The only difference between adventure and disaster is preparedness.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hang On To Your Hats!

No, seriously.  Hang on to them, it's about to get windy again.  From the Portland National Weather Service:

Another series of increasingly strong Pacific weather systems are expected to begin affecting SW Washington and NW Oregon on Wednesday and continuing through at least Thursday.

The first system Wednesday is expected to bring south winds of 15-30 mph in our area and around 50 mph on the coast. 

The second stronger system is expected later Wednesday night and early Thursday.  This system could produce winds up to 35-40 mph in our area.

It's still early, so this may change as time goes on. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Is Your Car Ready for Winter?

Getting stuck in a car during a winter storm can be very dangerous.  You can "winterize" your car by making sure it has the following:
  • Strong battery
  • Plenty of antifreeze
  • no-freeze wiper fluid
  • good blades
  • working heater
  • no leaks or crimps in exhaust pipe
  • snow tires and/or tire chains
  • at least half a tank of gas
  • a winter-weight oil (see car owner's manual)
Keep the following items in your car in winter months:
  • Jumper cables
  • Windshield scraper
  • Flashlight
  • First Aid kit
  • Small shovel
  • Some sand to put under tires for traction
  • Bright cloth to use as a distress flag.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cool Idea!

Want a cheap, long lasting candle in an emergency?  All you need is a can of Crisco and a wick!  Check out this great idea that a co-worker found on Pinterest:

Be sure to read the comment section, because some questions about making it are answered, like how do I get the wick through all of that grease.  According to the post, you can also make candles from old crayons and even from a fish.  I think I'll skip the fish candle.

Monday, November 19, 2012

More Rain and Wind Today

According to the National Weather Service, most of the very high winds and flooding will be at the Coast and south of us.  There will be some heavy wind and rain for us later this afternoon, with high winds expected from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. tonight, with gusts up to 45 mph.  The rain will continue into tomorrow.  If there are any changes or if river levels change unexpectedly, we will send out another briefing report.

Wind, Rain and an Earthquake?

Hello to you too, Monday.  Lots of power outages last night and into this morning.  There was also a 3.1 earthquake with an epicenter in Portland early this morning.  More details here:

DEM will be participating in a National Weather Service briefing regarding high winds and flooding this afternoon and will report the forecast after that. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lots of Power Outages on this Dark and Stormy Night

Looks like lots of areas of North Kelso and Pacific Way, Mint Valley, Sunset Way and parts of Columbia Heights in Longview are without power.  This is a great time to locate all of the flashlights and make sure you have good batteries for all of them!

Potential for Flooding Coming Our Way

According to a release from the PDX National Weather Service, there are several weather systems that are impacting are area that contains both heavy rain continuing through Monday night and brisk winds of 35-45 mph in the inland valleys. Gusts of up to 50 mph may be possible. The amount of rain itself may cause some difficulties but coupled with rain saturation along with potential for winds causes a little extra concern.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has informed us that there is a Flood Watch* for some portions of Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon from tonight (Sunday night) through late Monday night. This amount of rain would be enough to cause flooding issues for smaller drainages that are already clogged by autumn leaves across our area.

In addition, brisk winds of 35-45 mph with possible gusts up to 50 mph are forecasted for our area on Monday. Winds may gust to 45-55 mph over the higher elevations of the coastal mountains and 60-65 mph over the higher elevations of the cascades.

The slow moving and moisture laden frontal system that is continuing will bring us heavy rain will continue until tonight, Sunday night. There is a second stronger and wetter low pressure system that will bring even heavier rain in Monday through Monday night. Multiple inches of rain are likely even for the inland valleys.

For those traveling this holiday week the coast and coast range will see the heaviest precipitation with over ten inches possible in some locations by Tuesday. In addition, there is a high wind warning for the south coast, high wind watch in the Willipa Hills area and a Winter Storm Warning for the west slopes north and central cascades which will all make traveling very difficult. If traveling at all, please stay connect to local weather warnings for your particular area of travel as we head into the a heavy-travel holiday week.

*A Flood Watch means there is a potential for flooding based on current forecasts.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Almost Instant Black Bean Chili

Here's a recipe from "Apocalypse Chow"

This hearty chili made with canned beans and a jar of salsa couldn't be easier.  Cook it over any heat source, just long enough to heat through and marry the flavors.  Serve over instant rice or noodles or eat it plain right out of the pot.

Two 15.5 ounce cans black beans, drained
One 16-oz jar salsa (hot or mild)
2-3 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP dehydrated minced onion
One 8-oz can corn, drained
One cup water

Combine ingredients in a saucepan, reserving half of the corn.  Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally.  Add as much water as needed to create a sauce and to prevent the mix from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring frequently until heated through, long enough to cook off any raw taste from the chili powder, about 15 mins.  Garnish with the remaining corn.

So, add beans, a jar of salsa, some chili powder, dehydrated onion and a can of corn to your shopping list and you've got yourself some emergency chili.  It uses very little of your stored water and cooks quickly to save your fuel source.  I'd find low-sodium beans and corn if you can.  Also, you can get dehydrated onion and chili powder really cheap in the bulk food section of WinCo.  Make sure you have a manual can opener too.  You'd be a sad panda if you had some great emergency meal makings and no way to open them.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wind and Rain this Weekend

From our friends at the Portland National Weather Service:

SYNOPSIS: A broad Pacific trough will move over the Pacific Northwest from the Gulf of Alaska this weekend bringing a series of cold fronts to our area. The first front will move onto the coast early Saturday followed by a stronger front on Monday. Unsettled weather is expected to continue through the Thanksgiving week as the trough remains in place and cold fronts continue to move through.

PRIMARY AREAS IMPACTED: At this time, it appears Western Oregon and Southwest Washington will experience the biggest impacts.


The main impacts will be areas of heavy rain with a potential to bring flooding to the area. Of particular concern is flooding of small streams and urban areas due to clogged storm drains.

The strongest winds will be confined to coastal areas and the coast range. Most impacts will be associated with the stronger cold front on Monday.

Significant snow will be confined to areas above pass level through Monday.


The first cold front will move onto the coast Saturday morning.

The second, much stronger cold front will move inland late Monday afternoon, but rain associated with this front begins late Sunday.


Heavy Rain…Confidence is high that some areas will receive heavy rain from these fronts (especially the Monday storm) but confidence is low on location and duration of that rain.

Strong Wind…Confidence is high that the first front Saturday morning will bring strong winds with gusts near 50 mph.

A much stronger storm appears to be developing for Monday with winds during the day on Monday reaching 40 mph with gusts between 70 and 80 mph. Confidence on the wind forecast for the second storm is moderate.

UNCERTAINITIES: Model forecasts vary on the location and timing of the heaviest rain, with the central coast appearing to be the hardest hit.

Tonight and Saturday: 1-2 inches along the coast and in the coast range with up to 0.5 inches inland.

Sunday afternoon through Monday: 4-6 inches along the coast , in the coast range and in the south Washington Cascades.

Be Excited About the Future, Don't Worry about the Past

I really liked this article by Adam Crowe, an emergency manager from Kansas.  It's from a great emergency management blog that I read from time to time.  Enjoy!

In the past week, I have seen several stories that reflect changes in cultural, social, and technological values within society. For example, stories have been released about the death of AM radio, elimination of cursive writing education, and the death of Twinkies. In each case, I often saw doom and gloom statements associated with each -- "Our kids will never get to experience that", "How dare they stop that?", "This is just another example of how we're on the down slide", etc.

While it is understandable that we all fondly look back on these types of components that defined how we grew up and learned about the world, I don't think their elimination is a sign of anything more than change. In most cases, these changes are a result of something new replacing it. For instance, the use of AM Radio has declined with the rise of information on the go through the internet and social media. Likewise, cursive writing has been replaced by typing emails, texts, and other digital messages. Rather than being melancholy or downtrodden about the loss of these items, these types of news stories are opportunities for us to reflect on how fantastic the future may be.

This is particularly true in emergency management and disaster response. It is exciting to me to think that through the use of new (or yet to be developed technologies) and communication systems such as social media and crowdsourcing, the needs of disaster survivors and those impacted from emergencies may ultimately be addressed more quickly and efficiently than ever before. Likewise, to know that each and every person in the community is becoming more and more empowered in the emergency management process through more openly shared information is fantastic.

So while I do reflect on my past when things change, let's all try to reorient that energy to pushing the future and the possibility that a generation (or two) from now can look back and enjoy new memories of a network of communities who embraced changed for good.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Levee Monitoring and Flood Patrol Class

Are you interested in assisting local diking districts with levee monitoring during flood events?  You're in luck!  There will be a free class on Tuesday, November 27th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Cowlitz County Training Center at 1942 1st Ave in Longview.  This class will teach participants the following: 
  • The basic requirements, duties and equipment necessary to be an effective levee monitor.
  • Levee monitoring terminology, inspecting and reporting protocol.
  • Critical issues affecting levees during flood events.
  • How to effectively apply these skills in a hands-on field exercise.
If you are interested in signing up for this class, please call DEM at 577-3130 or email

Charcoal Grills & Beyond

Excerpt from Apocalypse Chow!

"Charcoal is as impractical and inefficient for cooking as a wood fire.  When you build a substantial enough charcoal fire for cooking, the charcoal will continue to burn long after you have eaten.  You can't conserve charcoal very well, or of course, use it again.  If you do use charcoal for boiling water, place a saucepan with the lid on atop the grill and close the cover, if possible.  Make sure you use a plan with handles that won't melt or catch fire.  Grilling would be done as you do on the Fourth of July, but if the disaster continues on for several days, unless you have a garage full of dry charcoal, you'll be out of fuel and out of luck. 

Other ways to cook

If you foolishly ignored the authorities or, worse, neglected to buy this book in time and you've found yourself in a disaster or blackout unprepared, you aren't completely out of luck.  With some Sterno (canned heat) or a chafing dish, you may not be able to boil enough water for pasta, but you will be able to warm up some soup.  You can always heat a pan with a kitchen or plumber's torch, or heat cans of food on the manifold of a car engine. 

This may not be as stupid as it sounds, once you realize that Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller wrote an entire cookbook, titled "Manifold Destiny:  The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine, for the new "mechanic's cuisine."  As temping as it might be, we don't recommend using signal flares for cooking. 

In case you aren't smart enough to figure this out on your own, you should never burn charcoal inside your house.  You also want to use the utmost caution when using an open flame indoors.  Whenever possible, take your stove outside and do your cooking in the great outdoors.  Also, never use candles indoors for light.  Instead, use a bona fide camping light or safe oil lamp or battery-operated lights.  I'm not going to mention this again."

Stay tuned for more tips and recipes from Apocalypse Chow!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gas Grills & Wood Fires

Excerpt from Apocalypse Chow!:

"Another reliable heat source for cooking during an emergency is a gas grill.  A patio barbecue grill will do nicely, provided you have plenty of fuel.  It's a good idea to buy an extra cylinder of propane before a big hurricane strikes, because the roads may be impassable for days.  If the emergency is merely a blackout, for which you would have no warning, you shouldn't have trouble buying a tank of fuel anytime you need it.  The downside to relying on the patio grill for all your cooking is that it can ONLY be used outdoors.  That's okay if it's warm and sunny but not too practical when it's cold, raining, or snowing outside, or when you just want to make a hot cup of tea before bed. (Never use a gas grill inside your home or garage.)

If you happen to have a wood-burning stove that allows you to cook on top of it, you can get by with this, as long as you have plenty of wood that can last several days.  If you're only using an open campfire, however, problems abound.  It takes time to build a wood fire, and once started it doesn't heat food uniformly and much of the fuel goes up in smoke.  Whether you're outside or using an indoor fireplace, you will need to rig a way to heat a pot over the flames, so your pots and pans must have handles that won't melt or burn.  Whenever you build a fire, use extreme caution.  You would bring beaucoup heartache upon yourself if you burned down the neighborhood that had miraculously survived the hurricane.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How Can I Cook with No Power?

Excerpt from Apocalypse Chow:

"Your primary necessity for eating well without power is having a reliable, efficient source of heat for emergency cooking.  If you have neither working gas appliances nor an electrical generator, you'll want to consider the following advice for buying an inexpensive alternative source of heat. 

Camping Stove

You can purchase a small, efficient, inexpensive emergency stove from your local camping supplies store.  Did you know that for about $50 you can have a tiny little stove and a canister of fuel that will last for two days?  For $80 you can practically open a backyard restaurant with takeout.  Camp stoves are great but made mostly for the adventurer.  You may never have to reconstitute a dehydrated dinner while clinging to the side of Mt. Everest or while kayaking the North Sea, but if you pay a call to your nearest sporting-goods chain or outfitter, you will discover an amazing array of portable cookstoves for the outdoors.  Some of these stoves are little more than a tiny nozzle and a frame that sit atop a canister of fuel, but you will also find the good old reliable Coleman two-burner stove.  (Coleman even makes a folding camp oven!)

For general home-based cooking, we recommend a single-burner butane unit that chefs use for demonstrations.  The recipes in Apocalypse Chow! were tested on a Glowmaster portable butane stove, 7,000 BTU, available at and elsewhere.  Similar stoves include the Burton stove, 8,400 BTU (at, and the Glowmaster stove, 7,500 BTU (, which are designed for both indoor and outdoor use. 

You can also use these stoves for camping, tailgating, boating, backyard barbecues, or for cooking during emergency power outages.  The stoves come with hard-sided carrying cases and cost $50-$100.  Fuel canisters are inexpensive and can be purchased by the case."

Check back in tomorrow for more tips!  Also, I have 2 butane stoves that I got from and they are awesome.  Give their website a try!

Apocalypse Chow

Check out my cool new book!  I got it used from Amazon, click here for the link. (If the picture doesn't show up, click on the link)  The first part is all about preparedness, food and water storage and safety tips and the rest of the book consists of fantastic recipes, all that can be cooked when the electricity is out!  The book was written by a chef and cookbook writer who, when faced with power outages decided that there had to be something better to eat than SPAM and crackers. 

The authors cover what foods to stock, different ways to cook without electricity and even a 5 day meal plan that sounds much more appetizing than canned meat and granola bars.  How about some corn chowder?  Chili? Couscous salad? How about a chicken tortilla casserole? 

I'll share some of their shopping tips and recipes throughout the week. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

4 Simple Things

This comes from the website of Ready, Set, Prepare.  The Director of Ready, Set, Prepare is James Roddey, who I was fortunate enough to get to listen to at a conference I went to last week.  I am trying to schedule him to come give a talk in Cowlitz County.  Anyway, here are 4 Simple Things You Can Do THIS WEEK to Get Prepared.

1.  Set up an out of state contact that knows how to text:  Emergency response experts tell us the only way you may be able to communicate after a big disaster is by text or Tweet, and by contacting someone out of state as local communication channels may be clogged.  Make sure everyone knows to check in with the contact person if you are separated.

2.  Turn your phone into your most important safety tool:  From emergency contact numbers to first aid/CPR instructions, your phone can be a life saver.  Download flashlight, GPS, Red Cross and I.C.E apps.  Create a list of:  rally points, prescription medications, food and medical allergies.  Keep photos of loved ones and pets handy.  Access important documents any time via Dropbox or the cloud. (if this sounds like a foreign language to you, click on each to learn more).

3.  Visit a Website:  If you house was burning, what would you take with you?  It's a conflict between what's practical, valuable, and sentimental.  It's also a good way to start a conversation with family members or co-workers about putting together an emergency plan.  Check out to learn more.

4.  Read a Book:  The Unthinkable, by Amanda Ripley.  In this engrossing and insightful book, you'll learn the science behind how your body and mind react in a crisis.  More importantly, The Unthinkable will help you understand and shape your response when the chips are down and the worst happens.  As Craig Fugate, Director of FEMA says, "It's time to get in touch with our survival instinct."

Friday, November 9, 2012

Support Local Veterans

Support Veterans by contributing to the Cowlitz County Veterans Stand Down!
Eat at Burgerville between the hours of 4:00pm and 8:00pm on Veterans Day, Sunday November 11, 2012.  10% of all proceeds will benefit the annual Cowlitz County Veterans Stand Down.  Bring your family, bring your friends! Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

5th Way to Refine Your Disaster Personality

Here's tip number 5:

5.  Training:  By far, the best way to improve performance is to PRACTICE.

Make a list of your biggest risks (try to use data to do this, not just emotion).  Then think creatively about how to give yourself or your family a dress rehearsal.  The brain loves body memory.  It is much better, for example, to stop, drop, and roll than to talk about stopping, dropping and rolling.

For example, we know that fires generally kill more people than all other disasters combines.  (If you are poor or African American, you chances of being in a fire are particularly high.)  So give your brain something to work with.  Make surprise drills an annual tradition in your office or home.  Take the stairs down to the ground--don't just stare at the stairwell door.  Create incentives so that people want to do this. 

For example, have the boss tell everyone they have to go.  Have them explain why it matters (because your brain turns to mush in a real fire, and you often lose your eyesight because of the smoke).  Have them announce that the official meeting spot will be the coffee shop two blocks away, where he or she wil buy everyone coffee and donuts.  That way, you boost office morale at the same time, so you get something out of the experience even if nothing goes wrong.

So, this is the end of the tips.  Again, take the time to read The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley.  It's a great study in human behavior in response to disaster.  It sounds daunting, but it's an easy read, I promise!

Earthquakes, Earthquakes, Everywhere!

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake rattled Guatemala yesterday, there was a 4.2 off the southern Oregon coast yesterday and a 6.3 off the west coast of Canada.  Each of the articles are linked if you want to learn more.  It's rocking and rolling all around us, are you paying attention?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tip #3 & #4

So far we've had Attitude and Knowledge as two ways to refine your disaster personality according to author Amanda Ripley.  Here's number 3 & 4:

3.  Anxiety Level:  People with higher anxiety levels may have greater tendency to freeze or totally shut down in an emergency.

That is not always a bad thing, as my chapter on paralysis details.  But it's a very common reaction, and it's important to recognize this risk and override it if you need to...if, say, your house is burning down or your ferry is sinking.

As in regular life, if you can learn tricks to control your anxiety, you will probably perform better.  For example, some police officers are now trained to do rhythmic breathing whenever their guns are drawn.  Take a yoga class and learn breathing and stretching exercises that can lower stress and anxiety levels. 

4.  Get in Shape:  Once again, what helps us in regular life helps us in disasters.

The harsh truth is that out-of-shape people move more slowly, are more vulnerable to secondary injuries like heart attacks and have a harder time physically recovering from any injuries they do sustain.  On 9/11, people with low physical ability were three times as likely to be hurt while evacuating the towers.

I can definitely find truth in these tips.  Confession time, my anxiety level on basically at DEFCON 1 all the time.  Yes, I know it's a problem, but I also know how to work with it and how to mold my anxiety into something that is more practical and that looks suspiciously like preparedness.  And regarding getting in shape:  what's the first rule of survival in the movie Zombieland?  CARDIO!  Stay tuned tomorrow for the last installment.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What's another way to refine your disaster personality?

Yesterday's tip was to adjust your attitude.  Here's more of author Amanda Ripley's column in Time Magazine on ways to refine your personality:

2.  Knowledge:  The brain is amazingly malleable.  We constantly underestimate it.
If you understand how you are likely to react during a disaster, you can learn to override your worst instincts.  If you learn more about your actual risks--or the risks that scare you most--you will probably be calmer should something go wrong someday.  For example, did you know that the most serious plane accidents are survivable?  Yes, it's true.  Of all passengers involved in serious accidents between 1983 and 2000, 56% survived.  (Serious, for those of you who still don't believe me, is defined by the National Transportation Safety Board as accidents involving fire, severe injury and substantial aircraft damage.)  So now that you know that, you know that your behavior can make a difference.  And now that you know that, you might have a better ATTITUDE in the extremely unlikely event that your plane goes down. 

Knowledge is power, so says Schoolhouse Rock.  But you know what's even more powerful?  SHARING knowledge.  If you know a boatload about preparedness and disaster survival, magnify that power by sharing it with others.  Just drop some knowledge to your friends and neighbors here and there, don't bombard them with grim statistics or start the conversation with, "You're going to die a slow, agonizing death if you don't have 5 years worth of disaster supplies."  That's not a good way to win friends and influence people.  I'll have another tip for you tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Five Ways to Refine Your Disaster Personality

What's your disaster personality?  Do you freeze up?  Do you take charge?  A great way to find out and learn about the body's sometimes surprising response to disaster is to read Amanda Ripley's outstanding book, "The Unthinkable."  It's one of the best books that I've read and, trust me, I've read a book or two.  The following is an excerpt from a column that the author did for Time Magazine after the book was published.  If you are interested in borrowing a copy, email me at and I will lend it to you.

Five Ways to Refine Your Disaster Personality

1.  Attitude:  It turns out attitude really does matter.

People who perform well in crises and recover well afterwards tend to have three underlying advantages:  they believe they can influence what happens to them; they find meaningful purpose in life's turmoil; they are convinced they can learn from both good and bad experiences.

If you're like me, you're thinking:  Yeah, right.  But we should probably consider these incredibly perfect and cheery outlooks as simply inspirational. Like all human behavior, they occur on a spectrum, and no one achieves all of them all of the time.  Again and again, survivors have told me that their confidence in their own ability to shape their destiny helped propel them forward.  And in any case, it makes sense to encourage this kind of outlook in yourself, in your kids--especially because this kind of burning optimism is helpful even if no disaster ever strikes. 

Stay tuned for the other 4 ways to a better disaster personality!  So, do you need an attitude adjustment?  If so, find some ways to take charge of preparedness and empower yourself!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fall Back

It's that time of year again. When you set your clocks back on Saturday night, don't forget to change the batteries in your smoke detector and rotate your disaster supplies -- stored food, water and any medications you may have in your kit. Don't wait until after your food and water expires and then throw it away. Check on stuff before it expires and then use it! Make a family indoor camping night---turn off all the lights and actually use your emergency supplies. It's not only a good way to use up food and water that's nearing its expiration date, it's also a good time to go over emergency plans and remember how to use emergency supplies. Plus, it's free family fun! Well, if you have teenagers, the fun level might be debatable.

What? You don't have a disaster kit? Well, now is the perfect time to remedy that situation. Make a disaster supply check list instead of a Christmas list. Put yourself in the shoes of those in New York and think about what you would need to go days on end without electricity.  We may not have hurricanes in the Northwest but severe winter storms or an earthquake could cripple the grid just the same.

The good news is that not only do you get to score another hour of sleep (woo hoo!), you get a chance to make sure your kit is ready to go.  Be prepared and be safe!