How to help the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan + some social media tools

November 12, 2013

The media has been providing some amazing yet heartbreaking coverage of Super Typhoon Haiyan over the past week, but we wanted to bullet some of the latest updates and statistics and include some suggestions on how to help the survivors.

typhoon Haiyan YolandaPH Photo by Bullit Marquez/AP

Even by the standards of the Philippines, which is buffeted by many natural calamities — about 20 typhoons a year, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions — the latest disaster has shocked the impoverished nation of 96 million people writes CTVNews.

  • The Philippines Department of Social Welfare and Development reports the number of families affected by the typhoon (called ‘Yolanda’ by locals) has reached the two million mark (or about 9.5 million people) as officials continue to assess the extent of the disaster.
  • The official death toll from the disaster rose to 1,774 on Tuesday, though authorities have said they expect that to rise markedly. They fear estimates of 10,000 dead are accurate and might be low.
  • reports aid is coming: medical supplies, pallets of water and food piled on trucks, planes and ferries, sent by the Philippine government and countries around the world. But the scale of the disaster and challenges of delivering the assistance means few in this city, strewn with debris and rotting, smelly corpses, have received any help.
  • In Cebu, the Philippine air force has been sending three C-130s back and forth to Tacloban from dawn to dusk, and had delivered 400,000 pounds of relief supplies by Tuesday [12-Nov], however a lack of electricity in Tacloban means planes can’t land there at night.
  • People are so desperate for food and water there are widespread reports of crowds breaking into warehouses and stores.
  • Medical supplies are also scarce. According to CNN the few hospitals left standing have had to turn people away because they are overwhelmed with the injured. Many people desperate for medical attention have made their way to the airport, where the military is trying to administer medical care.
  • The aircraft carrier USS George Washington and several other U.S. Navy ships are headed toward the region with massive amounts of water and food, but the Pentagon said they may not arrive until Thursday.

How to help the survivors

yolandaPH disaster reliefThere are many reputable groups asking for help with disaster relief efforts, but realize there will be scammers out there preying on the generosity of people during a crisis so make sure you verify the organization you are donating to has a good record. GuideStar gathers and disseminates data about about every IRS-registered nonprofit organization’s mission, legitimacy, impact, reputation, finances, programs, transparency, governance, and more for the public to search and view online.

Below are a few major nonprofits that have teams and relationships in the Philippines and other countries impacted by this monster storm in case you would like to donate to their cause. (Unless an organization requests specific items, the best way to help is to make a monetary donation.)

  • The Philippine Red Cross is accepting donations and coordinating disaster relief on the ground throughout much of the central Philippines. The organization is posting updates on Facebook and Twitter.
  • The Salvation Army disaster services are funded entirely by donors, and Salvation Army uses 100% of all disaster donations in support of disaster relief operations. With 35 years’ experience working around the globe, The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO) works to find long term solutions to poverty in less developed countries where The Salvation Army is active.
  • Catholic Relief Services has dispatched a team to the area affected by the storm, but said travel to the most hard-hit cities and towns was “extremely slow” because of damaged infrastructure and debris-clogged roads. It is accepting donations online.
  • The medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) explains on its website that it has emergency teams in Cebu (the Philippine city with the nearest fully operational airport to the disaster area) and expects “to have a medical team on the ground [by 12-Nov], in Tacloban, a town devastated when the typhoon first struck the coast.”
  • The U.S. State Department announced a partnership with The mGive Foundation Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund, organized by the mGive Foundation, an American 501c3 public charity that collects donations for victims of the typhoon via mobile phone. Wireless subscribers can text AID to 80108 to give a $10 donation, which will appear on the donor’s wireless bill or be deducted from their prepaid balance.
  • Find more reputable, established organizations that make the most of monetary or material donations on the InterAction website

Social media tools

  • Finding a Loved One = If you are looking for information about a specific person in an area affected by the typhoon, Google has set up a person finder page, which can also be accessed by mobile device or text message. If you have information about a specific person affected by the typhoon, you can also use the person finder page to share it.
  • Some users on Twitter are using #RescuePH hashtag to get the word out about missing people and relief efforts. Or follow #YolandaPH for news, updates and conversations about Typhoon Yolanda.
  • The Philippines Department of Social Welfare and Development is providing updates on relief efforts and coordinating thousands of local volunteers at their DSWD field offices to assemble and package Family Food Packs for distribution by various relief groups. Learn more at or follow them on Twitter @dswdserves

Our thoughts and prayers are with the survivors, responders, volunteers and family members of all those affected by this storm. j & B

Thank you Veterans + long list of discounts and freebies for vets this weekend

November 9, 2013

On Nov. 11, 2013, America will pay tribute to the men and women who have served the nation. 

We have several veterans in our family and many friends who have served over the decades, and so appreciate the many sacrifices that these brave men and women endure.

Words cannot express the gratitude we have for ALL veterans and their families each and every day … but especially on this Veterans Day we say THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts!

We also wanted  to share a link to the U.S. First Responders Association that has a long list of discounts and freebies at restaurants, recreational sites and retail stores for active duty military and veterans. Some offers are good all weekend while others are valid on Veterans Day. And some companies offer military discounts year-round so if you are a veteran, it never hurts to ask.

The offers are subject to change or may not be offered at a particular location, so call ahead to confirm a discount is being offered. Most businesses require proof of military service and a current military identification card or a DD Form 214 will usually suffice.

Veterans Meals and Deals 2013

… <removed link — list is no longer online> …

Have a nice, safe Veteran’s Day weekend … and thank you again to all who have served. j & B

Preparing for winter storms (tips to winterize home, prevent ice dams and more)

November 7, 2013

NOAA winter stormWinter storms can last for many days and may include high winds, freezing rain, sleet or hail, heavy snowfall and extreme cold. These types of winter storms can shut down a city or area mainly due to blocked roads and downed power lines.

Severe winter weather also causes deterioration and damage to homes every year.

There are many things you can do to prepare for the bitter cold, ice and snow in advance to save you money and headaches in the long run. Some of these tips should be used by apartment dwellers too.

“Winterize” your home

  • Insulate walls and attic.
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic film from the inside to keep warmth in.
  • Detach garden hoses and shut-off water supply to faucets.
  • Install faucet covers or wrap with towels and duct tape.
  • Show family members the location of your main water valve and mark it so you can find it quickly.
  • Drain sprinkler lines or well lines before the first freeze.
  • Keep inside temperature of your home at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) or higher.
  • Wrap pipes near exterior walls with towels or heating tape.
  • Change furnace filters regularly and have it serviced.
  • Make sure you have good lighting from street and driveways to help others see snow and ice patches and try to keep paths clear of drifts.
  • Remove dead tree branches since they break easily.
  • Cover fireplace openings with fire-resistant screens.
  • Check shingles to make sure they are in good shape.

Preventing “ice dams”

A lot of water leakage and damage around outside walls and ceilings are actually due to “ice dams”. Ice dams are lumps of ice that form on gutters or downspouts and prevent melting snow from running down. An attic with no insulation (like a detached garage) or a well-sealed and insulated attic will generally not have ice dams. But if the roof has peaks and valleys, is poorly insulated, or has a large roof overhang, ice dams usually happen.

ice dam diagram by NOAA

Some tips to prevent ice dams:

  • Keep gutters and downspouts clear of leaves and debris.
  • Find areas of heat loss in attic and insulate it properly.
  • Wrap or insulate heating duct work to reduce heat loss.
  • Remove snow buildup on roof and gutters using snow rake or soft broom.
  • Consider installing roof heat tapes (electric cables) that clip onto shingles’ edges to melt channels in ice. (Remember, cables use a lot of energy and may not look pretty but could help on homes with complicated roofs.)

Preventing frozen pipes

  • Keep doors open under sinks so heat can circulate.
  • Run a slow trickle of lukewarm water and check water flow before going to bed and when you get up. (First sign of freezing is reduced water flow so keep an eye on it.)
  • Heat your basement or at least insulate it well.
  • Close windows and keep drafts away from pipes since air flow can cause pipes to freeze more often.

The best way to protect yourself from a winter disaster is to plan ahead before the cold weather begins.


Learn the buzzwords – Learn terms / words used with winter conditions…

  • Freezing rain – rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads and walkways
  • Hail – rain that turns to ice while suspended and tossed in the air from violent updrafts in a thunderstorm
  • Sleet – rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching ground
  • Winter Weather Advisory – cold, ice and snow expected
  • Winter Storm Watch – severe winter weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible within a day or two
  • Winter Storm Warning – severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin
  • Blizzard Warning – heavy snow and strong winds producing blinding snow (near zero visibility) and lifethreatening wind chills for 3 hours or longer
  • Frost/Freeze Warning – below freezing temperatures expected

winter storm

Be prepared – Develop a Family Emergency Plan and Disaster Supplies Kit, and add the following at home for winter storms:

calcium chloride – good for melting ice on walkways (rock salt can blister concrete and kill plants)
sand or kitty litter – to improve traction
emergency heating equipment and fuel – have backup…
fireplace – gas or wood burning stove or fireplace
generator – gas or diesel models available and learn how to use it in advance (and never bring it indoors!)
kerosene heaters – ask Fire Department if they are legal in your community and ask about safety tips in storing fuel
charcoal – NEVER use charcoal indoors since fumes are deadly in contained room — fine for outdoor use!!
extra wood – keep a good supply in a dry area
extra blankets – either regular blankets or emergency blankets (about the size of a wallet)

Clean chimney – If you use a wood-burning fireplace often, have it inspected annually and consider having a professional chimney sweep clean it as needed. Learn more in the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s FAQs at

Also review some winter driving tips .. and find more preparedness tips in our free ebook.

Stay safe (and warm) out there! j & B

It’s that time of year again … change your batteries and clocks + check your preparedness stocks

November 1, 2013

This Sunday (3-Nov-2013) marks the end of Daylight Savings Time meaning most people will gain an hour when they “fall back”.

While you are changing your clocks, it’s also a great time to change the batteries in detectors, and check and rotate items in your disaster kits, bug out bags and other preparedness supply stashes.

Some things to consider doing this weekend include…

  • Change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors around your home. And remember to test them at least once a month and replace your detectors every 10 years.
  • Also test and rotate batteries in your Weather Radios so you’re ready for old man winter.
  • Check and rotate out water, food, medications and other items in your home, vehicle, office and locker preparedness kits. And remember to include items for your pets!
  • If you don’t already run monthly or quarterly drills, prepare and practice escape plans so you and your loved ones can get out of your home safely in case of fire. Tips: Draw a floor plan of your home showing doors, windows and stairways. Mark locations of first aid and disaster kits, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, ladders, and utility shut-off points. Next, use a colored pen to draw a broken line charting at least 2 escape routes from each room. Then practice, practice, practice!
  • Update your Family Emergency Plan (e.g. confirm meeting places [esp with your children in case you are separated during an emergency], ensure all phone numbers are current, etc.)
  • Go through your Important Family Documents to make sure everything is current (e.g. wills, insurance policies, immunization and medical data, credit card #s, recent photos of family and pets, etc.) And if you gave copies of this data to any other family members, make sure they get the updates too.

Download a free ebook with Family Plans, safety tips and learn more about our customizable products and fundraising programs at .

Stay safe, j & B

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