The only difference between adventure and disaster is preparedness.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is your dog cool?

Take a minute to check out this video about the dangers of leaving animals (or children) in a car alone even for a minute.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Beware of Life Alert telemarket scam

Robocall scammers use 'Life Alert' to swindle seniors
reprinted from

Herb Weisbaum, TODAY contributor Facebook

A new barrage of annoying robocalls is targeting seniors across the country with the promise of a free medical alert system. And not just any system – the recorded message says it's Life Alert – the original "I've fallen and can't get up" product advertised on TV.

The sales pitch is convincing, but it's a lie – and unfortunately people are falling for this clever come-on.

Hugh Farrell received five of these robocalls recently. The 80-year old, who lives in Rockwall, Texas, says the pitch was mighty appealing.  "It went like this," Farrell said. "We have a medic alert system for you and it's all been paid for, and all we need from you is permission to ship it to you."

Farrell was suspicious, so he hung up and called his daughters. He thought maybe they had purchased a system and wanted to surprise him. They had not.
When Farrell called the Better Business Bureau in Dallas, they told him the call was a scam.

"This is just a way to sell you this service, a service that you may or may not want," explained Jeannette Kopko, senior vice president of communications at the Better Business Bureau of Dallas.

Talk to that live salesperson and they'll try to get your credit or debit card number, Kopko said. They may even ask for your Medicare number – that's your Social Security number – something you should never give to a stranger on the phone.
The next thing you know, you're billed $35 a month for that supposedly free medical alert system.

"Just because they describe a product that everybody's seen on TV doesn't mean it's the company you think it is," Kopko warned.

So what do you get?

The BBB has heard from people who took the bait. Some did receive a medical alert product – but not the Life Alert system. Others said they didn't get anything. Either way, there's that monthly fee to deal with – not exactly free.

And once you fall for the pitch and give out your credit or debit card number, it isn't easy to cancel.
Geraldine Standiford, a 60-year old widow who lives in Cleveland, got the call and agreed to the monthly charge. After she hung up, she realized she had made a mistake.

She called the company to cancel, but the equipment arrived anyway. She found a debit for $34.95 from her checking account.  After filing a complaint with the Cleveland BBB and waiting for more than a month, Geraldine got her money back.  "I feel very lucky," she said. "They could have kept billing me for $34.95 every month."
Life Alert, the real company, has posted a fraud alert on its website warning people about the imposters:
The recordings sound like a real person claiming that either "someone has purchased a Life Alert system for you," or that "You qualify for a free Life Alert."Other calls may say they are calling from a shipping department to confirm a free order or to send upgraded Life Alert equipment.

All of these are telemarketing scammers trying to mislead and defraud consumers by using our trademarked name so they can get your address, credit card number and bank information to charge you.

We would like to remind you that Life Alert does not employ telemarketers or perform cold calls so if you do receive a recorded call saying they are Life Alert or the "I've fallen and can't get up" people, please DO NOT press the #1 button to talk to a sales person.

"Since everyone knows our company and our trademarked slogan, a lot of seniors fall for this scam," said Olga Vlasova, vice president of marketing at Life Alert Emergency Response, Inc.

Life Alert said it is now working with authorities to track down who is making these unsolicited and unauthorized calls.

How to beat the bad guys

It's important to remember these fraud fighting tips. These apply to all unsolicited telemarketing calls:
•Never provide personal information to an unknown caller.

•Never respond to a robocall from an unknown company.

•Don't press a key to talk to a human. Simply hang up.

Unfortunately, you can receive illegal robocalls even if your phone number is on the National Do Not Call registry.These calls are coming from crooks, often in a foreign country. They really don't care about violating the Do Not Call rules – that is, unless they get caught.

If you've fallen for this medic alert scam,contact your bank or credit card issuer right away. Then file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, your state consumer protection office and the Federal Trade Commission.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lessons We Can Learn From World War Z

From NBC News Health Article What World War Z Gets Right--and Wrong--About Viruses

"A movie about a disaster is a good teachable moment — a surrogate for a real disaster, which is an even better teachable moment. If the movie is gripping, the audience imagines itself in the scary situation, and temporarily becomes very interested in what they can do about it if it happened to them in real life."

So what can we learn from World War Z?  Check out the answer here:

How to Talk to Your Kids About Severe Weather

Do you have kiddos that are afraid of thunder or worry about blizzards?  I do.  Even if we don't get massive tornadoes or hurricanes in these parts, kids will often see the aftermath of the devastation in the news or on the internet. has some great resources for talking to your kids about severe weather and other disasters.  Check them out here:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Possibility for Cold Core Funnel Clouds

Just got a notice from the Portland National Weather Service that our area has the possibility of seeing some cold core funnels clouds later today.  So....just what is a cold core funnel cloud?  If it was up to me it would be a light and flaky funnel cake with ice cream in the middle.  But, like most things, it's not up to me. 

The super-smarty-pants definition is:
A cold core funnel is a vertically tilted rotating column of air under a rapidly growing convective cloud, but the atmospheric conditions are different than those conditions that produce typical funnel clouds or tornadoes. A cold core environment exists when low pressure is vertically stacked from the surface to 500 mb and is bounded by an area with a 700 mb temperature equal to or colder than +1C.

The more relatable answer is:  it's basically a weak and short-lived tornado that never touches the ground.

So, keep your eyes out for weird clouds and heavy rain today.  Should you see a cold core funnel cloud, your best bet is to back away slowly, avoid eye contact and speak quietly.  No, wait.  That's if you see a bear.

Road Trip!

From ESD 112 Risk Management Matters Spring Newsletter

If your summer travel plans include a road trip, be sure to prepare by informing family members and others about your travel destination, intended route and timetable.  In addition, drivers should prepare themselves for possible vehicle breakdowns by carrying a cell phone and equipping their vehicle with an emergency kit.

Emergency Kits Should Include:

* Flashlight with extra batteries
*Reflective triangles, warning lights or road flares
*First aid kit
*Non-perishable, high-energy foods
*Jumper cables
*Compass or GPS navigation system
*Fire extinguisher
*Spare fuses
*$20 in small bills and change
*Gloves and clean rags
*Jack and lug wrench
*Foam tire sealant or portable compressor and plug kit
*Basic tools
*Pen and pad of paper
*Auto club or roadside assistance phone number

It's also important to make periodic checks on the equipment to ensure that it is in working order--that the spare tire is properly inflated, batteries are not dead, fire-aid supplies are current, water is fresh and food is dry.  In addition, be familiar with how each tool works, from the cell phone to the jack, before you need it in an emergency.

Being prepared with a basic emergency kit can increase your safety, reduce stress and help get you back on the road faster.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thought for the day...

Making disaster plans doesn't have to be a huge undertaking. As tennis great Arthur Ashe once said, "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." He was probably talking about tennis, but it relates to disaster planning too, yes? 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Is the use of Ham Radio still viable?

From Emergency Management Online Magazine
Amateur radio plays important role in Boston Bombing
By Gerald Baron

I reconnected with Mark Challender, a former employee back in my business magazine publishing days, and discovered his passion for amateur radio, particularly in supporting emergency management. I confessed to him I didn't see that much of a role for it given all the other options. He soundly corrected me and I asked him to inform the rest of you as he did me. Thanks Mark! Here is his guest post:

Is Use of Amateur Radio in an Emergency Still Valid?

The answer is YES, amateur radio can make your communications better during a crisis when “normal” modes of communication have failed.

There are many articles showing successful use of “amateurs” in crisis situations – just search “ham radio use in emergencies.” One recent example is the role of amateur radio during the Boston Marathon……..after the bombs went off and cell phone and other traditional modes of communication failed due to saturation of the network, amateur radio worked and worked well.

Amateur Radio Operators were already on site providing communications for the Marathon (something they have done for years.) When the bombs went off they were asked to perform other tasks and, from all reports they performed well.

Amateur radio can transmit email using their radios even if local internet, cell phones, and social media is completely down, and they can get that email to the Internet (perhaps a nearby city or even across the country) by using other radio operators to relay the data. They can also keep certain details of your scene secure using this method (maybe you do not want the number of victims transmitted over voice communications, for example.)

While amateur radio frequencies can be scanned and their voice communications heard on the scanners their digital communications described above cannot easily be intercepted.

Our amateur radio organization (an ARES – Amateur Radio Emergency Service – group) has used digital modes to send names and conditions of “victims” during drills. We are able to send that information from the field to a central location and we can set up relays “on the fly” to get the message to the intended recipient.

Amateur radio operators can bring their own antennas, deploy those antennas and can communicate to stations hundreds, if not thousands of miles away and help you get more assistance. Radio Operators can even build an antenna, with wire and other common, easy to find materials so they can get their signal out.

Amateur radio can operate from any 12 volt battery (Got a spare vehicle that runs? They can use that vehicle to charge the battery and can connect their equipment to that vehicle’s battery and run as long as there is fuel available to run the vehicle and keep the battery charged) Amateur radio operators are innovative and flexible and they can communicate for hours, if not days, getting the signal out for you and your team.

Amateur radio operators are self-contained and can deploy their own vehicles or their group’s communication vehicles when requested by a local DEM or law enforcement or government agency. Amateur radio operators in the field can be supported by radio operators at their homes, in an EOC, or even miles away from your “crisis” location. Amateur radio operators are flexible, innovative and solve communications problems through their knowledge of their equipment and their experience.

Amateur radio operators affiliated with ARES or other groups have undergone a clearance process with their local law enforcement and emergency management agency, have ICS training from FEMA, have first responder training, understand the incident command structure and are your communicators when on site during your emergency. They log their communications, create clear and concise messages, transmit those messages and make those messages available to your organizational structure.

Amateur radio operators understand they are not your PIO. They do not talk to the media or the general public. They understand the importance of maintaining radio silence and communicating only when necessary and they know they work for you not the other way around.

Amateur radio operators are amateurs only by definition, and because the FCC licenses them on the amateur radio frequencies. But, amateur radio operators can operate on your frequencies when authorized and, in fact, many of them have purchased and programmed commercial radios with your frequencies on them just in case they are needed by you. They are your communications link when everything else has failed.

Amateur radio operators plan for failure, drill for success and are ready to be called out when needed.

So, is there still a valid need for amateur radio in your crisis? Yes, if your power is out, your radios don’t work, you are disconnected from the internet, your cell phones don’t work and/or your SMS is failing and you need a team of “professionals” who can help you communicate to your teams…..

See an FCC article here on the use of amateur radio in emergency management.

Connect with your local amateur radio operators, look for ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) and go to one of their meetings, ask to see their capabilities, look at their equipment bays and their radio rooms and present them with a scenario. They will rise to the challenge and surprise you.

Mark Challender
NG2G, Whatcom County, WA ARES
Cowlitz County has some of the best Ham Radio/ARES/RACES operators that you will ever find!  We love our Hams!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

6 Tips for Dealing with Disaster

Here are 6 easy tips from Popular Mechanics on how to plan for and recover from a disaster:

Do Your Kids Know Their Address?

From our friends at Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency:

This time of year marks a spike in community events, and here at CRESA, we are always happy to share important information in regards to better preparing for emergencies or what you need to know when you have to call 9-1-1. Over the past couple weeks, CRESA Public Educators have been out in full force, as we share information during our partners Open House events.

At one of these events I recently worked, I had the opportunity of chatting with a couple hundred young kids. As I shared 9-1-1 stickers, temporary firetruck tattoos and coloring pages, I would ask them the question, "What number do you call in an emergency if you need help?" Almost all of them knew the answer of "9-1-1." This usually would be followed by, "Do you know your address?" Sometimes I would get a shrug of the shoulders or a nodding of the head, sometimes "yes", sometimes "no." I had several parents urge their kids, asking them, to tell me if they knew. As they would respond, I would hear telephone numbers rattled off or perhaps a house number, but very few times did I hear a complete address. During our little discussions in the few minutes I had before their attention was distracted by a shiny fire truck or the Law Enforcement K-9's, I would share why it was important for them to know their address, and the importance this plays in helping 9-1-1 dispatcher's know where to send the help!

As the day went on, it got me thinking. Little things like learning our phone number and address easily slip through the cracks with all the technology we have at our fingertips. I can tell you from personal experience, there are very few phone numbers I honestly still have memorized. They are all conveniently stored in my smartphone. To this day, I still glance each time I give out my work cell number. Its just one of those numbers I take for granted. Yet if you ask me my childhood phone number or address, I can rattle them, along with my grandparents numbers off with ease. No matter where we keep these important pieces of information, to have them handy, nothing replaces having them stored to memory when you need them. For me learning needs to be interesting and fun. Doing a little research, I found some great fun ideas for you to use with your child in helping them learn their address. I hope the following ideas are useful in teaching your child important information that could be invaluable in an emergency. I know I may practice a couple of these myself.

Step 1

Point out the numbers on the side of your home and the street signs in your neighborhood. Say your address so that your child hears it and sees the street name and numbers together.

Step 2

Cut out a house shape from a piece of paper. Write the address in large print so it's easy to read. Hang the house picture in your child's room so he sees it every day and becomes familiar with it.

Step 3

Hand your preschooler a stack of envelopes so he can practice writing his address. Writing down the information may help it stick because he gets the repetition along with the visual of the numbers. If your economy friendly side cringes at using all that paper, laminate an envelope and use a dry erase marker so he can write, erase and repeat.

Step 4

Rhyme the address to make it easier to remember. For example, for the address 321 May St., say, "I have fun at 321; I play all day on a street called May." The rhyme doesn't have to make sense as long as it gets your child excited about learning his address.

Step 5

Belt out a tune about your address. Like rhymes, songs make it easier to commit the address to memory. Make up your own tune, or use your child's favorite song. Don't worry if you're off key. Your preschooler won't notice, but he will have an easier time learning his address.

The Bump Blog "How to Teach a Child Their Address."

 International Reading Association: Learning Your Address and Phone Number

 DLTK: Address Practice Craft

Nickelodeon Parents Connect: Child Safety: "Phone Number and Address" Song

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How Social Media is Changing Disaster Response

I just finished reading an interesting article from Scientific American about how revolutionary the advent of social media has been in responding to disasters.  Is it a good thing?  Is it a bad thing?  Is it just another thing?  Check it out here:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tips & Tricks

The link below has tips that are meant for camping, but would also come in handy for disaster preparedness.  See, life after a disaster is just like camping, only unplanned!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Good weekend to stay local!

Info courtesy of KLOG

The Department of Transportation has some work planned on I-5 over the next few days, working both north and south of the Kelso-Longview area. Today, a series of single and double-lane closures are planned on I-5 northbound near Castle Rock, as pavement repairs are done. WashDOT officials say that they need to grind and repave a portion of the freeway that’s sagging. From noon to 3, the right lane will be closed, from 3 to 7 pm, the left lane will be closed, and from 7 to 10 pm, the left and center lanes will be closed. Delays are expected, so use alternate routes or budget extra time to get through this area.

The really big deal starts tomorrow night at the north end of Vancouver, when I-5 will be completely shut down for girder placement at the Salmon Creek interchange. The freeway will close at 11 pm tomorrow night, and will be shut down until 5 am on Monday morning. Massive backups are possible as traffic is shunted onto I-205 and SR 500 in Vancouver. Use alternate routes to avoid delays.

On Monday, rehab work on I-205 between SR 14 and I-5 gets under way. A WashDOT contractor will start work on repair and replacement of damaged concrete panels through that stretch of freeway; they’ll also be restoring the asphalt shoulders, along with striping work. Overnight lane closures will begin at 10 pm Monday night, and the speed limit will also be reduced from 60 to 50 mph. This project is expected to extend into September. Get more details by contacting the Washington Department of Transportation.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning


Instinctive Drowning Response—so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children, ages 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents)—of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. According to the CDC, in 10 percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch the child do it, having no idea it is happening. Drowning does not look like drowning—Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene magazine, described the Instinctive Drowning Response like this:

1.“Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.

2.Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.

3.Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.

4.Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.

5.From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.”

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble—they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the Instinctive Drowning Response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long—but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.
Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:
•Head low in the water, mouth at water level

•Head tilted back with mouth open

•Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus

•Eyes closed

•Hair over forehead or eyes

•Not using legs—vertical

•Hyperventilating or gasping

•Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway

•Trying to roll over on the back

•Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

So if a crew member falls overboard and everything looks OK—don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you all right?” If they can answer at all—they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents—children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Frozen Berries

From Washington State Department of Health
No WA cases reported yet, but Costco shoppers who bought product urged to get checked

OLYMPIA  An outbreak linked to “Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend” frozen berries has caused 30 cases of hepatitis A in five states. There have been no reported illnesses in Washington linked to these berries but they were sold in Costco stores throughout the state. The Washington State Department of Health advises against eating these berries; discard any remaining product from your freezers. Even if some of the product has been eaten without anyone in your home becoming ill, the rest of the product should be discarded.

Contact your health care provider right away if you have eaten these berries and develop yellow eyes or skin, abdominal pain, diarrhea, pale stools, or dark urine. Symptoms can start up to seven weeks from the time of exposure.

If you consumed this product in the last two weeks and have never been vaccinated for hepatitis A or had the disease, contact your health care provider to find out if you should be vaccinated or receive other treatment. If you have already received the hepatitis A vaccination in the past or had hepatitis A, you are unlikely to become ill with the disease.

People without a health care provider may contact the local health agency in their community. If it’s too late for a hepatitis A shot, be sure to wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet and don’t prepare food for others if you have diarrhea. Follow this advice even if you get the vaccine in time. The latest information about the national hepatitis A outbreak is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

The Department of Health website ( is your source for a healthy dose of information. Also, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Nature vs. Nurture

Are some people born with a greater ability to respond to and recover from disaster?  Or is it a learned behavior?  It's the classic nature vs. nurture question.  Here is an interesting article from NBC news:

If you are interested, here are a few more articles about what makes people resilient and how you can adapt your character to help take on life's curveballs: