Thursday, October 20, 2011

Preparedness: The Big Book

Disaster preparedness and planning can be a complex, lengthy, and sometimes expensive endeavor.  Communities, states, and federal authorities constantly refine their plans for response and recovery.  Mitigation projects like flood control systems and building codes help reduce the potential effects of disasters.  Preparedness requires that we acquire and maintain supplies, equipment, and trained personnel in a state of readiness.  While our governing authorities do what they can, there remains one area of preparedness that no governmental entity can address:  you and your family's own personal state of readiness.  By undertaking a family disaster planning project, you can reduce your household's potential demands on your community's response.  By extension, the more well-prepared families there are, the more prepared the overall community is.

There are dozens of resources online to guide you through various aspects of personal disaster preparedness.  www.ready.gov is a great place to find basic information on disaster kits, food and water supply ideas, and other simple steps you can take.

While food, water, clothing, and shelter are absolutely essential to survival, I want to use this blog entry to remind you that following the immediate threats of an emergency, information is as essential to your recovery as the items previously mentioned.

A highly useful tool that I'm adding to my family's growing emergency plan is The Big Book of Everything, compiled by Erik A. Dewey.  Clicking that link will take you to a page where you can download either an Adobe PDF, or Microsoft Excel version of The Big Book.

The Big Book may seem daunting at first, but by compiling the information in incremental steps over the period of a few weeks, you'll develop a comprehensive document that details emergency information such as family contacts, as well as capturing important financial and other critical data.

What do you do with all this valuable - and sensitive - information?  I wouldn't recommend having a printed copy laying around the house for burglars to find your banking information.  Instead, print out only those essential pages that contain emergency points of contact, and keep it safely stored in a location known by all family members.

An option that we're exploring is storing a non-editable PDF version of The Big Book on key-shaped flash drives.  These won't occupy valuable space in your pocket, but will allow you to keep vital information easily accessible.  Yes, it is sensitive data.  But you can easily encrypt it using a very lightweight program called TrueCrypt, for which the price is right: it's absolutely free.  We'll also store scanned copies of important documents in that encrypted file as well.  If you wish, it may be helpful to have a non-encrypted version of The Big Book on your jump drive.  Just redact any information that could be used should the drive become lost. (Think CIA black pen marks - just black out the sensitive information on Excel then save it as a PDF).

We'll most likely have multiple copies of these flash drives, distributed out to family members both locally and non-local.  Twice a year (or more often if needed) they'll be collected and updated as information changes.

Why go through this exercise?  We have the capacity to digitize a huge portion of our lives, for relatively little cost.  I have several years worth of bank records, payroll records, and other documents stored digitally in multiple locations.  In the unlikely event that a disaster requires our evacuation, consider how much time we would save by not having to identify, find, collect, and store the paper documents.  Digital copies will never replace certified originals. Having volumes of information compressed into something the size of my house key, easily portable and securely encrypted will give my family the chance of a less-stressful recovery should we need it.

The Big Book isn't - and shouldn't be - your family's entire disaster plan.  It is just one part of a multifaceted plan that includes out-of-town/state contacts, pre-determined family evacuation locations (in town, out of town), basic food & water supplies, and emergency action steps for specific hazards like fires and thunderstorms.  The Big Book does, however, give you a one-stop-shop for a host of critical information that you'll wish you had.

What's your plan? 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hazardous Weather Outlook, October 18, 2011

HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE JACKSON MS
452 AM CDT TUE OCT 18 2011

THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR EXTREME SOUTHEAST ARKANSAS AND
PORTIONS OF NORTHEAST LOUISIANA AND CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI.

.DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT

A FEW STRONG TO SEVERE STORMS WILL BE POSSIBLE THIS MORNING INTO
EARLY THIS AFTERNOON AS A STRONG COLD FRONT MOVES EAST THROUGH THE
OUTLOOK AREA. WIND GUSTS UP TO 60 MPH AND SMALL HAIL WILL BE THE
PRIMARY HAZARDS WITH THIS SYSTEM.

IN ADDITION...BEHIND THE COLD FRONT A TIGHTENING PRESSURE GRADIENT
WILL EXIST WHICH WILL RESULT IN SUSTAINED NORTHWEST WINDS AROUND 20
MPH...WITH GUSTS UP TO 30 MPH POSSIBLE THIS AFTERNOON OVER THE DELTA
REGION.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...WEDNESDAY THROUGH MONDAY

PATCHY FROST WILL BE POSSIBLE THURSDAY AND FRIDAY MORNINGS AS
TEMPERATURES DIP INTO THE MID 30S BEHIND A STRONG COLD FRONT.
PRECAUTIONS SHOULD BE MADE TO PROTECT TENDER VEGETATION.

.SPOTTER CALL TO ACTION STATEMENT...
THE ACTIVATION OF STORM SPOTTERS...HAM RADIO OPERATORS...AND
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PERSONNEL IN SUPPORT OF SEVERE WEATHER
OPERATIONS...MAY BE NEEDED TODAY BUT OTHERWISE IS NOT EXPECTED
THROUGH NEXT MONDAY.


***DO NOT USE THIS WEBSITE AS YOUR SOLE SOURCE OF WEATHER INFORMATION, ESPECIALLY WATCHES AND WARNINGS. THIS WEBSITE DELIVERS FOCUSED INFORMATION FOR A SPECIFIC GEOGRAPHIC AREA AND IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE TIMELY WEATHER WARNING INFORMATION***

Saturday, October 15, 2011

20111 National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service

Candlelight Service: Saturday, October 15, 2011 5:00 - 7:00 PM Central Time (telecast begins at 5:15, service begins at 5:30pm)

Memorial Service: Sunday, October 16, 2011, 8:00 AM - 11:30 PM Central Time (telecast begins at 8:30am, service begins at 9:00am)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hazardous Weather Outlook; October 12, 2011

HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE JACKSON MS
513 AM CDT WED OCT 12 2011

THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR EXTREME WEST MISSISSIPPI...
NORTHEAST LOUISIANA...AND EXTREME SOUTHEAST ARKANSAS.

.DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT

A FEW STRONG THUNDERSTORMS WILL BE POSSIBLE LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND
EARLY EVENING FOR LOCATIONS ALONG AND WEST OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.
DAYTIME HEATING AND AN UNSTABLE AIRMASS AHEAD OF AN APPROACHING COLD
FRONT WILL SUPPORT THUNDERSTORMS. THE STRONGEST STORMS WILL BE
CAPABLE OF PRODUCING SMALL HAIL AND WIND GUSTS OF 40 TO 50 MPH.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...THURSDAY THROUGH TUESDAY

THE PROBABILITY FOR WIDESPREAD HAZARDOUS WEATHER IS LOW.

.SPOTTER CALL TO ACTION STATEMENT...
THE ACTIVATION OF STORM SPOTTERS...HAM RADIO OPERATORS...AND
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PERSONNEL IN SUPPORT OF SEVERE WEATHER
OPERATIONS IS NOT EXPECTED THROUGH NEXT TUESDAY...BUT CONDITIONS
SHOULD BE MONITORED FOR THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING.


***DO NOT USE THIS WEBSITE AS YOUR SOLE SOURCE OF WEATHER INFORMATION, ESPECIALLY WATCHES AND WARNINGS. THIS WEBSITE DELIVERS FOCUSED INFORMATION FOR A SPECIFIC GEOGRAPHIC AREA AND IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE TIMELY WEATHER WARNING INFORMATION***