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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Road trip to cooler weather

Route 66, Photo Courtesy:
Arizona Department of Transportation
At a little more than two hours, it's not the longest road trip to make, but my wife and I still considered many little things before we traveled to Flagstaff for our weekend staycation.

This trip was the perfect opportunity for my family to practice key elements of emergency preparedness. Traveling away from home requires lots of factors to consider.

My wife and I left early in the morning, so we didn’t  rush while driving and  enjoyed our drive to northern Arizona. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we ate  before we left so we were fueled for our  journey. Water is a must. We packed a few snacks, including protein bars, nuts and snack mix. Gatorade or Powerade are excellent bonuses to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes while on the road.

Thinking ahead is always crucial in emergency planning.  When I go to Flagstaff, I'm always amazed that we're still in the same state because it's so much cooler there. This  was hard to fathom when we grabbed our hooded sweatshirts out of the closet as it was 100+ degrees outside in Phoenix. We knew high 60s to mid 70s awaited!

We tracked traffic reports to identify road closures before we were on our way. Once on the road, whoever is the passenger checks the cell phone GPS for accidents or closures up ahead. We keep a charger in the car for our phones.

It helps having two people in the car-- the other person can take over driving in case the driver gets tired. We try to keep an eye out for rest stops so we can take stretch breaks and use the restroom as needed.

Lastly, in the trunk of the car, I keep jumper cables, flashlights, extra batteries and other helpful things like synthetic motor oil, brake fluid, WD-40 and a funnel.

Being prepared helps us along the way and gives us the peace of mind necessary to fully enjoy our trip. 

Blog by Charlie Misra

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Pet Preparedness Month: Make an evacuation plan that includes the whole family.

Dog wearing canine backpack laying in the grass with tennis
 ball, leash, and collapsible water bowl.
As a pet owner, I have always felt that my four- legged friend is one of the family. I have always shown compassion for Boomer, my three year old Golden Retriever, as deeply as I do my own children. That is why, when it comes to his health and well-being, I make sure to include Boomer in my family’s emergency preparedness plan.

Just as you take special consideration for children or elderly family members, your pet’s preparedness should go through a similar process. Following these simple tips can alleviate the stress you and your pet experience during an emergency.

Starting from the inside out

Pets are acutely tuned to your feelings. They can sense excitement, fear, and stress. Often times this creates a sense of panic for your pet, who only wants to make you happy. When they cannot “cure” the tension you are experiencing, they start to experience these emotions themselves. If you are one that does not regularly take your pet with you outside of the home, this may also feed into your pet’s emotions as you attempt to load them into the vehicle and remove them from their comfort zone.

The first thing I do with Boomer is show compassion, rather than frustration during a stressful situation. Simply giving him a few seconds of attention and talking calmly to him helps alleviate his tension. I take Boomer on morning walks regularly and he takes car rides with our family to the park, camping, and the groomer, so he does not associate a car ride with something negative like going to the vet. These practices all feed into the readiness of our family evacuation plan.

 ID your pet

One of the basic steps pet owners can take is make sure your pet has current identification tags securely fastened to your pet’s collar. The ID tag should include at a minimum, the pet’s name, address and contact phone number. Micro-chipping your pet is another option to help reunite if you become separated from your pet.
I have current photo of Boomer and I together that will help if he becomes lost and I enlist others to help locate him. It will also help establish ownership, should it be questioned when reuniting.

Boomer’s bug out bag

Just as I have for other family members, I have also packed a 72 hour kit of pet care items for Boomer.  Some basics items I have included are:
Dog standing wearing canine backpack

·         Food in an air tight, waterproof container

·         Three days of water

·         Medication/Supplements

·         Pet specific first aid kit

·         Leash

·         Toys

To make this easier, I purchased Boomer a doggie backpack and have his ssentials  packed inside. Boomer carries his backpack on walks to condition him wearing his pack. In an emergency, I know by grabbing his pack I have the basics Boomer will need.

 Evacuation preparedness

Evacuations during an emergency can be one of the most stressful situations anyone can experience. Having a plan for pet accommodations is crucial.

If you must evacuate, take your pets with you.  Although only service animals are allowed in most public shelters, local animal care and control will try to set up a pet shelter in proximity to the public shelter as well.

Whether you plan on staying in a public shelter, with a friend or family member, or in a hotel, it is a good idea to have a kennel for your pet. Aside from a blanket, food and water, there are a few other items that can help ease your pet’s nerves and help with separation anxiety should you not be able to keep your pet with you in the temporary evacuation shelter. For Boomer, I include a shirt that I have worn to provide a familiar scent and minimize the feeling of abandonment during times of separation.

Like most of us, sitting around waiting can be boring and lead to higher levels of anxiety. Include a pet’s favorite toy or other items to keep them entertained can ease the time confined to the kennel. Boomer likes to have a knotted rope to chew on and a tennis ball.

It is also a good idea to attach an information card to the outside of the kennel to help for the care of your pet in your absence. This card should include:

·         Name

·         Breed

·         Age

·         Medical conditions

·         Owner name

·         Address

·         Phone number

·         Veterinarian’s Information

·         Picture

·         Special Notes

Each emergency will vary and the needs of your pet may also be different, but preparing now can alleviate the stress you and your pet go through. For more information or to download a checklist, visit

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Prepare for the upcoming summer hazards

Last week, I was working around the house. I had just put a roast in the crock pot and started a load of laundry. Suddenly, I heard a loud sound – a mix between and bang and hiss – and my power went out. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself. It was 9:15 in the morning and the temperature was supposed to reach 103 degrees.

I walked around my house turning switches off so the power didn’t surge when it came back on. I looked at the crock pot and I estimated I had about 10 minutes before I would need to decide what to do with the roast sitting inside.

I looked at my dog. She cocked her head to the side and wagged her tail. It was still cool in the house, but that wouldn’t last too long as it was already 91 outside.

Of course, I had just gone shopping and had a fridge full of food. I knew as long as I kept the doors closed, I had a while until I had to worry about the food.

Fifteen minutes passed and I needed to do something with the roast. I went outside and lit the grill. I’d cook it over a low heat for an hour and it should turn out great.
Arizona is known for its extreme summer temperatures, so we know how to keep cool. Of course, part of that “keeping cool” is sitting inside an air-conditioned house. As we didn’t have that option, I walked around closing all the blinds to keep the sun and heat out.

I called my elderly neighbors next door to see if they were ok and if they needed anything. They weren’t home, so I told them I would call them when the power came back.

Another 30 minutes passed. I decided it was time to cool off in another way. I took Bella (my dog) outside and we both swam in the pool to cool off.

As 30 more minutes ticked by, I knew I needed to think about what to do if the power stayed out. My daughter didn’t get out of school until 2:30 p.m., so I had plenty of time until she got home. I knew I could take Bella to a friend’s house if we started to get too hot.

My next thought was the food in the fridge. I went to the garage and realized I couldn’t drive anywhere as the garage door wouldn’t open. I went inside, put on sunscreen and a big hat, grabbed a bottled water and my bike, and rode to the store around the corner. I purchased two bags of ice. The clerk, after hearing about our lack of power, gave me a free popsicle. 

When I got back home, I put the ice in the fridge. An hour later, I heard the rumble of my A/C, and a ceiling fan began turning. I smiled as the power kicked back on.

While it wasn’t extreme heat, or an extended power outage, the morning reminded me to get ready and think about what I would do if the power went out this summer.

The Arizona Emergency Information Network (AzEIN) has many more tips of how to be prepared for extreme heat and what to do if the power does go out.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer traveling essentials

Summer is approaching and what better way to get away before it gets too hot than to go camping up North. That’s exactly what my friends and I did on a recent overnight trip to Payson.  Before we left Phoenix, we made sure that we not only had the necessary items to camp, but also had the necessary items to travel.

Along with packing our sleeping bags, extra clothes, tents, lanterns, flashlights, food, water jugs, beverages and cooking supplies, we planned for the unexpected. We traveled in two trucks.  Before we left Phoenix, we made sure the trucks were mechanically sound, maintenance issues taken care of and the tires had the proper amount of air and tread to handle the roads. When I travel up North, I take a shovel and an axe. Depending on the weather, I can use the shovel to put out the campfire  and dig out soil and/or snow from under the vehicle wheels if they get stuck. The axe can be used to chop up wood for the campfire.

When I go camping, I always return with everything I bring. Not just my camping gear, but also the trash from the campsite. I take plenty of trash bags because nobody likes camping in a litter-filled campsite. Not only that, but it is disrespectful to the land that we enjoy so much. Clearing trash also helps avoid wildfires and clears materials that can easily ignite.

Preparing for our trip also included a just-in-case roadside safety bag that I, along with the other driver, kept handy in our vehicles.  The bag is equipped with many safety items, including reflective hazard triangles, a 14-piece tool kit, a first aid kit, an extra flashlight, tow straps, an air compressor and a 24-hour roadside assistance telephone number. Even though I have not had to use it for an emergency, it feels good knowing it is in the vehicle “just in case.”

While living and playing in the desert, it is crucial to stay hydrated in the summer months.  I take an ice chest filled with ice and cold water for the road.  Whether I am travelling 80 miles north to camp in Payson or 350 miles west to go to Los Angeles, it is important to stay hydrated if the vehicle breaks down or if you need any other type of assistance in the middle of the desert.

Blog by Michael Abalos 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

City of Phoenix engages community partners in disaster preparedness

On May 3, 2017, the City of Phoenix Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management led a preparedness exercise in partnership with organizations, including the American Red Cross, police and fire departments, and other government agencies.  Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs team members participated as “actors” playing the role of citizens evacuated from their homes to a shelter due to a mass power outage caused by a microburst during a sizzling summer.

We arrived at the shelter at the Paradise Valley Community Center and immediately took on the role of evacuees.  We were greeted and registered.  The registration process is critical to understanding each citizen’s needs and providing information to promote comfort and confidence.
The registration form, completed with an American Red Cross team member, captures evacuee information such as name and address, family members, and medical needs.  In my case, I required a prescription medication but I had forgotten to bring it.  Immediately after registration, the team member escorted me to the medical team, introduced me and explained my situation to them.  This personal “hand-off” between the American Red Cross team members is critical to helping the evacuee feel cared for and less anxious.  The nurses captured more details, assuring me that my medical information would not be shared with anyone unnecessarily.  Before I left  the nurses, I knew exactly how and when we were going to get my medication. 

After registration, each evacuee was given a meal ticket (water and snacks were readily available), blankets and a pillow, and a personal care package, which includes items such as a toothbrush, comb, shampoo and disposable shaver . 

Each evacuee was then taken to the sleeping area to choose a cot.  Cots can be moved, and families with youngsters tended to put their cots around the children to help them feel safe. 

For some, the cots were not practical due to physical limitations.  The American Red Cross had cots to accommodate these individuals.  Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members were available throughout the shelter to help people with any needs, any time.

What was most extraordinary was watching how individuals from all participating organizations handled chaos.  Some of the actors were distraught evacuees who were angry, frustrated, agitated and/or confused.  In my case, I was an adult daughter who had been separated from her elderly mother with Alzheimer’s in the evacuation process.  Another person was agitated because she was allergic to dogs, and a service dog was near her chosen cot.  Still another person let out a blood-curdling scream in the cafeteria because she was told that another evacuee’s pet tarantula was loose in the shelter.  In every case, team members responded immediately, and one person stayed with the evacuee until the situation was resolved while others sought out the solution. The evacuee was informed  comforted.  Team members remained composed and were able to keep other evacuees calm.

What did I learn? 
·         Individual preparedness is essential.  Make a list of what you and your family would require if you had to leave your home for several days, such as medications or medical equipment. Information on how to create a Family Communication Plan and how to build an emergency supplies kit is available on AzEIN

·         Our city has our backs and needs you.  The City of Phoenix effectively engages with the organizations and government agencies that are critical to optimizing the support offered to citizens in the event of a disaster.  However, more help is always needed, and CERT is a great way to get involved.

Blog by Toni Eberhardt