Hawaii false alarm makes people wonder what they’d do if there was a nuclear attack

January 14, 2018

The text message fiasco in Hawaii warning residents about an incoming ballistic missile was a false alarm caused by human error.

Unfortunately the FCC probe suggests Hawaii did not have “reasonable safeguards or process controls in place,” so officials at all government levels will work together to do what’s necessary to fix them.

Also we imagine emergency management officials nationwide are reviewing their operations, communications and Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) plans, and more since this was a regrettable but teachable moment.

While reading posts and comments on social media we noticed that many people are wondering what they should do, where they should go, and what types of shelters are best in case of a missile attack.

The CDC says during radiation emergencies people should “Get Inside, Stay Inside and Stay Tuned”. Basically those within the blast zone of Ground Zero (depending on the size of the nuke) won’t make it … BUT … if you are a few miles outside the zone your chances of surviving it are high as long as you…

  • limit your exposure to radiation and fallout,
  • take shelter with proper shielding, and
  • wait for the most dangerous radioactive materials to decay.

In other words, you can survive a nuclear attack … but you must make an effort to learn what to do!

Two key things are planning to stay sheltered for at least 48 hours or more with proper shielding and having detection devices to monitor levels of radiation. By learning about potential threats, we are all better prepared to know how to react if something happens.

Learn more in our blog post called “How to protect yourself from nuclear fallout (tips about radiation, building an expedient shelter, etc)” and please share the data with others.


Preparing for a Wildfire (fire mitigation + safety tips)

April 25, 2014

rim-fire-usfsAccording to the National Park Service, as many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, negligently discarded cigarettes, recreational vehicles, target shooting (including exploding rifle targets), and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.

As our population continues to grow, more and more people are building homes in places that were once pristine wilderness areas. Homeowners who build in remote and wooded areas must take responsibility for the way their buildings are constructed and the way they landscape around them.

Wildfire Mitigation Tips

Use Fire Resistant Building Materials – The roof and exterior structure of your home and other buildings should be constructed of non-combustible or fire-resistant materials. If wood siding, cedar shakes or any other highly combustible materials are used, they should be treated with fire retardant chemicals.

Landscape wisely – Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees to minimize the spread of fire and space your landscaping so fire is not carried to your home or other surrounding vegetation. Remove vines from the walls of your home.

wildfire defensible space md dnrCreate a “safety zone” or defensible space around the house

  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Stack firewood at least 30 to 100 feet (10 to 30 m) away and uphill from home.
  • Keep roof and gutters free of pine needles, leaves, and branches and clear away flammable vegetation at least 30 to 100 feet (9 to 30 m) from around structures.
  • Thin a 15-foot (4.5 m) space between tree crowns and remove limbs within 10-15 feet (3 – 4.5 m) of the ground.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 10 feet (3 m) of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
  • Keep combustibles away from structures and clear a 10-foot (3 m) area around propane tanks, boats, etc.
  • Review Cal Fire’s helpful diagrams on making a Defensible zone

Protect your home

  • Install smoke detectors, test them each month and change batteries once a year.
  • Install protective shutters or fire-resistant drapes.
  • Inspect chimneys twice a year and clean every year.
  • Cover chimney and stovepipe flue openings with 1/2 inch (1 cm) or smaller non-flammable mesh screen.
  • Use same mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas and home itself. Also screen openings to attic and roof.
  • Soak ashes and charcoal briquettes in water for two days in a metal bucket.
  • Keep a garden hose connected to an outlet.
  • Have fire tools handy (ladder, shovel, rake, ax, etc.)
  • Put your address on all structures so it can be seen from the road.

Campfire Safety – Campfires are a common cause of brush fires or wildfires so please be careful when you’re out in deserts, mountains, or any other heavy vegetation areas.

NEVER leave a campfire burning – make sure it is completely out using plenty of water before leaving the area. Stir the coals around with a stick or log while pouring water over them to ensure all the coals get wet and they are no longer hot. Any hot coals left unattended can be easily ignited by wind since they can stay hot for 24 – 48 hours.

When building a campfire, always choose a level site, clear away any branches and twigs several feet from the fire, and never build a fire beneath tree branches or on surface roots. Also, build at least 10 feet (3 m) from any large rocks that could be blackened by smoke or cracked from a fire’s heat.

See your local Forest Service office or Ranger Station for more information on campfires and permits or visit www.fs.fed.us or www.pc.gc.ca




Prepare – See Mitigation tips above.

Learn fire laws – Ask fire authorities or the forestry office for information on fire laws (like techniques, safest times to burn in your area, etc.)

Could they find & reach you? – Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your property and that your address is clearly marked.

Safety zone – Create a 30-100 foot (9-30 m) safety zone around your home.

Teach kids – Explain to children that matches and lighters are TOOLS, not toys… and if they see someone playing with fire they should tell an adult right away. And teach kids how to report a fire and when to call 9-1-1.

Tell authorities – Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.

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



Listen – Have a radio to keep up on news, weather and evacuation routes.

Evacuate? – If you are told to leave – do so … and IF you have time also…

  • Secure your home – close windows, vents, all doors, etc.
  • Turn off utilities and tanks at main switches or valves.
  • Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.
  • See Mitigation tips above.

Head downhill – Fire climbs uphill 16 times faster than on level terrain (since heat rises) so always head down when evacuating the area.

Food & water – If you prepared ahead, you’ll have your Disaster Supplies Kit handy to GRAB & GO… if not, gather up enough food and water for each family member for at least 3 days or longer!

Be understanding – Please realize the firefighters main objective is getting wildfires under control and they may not be able to save every home. Try to understand and respect the firefighters’ and local officials’ decisions.



Don’t go there – Never enter fire-damaged areas until authorities say it’s okay and watch for signs of smoke or heat in case the fire isn’t totally out.

Critters – Don’t try to care for a wounded critter — call Animal Control.

Utilities – Have an electrician check your household wiring before you turn the power back on and DO NOT try to reconnect any utilities yourself!

Damage – Look for structural damage (roof, walls, floors) — may be weak.

Call for help – Local disaster relief services (Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.) can help provide shelter, food, or personal items that were destroyed.

Insurance – Call your insurance agent or representative and…

  • Keep receipts of all clean-up and repair costs
  • Do not throw away any damaged goods until an official inventory has been taken by your insurance company.

If you rent – Contact your landlord since it is the owner’s responsibility to prevent further loss or damage to the site.

Move your stuff – Secure belongings or move them to another location.

Above extracted from It’s A Disaster! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? by Bill & Janet Liebsch


Additional Resources:

Firewise Communities

National InciWeb

National Interagency Fire Center

Ready.gov Wildfire safety

Smokey the Bear

US Fire Administration Wildfire safety

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 www.csia.org

Also review some winter driving tips .. and find more preparedness tips in our Look inside the book page.

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

Open for Business and OFB-EZ (Free business continuity tools from IBHS)

July 25, 2013

Sharing IBHS’s cool products spotlighted in our July 2013 enews

America has over 23 million small businesses employing about half of the private labor force. The last thing owners want to think about during these tough economic times (or any time for that matter) is a natural or man-made disaster impacting their bottom line.

However, research shows at least 25 percent (and potentially as high as 40 percent) of small businesses do not reopen after a major disaster. Those that do, often struggle to stay in business.

By planning in advance, the odds of a company surviving and recovering from a disaster increase dramatically. Many small and mid-sized businesses and groups think that developing a continuity plan can be complicated and costly. Most don’t invest the energy and money into preparing for the unexpected.

But some free business continuity tools can help change that…

Free solutions from IBHS

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) has developed a streamlined business continuity program for small businesses that may not have the time or resources to create an extensive plan to recover from business interruptions.

Open for Business (OFB) is the Institute’s comprehensive business continuity planning program, and the new OFB-EZ tool is a streamlined kit intended for the use by the very small business owner.

Knowing what risks they face, how to contact key suppliers, vendors and employees without access to electronic records, how to access data, and where to go for help will give small businesses a jump start on recovery if the worst happens.

“Spending a few minutes to plan now will save time and money later,” said Gail Moraton, IBHS Business Resiliency Manager. “OFB-EZ takes into account just how busy small business owners are and focuses on the most important things they must do to be better prepared.”

How can these tools be available at no cost?

IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks on residential and commercial property by conducting building science research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparedness practices.

Howard Pierpont, Board Chair of DERA (The International Association for Disaster Preparedness and Response), has been involved in the review and comments portion of various OFB tool developments since 2005. Pierpont’s 40 years of Business Development, Business Management and Business Continuity experience, combined with his passion to help educate the public about preparedness, are a testament to the types of volunteer experts IBHS has involved with their OFB platform.

The key now, Pierpont explains, is to get the word out to the small and mid-sized businesses, community associations and others about these free tools so they can be better prepared.

OFB-EZ: For the small business owner in the know

According to IBHS, to get started, a business owner should download the free OFB-EZ toolkit and go through each of the eight modules below. Once finished, the next step is to print out multiple copies of the final plan for quick access in the office in a safe, off-site location and save the files to a flash drive.

  • Know Your Risks – Evaluate the extent of your business’ vulnerability to disruptions.
  • Know Your Operations – Identify your key business functions and processes and decide how long you can go without being able to perform each of them.
  • Know Your Employees – Keep employee contact information updated to locate them after a disaster, inquire about their safety, and inform them about the status of your business operations, where and if they should report and what to do following a disaster.
  • Know Your Vendors, Key Contacts and Key Customers – Keep contact information for your key customers, contacts, suppliers and vendors up-to-date.
  • Know Your Information Technologies – Protect your company’s hardware and data.
  • Know Your Finances – Establishing clear strategies and procedures for controlling costs, reporting information to appropriate organizations and clearly budgeting for and tracking what is actually spent during a significant disruption can have a positive impact on the business’ bottom line performance and recovery.
  • Know Where to Go For Help – Maintain a channel of communication with community leaders, public safety organizations such as the police, fire and emergency medical services, government agencies, utility companies, and others
  • Know When to Update and Test Your Plan – Schedule regular reviews and updates to your plan.

With OFB-EZ, IBHS is leading the way toward greater resiliency for the even the smallest of business operations. Business continuity planning is constantly evolving in response to improvements in technology and the increased demands on everyone’s time.

“OFB-EZ focuses on the best practices of business continuity planning,” said Moraton, “It is disaster resilience for a modern world where cutting through the clutter can be challenging.”

Learn more about OFB-EZ … and find other IBHS tools, videos and a vast library of preparedness research and resources at www.disastersafety.org or follow them on Facebook or Twitter, and share ideas with others in your community.  

%d bloggers like this: