Have a happy and safe New Year!

December 31, 2012

Wishing you all the best in 2013..!
happy new year

Tornadoes don’t usually happen in December … or do they?

December 27, 2012

Christmas Day tornado damageThis past weekend the National Weather Service and others were forecasting wicked storms and tornadoes along the Gulf Coast for Christmas day, and sadly those predictions were spot on.

Preliminary reports say 34 tornadoes touched down across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama during Tuesday’s outbreak although that total will probably be revised downward as duplicate reports are discovered.

But if you listen to anchors on the news or read the comments on weather stories like we do, many were saying tornadoes in December is not normal or it’s due to global warming, etc. (sigh)

Actually … tornadoes happen in the U.S. year round. Most tornadoes obviously occur during the spring and early summer months, but December twisters are not as rare as people think.

The following chart shows the number of tornado reports listed in NOAA’s National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center’s Annual Severe Weather Report Summaries for 2000 through 2012. (Note: 2012 data is through Dec 19th so does not include the 34 preliminary reported tornadoes on Christmas day.)

US Tornadoes by month 2000 thru 2013

If you run your finger across the month of December, you’ll see a few wild variations. There were 99 tornadoes in Dec 2002 but only 1 in 2003 … and the 13-year average for December is 35 so tornadoes DO happen throughout the year and it’s just part of Mother Nature’s mood swings. When warm moist air in the south or southeast collides with winter cold fronts, bad things can happen.

tornado and lightning

Interesting tornado statistics

  • The U.S. has more tornado sightings than any other place in the world and averages about 1,300 tornadoes each year.
  • The last time a number of tornadoes impacted the Gulf Coast area around Christmas Day was in 2009, when 22 tornadoes occurred during the morning of December 24th.
  • According to the National Weather Service (NWS), at least one killer tornado has occurred during the month of December in 8 of the last 20 years. Over the entire official record, at least one killer tornado has been recorded in December almost every other year (27 out of 61 years).
  • The highest recorded tornado occurred in 2004 over Rockwell Pass in California’s Sequoia National Park at about 12,000 to 12,500 feet.
  • Tornadoes can last for several seconds or more than an hour, but most last less than 10 minutes.
  • The force of a tornado can strip asphalt chunks off roads, rip clothes off people and pluck feathers off chickens.

The most important thing to do year round wherever you live is to pay attention to forecasts, keep a NOAA Weather Radio handy when nasty weather is brewing, and learn what to do before, during and after various types of emergencies and disasters.

Download a free 60-page ebook portion of our IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book .

Additional resources:

NOAA Tornado safety tips

More NOAA tips

The Tornado Project Online!

Merry Christmas from us to you

December 24, 2012

We want to wish everyone a very

Merry Christmas and happy holidays

and we hope you and yours have a safe,

healthy and prosperous 2013..!

Bill & Janet Liebsch


If sarin (or a chemical agent) is released… what are YOU gonna do about it?

December 9, 2012

chemical agent safety tipsAs mentioned in our Sarin gas … what is THAT? post the other day, since chemical agents are once again in the news, we wanted to share some safety information from our IT’S A DISASTER! book about what to do in the event of a chemical threat or attack.

Remember, many chemical weapons – or chemical warfare – have been around since World War I … it’s unfortunate we have to even discuss it … but try not to let this topic frighten you. And many of these safety tips apply to a biological agent incident as well, but for now we’re just focusing on chemical agents. Also realize some chemicals used in industry (e.g. chlorine, ammonia, etc) are transported on our highway and rail systems which could also create a hazardous incident in the event of an accident.

Educate yourselves about the types and where to find more information so you are prepared to react in the event of a chemical threat, incident or attack.


Watch & listen for signs – Many chemical agents can cause watery eyes, choking, trouble breathing, coughing or twitching. If you see or hear a lot of people doing this or see a bunch of birds, fish or critters sick or dead, it should raise a red flag. Learn about some common potentially hazardous chemical agents and stay current by listening to radio and TV to hear what local authorities tell people to do — and DO it!

Report strange things – Be aware of your surroundings — watch for strange or suspicious packages, luggage or backpacks … or spray trucks or crop dusters in weird places at strange times … and report suspicious activities to local authorities.

Make a plan – Develop a Family Emergency Plan and Disaster Supplies Kit. Some key items include a battery-powered radio (with extra batteries), food and drinking water, duct tape, plastic and scissors, first aid kit, and sanitation items (soap, extra water and bleach). A sample Plan and tips for Kits are included in our free PDF ebook.

Pick a room – It could take authorities time to determine what (if any) agent was used so pick a room in advance your family could use if told to “shelter-in-place” for several hours. It’s best to pick an internal room where you could block out air IF told to do so. To save time consider measuring and cutting plastic sheets in advance for openings (vents, windows, and doors). Remember, toilets / drains may be vented meaning outside air comes in constantly or when flushed / open (depends on design) – in case you’re using a bathroom as a safe room.

Calculate air for room – Keep in mind people can stay in a sealed off room for only so long (or you’ll run out of air.) FEMA suggests 10 square feet of floor space per person (like 5ft x 2ft / 1.5m x 0.6m ) will provide enough air to prevent carbon dioxide buildup for up to 5 hours.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to local authorities and leave if you are told to evacuate.


During any type of chemical attack, local authorities will instruct the public on where to go and exactly what to do if exposed to an agent (which may require immediate attention with professional medical staff).

Watch for signs – If you see or hear a lot of people choking, coughing or twitching or see a bunch of sick or dead critters – leave area quickly!

Don’t panic — Listen – Stay calm and listen to radio, TV and officials to …

  • Determine if your area is or was in danger.
  • Learn signs and symptoms of some agents
  • Find out if and where antidotes are being distributed.

IF INDOORS – Stay inside and prepare to “shelter-in-place”…

  • Close your windows, vents and fireplace damper and turn off A/C and fans to reduce air drawn in from outside.
  • Seal gaps under doorways and windows with wet towels, plastic (if available) and duct tape.
  • If you picked a safe room in advance, grab your Disaster Supplies Kit and seal off that room – remember, you can only stay there for so many hours or you’ll run out of air.
  • Some vapors and gases may sink so avoid basements (unless instructed otherwise).

IF OUTDOORS – Stay upwind from the disaster area since many agents can be carried by wind. Try to find a shelter as quickly as possible.

IF IN A VEHICLE – Close your windows and shut off vents to reduce risk and drive away and upwind from the attack site, if possible.

Cover up – Cover mouth and nose to filter air but still let you breathe (like a T-shirt or towel or several layers of paper towel, napkins or tissues).

Feel sick…? – Some agents can cause immediate symptoms and some take a while to show up so watch family members for signs of illness.

Evacuate…? – If you are told to evacuate… DO it! If officials say you have time, close windows, shut vents and turn off attic fans.

Things to avoid:

  • chemicals – any spilled liquid materials, vapors or gas
  • contaminated food or water – don’t eat or drink any food or water that may have been exposed to materials

Stay away – Get away from the attack site to avoid contamination.


Feel sick…? – In some cases, people won’t be aware they have been exposed to an agent — most cause immediate symptoms and some take a while to show up so continue watching for signs of illness.

Don’t panic — Listen – Stay calm and listen to radio, TV and officials to …

  • Determine if your area is or was in danger.
  • Learn signs and symptoms of specific chemical agent(s).
  • Find out if antidotes are being distributed by authorities and, if so, where you can get them.

Don’t go there – Don’t return home until local authorities say it is safe.

Air out – Open windows, vents and turn on fans to air things out.

Clean up – A person, critter or item that has been exposed could spread it…

  • decontamination – follow instructions from authorities since it depends on chemical. May need to shower with or without soap or may be told to avoid water – check first
  • strange symptoms – if unusual symptoms show up, get to a hospital or medical expert right away
  • store clothes & shoes – put exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers or bags and ask local authorities how to get rid of them
  • tell people you’ve been exposed – tell everyone who comes in contact with you that you may have been exposed to a chemical agent
  • land and property – ask local authorities how to clean up

Strange vapors or danger – Report these to local authorities immediately.

For more information about chemical (or biological) agents, visit the CDC Emergency Preparedness & Response site .. or .. call CDC Hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or 1-888-232-6348 (TTY).

Above extracted from IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? – Learn more about the book or ebook

Earthquakes 101

December 7, 2012

Overnight Japan had a 7.3 earthquake followed by several smaller quakes (M4+) near the epicenter of last year’s massive 9.0 Tohoku quake and tsunami, but thankfully there haven’t been any reports of deaths or serious damage. And TEPCO has found no problems with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from any of these aftershocks either, according to several reports. (As fyi, since these tremors occurred in the same area, they are technically considered aftershocks.)

Although 2012 quake activity has been about average according to USGS many people continue to wonder how and why earthquakes happen and if there is an increase in the number of quakes lately.

First let’s look at some numbers. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates over 3 million earthquakes occur globally each year. That’s about 8,000 seismic events every day or 1 every 11 seconds, but most of them are very small. And with the 10 to 20-fold increase of seismograph stations operating around the world (from 350 in 1931 to 4,000 or 8,000 [reports vary]) combined with the Internet and 24-hour news sources, the numbers are up due to more accurate data and reporting methods.

But if you analyze global earthquake records over the past century (which is a tiny sliver in time compared to our planet’s history), the averages of large events (6.0 and higher) are fairly constant especially during the past three decades.

Also … let’s look at a few statistics about Japan.

Did you know…

earthquake road damage in Japan…Japan is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, with a tremor occurring at least every FIVE minutes?!

…Japan accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or greater?!

…Tokyo, with a population of 12 million, sits on the junction of four tectonic plates: the Eurasian, North American, Philippine and Pacific?! The sudden bending or breaking of any plate can trigger an earthquake.

So … how and why do earthquakes happen?

There are many factors involved but one key reason is our planet’s surface is made up of slowly-moving sections called tectonic plates that can build up friction or stress in the crust as they creep around. The fastest plate races along at 6 inches (15 cm) per year while the slowest plates crawl at less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) per year according to USGS.


These plates slide over the lubricating athenosphere layer of the lithosphere (the surface layer of our planet) and have been crawling around the planet for billions of years. The plates have edges called the plate boundaries that are made up of many faults (cracks or fractures in the crust). Since the edges of the plates are rough, they can get stuck while the rest of the plate keeps moving. When the force finally unsticks, all that stored up energy is released and radiates outward from the fault in all directions in the form of seismic waves like ripples on a pond.

Sometimes part of the crust dives (or subducts) under another plate sinking into the earth’s mantle and these areas are often busy with volcanic activity and earthquakes. In fact, nine out of the ten largest quakes to occur in the last 100 years were subduction zone events.

pangea_animationAlso, some parts of the planet have faults and fractures in rifts where there is a weakness or a split in the crust like the New Madrid Seismic Zone in Central U.S. This rift zone is a bit unusual since it’s in the middle of a plate, but it was created about 600 hundred million years ago then weakened 200 hundred million years ago when Pangea broke up. (Pangea graphic from New World Encyclopedia)

Some U.S. and Canadian fault systems

There are three basic fault types: the normal fault, where one block of rock drops down relative to the other; the strike-slip fault, where the fault blocks slide horizontally past each other; and the reverse fault, where one fault block moves upward relative to the other.

An example of a strike-slip fault system is the San Andreas Fault in California. The San Andreas fault is NOT a single, continuous fault, but rather is actually a fault zone made up of many segments. The fault system is more than 800 miles (1300 km) long, and in some spots is as much 10 miles as (16 km) deep. Also .. since the plates are moving horizontally past one another, California will not fall into the ocean … but … someday Los Angeles and San Francisco will be adjacent to one another!

Canada’s Queen Charlotte fault in B.C. was the site of the country’s largest historical earthquake with a magnitude 8.1 in 1949. The most seismically active areas in Canada are Yukon Territory and northwest British Columbia but historically all Provinces have had tremblers as seen here.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a very long sloping fault that stretches from mid-Vancouver Island to Northern California and could produce a very large earthquake, magnitude 9.0 or greater. The last known great earthquake there was in 1700 and geological evidence indicates that great earthquakes may have occurred at least seven times in the last 3,500 years or about every 400 to 600 years.

The New Madrid Seismic Zone (extending from northeast Arkansas, through southeast Missouri, western Tennessee, western Kentucky to southern Illinois) has repeatedly produced major earthquakes, including several magnitude 7 and 8 quakes, over the past 4,500 years. The last major occurrence there was the 1811-12 earthquake sequence (mag 7s and 8) that struck Arkansas and Missouri with such intensity it temporarily reversed the Mississippi River flow, created a new lake and caused massive landslides and damage across multiple states.

Waves and Liquefaction

Most destruction from earthquakes is caused by the seismic waves (ground motion) and soil liquefaction (where soil behaves like a liquid). There are two major types of seismic waves — body waves and surface waves.

Body waves (pressure or primary or P waves and shear or secondary or S waves) are short, sharp motions moving at high speeds that move with an up-and-down [P] and side-to-side [S] motion.

Surface waves (Rayleigh and Love waves) travel along the surface causing the most destruction. Rayleigh waves are similar to ocean waves; whereas Love waves displace earth in a snake-like motion. Both types of surface waves can demolish buildings and trigger landslides and avalanches far from the epicenter.

liquefactionLiquefaction is a process by which water-saturated sediment temporarily loses strength and acts as a fluid, like when you wiggle your toes in the wet sand near the water at the beach. In other words, the shaking of an earthquake jiggles the sand and squeezes the water trapped between grains so much that the layer begins to act like a muddy liquid. Because liquefaction occurs in saturated soil, its effects are most commonly observed in low-lying areas near bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, bays, and oceans. (liquefaction graphic from Univ of MD EDCI)

A few short YouTube videos about liquefaction are a demo and ground movement in Japan

So what do we do?

Unfortunately, scientists cannot predict earthquakes but there are technologies like GPS and LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) that are helping experts locate faults, rifts and vulnerable areas of our planet. But, as stated above, we live on a violent planet and thousands of earthquakes happen every single day. (Click here to see a cool NASA animation of cumulative global earthquake occurrences from 1960 – 1995. Earthquakes are shown as yellow dots.)

We don’t need to worry or panic, but something we CAN do is learn about different types of risks and disasters and how to mitigate or reduce the damage to yourself, your loved ones and your property. Knowledge is power and the more we learn and prepare for the unexpected, the better off we’ll be as a society.

A way to get started is to download some safety tips from our IT’S A DISASTER! book, and read through some of the resources below for more information.


HowStuffWorks Earthquake Facts
Kidzworld Earthquakes 101
Natural Resources Canada
PALEOMAP project
San Diego State University “Notes on Planet Earth version 3.0”
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program

Sarin gas … what is THAT?

December 6, 2012

In late-2012 news reports claimed Syria began mixing the chemical components of sarin gas, and loaded the deadly nerve agent into bombs on or near airfields. Since then there have been some reports of the use of chemical agents there by either the Assad regime and/or rebel militants. Officials continue to investigate what actually happened … however, since most people are not familiar with this topic, we wanted to share some data from our IT’S A DISASTER! book about chemical agents in general and sarin.

About Chemical Agents

chemical agent symbolChemical agents are toxic vapors (gas), sprays (aerosols), liquids or solids that can poison people, animals and the environment. Some compounds or agents do have industrial uses, but many are man-made substances designed, developed and stockpiled as military weapons around the world.

A known terrorist tactic combines bombs and chemical trucks to spread deadly fumes. Most chemical agents are difficult to produce and very hard to deliver in large quantities since they scatter so quickly. Most are liquids and some may be odorless and tasteless. They could be inhaled, absorbed into the skin, or swallowed from a contaminated food or water source. Chemical agents can take effect immediately or over several hours or days – and can be deadly if exposed to enough of the agent. If exposed, the best thing to do is distance yourself from the agent and area and get fresh air.

What chemical agents could be used in an attack?

According to the CDC, there are several categories of chemical agents that could potentially be used in a terrorist attack – some common ones include:

  • Blister Agents / Vesicants (Sulfur Mustard / Mustard Gas or Lewisite) – primarily cause blisters but can also damage eyes, airways, and digestive system
  • Blood Agents (Arsine or Cyanide) – gets in blood stream and prevents cells from absorbing oxygen so cells die
  • Choking / Lung / Pulmonary Agents (Ammonia or Chlorine) – cause breathing problems and lack of oxygen damages organs
  • Incapacitating Agents (BZ or LSD) – disrupts central nervous system, causes confusion, and slows breathing (makes you woozy or knocks you out)
  • Nerve Agents (Sarin, Soman, Tabun or VX) – the most toxic agents — basically turns “off” the body’s ability to stop muscles and glands from twitching (body goes into convulsions). Most agents were originally developed as pesticides / insecticides.

How could chemical agents be used in an attack?

There are several ways chemical agents could be spread:

  • Vapors / Gas / Aerosols – spread into air by a bomb or from aircraft, boats or vehicles — could spread for miles
  • Liquids – could be released into the air, water or soil or touched by people or animals
  • Solids – could be absorbed into water, soil or touched

Some chemical agents can remain in the environment and cause problems long after they are released. In the event of a public health emergency, officials will tell people what actions need to be taken. But learn as much as you can before a crisis to help alleviate some stress, fear and problems.

So … what is sarin?

Sarin is a clear, colorless, odorless and tasteless liquid that could evaporate into a vapor (gas) and contaminate the environment. It is man-made and originally developed to kill insects. Nerve agents basically turn “off” the body’s ability to stop muscles and glands from twitching.

How it spreads: Sarin could be released into the air, water, or soil as a weapon. People can be exposed by breathing vapors, by drinking or eating something contaminated, or by touching water, soil or clothing exposed to sarin. A person’s clothing can release sarin for about 30 minutes after being exposed to vapor. Because sarin vapor is heavier than air, it settles in low-lying areas creating a greater exposure hazard.

Signs & Symptoms: Depends on how much, what form, and how people are exposed to sarin. No matter how exposed (breathing, absorbed through skin, or eating / drinking it), the following may show up within seconds (vapor or gas) or within minutes to 18 hours (liquid)…

  • Head – runny nose, drooling or excess spittle, headache
  • Eyes – watery, small pupils, blurred vision, eye pain
  • Lungs – cough, tight feeling in chest, fast/rapid breathing
  • Nervous system – confusion, drowsiness, weakness
  • Heart/blood – slow/fast pulse, rise/drop in blood pressure
  • Stomach/gastrointestinal – abdominal pain, puking, sick to stomach, diarrhea, pee lot more than normal

… plus …

  • If exposed to small amount – just a drop of sarin on skin can cause sweating and muscle twitching
  • If large amount – can cause convulsions (body can’t stop the muscles and glands from twitching), paralysis (can’t move), pass out, stops breathing leading to death

Treatment: Sarin poisoning is treated with antidotes and supportive medical care. Mainly want to avoid area where released, get decontaminated (strip & wash), and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

  • First – leave area as quickly as possible
    • … if outdoors – move to higher ground and stay upwind
    • … if in building – get outside to highest ground possible
  • If inhaled – get fresh air as quickly and calmly as possible
  • If on clothing or skin – remove contaminated clothes and shoes but don’t pull anything over head – cut it off body. Seal all in plastic bag, then seal that bag in a bag and ask how to dispose of. Immediately wash body with clean water and soap.
  • If in eyes – remove contacts if any. If eyes burning or vision blurred, rinse eyes with water for 10 -15 minutes.
  • If swallowed – if someone drinks or eats something exposed to sarin, do NOT make them puke or drink fluids – call 9-1-1.

Above extracted from IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it?Learn more about our customizable book or ebook

And stay tuned since our next post will cover what to do in the event of a chemical attack.



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