down National Preparedness Month, we hope that you go in to the month of October better prepared, even if just a little, for the next unexpected event that could impact you or your family.

Be Smart. Take Part. Prepare.

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National Preparedness Month, Week 3: “Build An Emergency Kit”

Go Bag

National Preparedness Month has been observed in September since 2004 and has already reached its 10-year anniversary. The objective of this declared observance is to encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities. Some of these steps include building emergency supply kits, making a family emergency plan and communications plan, staying informed on disaster information and related risks, and taking advantage of opportunities to get involved in preparedness/response efforts. There are a number of exciting things going on in the preparedness community this month which can be found at http://www.ready.gov/september

The focus of National Preparedness Month Week #3 is on building an emergency kit or “go bag.” Statistics show that approximately 83% of the U.S. population lives in an area that is vulnerable to at least one type of natural disaster yet only 16% of the American people claim they are prepared. So what about you? If you are reading this blog then you probably live in Southern California which means you definitely fall in to the 83% above. But are you inside or outside of that 16% circle? If you’re inside, great! However, there is always room for improvement when it comes to preparedness! If you’re outside, that’s ok because there is no better time than preparedness month to get started.

So, what exactly should an emergency kit or “go bag” actually contain? A brief search on the web will render a lot of different answers to this question but there are, undoubtedly, some common elements such as a backpack, food, water, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, hygiene products, and a weather-crank radio. These are just some “basics” to help get you through the next 72 hours following a disaster and may not suffice for whatever your personal needs may be. If you recall last week’s post we discussed the importance of personalizing your preparedness. Well, this certainly applies to your emergency kit or “go bag” in that there is no “one size fits all” solution. But my recommendation to you is to begin your kit by acquiring those common/universal items mentioned above. Then, once you’ve got these items begin to think is terms of personalization and ask yourself the following questions:

1)      What’s in my medicine cabinet (prescription medications, bandages, etc.)?

2)      What devices help me function (glasses/contacts, hearing aids, etc.)?

3)      What brings me comfort in times of distress (books, music, etc.)?

4)      Who depends on me (human or pet) and what are their needs?

The answers to these questions should help you get started with personalizing your emergency kit. Then, I would recommend using three sites when seeking additional guidance on developing your kit (FEMA, Orange County Emergency Preparedness, & American Red Cross):

http://www.ready.gov/kit

http://www.readyoc.org/prepare/kit.html

http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/get-kit

Once you have successfully built your emergency kit or “go bag” it is strongly recommended that you also create additional kits for your car and workplace. These may be the same or a modified versions of your home hit and may come a little later “down the road” in your preparedness efforts, but definitely something worth considering. Remember that preparing an emergency kit or “go bag” is similar to purchasing insurance in that you may never need it but, if you do, you will be glad you have it.

Be Smart. Take Part. Prepare.

iPhone Users: Download the new ZOTFinder App Now!

UC Irvine students, staff, and faculty: have you ever found yourself endlessly searching for a person, building, or department on campus? Not sure where the bookstore is located? Or the nearest Starbucks? Well we have the app for you!

Developed by a group of UCI students for the UCI community, there is finally an easy way to look for buildings on campus, look for a professor’s office location, get directions to a building, review key emergency response procedures, and  access important UCI phone numbers all from inside the app. You can even add layers to the ZOTFinder map to locate the nearest emergency evacuation assembly area, emergency blue light phone, and restroom. The best part of all, it’s completely free..

Download ZOTFinder in the iTunes store today:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/zotfinder/id915256719?mt=8

Android users: have no fear, the Android version is coming soon!!

 

ZOTFinder1 ZOTFinder3 ZOTFinder2

College Students: A Vulnerable Population that Doesn’t Make Headlines

imagesCAR13E3REmergency Preparedness Checklist

 

 

 

 

The fall semester has returned and although UC Irvine doesn’t start session for a few more weeks many students are getting themselves organized and prepared for another academic year. Likewise, many of our UC Irvine faculty and staff have sons and daughters that have already returned to college or are beginning their first year. In any event, college students, in particular those students that move great distances from home to attend school are a unique audience from a disaster preparedness standpoint. Some might even argue that college students are a vulnerable population as it relates to disasters and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. Think about it, college students typically have limited financial resources, a lack of sufficient living space (for supplies), the absence of reliable transportation, and oftentimes a heavy dependency on pre-paid services to meet their basic needs (i.e. meals, healthcare, etc.)  Do any of these sound familiar to our student population out there?

Although some of these inherent qualities of college life may place students at a greater level of vulnerability than the general population, there are certainly some proactive measures that can be taken to better prepare this audience to respond effectively to disasters while away at college. Some of these include:

  • Making sure they update their cell phone contacts and add an “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) number in their contact list. Students should keep in mind that cell phone service may be unreliable in the aftermath of a disaster. Texting or communicating via social media may be possible when phone calls are not.
  • These days, most colleges have emergency plans that outline procedures in the event of a natural or manmade disaster. Students and parents should check the college’s website to see if its plans are posted. If not, call the admissions officer to request a copy of the plan. Also, students should confirm that they are registered with the school’s emergency notification system. UC Irvine makes both its Emergency Operations Plan and Emergency Communications Plan available on the Zot Portal @

https://portal.uci.edu/uPortal/f/u30l1s6/p/webproxy-cms-file-view.u30l1n140/max/render.uP?pP_cmsUri=public%2FMainMenuEmergencyManagement.xml

Also, all students at UC Irvine are automatically signed up for Zot Alert (the campus mass notification system) when they register for classes. Anybody else that is interested in signing up that has not yet done so can register @ http://www.oit.uci.edu/zotalert/

  • Students should prepare an emergency information sheet listing the names, locations and phone numbers for family members, physicians, medical insurance, and other important resources.
  • Parents should check with their homeowners’ insurance agency to see if their policy covers their student’s belongings at school. If not, they may need to purchase an additional rental policy to cover items in their student’s dorm room.
  • Having a disaster readiness kit on hand can go a long way toward keeping students’ safe and feeling secure in a challenging situation. A kit can be as simple as a backpack containing items like a flashlight, a small radio, extra batteries, a solar-powered or hand-cranked cell phone charger, energy bars, water and first aid supplies. Students are advised to keep their emergency kit under the bed or on the top shelf of a closet where it will be easily accessible in an emergency.
  • Ready-made disaster kits designed for students can be ordered from the American Red Cross at www.redcrossstore.org. Information on compiling your own disaster readiness kit is available on the web at www.fema.gov.
  • A family communications plan should be developed between the student and his/her family so that he or she will know how/where to get in touch with their family at any time, or where to leave a message if communications between home and school are disrupted.
  • For more information on building a basic disaster kit and developing a family communications plan, go to www.ready.gov.

Remember that weathering a disaster can be similar to passing a challenging midterm in that it requires doing your homework, taking initiative, and being prepared for anything covered on the exam.

Be Smart. Take Part. Prepare.

National Preparedness Month, Week 2: “Tailoring Preparedness to Meet Your Needs”

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National Preparedness Month has been observed in September since 2004 and has already reached its 10-year anniversary. The objective of this declared observance is to encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities. Some of these steps include building emergency supply kits, making a family emergency plan and communications plan, staying informed on disaster information and related risks, and taking advantage of opportunities to get involved in preparedness/response efforts. There are a number of exciting things going on in the preparedness community this month which can be found at http://www.ready.gov/september

The focus of National Preparedness Month Week #2 is on tailoring your preparedness plans to suit your individual and family needs. Preparing for a disaster is similar to preparing for a family vacation in that no two families are going to pack the same types of items, brands of items, or number of items. All families are different and, therefore, have specific needs. These needs may be related to personal hygiene, a medical condition, dietary restrictions, ages of children/infants, disabilities, elderly, pets, or anything else that may require you to take some specific preparations to ensure these needs are met. If you have purchased a standard emergency response kit or pulled some general disaster preparedness plans/information off the internet you are on the right track! But now it’s time to take that next step, if you haven’t done so already, by augmenting these kits and plans so that their suitable for you and your family. To help you brainstorm and get you started please see the suggestions below:

  • Households with children should understand the school’s plans and where the children will stay safe if adults in the household need to shelter in other locations until the immediate hazard is over.
  • Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing should make sure that they can receive emergency alerts and warnings in an accessible form.
  • Individuals who require accessible transportation should work with their local paratransit and disability service providers to make an emergency plan.
  • People who speak languages other than English may need to identify sources of alerts and warnings and information about community plans in other languages.
  • People without vehicles should know local plans for public transportation and may need to make arrangements for transportation from local government, organizations or others.
  • Households with infants should plan for food and supplies for infants and nursing mothers.
  • People with dietary needs should have an adequate emergency food supply to meet their needs.
  • People who take medications should maintain an adequate supply, and copies of their prescriptions.
  • People with service animals should work with local emergency management to ensure that their service dog will be admitted to shelters with them during emergencies (as required by law) and should make sure their plan kit supplies include food and other items for their service animal.
  • People who require power for medical or other assistive devices should consider how they will maintain the use of these devices if there is a loss of power. Keep extra batteries for small devices (hearing aids, cell phones for example) and consider obtaining and learning how to use a generator for home use and carrying a charger when away from home, especially when loss of power may jeopardize health or safety.

For more information on developing preparedness kits and materials please visit www.ready.gov or   http://www.readyoc.org/

There are certainly some standard items that everybody should acquire in their preparedness efforts such as adequate food/water supply, flashlight, batteries, radio, first aid kit, etc., however, it’s typically those non-standard items that will make the difference between merely surviving a disaster and effectively getting through it.

National Preparedness Month, Week 1: “Reconnecting With Family After Disaster”

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National Preparedness Month has been observed in September since 2004 and has already reached its 10-year anniversary. The objective of this declared observance is to encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities. Some of these steps include building emergency supply kits, making a family emergency plan and communications plan, staying informed on disaster information and related risks, and taking advantage of opportunities to get involved in preparedness/response efforts. There are a number of exciting things going on in the preparedness community this month which can be found at http://www.ready.gov/september

During National Preparedness Month we will be looking at different themes each week related to preparedness. Week 1 focuses on developing strategies to reconnect with your family following a disaster. There are a number of potential scenarios, both natural and manmade, that can occur when we least expect it and we may not be together with our loved ones when they do. Ready.gov offers the following tips for developing a plan to reconnect with your family, if separated, when disaster strikes:

  • Identify a friend or relative living out-of-state who family members can notify they are safe. Make sure to tell this person that you are listing them as your emergency contact.
  • Make sure every family member knows the phone number of your emergency contact and has a way to contact them – a cell phone, prepaid phone card or coins. If you have a cell phone, you can program the emergency contact as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone.
  • Make sure family members know how to use text messaging. It may be easier to communicate by text message during a disaster.
  • Sign-up for alerts. Many communities have systems that will send text messages or emails about bad weather, road closures and other emergencies.       For those that live, work or play in Orange County please visit Alert OC to sign up for these notifications at www.alertoc.org
  • Develop a family communications plan using the templates at the following site: http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/34330
  • Register yourself on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website following a disaster or search for loved ones using this service https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php This service is available if you find yourself in an American Red Cross Shelter following a disaster and can be a very effective way of communicating your safety and well-being with concerned family members; particularly when other means of communication are unavailable.

For additional preparedness information specific to Orange County please visit Ready OC @ http://www.readyoc.org/

For additional preparedness information specific to UC Irvine please visit our page on the ZotPortal @ https://portal.uci.edu/uPortal/f/u30l1s6/p/webproxy-cms-file-view.u30l1n140/max/render.uP?pP_cmsUri=public%2FMainMenuEmergencyManagement.xml

Be Smart. Take Part. Prepare.

Don’t Be A “Seismic Statistic”

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This past weekend over a million people in northern California received a “wake up call” (literally) on how important emergency preparedness really is. As the rest of us logged on to the internet and turned on the T.V, in the hours to follow, we were reminded of why this great state has been labeled “earthquake country.” A 6.0 magnitude earthquake ruptured near Napa, CA; a historic city known for its gorgeous scenery and fine wine, at 3:20am Sunday morning. Although there have been no reported fatalities caused by this natural disaster, hospitals treated over 150 injured and the initial estimates of damage exceed 1 billion dollars. Nearly 100 residences and businesses are deemed uninhabitable and many of these home and business owners had not purchased earthquake insurance. Wineries and other businesses alike have reported losing significant amounts of product that will not only need to be cleaned up and recovered from physically but financially as well. The following link delivers a pretty good aerial perspective of the damage shot by a drone:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQhYbfIz0n4

For more information about the earthquake please see the following article:

http://www.kcra.com/news/usgs-60-earthquake-shakes-northern-california/27703718#!bJZLfN

The occurrence of this earthquake is, without a doubt, a catastrophe that couldn’t have been prevented or predicted. But now that it’s happened and us Californian’s have been “re-awakened” to the risks of living here there should be no excuse to taking, at minimum, those basic preparedness steps recommended by experts. Unfortunately however, statistics prove that the majority of people considering earthquake preparedness today (two days following the 6.0 quake) will take little to no steps preparing for the next occurrence. Over the next several weeks and months as news headlines change and social media finds new interest the reality of our risk here in California will, once again, fade in to the backdrop just as it always has before. So, we want to strongly encourage you to avoid becoming a “Seismic Statistic.” The risks are real and there are real strategies you can take to mitigate these risks for you and your family. The longer you wait to follow through on these good intentions the less likely you will be to ever do so. It’s just a reality of the busy culture we live in. Please visit the following links to get started:

http://www.readyoc.org/

http://www.ready.gov/

If you’ve already taken the basic personal preparedness steps then now is the time to increase your supplies, review your plans, explore purchasing earthquake insurance, or speak with your loved ones about the importance of preparedness. Having earthquakes as our primary major disaster risk in California acts as a double-edged sword in that while a devastating earthquake occurs very infrequently, compared to tornados in the Midwest or hurricanes in the southeast, they tend to make us forget that they ever existed to begin with. Their consequences are grave and we should approach our preparedness efforts with this in mind.

Back to School Safety

School Safety

Back to school time is an exciting time of year for some kids and a drag for others. It usually means no more staying up late playing video games, sleeping in, or lounging around the house barefoot all day. However, many children look forward to new classes, meeting new friends, and a fresh start. Whether the summer is spent vacationing or staycationing, most kids experience a routine shift during those few summer months that they will inevitably have to transition back out of come the beginning of the school year. As a part of this transition back into a structured routine, therein lies an excellent opportunity to sit down with your child, dependent, or loved one and help them “sharpen” those ever so important school safety practices to ensure their protection and well-being.

The National Safety Council provides some helpful tips and checklists that should be reviewed with children regarding their travels to & from school as well as their time spent at school. Some of these topics include: distracted walking, bus safety, pedestrian safety, school bullying, playground safety, and ergonomic-related issues with heavy backpacks, books, etc. To view these safety tips and more please visit: http://www.nsc.org/safety_home/SafetyObservances/Pages/BackToSchoolSafety.aspx A new school year lends itself to new opportunities for kids and it is important that we lay the foundation of safety in order for them to pursue a successful year.

Fall = Leaves, School, Football, & Wildfires

Fire Danger Sign

It is that time of year again when the leaves begin to turn, children return to school, and pre-season face painters prepare for yet another hopeful pigskin season. Unfortunately, it is also that time of year; particularly for us southern Californians, when the Santa Ana winds erupt and fire fuel levels peak. We caught an early glimpse of the 2014 wildfire season potential earlier this year in May when multiple fires broke out in San Diego County. And, more recently, we have been watching CAL Fire battle several fires up in northern California for the past few weeks. The experts agree that the prognosis for this wildfire season is not a good one; however, there is consensus that what you do in order to make your home more resilient from this threat matters significantly. Cal Fire explains what these resilience-building measures are in their “Ready, Set, Go” campaign that can be watched in a public service announcement at the following link: http://www.readyforwildfire.org/  The PSA goes in to greater detail but below are some key points of the “Ready, Set, Go” campaign:

Ready:

  • Creating defensible space around your home.
  • Hardening your home by using fire resistant construction materials on the exterior walls, roofing, and rain gutters.
  • Cleaning up leaf-litter and brush in and around the plants and shrubs next to your home.

Set:

  • Create a Wildfire Action Plan with your family identifying escape routes, meeting locations, & what you will bring with you when you evacuate, etc.

Go:

  • Stay informed by watching the news/listening to the radio.
  • Evacuate and evacuate early once warning has come from fire/law enforcement officials.

Because Orange County’s geography is so diverse, many of us do not live in an area that is necessarily prone to wildfire danger; however, the majority of us probably know somebody that does. So, take a moment to educate yourself on wildfire resilience at the website above so you can provide some safety tips to that friend or relative the next time you speak with them. The website also provides recommendations for creating a Wildfire Action Plan Checklist. Like all natural disasters, wildfires are an inevitable part of life; however, it’s what we choose to do (or neglect to do) that influences how we may be impacted.

For more information on emergency management at UC Irvine, please contact Anne Widney, Emergency Services Manager at awidney@uci.edu.

What’s In Your Suitcase?

vacation preparedness

As many of our UCI faculty, staff and students head in to the final stages of summer, many of us are preparing for that much needed vacation. This can include securing pet-sitters, setting out-of-office replies, choosing which clothes/items to bring and making those logistical arrangements for when you arrive. All of these things take time and you are willing to invest this time to ensure that your homes and lives are prepared for your departure and to lay the groundwork for an enjoyable trip. But how many of these arrangements are made under the assumption that your vacation will be “Sunny and 75” with little to no disruption or cause for contingencies?

Whether traveling to another part of the state, country, or outside the U.S. there are many possibilities for disasters, both natural and manmade, that you should be aware of and prepare for before you leave. A few travel preparedness tips include:

  • Make photocopies of essential documents (i.e. identification card/passport, prescriptions, insurance card, etc.) and consider laminating, if possible.
  • Communicating itineraries with non-traveling family members as well as how and where to contact you.
  • Develop a communications plan within the group you are traveling with.
  • Pack a travel-size emergency supply kit with snacks, water, first aid kit, flashlight, etc.
  • Check the weather of your destination before you leave.
  • Become aware of your destination’s vulnerability to natural disasters as well as any volatile political or social issues currently taking place there.

These are just a few examples of things you may consider. For a complete list of travel preparedness tips please visit FEMA’s website at: http://www.community.fema.gov/connect.ti/readynpm/messageshowthread?threadid=47950

Also, please see the Department of State Travel Warning page at the following link as a great resource to reference when you are planning on traveling abroad: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings.html

Many of these simple travel preparedness plans can be easily adopted as they align with what you’re already doing in preparation for your trip. Also, these tips can help reduce the inherent stress that develops when preparing to leave. Remember that although you may be on vacation, the looming threat of disasters and emergencies never take a break.

For more information on emergency management at UC Irvine, please contact Anne Widney, Emergency Services Manager at awidney@uci.edu.