The only difference between adventure and disaster is preparedness.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Another Winter Weather Advisory Tonight

A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect from now until noon tomorrow. Rain and snow will continue tonight through Tuesday morning. Up to an inch of snow is possible on the valley floor, two to four inches are possible above 500 feet. Check the National Weather Service page here for all the latest.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Winter Weather Advisory Tonight

From the Portland National Weather Service

A storm system originating in the gulf of Alaska is likely to bring heavy snow to the mountains of NW Oregon and SW Washington (specifically Cowlitz County) Sunday through Monday. Snow is expected to begin as early as tonight in SW WA, the prospects for heavier snow will spread down from North to South later Sunday through Monday. Snow levels will once again be very low with they system. The Hazardous Weather Advisory will be in effect from midnight tonight until 8:00 a.m. Sunday.

*Timing: Snow is expected to develop late tonight and continue into Sunday morning with accumulations about an inch or less at lower elevations, up to 2 inches above 1000 feet.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What to do if you hit black ice

When you are driving in icy conditions, do not let Jesus Take The Wheel, no matter what Carrie Underwood says. Take these tips from

When the temperature drops, the winter nuisance known as black ice forms and cars crowd the ditches. Learn some tips for combatting black ice so that your commute lands you at your office and not waiting for a tow.

*Black ice is tricky because it is invisible, which means that people often do not reduce their speed until they hit their first patch. Unfortunately, hitting black ice at too fast a speed even once can be enough to lose control of your vehicle. If you know that the temperature has dropped below freezing or may be hovering around that point, automatically reduce your speed at intersections, on and off-ramps, bridges and other places black ice is likeliest to form.

*Maintain a larger than average following distance. If you do hit a patch of black ice it is going to take you longer than normal to stop, and giving yourself more space than you usually do between yourself and the car in front of you can prevent a rear-end accident.

*When you do brake, ease onto the pedal slowly but firmly. Stomping on the brake can easily make you lose control of your car.

*If you drive a lighter vehicle, consider putting something heavy in your trunk suck as a large bag of cat litter or sand to help weigh your car down and give you more traction. The bonus of using these two materials is that if you do get stuck, they can also be removed from your trunk and spread on the ground to provide extra traction on ice.

*Living in a cold-weather climate where black ice situations are possible means that you should always have a winter survival or safety kit in your car for if you do have car trouble and have to wait it out in the cold for help. Energy bars, water, and a blanket for extra warmth are all good items to have in your car throughout the winter months just in case.

Also, check out this link for a video on what to do if you hit an ice patch.

Getting rid of ice--Macgyver Style

Should you ever find yourself out of de-icer in inclement weather such as this, check out these Macgyver-style alternatives thanks to the good folks at The Consumerist website.

The big batch of winter wrath this week has caused a run on basic supplies at the hardware stores. So what if the shelves are empty where the salt usually sit? Grab a bag, box, jar or bottle of one of these alternative ice and snow melting supplies instead.

•Calcium chloride
•Alfalfa meal - fertilizer
•Sand - absorbs sunlight and adds traction
•Water softener solt
•Bleach (highly corrosive, use sparingly)
•Sugar - like salt, it lowers the melting point
•Baking soda - it's a kind of salt!
•Concentrated isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol (kills grass)
•Epsom Salt/Magnesium Sulfate
•Ammonium sulfate - look for it in fertilizer (damages concrete)
•Calcium magnesium acetate - sold under brand names like "Quad melt" and "Premiere Ice Melter"
•Magnesium chloride - ask for it by name
•Potassium acetate - sold under "Ice Clear" (corrosive)
•Potassium chloride (damages concrete)
Salt only melts ice, by the way, it does not melt snow.

We here at DEM do not necessarily advise you to go out and buy all of these things as you might end up on a terrorist watch list, but in a pinch it's good to know there are other alternatives! (you can also use kitty litter)

Emergency Planning--Dr. Suess Style

Next Wednesday is Dr. Suess' birthday and in honor of this auspicious occasion, I would like to talk about emergency food storage in the manner that Dr. Suess would discuss it. I am a picky eater, I'm getting better (as in, I no longer only order off the children's menu) but I'm still not sure that I would eat some of the "emergency rations" that come in some emergency kits. I know, I know, if I was hungry enough I would eat anything (case-in-point: reduced fat frozen "entrees"), but why punish myself or my family? That's why I have a sweet little butane burner that is rated for indoor use, a case of extra butane and a selection of foods that can be made on one burner with no electricity. Why would I subject myself to canned meat, Coast Guard food pellets or protein bars when the wonders of Velveeta Shells and Cheese are right at my finger tips?! Anyway, happy birthday to Dr. Suess, this one's for you!

Powdered Eggs and Spam
I do not like powdered eggs and spam
I do not like them DEM-I-Am
I will not eat them after a flood
I would not eat them if I was stuck in mud
I will not eat them in a quake
I would not eat them, I want a steak
I would not eat them in a storm
I will not eat them in any form
That is why I have a plan
A stove, some butane and not canned ham
I have a pot, I have a pan
I have a burner, I could make some flan
Well, ok, that’s a bit of a stretch
However, some nice soup I could certainly fetch
Some pancakes, some noodles, some chili with beans
Eating lousy food in an emergency? There’s just no need.
I do so like emergency plans
Thank you, thank you DEM-I-AM!

Nisqually Quake--10 years later

From the Washington State Emergency Management Division

February 28th will mark the 10 year anniversary of the 6.8 magnitude Nisqually Quake. According to the Washington Military Department, overall damage from the quake to public facilities, businesses and homes totaled between $1 billion to $4 billion according to damage estimates. Although centered in south Puget Sound, Nisqually earthquake damage was reported in as far east as Walla Walla. The Emergency Management Division (WEMD) of the Washington Military Department provided more than $150 million in assistance under the federal Stafford Act Disaster Declaration.

Overall, Washington is better prepared today for a major earthquake than in 2001. However, major challenges remain. Nisqually was not the “Big One, and based on the best and most current research, Washington could experience much larger and more damaging earthquakes.
The Washington State Seismic Safety Committee is in the middle of a three-year program called “The Resilient Washington State Initiative.” When completed, the program will outline our current resiliency to the state’s earthquake threats; identify specific goals to protect human life, property and economic recovery following an earthquake; recommend policies to the Governor / Legislature and identify performance measures to achieve those goals. For additional information about the Committee and “the Resilient Washington State Initiative,” click:

Public interest in earthquakes ebbs and flows depending on major earthquake stories in the news. There is probably more awareness today around how to prepare than 10 years ago, but individuals need to take recommended actions to ensure that they and their loved ones are self sufficient for a period of time following an earthquake. Small disasters, like the severe snowstorm last November, reminds us that we often don’t take action until the last minute. But earthquakes are a no-notice event.
More information on earthquake preparedness activities is available at:

I was learning the intricacies of Shakespearean prose when the earthquake struck. What were you doing?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Weather Advisory Remains in Effect

From the Portland National Weather Service

...Snow will continue to impact SW WA throughout this evening. Snow showers are diminishing except along the I-5 Corridor from Kalama to Castle Rock. Expect showers to be spotty through the remainder of the evening elsewhere then taper off tonight as drier and even colder air moves into the region.
The Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect this evening. Moderate snow showers will continue along the I-5 corridor this evening before tapering off. Weather Spotters have reported over 4 inches of snow in the last 4 hours in Longview. An additional inch or two is still possible from Kalama to Castle Rock.
Visibilities will be reduced to a quarter mile at times. Roadways are icy and snow covered resulting in slick driving conditions. Temperatures will fall into the upper teens tonight and will cause widespread re-freezing problems on area roadways.

Bottom line: If you don't have to drive...DON'T! If you careful out there!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Snow Update #2

With the low pressure system moving a little slower than expected, the timing of cold air and more widespread snow showers has been delayed a few hours. It now appears that snow down to the valley floor may be delayed until the 7-10 PM timeframe.

  • For the Wednesday afternoon commute in the valley the precipitation will be showery in nature with some areas getting rain and snow showers at times and other areas no precipitation.
  • Between 7pm and 10pm this evening, the precipitation will turn to all snow showers over most areas as colder air moves into the region. Although the precipitation character will be more showery, 1 to 2 inches of snow can be expected to the valley floor during the overnight hours.
  • An additional 1 to 2 inches can be expected on Thursday. Some higher snow amounts are possible (3 to 7 inches) in higher elevation locations where the valley meets the foothills.
  • Snow showers will continue until around midnight Thursday.
  • On Friday and Saturday, the region will be dry, but remain under a very cold air mass with low temperatures in the single digits in the mountains and teens to lower 20s in the valley. High temperatures on Friday and Saturday will be in the 30s.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winter Storm Warning

A Winter Storm Warning for heavy snow mean severe winter weather conditions are expected or occuring. Significant low elevation snowfall is expected late Wednesday through Friday morning.

* Timing -- some light accumulating snow will be possible in the higher elevations early Wednesday morning. Heavier snow will begin Wednesday afternoon (possibly around 2:00 in Cowlitz County) and continuing into Thursday.

* Accumulation/Snow levels - a trace up to 3 inches of snow are possible early Wednesday morning in the higher terrain.

* Two to four inches are expected later Wednesday through Thursday down to the valley floor.

* Impacts - roadways may become icy and snow covered resulting in slick driving conditions which may significantly impact commuting both Wednesday and Thursday.

Snow Update

Here is the latest from the weather service:

  • Low elevation snow expected Wednesday into Thursday. Possibility of snow Wednesday morning (higher elevations), main snow event Wednesday evening through Thursday
  • Main snow event may begin as early as Wednesday afternoon to affect afternoon/evening commute.
  • Very cold overnight temperatures expected Thursday-Saturday
  • High avalanche danger in Cascades
  • Expect winter driving conditions Wednesday evening and Thursday
  • Cold arctic air expected to stay into Friday/Saturday

DEM will update as we get more information, you can view weather alerts at NWS-Portland

Cowlitz County Dive Rescue News

The Cowlitz County Dive Team is starting a donation/sponsorship drive to the residents and businesses of Cowlitz County. The dive team is a group of very dedicated individuals who invest their own time and money on personal equipment in order to be a part of this life-saving, non-profit organization. The dive team uses donated funds to purchase, maintain and update team equipment; to stay current with training in new techniques/procedures regarding saving lives in emergency situations; and continued education for kids through classrooms, safety fairs, life jacket safety, hypothermia and the hazards related to our local waters. For more information on becoming a donator or sponsor of the Cowlitz County Dive Team please call the Cowlitz County DEM office at 360-577-3130 or go to the Dive Team website . We appreciate your support of this very valuable resource in our County.

The Cowlitz County Dive Team is always looking for dedicated individuals interested in serving the citizens of Cowlitz County. You do not necessarily have to be a diver, positions are available in Surface Support and Line Tending as well as Certified Divers. If you are interested in becoming a member call Cowlitz County DEM at 360-577-3130 or go to the dive team website .

Thank you for your support!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Snow Day?

Just finished a weather briefing from the National Weather Service - Portland. Here are the highlights:

  • Unseasonably cold weather system approaching this week bringing the likelihood of low elevation snow.
  • Transition into a colder pattern. Freezing level is currently at 1,500' to 2,000', will be lowering to valley floor by Wednesday/Wednesday evening.
  • There is a potential for 3-5" on Wednesday. The most likely scenario is for 2-3".
  • Weather briefings will continue as this system gets closer and we will keep you updated on the latest changes.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Just Because You Can't Feel It....

Doesn't mean it's not worrisome! Seismologists have noted that the earth under Mt. St. Helens is still rattling at times following Monday's 4.3 magnitude earthquake, though most of the quakes are too small to be felt. For more details check out the article on the Daily News website here.

Experts contend that the movement is not due to volcanic activity, but that really doesn't make me feel any better about the situation.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mass Care, Feeding & Sheltering Class

The SW WA Red Cross is putting on a free training for churches that are interested in becoming a certified Red Cross Shelter Site during a major disaster. This is not only a valuable training, but a requirement to be an officially recognized and supported Red Cross Shelter. The class will be held at the LifeWorks Building at 906 New York Street in Longview on Friday, March 11th from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and March 12th from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. To register please contact Kelly Anderson at or (360) 693-5821 x105.

Do you heat your home with oil?

If you are a homeowner heating your home with an oil furnace, check out this website:

Home owner's insurance policies typically do not cover the environmental cleanup costs that result from leaking fuel oil tanks. Sometimes those costs are substantial.

The Washington State Pollution Liability Insurance Agency (PLIA) has a program that can help with the cleanup costs - but the home owner must be registered with PLIA before any spill to the environment occurs. So, if you have an oil tank, register today!

To find out more, visit the Washington State Pollution Liability Insurance Agency website at or contact your State Dept of Ecology Regional Office.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cold Weather Update

Obviously the groundhog was wrong because the weather we are experiencing is less than spring-like. See the update below from the Portland National Weather Service--our premier prognosticators of potential precipitation.

The Pacific Northwest remains under the influence of a very cold trough of low pressure that will continue to spread bands of rain and snow showers across the area through early Friday.
On Thursday, February 17, vertical temperature profiles from various models indicate the column of air will be cold enough in the morning hours to support snow to the valley floor.

Any bands of moisture rotating across the region will likely produce snowfall, which may accumulate in some locations. One of the high resolution weather models indicate a narrow, but fairly strong band of precipitation will rotate over the area early Thursday morning which may produce a few inches of snow. At this point in time, model forecasts indicate this band of moisture will move over the north Oregon Coast Range and Willapa Hills into the lower Columbia Region affecting parts of Tillamook, Clatsop, Columbia, Washington, Wahkiakum, Clark and Cowlitz counties and perhaps western Multnomah County. Confidence is not high on the location of this band of moisture as it could move several miles west or east of this area.
Some details are listed below:

• Low elevation rain and snow showers will continue through the remainder of Wednesday over northwest Oregon and southwest Washington. Snow may briefly fall to the valley floor in heavier showers.
• On Thursday morning, the atmosphere will be cold enough to support snow to the valley floor. Any precipitation falling over the region will likely fall as snow, although moisture availability will become limited over many areas as the day progresses. There is potential for a strong band of precipitation to move over the North Coast Range and Willapa Hills into the lower Columbia Region on Thursday morning, which may produce a few inches of snow accumulation.
Please monitor the weather forecast closely over the next 24 to 36 hours for an advisories or statements regarding this storm. You can visit our web page at for more information.

So, in summary, it might snow Thursday morning. Please adjust accordingly.

Way to Go Castle Rock!

A big round of applause to Castle Rock for being the second city on the West Coast to have their levees federally certified. FEMA now requires that all municipalities be able to certify that their levees can withstand a 100-year flood event. The certification process is exhaustive and can be costly, but Castle Rock Public Works took the initiative and made it happen. For more information, check out the Daily News article here.

Now Castle Rock not only boasts a giant rock, the best pizza on Earth and an illustrious graduate of their fine learning institution (me), but they have first rate flood protection. Way to go guys!

Snow Way!

From the Portland National Weather Service:





Monday, February 14, 2011

More Quake Info

For more information on today's earthquake and the recent swarms of earthquakes near Mt. St. Helens, click here to see the article from The Daily News. Hopefully these are just little "reminder rumblings" to remind us to review our emergency plans and make sure our disaster supply kits are up-to-date (and that they actually exist in reality and not in the oh-man-i-gotta-do-that-someday corner of our minds.)

Thunderstorms ahead...

This isn't specifically for our county, but we may see some residual rain and wind from this storm.

The National Weather Service in Portland has issued a:

* Severe Thunderstorm Warning for... northwestern Clatsop County in northwest Oregon... northwestern Wahkiakum County in southwest Washington... southern Pacific County in southwest Washington...

* until 330 PM PST.

* At 314 PM PST... National Weather Service Doppler radar indicated a severe thunderstorm capable of producing damaging winds in excess of 60 mph. This storm was located 14 miles southwest of Warrenton... or 19 miles southwest of Astoria... and moving northeast at 60 mph.

* Other locations the severe thunderstorm will be near include...
Warrenton... Clatsop Spit... Astoria... Cape Disappointment and Ilwaco...

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

This is a dangerous storm. If you are in its path... prepare immediately for damaging winds... destructive hail... and deadly cloud to ground lightning. People outside should move to a shelter...preferably inside a strong building but away from windows.

Don't Be Out of the Loop!

Did you NOT know about this morning's earthquake? Were you the last to know Darth Vader was Luke's father? Were you the last one picked at dodgeball? Well, don't be left out in the dark anymore. If you were following us on Twitter you would have been notified within minutes! If you are a member of the Twitter Nation, you can find us by typing @CowlitzDEM. If you are not a member and have no desire to be, you can still look at any updates by clicking here or typing in Better yet, you can get Twitter messages sent directly to your cell phone! Simply text Follow CowlitzDEM in the body of the text and send it to 40404. You will then receive any alerts that are sent out from our office via Twitter. It will be received on your phone as an incoming text. We are careful to only send out important emergency information, so we will not inundate your inbox with our daily goings-on or what we ate for lunch (which was, by the way, a Lean-Cuisine pizza. I'd say the "cuisine" label is a bit of an overstatement). Anyway, should you tire of our information, just text Unfollow CowlitzDEM to 40404. We can't guarantee that you will be picked first at dodgeball, but at least you'll have current emergency information to talk about while you're waiting.

Valentine's Day Quake

For more information on today's earthquake, click here. Surprisingly, we didn't feel it down here in the basement. Did you?
UPDATE: From Washington State Emergency Management Division: The quake has been re-examined and is now listed as a magnitude 4.3 at a depth of 3 miles. It is still believed that the quake was tectonic, not volcanic.
How did we here at DEM not feel that? We must have a case of the Mondays.

Did you feel it?

Our corner of the world just experienced a small earthquake, a magnitude 3.3, six miles NNW of Mt. St. Helens. Stay tuned for more info.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

In Like a Lion?

March is supposed to come "in like a lion",'s only February! Well, OK, it's really not a huge storm so maybe this is just practice.

The weather service advised us that "after a relatively benign weather period which lulled the area into tranquility, Mother Nature will shake things up again". She appears to be doing just that with a little surprise wind advisory. Cowlitz County currently has a Wind Advisory in effect until 10 p.m. this evening. Winds gusting to 40-50 mph have already been reported at Portland and Salem airports and they are expected to continue throughout this evening.

In the higher terrain near the coastal mountains (northwest corner of Cowlitz County) higher sustained winds of 35-45, with gusts up to 70 mph are expected. This small section of our county has a High Wind Warning, as well as Wahkiakum and Pacific Counties.

Gusty winds may result in downed trees or tree limbs which could in turn cause power outages. Now would be a good time to familiarize yourself with our preparedness information - Windstorms, Power Outages and Home Generator Safety would be my recommendations for your reading pleasure. Stay warm and stay safe!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Small Shake-ups Rattling Our Area

There was a magnitude 3.2 earthquake in the San Juan Island region of Washington yesterday around 8:30 a.m. A few hours later a magnitude 4.7 and then 5.2 registered off the Oregon Coast. Both areas are located on the Juan de Fuca Plate. If you are interested in finding out about the latest earthquakes, be sure to bookmark the USGS website, which I find to be equal parts interesting and worrisome.

The Survival Bunker

Does anyone ever read these posts and think, "I need emergency supplies, but don't know where to get them."? Does anyone ever read these posts? Anyway, if you are looking for high-quality emergency preparedness supplies from a local retailer, check out The Survival Bunker! You can visit their store at 447 N. First Street, Suite 110 in Kalama (across the street from the post office) or check them out online at The Survival Bunker is more than just emergency supplies, they also sell home security equipment, silver and gold coin sets and more. Plus, if you visit them soon you will get free waterproof matches with every purchase!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stay Productive in a Power Outage

copied from

Here are some great tips from on staying productive during a power outage.

The Eastern half of the US is gearing up for a massive winter storm, and we're preparing for the worst. Here's how to stay productive during the impending Snowpocalypse.

Apart from the annoying cold and all the white fluffy stuff, the biggest potential inconveniences that go hand-in-hand with a major snowstorm include power outages or internet outages. Here's what to do if you wake up tomorrow without power or internet.

Preparing for a Power Loss
As the icy winds of Hoth blow through your town, they can destroy power lines, overload transformers, and otherwise do a whole lot of damage to the electricity grid. You don't want to wait until you wake up without power to start worrying about it though, so prepare right now with these tips.

Charge Up Your Devices the Night Beforehand
If you've got a nice supply of laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices in your house, plug them in now and let them charge up as long as you can. Avoid using them unplugged tonight so you don't forget to plug them back in overnight, and make sure they're powered off (or saving battery in sleep mode) so they don't start draining as soon as the power dies.

Charge Up Those Extra Batteries
You probably can't run out and buy extra batteries right now, but if you've got some extra ones lying around, whether they be regular batteries or extended batteries, don't forget to charge those up, too. We all know how much today's smartphones drain battery, so you'll need all the juice you can get.

Dig Out Your Old Phones
Chances are, you've got at least one or two (if not several) old phones buried in the basement. Dig out as many as you can find, and charge them up. If your smartphone dies early on in the day, you'll want other phones you can rely on—even if they're just regular feature phones. Lots of us have ditched our landlines, but if you need something in case of an emergency, that old beat up Motorola RAZR is the perfect candidate. Remember that most cellphones can still make emergency calls even if you don't pay for service, and if you can swap your SIM card from your current phone, it's easy to transfer your current service to an old device.

Get The Most Out of Your Battery Life
No matter what kind of device you have, chances are you can do some optimizing to make that battery last longer. Dim your screen, turn off Bluetooth and other non-essential apps or hardware, and put it to sleep whenever you're not using it. For more device-centric tips, check out our guides to extending the battery life of your Windows laptop, Linux laptop, an Android phone or any other smartphone. You can even eke a few more minutes out of your battery by using the right browser and turning off Flash completely.

Use Your Car as a Phone Charger When You Really Need It
It's not the ideal solution, but if your phone dies and you need one on hand for emergency calls, you can always whip out your car charger and start up your car for a few minutes of charging (you know, if your car will even start). You'll be patting yourself on the back for buying that USB car charger right about now.

Preparing for an Internet Outage
Even if your power doesn't go out, your ISP might lose service in the midst of the onslaught (it's happened to a few of us at team Lifehacker during previous storms). If they do, here are your options as far as staying connected.

Tether Your Phone
It's one of the most tried and true methods for getting wireless internet, and while it certainly won't provide a connection for the entire day, it can help you get any important work done before enjoying the rest of your snow day. If you're rocking an Android phone, you have quite a few choices, both if you've rooted and if you haven't. If you're an iPhone user and you haven't paid for tethering from AT&T, you'll have to jailbreak and use previously mentioned MyWi. Note that if you wake up without internet, you won't be able to jailbreak tomorrow—so if it's important enough to you, maybe tonight's the night to back up your phone and check out redsn0w. Also note that tethering will drain your battery like crazy, so use your internet wisely during the few precious moments you have. (That means no Facebook, you guys! It's just going to be full of the same Snowpocalypse statuses anyways).

Rent That Movie From iTunes—Just This Once—Because Netflix'll Be Down
You may forget from time to time that Netflix and other similar streaming services actually rely on a stable internet connection, so when you go to enjoy your day off tomorrow, you might be disappointed to realize you've lost your entire queue. Now would be a good time to check out iTunes' rental system, or something similar. You may not like that whole paying part, but you have to do the best you can with what you've got, right?

Check and See If You're the Only One
Just because you've lost power or internet doesn't mean everyone has. If you've got a Starbucks, McDonalds, or other Wi-Fi plentiful chain near your house, you can always head there to get some work done (you know, if you can even get out of the house). Make sure you've got a car-friendly driveway, too—if you're out of salt, there are a lot of other household items that'll melt that ice, too.

If Your Cell Service Goes Out (or Your Phone Runs Out of Juice)
If your cell goes dead, on either the battery or service side, and you lack for a fall-back landline, you've still got options—especially if your web connection is still active, or you've got another internet source.

Best option: Google Voice & Gmail calling
If you've already signed up to use Google Voice, you can make free calls from Gmail's chat sidebar. Just sign into Gmail, hit the "+" button to expand chat if it's not already expanded, and click the "Call phone" option. You may need to download a plug-in to get calling working; it might be a good move to already have it installed the night before a big storm hits.

Once the plug-in is installed, you're good to go, and if you use Android or otherwise have your Google Contacts set up, you won't even need to remember your boss' phone number. You'll be using your laptop speakers and tiny mic hole by default; it would be handy to have a USB headset handy, or at least a pair of headphones to prevent echoing and feedback.

Skype Out
If you aren't a Google Voice user, the best you can do is a VoIP service like Skype, which lets you call regular phones right from your computer. Of course, if your friends or relatives have Skype, you can call them for free, but if you need to call other people's regular old phones, you'll need to shell out a bit for a SkypeOut number. What's nice, though, is that you can pay as you go—so if you just need a SkypeOut number for the Snowpocalypse, you don't have to subscribe to a monthly plan or anything like that. Check out Skype's pricing plans for more information.

Accept Your Tech-Free Day as the Gift of Productivity

Computers and the internet are great tools, but they're also great distractions. If you lose your internet connection, or your power altogether, you may prefer to think of it not as a curse, but a productivity blessing. There are a lot of internet-free ways you can catch up with work, like going over your to-do list, organizing your files and folders, or even getting some real, distraction-free work done. It might even inspire you to disconnect more often.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Map Your Neighborhood

Map Your Neighborhood is a simple program developed by the Washington State Emergency Management Division that greatly increases your safety immediately following a disaster. The Map Your Neighborhood training course is designed to help neighborhoods prepare for disasters.
A single disaster causes many individual emergencies at one time. Unfortunately, professional emergency response to your situation may be delayed for hours, even days if the disaster overwhelms first responders. In that instance, you and your neighbors become the first responders to your emergencies. Preparing your neighborhood is vital. Neighbors that are prepared are more effective in their response to a disaster and have an increased capacity to be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours after a disaster.

The Map Your Neighborhood course will teach you:

• The 9 steps to take immediately following a disaster
• How to develop a skills and equipment inventory for your neighborhood
• How to map your neighborhood and identify areas of concern

The goal of the Department of Emergency Management is to improve disaster resilience in Cowlitz County by training as many residents as possible in the Map Your Neighborhood plan. If you are interested in having a Map Your Neighborhood presentation at your church, workplace or community center please email our office at

Handy Addition to a Survival Kit

This is a cool little tool that would be a great addition to a 72-Kit or an emergency kit for your car. It's a knife AND a firestarter AND an emergency whistle! For pricing and more information, click here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Spring? Winter? Who Knows....

Punxsutawney Phil (the "official" groundhog) reportedly did not see his shadow this morning, therefore predicting an early spring. Of the other 25 "rodents of note" including Staten Island Chuck, Jabari the Hedgehog and Dunkirk Dave, fourteen predicted an early spring and eleven predicted more winter. Poor Woodstock Willie of Woodstock, IL was sadly cancelled due to heavy snow. It has been said that Punxsutawney Phil has an accuracy rate of around 39%, while Portland's own Jabari the Hedgehog has an accuracy rate of 40%. Phil says spring and Jabari says more winter. So, who is correct? It's a math question for the ages.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's Groundhog Day....again

It’s time once again for the magical groundhog to bestow upon us his weather prognostications. Whenever I get the urge to make fun of other cultures for some weird ritual or habit, I think about how bizarre our own culture is by way of getting weather predictions from a rodent, decorating a dead tree and keeping it in the house for a month and dressing up our children and sending them around to panhandle for candy. I suppose weird is relative, right?

According to StormFax Almanac, Phil's winter predictions have been correct 39 percent of the time. Which, if you think about it, is actually pretty impressive since he (most likely) doesn't have a meteorological background or the use of advanced weather satellites or computers. Groundhogs, you see, have tiny little paws, thus making computer usage difficult. I'd say his average is probably on par with most local weather stations.
I learned all kinds of interesting groundhog facts from the StormFax Alamanac, click here and here to learn more. I learned that groundhogs typically live six to eight years. (Except Phil, who — according to the experts — drinks a magical punch every summer during the Groundhog Picnic. The punch gives him seven more years of life. Sounds reasonable.)

A groundhog can whistle when it is alarmed. In fact, another name for groundhog is “whistlepig," which I’m pretty sure I’m going to say from now on. Groundhogs also whistle in the spring when they begin courting, I’m assuming they whistle at their mates like New York City construction workers yelling out salacious suggestions. It’s fun in my head.
No matter what Phil has to say, it never hurts to have some extra supplies on hand in case his prediction calls for a heaping helping of winter. Check on your supply kit, rotate your stock and make sure you have plenty of alternatives in case the power goes out.