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Friday, April 11, 2014

The Heat is On

Well, it’s happened. The heat has arrived in Phoenix. We always wonder when the first hot day will arrive. Some people make friendly bets on the day that it will first hit 100. We haven’t hit 100 degrees yet, but we are getting awfully close.

Suddenly, getting into the car is hot. The A/C takes some time to start working. You start thinking about swimming pools and making plans to go to the lake. You start to adjust your workout routines in order to still be able to hike, bike, run or walk outside. (I’m a morning person so a 6 a.m. bike ride is ok by me.)

Those of us that choose to live in Arizona do so in spite of the heat. We know how to take care of ourselves. We drink a lot of water. We wear lightweight clothing and stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. We spend a lot of money on sunscreen - and we use it. 

Some reminders to survive the impending heat:

·         Limit the amount of time you are outside.

·         Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head and face.

·         Drink plenty of water and limit alcoholic beverages.

·         Eat well-balanced, light meals.

·         Avoid hard physical work during the hottest part of the day.

·         Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.

·         Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning.

·         Check your A/C ducts for proper insulation. get your A/C checked out before it gets hot.

·         Weather-strip doors and sills.

·         Cover windows with drapes, shades, awnings or louvers.

·         Install window reflectors.

We are approaching the time of year where our relatives back east can finally get back at us for all the pool/shorts/golf pictures we send to them in January. We are approaching the time of year where we don’t have as many visitors.
It’s fine by me. I’d much rather find ways to keep cool vs. ways to stay worm. Besides, it’s not really that hot - certainly not yet.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Campfire Safety

When growing up, my family spent a lot of time outdoors. We explored where we lived by biking, camping and hiking. Some of my earliest memories are running around in the woods and playing in the lakes.

A highlight was always having a campfire. It was a big deal to go looking for wood before it got dark so my mom or dad could make a fire. My brother and I would pile the wood we collected on the side and watch with excitement as mom or dad seemed to create the perfect mix of large and small branches and light it.

My brother and I excitedly waited for the sun to go down so we could get down to the business of  making smores and telling stories. I have so many fond memories of the four of us snuggled around the fire watching the logs burn and talking.

We knew that having fires came with the responsibility of ensuring it was always put out. Smokey the Bear was huge when we grew up in California. 'Only You can Prevent Forest Fire' signs were everywhere and Smokey came to visit us in school every year to talk about the dangers of fire.

After the fire burned down to ashes, we would watch our parents pour water or dirt on it to ensure everything was out. They would stir the ashes with a stick and double check for any hot spots or embers, and douse with water or dirt again. They never walked away until they were sure that there was no heat left.

The love of the outdoors has stayed with me. I love to hike and camp. A couple of years ago, my friends and I were hiking and we came to a fire tower, A ranger was in and invited us up.

We were able to see fire damage from a fire accidently set the year before. Looking at the damaged forest was heartbreaking. It reinforced the importance of being careful when having campfires. We spent some time in the tower and on our way down, the ranger offered us Smokey the Bear pins. We placed them proudly on our backpacks.

When I got home, my daughter asked me about the bear on my pack. I told her about Smokey and his web site and we watched videos together about fire safety.

I hope to instill in her the love of the great outdoors and the importance of being safe while enjoying it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The 100- year flood

This week is flood safety awareness week. It makes me think back to my senior year in high school. No, not to wish I was a senior once more, but because of the dikes that broke and flooded the town. My town was situated in a valley along the Snohomish River (the main drainage system for the central Cascade Mountain range).
When you are a senior in high school, you are pretty much focused on you, your friends, and if they are lucky, your family. You do not think about rain and dikes and rivers overflowing.

It rains a lot in Washington State. We were used to it. But it rained a lot in the fall of 1990 and it was warmer than usual, so snow was melting in the mountains.  And finally at the end of November, the Snohomish River couldn’t be contained and it ran over its banks and burst through more than 10 dikes.  
November 25, 1990 was a Sunday. My family lived way above town in a hilly community. We drove down into town for school and to visit some friends. My parents drove through town to get to work in a neighboring city. But as it was a Sunday, we were at home.  We didn’t know anything had happened until a neighbor stopped by and said that some dikes had broken and the valley was flooded. We jumped into the care to check it out.
Driving down Highway 9, all we saw was water in the valley, not the farm land and cows that we normally see. We drove as close as we could and then got out. My dad, mom, brother and I were completely silent as we stared at where the road disappeared into a flowing river. The signs along the side of the highway barely poked out above the water. The highway we used to get into town was under more than 6 feet of water.
It was bad. A couple of people lost their lives. Farms that butted up against the river were destroyed and many animals drowned. Houses and barns disappeared. Snohomish was flooded and completely cut off as it was located in the valley. You drive down to get into town from every direction.

 It took five days for the water to go down. We couldn’t go to school. My parents couldn’t go to work. What I still remember is what we could do. A shelter had been set up in our area and my parents took us to go volunteer. We served food to our displaced community members. My friends who lived in town on higher elevation took their neighbors into their homes. Many others helped with clean-up as the waters started to recede. I can say that most of my friends and classmates pitched in to help others that were in need that November.
The flood taught us that there is more to life than our own personal issues.  It taught us to help others who are in need. It taught us to be grateful for what we have. It taught us to cherish our loved ones. And that as long as they are safe, everything else will work out.

However, being students, when June rolled around, we did grumble about the mandatory make-up school days that cut into our summer. 
Learn more about flooding and the risks in your community by visiting


Friday, March 14, 2014

Welcome to the world of emergency management

I started work at Arizona Division of Emergency Management this week. Some of my family and friends responded by saying, “Great! Now we know who to contact in an emergency!”

While I may be able to give them valuable information on what to do in the event of an emergency, or how to prepare for potential emergencies and hazards, I do not recommend calling the people you know in emergency management during an actual emergency. (Of course, my family and friends wouldn’t actually do so.)

During an emergency, the Public Information Office will be busy crafting messaging and providing critical information to the public. We will be sitting in front of computers trying to sift through the enormous amount of incoming information and determining what can help the public make the best choices for their safety. We will be talking to reporters about what actually happened, dispelling rumors as we go along.

We certainly hope that no emergencies come our way. But we will be prepared if they do.

On any given day, we focus on community outreach and campaigns to educate the public about being prepared in the event of an emergency. We post emergency bulletins on AzEIN, the state’s online website for real-time emergency updates, preparedness and hazard information.

We prepare press releases, speeches, talking points, presentations, and publications. We may do an interview with a TV or radio station. We work on developing relationships with other agencies and the media so we can work together during emergencies.

We also do drills and exercises frequently with other agencies and groups. They can be high stress and fun at the same time. This week, we did a Reception and Care Center drill, focusing on taking care of people who have been part of an evacuation due to an incident at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.

I have always done some preparedness in my personal life. I have an emergency survival kit for my family, and another smaller one in my car. But now, even in my first week, I have found myself telling my friends and families about the importance of putting together their own kits.

I wonder what next week will bring.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Time for a preparedness checkup

Working in the world of emergency management I have constant exposure to the tenets of emergency preparedness . . .make a plan, build a kit, be informed, inspire others.

Our division director requires all employees to have a family emergency plan. The plan is a fill-in-the-blank form for contact information and meeting locations. It’s a piece of cake to do. Mine is good to go.

Last month I noticed it was time to revisit step 2, the disaster kit.

When I arrived home I spotted the City of Phoenix vehicles/equipment at the end of my street. I didn’t really pay close attention to what they were doing. After bringing in my groceries, I started to think about dinner. When I turned on the faucet. . . no water. Uh oh, I walked down the street to inquire about how long the water outage. The outage was expected to last until midnight.

No problem, I have a couple gallon jugs of water (plan A). Oh wait, one I had been using for the iron and the other was used to make sun tea.

Oops. On to plan B.

I was in the habit of having a case of bottled water on hand, but I am trying to be more environmentally responsible. Now I have just a few and some not even completely full.

Uh, plan B not looking so good. On to plan C.

I do have a disaster kit that I keep in the trunk of my car. When I put the kit together, it contained water. Unfortunately those bottles had leaked since the last time I looked at them.

As it turns out, I only had about 20 ounces of water . . .leaving me a little short for all the things requiring water; washing my hands, washing vegetables, brushing my teeth, filling the dog’s dish, washing my hands again, boiling water for the pasta, more hand washing, etc.

Of course, I could have gone to plan D, go the store and buy some water. But what if I couldn’t get to the store? What if the power was out at the store and I could not pay with my debit card? What if the store was out of water?

That was a wake up call for me.

The only thing I did not miss during the water outage was doing dishes.

How is the water supply at your house?  How would you fare during an emergency preparedness checkup?