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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Avoid pet-caused disasters this holiday season

Do your  children get excited when the Christmas tree and holiday decorations come out?  Does the look in the eyes of your four-legged kids also show that once-a-year curiousness combined with a mischievousness that makes you scared to leave your pets alone in your  festively-decorated house? 

With a dog and four (indoor-only) cats in my home, it took me years to find the courage to put up a Christmas tree, but last year, I did it.  We even hung stockings that dangled from the fireplace. And, as expected, I saw five sets of eyes filled with wonder and awe.
I swear that a couple of those younger feline eyes looked at that big tree and then at me and my husband, and I knew they were saying, “All of those toys strung up that high in a tree just for me??!!” 

Like most issues with pets, it’s we pet parents that need the training to avoid problems.  The holiday season brings some specific in-home fire dangers that your pets may inadvertently cause if you are not careful.  Follow these tips to keep you and your two and four-legged family members safe this season.
Secure the Christmas tree: Make sure your Christmas tree is secured and weighed down so that curious cats and dogs can't knock it over easily. Always supervise your pet around the tree, especially if your tree is decorated with lights.  Remember, the lights can dry out your tree more quickly, causing increased fire danger.  (Bonus tip: While not a fire danger, prevent your pets from drinking the tree water as it can cause severe  gastrointestinal problems).

Tie back or tape down electric cords: Seasonal decorations often mean more electrical cords around the house.  These cords are tempting toys for pets—- especially domestic rabbits who like to chew cords. Secure your cord to avoid electrical shorts as well as pets getting tangled in cords and accidentally pulling down a heated decoration or device.

Keep open flames inaccessible to pets:Tis the season for candles, Menorahs, fireplaces, and more cooking on gas stoves and in ovens.  Make certain your pets do not have access to flames and are never left unattended with candles or fireplaces lit.  Your pets beautiful fur and flames are enemies.

In addition to keeping our pets and house safe from seasonal hazards, veterinary experts also advise having a “safe room” for your pets to avoid the hustle and bustle of holiday visitors, if they choose.  Having one room that is not decorated and is safe and peaceful for your pets during the holidays is a perfect gift to make their season bright.  

Blog by Toni Eberhardt

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A cultivating experience in emergency management

Jeffrey at the DEMA Headquarters
Participating in DEMA’s internship program has been one of the most cultivating experiences I have had since beginning my studies in emergency management & homeland security at Arizona State University. My first day as an intern was absolutely thrilling. I was able to observe and interact with those supporting the activation of the Arizona State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) during a presidential visit. The other interns and I were able to see how a real-world emergency operations plan is put into action, as well as see all of the different agencies that collaborate with one another in order to  make these plans run like clockwork.

I was assigned to the Training Branch at DEMA where I learned how training courses are a key component of emergency management. This branch provides the state with qualified instructors and training programs for emergency responders and managers. These courses teach personnel how to address and handle different types of emergencies. No two emergencies are the same, so it is important to provide specific trainings that cover as many aspects of a disaster as possible.

DEMA’s Training Branch does an exceptional job. They review applications thoroughly to ensure the best instructors are selected, as well as provide training locations around the state of Arizona so all county agencies have an opportunity to receive optimal training.

DEMA also has a great internship curriculum that blends knowledge of emergency management as well as hands-on opportunities to interact with different departments throughout the state. As interns, we’ve held roles as evaluators in active-shooter exercises, played parts as victims in plane crash exercises, and taken tours of different facilities around the state to learn about their emergency management operations.

By far my most exciting assignment was evaluating an active shooter exercise where DEMA collaborated with multiple local fire and law enforcement agencies in Phoenix. I learned about various emergency response plans and evaluated DEMA staff to see how they handled the active shooter situation, and the steps they took to remain safe.

DEMA has also given interns the opportunity to participate in additional training courses and classes that count as credit toward professional FEMA certifications. This experience has been extremely beneficial and has helped me learn more about the field of emergency management, while gaining professional experience.  

Blog by Jeffrey Sanchez

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Giving it a shot

Photo Courtesy: CDC/ Emily Cramer
I have always avoided the flu shot.

Like many others, I trusted that my generally good health habits would keep me strong enough to fight the flu if I was ever infected. I was confident that I could pull off a speedy recovery and be in tiptop shape in no time. I have to admit, I believed the flu shot was just not for me.   

As I learned more about the influenza vaccine and the vulnerable populations it protects, such as seniors and pregnant women, I began to reconsider my staunch position. Information regarding the benefits of the flu shot changed my perspective and prompted me to realize that not only was it preventative care for me, but it could be a life-saving step I take for someone else.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, more than 4,000 people on average are hospitalized from flu complications and 700 people die from the flu each year. Elderly populations, children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions are at high risk for serious complications if they contract influenza. In an age where certain health threats are preventable through a vaccination, these statistics are shocking.

Because of the similarities in symptoms, I was also under the misconception that the flu was just like the cold. I did not realize that symptoms from the flu can be serious and lead to life-threatening complications.

For several weeks, I received e-mail notifications reminding me of the health screening and flu clinic happening at my work site. The announcement mentioned that the flu shot would be available to staff. Although it was clear that this would be an easy and convenient way to get the shot, I was not persuaded. Still, I shrugged it off.

On the morning of the expo, I sat in my seat typing away on the computer, as my coworkers eagerly walked to the health assessment. I began to think about the information that I had learned and how the flu shot can protect others, including myself. Compelled by these flu shot facts, I left my desk and squeezed in a stop at the flu clinic before a morning meeting. Before I knew it, I had filled out my paperwork and found myself standing in line, waiting to take the first step towards maintaining my health during flu season. The nurse administering the shot sensed my nerves. She asked if I knew about the flu shot, explained what is in the vaccination, and prepped me mentally for potential soreness in my arm afterwards. Her thorough information eased me through the moment, and before I knew it, she placed a band-aid on my arm signaling she had finished.

The flu shot may seem like an unnecessary precaution, but learning about how the flu spreads, its symptoms, and the dangers it may pose to vulnerable populations puts into perspective the need to prepare for influenza season. A simple vaccine can keep you healthy and potentially save lives. Why not give it a shot?

Learn more about influenza and the flu shot at 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Not a typical first day as an intern

Dustin at the AZ DEMA Headquarters
My name is Dustin. I am a student at Arizona State University, working on completing a degree in Public Policy and Public Service with an emphasis in Emergency Management and Homeland Security. I took a five year break from college to enter the workforce so when I was accepted to the Arizona Departmentof Emergency Management and Military Affairs (DEMA) internship program I thought I knew what I was in for. I “understood” that interns were for getting coffee, filing papers and meant to be seen but not heard. That is not the case at DEMA.

When I showed up for my first day, I expected a typical introduction to the rules and regulations, perhaps even some death by PowerPoint. Instead, we went through brief introductions and were rushed into the Arizona State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). President Trump was visiting Arizona and DEMA, along with other federal, state, and local agencies, prepared for his arrival. 

As I walked into the SEOC, it looked like a movie scene of a NASA control center, with large screens on the walls and dozens of individuals working from computer stations. In the room, personnel represented various agencies, ranging from law enforcement to local emergency management, including DEMA staff members. 

I had the opportunity to listen to a briefing that outlined the President's schedule for the day and the state’s plan to ensure that everyone stayed safe during the planned protest. It was exciting to be part of a real world event and watch live reports come in from different agencies. DEMA entered a 24-hour watch, standing by in case anything happened.

As our work day came to an end, I and the other interns found ourselves wanting to stay to watch as events unfolded while the President gave his speech and protesting took place. 

Not bad for a first day.

An inside look at the Arizona State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC)

Blog by Dustin Kirk

Monday, November 6, 2017

The last time I got the flu

I got something done that I have not always been on top of in years past: I got my flu shot EARLY this flu season! Have you gotten yours?
In the past, I put off getting a flu shot and paid dearly for procrastinating.
I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences with the flu. The most recent was when I was moving across the country from Kansas City, Missouri to Phoenix in the beginning of winter. I didn’t get a flu shot that year. I put it off and it came back to bite me.
I remember the cold Midwest wind, snow falling, frozen ice on the ground and my breath being visible. And I got the flu…at the worst time.
My wife and I were in the middle of packing up our stuff in our apartment. I experienced chills, aches, pains, a high fever, sore throat, and a cough that was miserable. The worst part was my poor wife was left to pack up all of our stuff in boxes, plastic wrap and old newspaper. She did most of the moving herself.
My biggest contribution to that moving experience remains vivid in my mind. Some of the more difficult things to pack were our outdoor chairs, table and fire pit, which were on the heavier side. I had to go onto our balcony to retrieve them.
My wife and I had the Kansas City Chiefs game on the television inside. I remember the sports commentators having their faces covered up to their noses with scarves because it was zero degrees in the city.
Wrapped up in winter gear, flu and all, I grabbed each piece of outdoor furniture with my aching hands (probably in discomfort from the flu as well as the cold temperature), shook and dusted the snow off of each piece, and hauled them inside. It took all the energy I had at the time just to move that furniture inside. And it still was just a drop in the bucket compared to all the hard work my wife put in to get us moved.
We had to wait a couple of days for the weather to improve before we hit the road. An ice storm had come through the night before and the roads were very slick. We lived in the middle of the city, and the last thing I wanted to attempt was driving a moving truck through Kansas City traffic.
On the last days of fighting off my illness, the ice had begun to melt in the city. There was a lull before the next storm was supposed to roll in. We decided to make our move.
At 4 a.m., I got behind the wheel of the movers truck we rented and drove out of KCMO to hit the open roads of Kansas. A couple of days later, we made it to Arizona. I couldn’t help but think of how much easier things could have been if I’d just gotten my flu shot.
I used to think that it was inconvenient to take time to get one. But today, more than ever before, there are a number of places where flu shots are available.
Many walk-in care clinics can be found in pharmacies or retail stores. Immunizations are widely available. You can find immunization clinics state-wide and use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to find a clinic in your area. Your local pharmacy can administer vaccines. Most county health departments carry the flu vaccine.  I got my flu shot at an Emergency Preparedness Fair at the local mall in September.
Looking back, I would have much rather had a normal, uneventful move than end up having a flu story to tell about the experience.  Getting a flu shot is worth not getting the headache. And the chills. And the fever. And everything that comes with having the flu.