Be Bear Aware (black and grizzly bear safety tips)

July 15, 2017

A recent bear encounter story reminded us of an article we contributed to PREPARE Magazine years ago with black and grizzly bear safety tips using data from the U.S. Forest Service and a great organization called Be Bear Aware.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, black bears can be found across most of North America, whereas grizzly / brown bears are found in the northwestern states, Alaska and western Canada.

Both black and grizzly/brown bears may visit areas of human use because they find or smell food. Food can include unsecured garbage, birdseed, pet food, fruit trees and some gardens.

Drought, wildfire and urban development can cause bears to roam farther in search of new food sources. Young bears sometimes travel long distances in search of an area not already occupied by another bear.

Black bear versus The Grizzly

Black bears are the smallest of the North American bears and live in almost every part of the continent. But don’t let their name fool you since their fur can be black, various shades of brown, or blond. There is even one race that is smoky-blue and another race is pure white. But most black bears have long, black hair over most of its body with a splash of white on their chests.

BeBearAware.org explains Alaskan brown bear and the grizzly bear are recognized as separate species although mammologists generally agree they are one and the same animal. Bear experts admit they are unable to tell the animals apart, but one distinct difference is Alaskan brown bears are huge, formidable animals that may weigh as much as 1,500 pounds while large grizzlies can tip the scales at a top weight of about 800 pounds.

 

Black bear:

  • Colors include black, brown, blond, cinnamon, and rust. The most common snout color is light brown and some rare face colors are blue and white.
  • Average weight in the West is 100 – 300 pounds, with males usually larger than females. Males may weigh up to 400 or more pounds, with some as large as 800 pounds!
  • Height is 2.5 – 3 feet at the shoulder when standing on all fours and 5 feet standing upright.
  • Rump is higher than front shoulders; it does not have a shoulder hump/muscle.
  • Face profile is straight; muzzle is long.
  • Ears may be long and prominent.
  • Front claws are less than 2 inches long, dark colored, sharp, curved, and good for climbing. Claw marks do not always show in tracks.

 

Grizzly Bear:

  • Color varies from blond to black. Often medium- to dark-brown legs, hump, and underparts with light-tipped (grizzled) fur on head and upper body.
  • Average weight is 500 pounds for males and 350 for females. Males may weigh up to 800 pounds. (Note: Alaskan brown bears may weigh as much as 1,500 pounds.)
  • Average height is 3.5 – 4 feet at shoulder when on all fours, and 6 –7 feet when standing upright.
  • Distinctive shoulder hump is actually muscle mass that enables powerful digging.
  • Rump is lower than shoulder hump.
  • A dished-in profile between eyes and end of snout helps distinguish grizzlies from black bears.
  • Ears are round and proportionately small.
  • Front claws are 2 – 4 inches long, usually light colored.

 

Possible Conflicts with Humans and Pets

Most conflicts with black bears are the result of people unintentionally feeding bears, most often by allowing them access to household garbage or bird feeders. They raid dumpsters, garbage cans and grills looking for an easy meal. They might enter a building by walking on automatic doormats or breaking screen doors and windows to look for food they smell.

Although uncommon, black bear attacks on humans occasionally occur, especially in areas where they come into frequent contact with hunters or people and their game or food. Grizzly attacks (although rare) happen but usually it is because humans wander into their territories while hiking, bear watching, camping or hunting.

If you are camping, hiking, fishing or hunting in bear country it is critical to store your food, toiletries, bait, fish or game, and garbage properly at all times. And make sure you learn the local regulations for the area you visiting.

 

What Should I Do If I See a Bear?

  • Remain calm and avoid sudden movements.
  • If you see a bear but the bear doesn’t see you, detour quickly and quietly.
  • Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. If you are far enough and a safe distance away, enjoy the view but stay aware. If a bear changes its behavior, it is warning you so back away immediately.
  • If a bear spots you, you want it to know you’re human so talk in a normal voice, group together and back away. Try not to show fear. Bears use all their senses to try to identify what you are.
  • Remember that a standing bear is not always a sign of aggression. Many times, bears will stand to get a better view of what it smells and hears.
  • Do not turn around and try to run from it. This will excite the bear. It can easily outrun you since they can run faster than 30 mph.
  • If a bear starts to approach, and you have bear spray, prepare to use it, if necessary, preferably before the bear is within twenty-five feet. Direct spray downwards (using one or both hands) since the cloud will billow up.

 

If a Black Bear Charges…

  • Throw something onto the ground (like a camera or a hat, bandanna or handkerchief) if the bear pursues you, as it may be distracted by this and allow you to escape.
  • Be loud, group together, stand your ground and, if necessary, use your bear spray creating a barrier between you and the bear.
  • If it makes or is about to make contact, fight back vigorously using any object you have like rocks, sticks, hiking poles, binoculars or bare hands or use your bear spray.

 

If a Grizzly Bear Charges and Makes Contact…

  • Play dead, lying on your stomach, clasp your hands behind your neck, and use your elbows and toes to avoid being rolled over. If the bear does roll you over, try to keep rolling until you land back on your stomach.
  • Remain still and try not to struggle or scream.
  • Once the bear backs off, stay quiet and still for as long as you can. Do not move until you are absolutely sure the bear has left the area.

 

To prevent further problems: 

If you live in bear country, take responsibility for not attracting them. Always work with your neighbors to achieve a consistent solution to the problem situation, and keep in mind that doing a combination of things is better than doing just one.

  • Be aware that human behaviors, such as feeding other animals, can attract bears.
  • Feed your pets inside or remove uneaten pet food between feedings.
  • Remove garbage regularly or keep in secure buildings.
  • Remove other enticing food sources, such as birdseed, hummingbird feed (sweet liquid), fruit from trees or shrubs located near buildings.
  • Remove brush and cover around homes and corrals, creating a 50-yard barrier.
  • Fences, lighting and dogs have not been found to be effective, long-term deterrents. Bears are good climbers, so to reduce a bear’s ability to get over a fence, it should be at least 6 feet tall and constructed of non-climbable material.

To learn more visit www.bebearaware.org

 

Our above article originally appeared in PREPARE Magazine’s Oct 2013 digital issue. Learn how to subscribe to PREPARE Magazine’s digital and print magazine at www.preparemag.com.

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Home Fire Prevention and Safety Tips (excerpt from our It’s A Disaster! book)

May 18, 2017

Did you know fire kills more Americans every year than all natural disasters combined? At least 80% of all fire deaths occur in residences — and careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths. And cooking fires (leaving food unattended or human error) is the leading cause of home fires.

Fire spreads so quickly there is NO time to grab valuables or make a phone call. In just two minutes a fire can become life threatening! In five minutes a house can be engulfed in flames.

A fire’s heat and smoke are more dangerous than the actual flames since you can burn your lungs by inhaling the super-hot air. Fire produces poisonous gases that make you drowsy and disoriented (confused). Instead of being awakened by a fire, you could fall into a deeper sleep.

 

BEFORE A FIRE (FIRE SAFETY TIPS):

Install smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors! – Test alarms 1-4 times a month, replace batteries once a year, and get new units every 10 years.

Make a plan – Create an Escape Plan that includes two escape routes from every room in the house and walk through the routes with your entire family. Also…

  • Make sure your windows are not nailed or painted shut.
  • Make sure security bars on windows have a fire safety opening feature so they can be easily opened from the inside…and teach everyone how to open them!
  • Teach everyone how to stay LOW to floor (air is safer).
  • Pick a spot to meet after escaping fire (meeting place).

Clean up – Keep storage areas clean – don’t stack up newspapers & trash.

Check power sources – Check electrical wiring and extension cords — don’t overload cords or outlets. Make sure there are no exposed wires anywhere and make sure wiring doesn’t touch home insulation.

Use caution – Never use gasoline or similar liquids indoors and never smoke around flammable liquids!

Check heat sources – Check furnaces, stoves, cracked or rusty furnace parts, and chimneys. Always be careful with space heaters and keep them at least 3 feet (1 m) away from flammable materials.

Know how to shut off power – Know where the circuit breaker box and gas valve is and how to turn them off, if necessary. (And always have a gas company rep turn on a main gas line.)

Install A-B-Cs and remember P-A-S-S – Install A-B-C fire extinguishers in the home since they work on all types of fires, and teach family members how to use them. Remember P-A-S-S = Pull the pin; Aim at the base of the fire; Squeeze the trigger; Sweep side to side.

Call local fire – Ask local fire department if they will inspect your home or business for fire safety and prevention.

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 them how to report a fire and when to call 9-1-1.

Prevent common fires – Pay attention when cooking & don’t smoke in bed!

 

DURING A FIRE:

If only a small fire that’s not spreading too fast…

Try to put out…? – Use a fire extinguisher or water (unless it’s an electrical or grease fire) … and never try to put out a fire that’s getting out of control!

  • electrical fire – never use water… use a fire extinguisher approved for electrical fires
  • oil or grease fire in kitchen – smother fire with baking soda or salt (or, if burning in pan or skillet, carefully put a lid over it — but don’t try to carry pan outside!)

If fire is spreading…

GET OUT – DO NOT take time to try to grab anything except your family members! Once outside, do NOT try to go back in (even for pets) – let the firemen do it! Ask a neighbor to call fire department if not already called.

GET DOWN – Stay low to the ground under smoke by crawling on your hands and knees or squat down and walk like a duck… but keep moving to find a way out!

Closed door – Using the back of your hand (not your palm) always feel the top of the door, doorknob, and the crack between the door and door frame before you open a closed door!

  • if door is cool – leave quickly, close door behind you and crawl to an exit
  • if door is hot – DO NOT open it … find another way out

No way out – If you can’t find a way out of the room you’re trapped in (door is hot and too high to jump) then hang a white or light-colored sheet, towel or shirt outside a window to alert firemen.

Use stairs – Never take the elevator during a fire … always use stairs!

If YOU are on fire – If your clothes ever catch fire, STOP what you’re doing, DROP to the ground, cover your face and ROLL until the fire goes out. Running only makes the fire burn faster!

Toxic gas – Plastics in household goods create deadly fumes when burned.

 

AFTER A FIRE:

Don’t go in there – Never enter a fire-damaged building until officials say it’s okay and watch for signs of smoke in case the fire isn’t totally out. Even if a fire’s out, hydrogen cyanide and other toxic fumes can remain.

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, etc.) since they may be weak.

Call for help – Local disaster relief service (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 (for both insurance and income taxes).
  • 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 your personal belongings or move them to another location, if possible.

Above extracted from our IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? book ~ learn how to order our paperback and/or ebook for 70% to 80% off list

And learn more about fire safety and fire prevention visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s site www.usfa.fema.gov or contact your local fire department, emergency official, or your insurance agent / representative.


Should I stay or should I go? (Evacuation and sheltering tips when away from home)

January 22, 2015

evacuation-911-nycEvacuations are quite common and happen for a number of reasons — fires, floods, mudflows, hurricanes, or chemical spills on the roads or railways. Most preparedness data for the general public focuses on things to do around your home before, during and after an evacuation.

But what if you are at work or school or traveling? Things can happen near your workplace that can force evacuations or sheltering-in-place as seen recently in Paris when terrorists were holed up at a business … or during active shooter incidents at workplaces or schools. And sometimes accidents happen when riding public transit like Washington DC and New York City experienced recently with fires at their train stations.

Whenever these types of emergencies or incidents happen hopefully people take a moment to reflect on some things like… Continue reading our Jan 2015 enews in PDF


Anatomy of a Hangover (how a body typically reacts to large doses of alcohol)

December 31, 2014

Most of us have probably been there … puking or “praying to the porcelain god”, massive pounding headache, queasy stomach, extreme thirst and more … after partying too hard the night before.

So before you imbibe at holiday celebrations and social functions, consider reading the below graphic to learn how a body typically reacts to large doses of alcohol. (And keep in mind it doesn’t necessarily have to be large amounts since a few sips might set off one’s chemistry into motion too.)

We also included some tips from GMA’s Dr. Savard on how to make the morning after a bit more tolerable.

MCT: Hangover anatomy

If you want to avoid a hangover, obviously the easy answer is … don’t drink. But according to GMA contributor Dr. Marie Savard, there are some things drinkers can do to help make the morning after more tolerable…

  • Sip slowly (so your stomach can absorb the drink slowly rather than getting pounded).
  • Eat chips or foods with fat in it to help slow the absorption of alcohol.
  • Drink water throughout the day / evening (or a glass between each drink) and avoid carbonated drinks since they can increase alcohol absorption.
  • Consider taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or Alka Seltzer before drinking to decrease inflammation. Also … Dr. Joel Saper, founder and director of the Michigan Head-Pain and Neurological Institute, says “never take acetaminophen for a hangover. The combination of Tylenol plus alcohol equals death in some people.” That’s because acetaminophen stimulates an enzyme that can damage the liver. The combination can overwhelm the liver’s capacity to remove toxins from the body.1

Happy and safe holidays to all … and to our military, first responders and volunteers who work day in and day out to help keep us safe — thank you for your continued service and sacrifices. Take care, j & B


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

wildfire-USFS

 

BEFORE A WILDFIRE (FIRE SAFETY TIPS):

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.

 

DURING A WILDFIRE:

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.

 

AFTER A WILDFIRE:

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


Heartbleed (what it is, how to protect yourself + tips about passwords)

April 11, 2014

Heartbleed logo by Leena Snidate Codenomicon Ltd A recently discovered encryption flaw in OpenSSL — a software used by many popular social networking websites, search engines, banks, and online shopping sites to keep personal and financial data secure — has potentially exposed a majority of the internet. Not all secure sites use OpenSSL (a secure site typically has an “https://” prefix and a little padlock in the address line), but about 66% of websites do … so it’s a big deal.

The bug is called Heartbleed because it piggybacks on a feature called heartbeat and it affects specific versions of the widely-used OpenSSL cryptographic library. Basically an error that was missed over two years ago in the open OpenSSL encryption protocol allows a remote attacker to expose sensitive data, possibly including user authentication credentials and secret keys which may allow an attacker to decrypt traffic or perform other attacks.

In other words, if someone knew this bug existed, they could intercept usernames, passwords, credit card details, and other sensitive information from a website’s server in plain text. It also allowed for a server’s private encryption keys to be stolen. Once stolen, these keys can be used by criminals to decrypt data sent between a website’s server and a user of that website. And, since it leaves no trace, system administrators would have no clue they were breached.

Renowned security expert Bruce Schneier said of Heartbleed, “On a scale of 1 to 10, it is an 11.”

What kinds of devices are impacted..?

MIT Technology Review explains the Heartbleed flaw could live on for years in devices like networking hardware, home automation systems, and even critical industrial-control systems, because they are infrequently updated.

Cable boxes and home Internet routers are just two of the major classes of devices likely to be affected, says Philip Lieberman, president security company Lieberman Software. “ISPs now have millions of these devices with this bug in them,” he says. The same issue likely affects many companies, because plenty of enterprise-grade network hardware and industrial and business automation system also rely on OpenSSL, and those devices are also rarely updated.

Large-scale scans of Internet addresses have previously uncovered hundreds of thousands of devices — ranging from IT equipment to traffic control systems — that are improperly configured or have not been updated to patch known flaws. (See MIT’s 2013 article called “What happened when one man pinged the whole Internet” [i.e. 3.7 billion IP addresses] for some disturbing findings about these types of devices.) 

So what does this mean to me..?

If you are a business, a developer or system administrator … upgrading to OpenSSL version 1.0.1g resolves this vulnerability, but realize SSL digital certificates are compromised too so they must be recertified. US-CERT recommends administrators and users review Vulnerability Note VU#720951 for additional information and mitigation details. There is also a way to disable the heartbeat handshake command (although it is best to upgrade) – visit http://heartbleed.com to learn more. Also … once your system is upgraded and recertified, businesses and site owners should notify all users the site is secure and encourage everyone to change their passwords as quickly as possible.

For everyone else … there’s not much we can do other than avoid the Internet (okay … so that’s not realistic) … but you can be proactive and verify all the sites you have accounts with are fixed and get ready to change passwords as explained below. As ZDNet writes… if your bank, favorite online merchant, email, cloud and/or software provider hasn’t fixed Heartbleed yet [or advised that their site didn’t use the buggy version], close your accounts and find new service providers.

What can I do to protect myself..?

Realize some sites don’t even use OpenSSL, others didn’t update to the 2012 version of SSL so they aren’t vulnerable, and many others have patched the Heartbleed flaw once it became known on April 7, 2014. And hopefully any and all websites impacted by this vulnerability notify users once their systems are updated and recertified and recommend everyone log on and change your passwords.

Yes, it is a pain and will be time-consuming, but you should get in the habit of changing passwords every few months anyway.

And realize there will be some scumbags who will take advantage of this Heartbleed scare so be on the lookout for phishing emails requesting you click a link to change your password. The best way to ensure the security and integrity of any of your accounts is to go directly to each website and log in there to manage your secure data.

Mashable has compiled a Heartbleed Hit List of sites possibly affected by this flaw and advises if you should change your password on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Tumbler, Google, Yahoo mail and more.

heartbleed ssllabsIf you’re not sure if a site you use is vulnerable, visit https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/ to perform an analysis of the configuration of any SSL web server on the public Internet. (If everything’s green, it has probably been fixed.) Another tool you can use to check sites is http://filippo.io/Heartbleed/.

Also, if you use Chrome as your browser, they just released an app called Chromebleed that will test a site before you visit it and display a message if it’s affected by Heartbleed. (Note: Some early reviews weren’t so good so read description and reviews before installing.) But keep in mind these tools are just resources and may not be totally reliable.

heartbleed-cap one not vulnerableThe best solution is to visit each and every site you use that has sensitive information (e.g. banking, email, social media, etc.) to find out if they have posted a public statement or link about the Heartbleed issue — or maybe they weren’t even impacted or vulnerable — but hopefully they’ll say something online or in a newsletter.

If they don’t mention anything about Heartbleed, call, chat or email to ask if they had a problem with it. And if a site was fixed … you should change your password.

Many experts suggest the best thing to do is change all your passwords now. BUT… realize you may have to change some of them again since there may be some websites that are still buggy meaning the secure data is still vulnerable.

It’s totally your call, but it is wise to change your passwords often anyway … and you really should change them on any and all sites that have been patched.

Tips about passwords

  • DO NOT use the same password for all your accounts! And make sure all your email accounts have unique passwords since hackers with access to your email can visit other web sites (e.g. banks, Paypal, email providers, etc.) and submit a “forgot my password” request and intercept the email with the reset password.
  • Create long passwords (at least 8 characters long) using a combination of letters, numbers and special characters … change them often … and don’t share them with others. Consider using numbers or special characters in place of letters if using words, acronyms or phrases. For example, instead of using “ilovesunnydays” as a password, you could use “1loVe$unnyd@ys” to strengthen it.
  • Pet and family names are not good to use since hackers or criminals may have access to your personal data and/or your posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.
  • Don’t use the “remember my password” option on accounts that contain sensitive data (like credit card data, etc.) since 1) typing them every time can help you remember passwords … and 2) if your PC or handheld device got stolen the perp could potentially access your accounts.
  • Some people invest in password manager services and apps, such as LastPass, KeePass, PasswordBox and 1Password, which keep track of passwords and suggest especially strong ones. However, some security experts warn against creating a single point of potential failure with all your passwords, especially if the service stores your passwords in the cloud. PCMag has some tips on various password managers.

Also…

  • Make sure computers and all wireless devices have current anti-virus software and firewalls, schedule them to scan daily or weekly, and update virus patterns often. If you own or manage a business, encourage employees to protect their personal home devices too.
  • Set security preferences as high as possible on Internet browsers and anti-virus packages.
  • Although it is best to not open emails or attachments from unknown sources, that’s not always feasible – especially in the business world. But consider saving the attached files into a temporary directory and scan them before opening.
  • See more tips about protecting your devices from cyber threats in our October 2013 enews

For more information about Heartbleed:

Heartbleed.com (official site with data + tips for developers and general public)

OpenSSL Project (OpenSSL community with updates, source code, etc.)

US-CERT OpenSSL ‘Heartbleed’ Vulnerability

Heartbleed: What you should know (WaPo article by Gail Sullivan)

What you need to know about the Heartbleed bug (Good Q & A)

How Heartbleed Works (Good PC Mag SecurityWatch article)

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


How to prepare for and respond to an explosive device or bombing incident

February 6, 2014

Madrid Spain bombing Terrorists have frequently used explosive devices as one of their most common weapons for many, many decades. There are many “how-to” manuals available online and in books so unfortunately it’s very easy for bad people to make bombs and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in various shapes and sizes for use at events where many people are gathering like the Olympics, mass protests, elections, etc.

Explosive devices are very portable, using vehicles and humans as a means of transport, and they can be easily detonated from remote locations or by suicide bombers.

Oftentimes terrorists pack bombs with ball bearings, screws, nails, nuts or other metal pieces to try to inflict as much carnage and chaos as possible.

Besides being vigilant  and having good situational awareness, there are some things people can do to prepare for and respond to an explosive device or incident.

BEFORE ANY TYPE OF EXPLOSION OR INCIDENT:

Be aware & watch – Sounds simple and it is. Stay current on news, alerts and threats – but don’t obsess over them – then start making a habit of being aware of your surroundings. You don’t have to be paranoid or obvious – just make a mental note of the EXITS when you go to places and watch for things that look strange or out of place especially if you walk or drive the same route day after day.

Make a kit – Make disaster supplies kits for your home, office, locker and car. Pack things like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries, medicines (if needed), a change of clothes, comfortable shoes, some toiletries, tools, etc.

Have a plan – Check emergency plans for schools, day care and nursing home to find out where everyone goes if evacuated.

Report strange things – Again, be aware of your surroundings — watch for strange or suspicious packages, abandoned briefcases or backpacks and report suspicious activities to local authorities.

Stay current on threats – The Department of Homeland Securitywww.dhs.gov and Public Safety Canada www.publicsafety.gc.ca post alerts and news about national security online. And of course read or watch local news to find out what’s going on in your area.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to authorities — if told to leave – DO it!

Learn first aid – Take a basic first aid and CPR class … or join a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)

DURING AN EXPLOSION:

Don’t panic… – Stay calm and don’t stop to retrieve personal items or make phone calls – get to a safe place.

Things to watch out for:
•  falling objects – if things are falling off bookshelves or from the ceiling get under a sturdy table or desk
•  flying debris – many blast injuries are caused by flying glass, metal, ball bearings and other materials
•  fires – stay below the smoke (crawl or walk like a duck)
– only use the stairs (don’t use elevators)
– check doors with back of hand before opening  (If HOT, do NOT open .. find another exit!)
•  weak structures – be careful since floors, stairs, roofs or walls might be weakened by the blast

If indoors – Stay put if building is not damaged but leave if warned of any radiation or chemical inside. Cover nose and mouth and find shelter in a building not damaged by blast and prepare to “shelter-in-place”, if necessary.

If outdoors – Cover mouth and nose with a cloth or handkerchief and take shelter in a safe building as quickly as possible!

If in a vehicle – Keep windows up, close vents, use “recirculating” air in case of airborne threats, and keep listening to radio for updates. If possible, drive away from site.

AFTER AN EXPLOSION:

If you are trapped in an area:
•  light – use a flashlight – never use matches or lighters in case there are gas leaks
•  be still – try to stay still so you won’t kick up dust
•  breathing – cover your mouth with a piece of clothing
•  make noise – tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear you (shouting may cause you to inhale a lot of dust)

Rescuing others – Untrained persons should not try to rescue people who are inside a collapsed building… wait for emergency personnel to arrive – then, if they need you, they will ask.

Avoid crowds – Be aware large crowds may be targeted for another attack.

Limited services – Cellular service and towers may get overwhelmed after an incident so realize you may have limited access. And officials may cut off mobile service around an attack site to prevent further remote detonations of explosive devices.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to authorities — if told to leave due to another threat, attack or explosion – do it!

Stay away – Avoid the scene(s) as much as possible. There will be a heavy law enforcement involvement at local, state and federal levels following a terrorist attack due to the event’s criminal nature. Also realize that health and mental health and Fire/EMS resources in the affected communities may be strained or overwhelmed.

Stay current on news – Listen to updates but again, don’t obsess over an event. Extensive media coverage can be overwhelming so try to go about your daily routines and always be aware of your surroundings.

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

Also review some tips on what to do if you receive a bomb threat or suspicious package.

Stay safe, j & B


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