Ultimate Disaster Evacuation Checklists

10.31.2017

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Note: I created 5 downloadable documents in this post, feel free to download.

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Sonoma County, California Wildfires Force Evacuations Near San Francisco, Image of NBC News, http://www.nbcnews.com

The Northern California Wildfires that recently occured left a devastating amount of damage. More than 160,000 acres—or 250 square miles—have burned in Sonoma, Napa, and Solano counties, just north of San Francisco. Another 36,000 acres have burned farther north in Mendocino county. The fires are still not 100 percent contained. About  8,400 structures have been destroyed, according to Cal Fire, the state’s wildfire-fighting agency. The California insurance commissioner reported that about 5,500 homes were completely destroyed, with an additional 4,000 partially burned. Santa Rosa alone lost 3,000 homes to the fast-spreading Tubbs fire.

At the peak of this catastrophe, 11,000 firefighters across the state—including 3,800 inmate volunteers from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation—battled the flames. Firefighters would work anywhere from 24 to 80 straight hours, dousing active fires and chopping down trees and brush to prevent their spread. About 4,300 still remain on the frontlines as of 10/25/2017.

The devastation from those fires echoed across the state. A lot of residents, business owners lost everything. The fires burned so hot that the foundations of these homes were the only structural elements that survived. It also made me wonder if I was truly prepared for a disaster like this to strike in my own neighborhood. I decided to assemble the disaster evacuation checklists for anyone to download, for such a catastrophic event like these widlfires.

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Aerial view of a Santa Rosa neighborhood, after the wildfires settled. Image from http://www.CBS.com

Now, most people know that you should have Emergency Kits in your home. In California, our most well known natural disaster are earthquakes. If you grew up in California, you would have practiced earthquake drills at school or at home or were simply reminded what to do during an earthquake each year via public service announcements. However, it seems that there is little talk about evacuation disasters, where you have to leave everything behind, to save your life, your family’s lives, in order to survive. There’s a chance you may be alerted to prepare to evacuate, and sometimes you will not get that chance and have minutes to get out of your residence. This is a comprehensive post and I hope it can help someone out there.

 

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Before Disaster Strikes

So before any evacuation disaster strikes, there’s a lot that needs to be done. Take your time, be patient and go through these steps carefully. Since it’s a very detailed process to go through, keep pushing forward and by the end of it all, you’ll feel more prepared for the worst case disaster scenario.

Scanning and Photographing

  1. Transfer all home videos you’d like to keep into a digital file. You can save these on an external hard drive,  in your cloud, or both. If you want a simpler solution, transfer all VHS format videos to DVD format so they will be salvageable later on.
  2. Scan or photograph all photos you would like to keep, and organize them. Save on an external hard drive, cloud or both
  3. Scan or photograph all personal legal documents per person
    1. Diplomas
    2. Birth Certificate
    3. Social Security Card
    4. Immunization Record
    5. Health insurance card
    6. Medical Record & current prescriptions
    7. Car Titles
    8. Passport
    9. Take photos of all cards (front and back). I usually organize mine (face up) on a sheet of paper, then I flip the cards over to take pictures of the back of the cards. You can group 8 cards together on a single sheet of paper or take pictures of them individually. I tend to group cards into three categories.
      1. Membership cards (these cards will not likely change)
      2. Legal and important cards
      3. Cards in my wallet (these cards will likely change due to the expiration dates, so you can group these together and retake the picture as needed)

Create a Home Inventory of all of your belongings

 

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In the event of a fire or other disaster, would you be able to remember all your possessions? Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance.

I thought I’d tell you how I approached my home inventory list. This Home Inventory project was also the perfect opportunity to declutter and clean up. It’s a lot easier to do this project when your drawers are cleaned up and organized. Since I was going through this project room by room, I first inventoried my first room and subsequently used that first room to store all of the items I planned to donate or not keep. I needed these items out of the way and I also planned on moving these items to my car, when I made the walk through video.

  1. Download a copy of the Household Inventory Checklist
  2. I like to take a picture of each wall of each room, then open up and examine each furniture piece on each wall. I then examine all of the items within each furniture piece. I always inventory items Left –>Right and Top–>Bottom.
  3. You can also do a walk through video to give an overall view of your possessions.

Checklists

 

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The American Red Cross Mile High Chapter put together a very useful American Red Cross_Emergency Preparedness Checklist (Edited)  in which, they listed out Who you should contact for information regarding the emergency, Creating an emergency plan, Preparing a Disaster Supplies Kit, Emergency contacts and physician contact numbers, Floor plan evacuation sheets, Home hazard awareness and an Emergency Kit for your car. I actually edited this PDF to accommodate two contacts per category, so that you could include a back up contact.  I placed a few symbols for reference to be used on the Floor Plan sheets like these below. The other items on the list are easily identifiable, so I didn’t include symbols for those, but you can add those in.

Floor Plan Key Sample- From Doc Hub

Create an Emergency Go Bag Checklist per member in the household. I combined an Emergency Kit and a Go Bag Checklist to create this Emergency Go Bag Checklist. This bag will have legal paperwork, pertaining to your health, home and finances. It’ll include some electronics and emergency items. Depending on what you take for sentimental items and valuable jewelry, this bag may become bulky and heavy. The bulkiest items on this checklist is clothes, food and water. I keep these bulk items outside of the Emergency Go Bag, so I know to grab those items on the way out. If you have to evacuate quickly, you may have to leave some of the bulk items behind. I would try to grab some water and food though. The highlighted rows are documents, so these should take up little space, or at least be able to lay flat.

If you want extra safe keeping, I created a Keep Away From Home Checklist so that certain legal documents can be kept in a separate safe location. If you choose to not have a separate location to keep these documents, this checklist will be combined with your Emergency Go Bag documents.

During an evacuation, there is very little time to organize what to do and where to go. In these stressful situations, saving yourself and your family is the primary focus. I put together another checklist of what to do Before, During and After An Evacuation Checklists. Keep this list along with your other checklists. These checklists will only be used upon evacuation. If you have already scanned and photographed your legal documents, you’ve already done half of the work. The other half of preparing for such a disaster is completing the home inventory.

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Ideally, the Emergency Go Bag will be light and easy to evacuate with. Because majority of the items listed on all three lists are documents, these items should be able to transport easily. Once you record these documents into digital files, you can back these digital documents up with cloud storage or with an external hard drive. I do both to cover my tracks.

I really wanted to make these checklists because I never realized how much goes into being prepared to evacuate. Even putting these documents together was a lot of work. If you declutter as you go, the work will be less. When you list out your room inventory, just go room by room so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. You’re literally going through every single item you own, so go at a comfortable pace. Set goals for each part of the project so at least you complete this project in sections. At the end of the day, stuff is really just stuff. Your life and your loves ones are priceless. I hope this post helps organize your home and help you become more prepared for disaster evacuations. Stay safe out there!

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Eco-Friendly Christmas

10.15.2017

0600

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Having an Eco-friendly holiday isn’t as daunting as it sounds. It might sound complicated because the concept is different, but it’s actually pretty simple.  So for each holiday there are basic aspects of the holiday celebration I like to check off: decorations, food and entertainment. I don’t always cover all three categories equally and majority of my focus will usually be on the food.

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Decorations tend to be covered easily being that Christmas is such a huge holiday celebrated. Honestly, any type of decoration that is compostable or reusable is a good idea. Here are some ideas for zero waste holiday.

  1. Decoration Ideas:
    1. Seasonal
      1. Seasonal leaves, fruit, create a centerpiece suing branches and colorful seasonal leaves.
    2. Christmas
      1. Use existing jars filled with some seasonal and colorful leaves to decorate the table
      2. Use branches and leaves from outside to decorate the table surface

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  1. Zero Waste Food
    1. Consider using fresh fruits and vegetables as ingredients in your dishes. You can compost the skin or the non edible pieces after
    2. Buy your ingredients from the bulk aisle or bulk bins
    3. For ingredients that usually come in packaging, consider making your own homemade version or looking for it in paper, aluminum or glass packaging
    4. Share recipes or give the gift of different types of dishes to one another

Notebook

Gift ideas can be tricky for this holiday since it’s based around an iconic tree as well as what surrounds it on Christmas Day. However, here are a few ideas for zero waste gifts, you might want to consider. Check social media sites (Groupon, Living Social, Ticketmaster, etc.) for great deals for events and activities for family and friends during the holidays.

  1. Gift Ideas:
    1. Compostable Gifts
      1. Food, snacks, bulk candy wrapped in reusable packaging or compostable packaging
      2. Buy bulk foods and create a recipe kit for a gift
      3. Seasonal fruit, fruit basket gift
    2. Gift of Goods and Products
      1. Consider checking out thrift stores to find a gift for the recipient
      2. If you want to give a new gift, look for gifts with no packaging or recyclable paper packaging
    3. Gift of Experiences
      1. Sporting events ( football, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, baseball, etc.)
      2. Theme parks (check for local theme parks near you or near the recipient)
      3. Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing, etc.)
      4. Gift card or money for food & drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee, tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
      5. Gift card or money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining, etc.)
      6. Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
      7. Gift card or money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)
    4. Service Ideas (This will differ based on location, so check your local listings)
      1. Volunteer for a charity or organization that will help hand out food during the holidays
      2. Donate toys, clothes, coats, shoes to an organization that will help distribute them this season
      3. Volunteer your time in a hospital, care home, nursing home to those who may not have family near or at all

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  1. Gift Wrapping:
    1. Reusable cloth gift bags with string to tie bows (if wanted)
    2. Fabric sheets or bandanas to wrap and tie around gifts
    3. For the larger gifts, I’ll use a pillowcase or really large bed sheets to wrap the gifts
    4. For medium sized gifts, I’ll wrap the gift in an extra t-shirt.

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Entertainment during the holidays can be daunting as well. Usually families have kids around or simply need entertainment playing while the day is happening. 

  1. Entertainment
    1. Movies- if you are able to stream movies, there are a few great resources to stream holiday movies during this time. Check YouTube or other streaming media, they usually have full movies uploaded to watch.
    2. Board Games – Ask your guest if they have any board games to play or would want to bring for the kids to share and play with
    3. Card Games – these games are always fun because a deck of cards can be really versatile

I hope this outline helped to brainstorm ideas for you. This is an overall idea list and if you want to check out other holiday blog posts, check out these holiday blog posts from these websites:

I Was Like This As A Kid

08.22.2017

0600

My search for minimalism started at a very young age. I didn’t understand what I was searching for or what it looked like, but I knew I always wanted to donate my toys and I always felt relieved afterwards. I genuinely loved how I felt after letting go of a possession, so that someone else might enjoy it. Granted, I still held onto my favorite toys, but I always wanted to give away the rest. When I was younger, between my brother and I, we had one cardboard box that held all of our toys. It was approximately 15″(W) x 21″(L) x 18″(H), but with no lid. We each had about 2-3 toys outside of that box that stayed near our beds, but the rest were stored in that box. The box consisted of Legos, small figurines, small games and other items. Clean up was easy because we just tossed all of our toys into the box and slid it into the closet, underneath an existing built-in shelf.

When we each got separate rooms, that’s when the amount of toys increased for the both of us. A lot of the toys were passed down from friends and relatives. And although we greatly appreciated them, over time we grew out of them too. Keeping track of the toys became more time consuming and even keeping the rooms clean seemed like more work. I even became overwhelmed with the amount of toys I received from friends and family at one point.

When I look back on it now, I really did like the fact that all of our toys fit into that cardboard box. During that time, since my brother and I shared a room, we had to keep our separate spaces clean because there wasn’t much space in the bedroom.

When I entered middle school, I lost a lot of interest in toys even though my Hello Kitty collection started growing. I became interested in journals and just writing down my thoughts. I turned my journal into a sketchbook/journal/sticker record. This is where I subsequently stuck all of the stickers I had collected over the years. The journal was an Ampad Gold Fibre Personal Compact Notebooks – 130 Sheets – Printed – Double Wire Spiral 5″ x 7″ – Green Cover – Micro Perforated, Pocket.

AsAKid- Ampad Gold Fibre Personal Compact NotebooksA childhood friend of mine, Juliana, had a bible cover for her bible (which I thought was a regular book carrier at the time) and I thought was the coolest thing ever. I saw this cover as a perfect carrier for my journal, so I went out and bought one. It completed my journal into a perfect package. I would also keep letters I received from family members on the inside pockets. I didn’t need a library of pens or pencils, I only needed my favorite pen for this journal.

This is how my journal became my most prized possession.

 

AsAKid- Green Bible Cover

It didn’t take me long to realize how much I valued words and writing. I didn’t care to buy new clothes or accessories. I still enjoyed playing sports, which came with equipment that I needed, but within the confines of my bedroom, my journal meant the world to me. As long as I had that journal, and I could write down my thoughts and draw my sketches, I was a happy kid.

Fast forward almost two decades later, and I’m still writing, but for a slightly different reason now.  I like the act of writing for the pure fact that it marks a moment in time. It expresses my age, my thoughts, the events surrounding that moment and even the people in my life at that time. It also reveals how my past self changed into my future self.

I still enjoy owning a minimal amount of possessions, and I value my time with family and friends much, much more. I still write, but it’s either stored on the internet or in an external hard drive.

I didn’t know what minimalism was as a child. I only knew that I didn’t want to own a lot of stuff and I loved to write and draw. I was a child who set out to own less and now as an adult, I really understood what I had been looking for all along.

 

The Problem With Teflon

08.08.2017

0600

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Teflon became popular because it is non-reactive due to its strong carbon–fluorine bonds; it reduces friction and energy consumption of machinery when used as a lubricant. Though it was claimed to be the best-known chemical inventions of the 20th century, today, Teflon has been touted as a serious health hazard to humans as well as animals. When I found out about the dangers of teflon, I transitioned over to cast iron and stainless steel pots and pans. The research behind teflon is dangerous and jarring.

Non-stick cookware may cause cancer

The non-stick coating, used in Dupont Teflon pans, has been found to release one or more (up to 15) different toxic gases when heated to high temperatures. Did you know that non-sick cookware is made with a chemical known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been labeled carcinogenic by a scientific review panel that advises the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This is a chemical that is being used in many household products from cookware, coated paper plates and even microwave popcorn bags. The side effects have been known for a long time, and one of the most written about is its effects on pet birds.

The worst issue behind Teflon pots and pans

As careful as we try to be – Teflon pots and pans can easily get scratched at some point. In fact, the truth is many people tend to use battered and scratched Teflon cookware. Teflon is usually used to cover aluminum which in itself is a dangerous metal – implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

What are some of  the health hazards faced?

  1. Male Infertility- The chemicals emitted from the heating of Teflon pans have recently been shown to be linked with higher rates of infertility. A recent Danish study suggested that exposure to PFOAs in fetal or later life accounted for decreased sperm production and morphologically abnormal sperm.
  2. Thyroid disease – A recent study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), goes on to confirm the association of thyroid disease with human exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Also the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) revealed that higher concentrations of PFOA in the blood of the surveyed people were linked to the occurrence of thyroid disease.
  3. Childbirth and reproductive problems – PFOA contamination of food, air and water supply has the potential to damage the reproductive systems of a large population of women. Inevitably causing difficulty in childbirth or birth defects. Scientists based at the University of California-Los Angeles, found that women with higher concentrations of PFOA in the blood stream (more than 3.9 ppb) experienced greater difficulty in conceiving than those with lesser PFOA concentrations. Also the chances of them being diagnosed with infertility were greater.
  4. Birth Defects – an individual living near the DuPont factory that produces Teflon products was born with one nostril and other facial defects. He claims that his mother who was working in the factory was exposed to PFOA while pregnant therefore he acquired those birth defects.
  5. Kills bird – when Teflon is heated to a high temperatures toxic fumes are emitted that are known to kill pet birds especially small birds such as budgies, finches, and cockatiels. Considering this the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that cookware and heated appliances comprising of non-stick coatings must carry a label that warns the hazard caused by the coating to pet birds.
  6. Carcinogenic – a recent study showed that when rats were injected with PFOA they developed brain tumors. PFOA the coating material used in Teflon products was also shown to be present in trace amounts in blood samples of people and lasted four years in the blood stream.
  7. Causes other diseases – animal research has shown that liver cancer has propelled with more exposure to PFOA’s and case reports suggest that the PFE fumes emitted by very hot Teflon coated utensils have caused pneumonia and inflammation in the lungs.
  8. Non Biodegradable – PTFE is non-biodegradable as it is made up of strong molecular bonds that make it durable and resistant to natural processes of degradation. Thus it tends to accumulate in the food chain causing sever damage.

How to avoid these circumstances?

The best way to protect you and your family is to use cookware made from: ceramic, stainless steel or glass. There’s clearly no argument as to whether conventional non-stick cookware has a negative impact on human health, so with that in mind, what are the alternatives?

1. Ceramic

Ceramic cookware is gaining popularity fast thanks to its ability to create a non-stick cooking surface while containing no traces of PTFE or PFOA.

Brands such as Neoflam are using the most advanced ceramic technology to produce durable and heat efficient non-stick coatings that are safer and more environmentally friendly than conventional non-stick cookware.

2. Cast Iron

Companies like Solid Teknics are manufacturing some incredibly high quality cast iron products which have a myriad of advantages over conventional non-stick cookware.

Cast iron is extremely rugged, easy to clean, and if properly seasoned, it’s also “non-stick” (minus the toxic cocktail of chemical compounds). Cooking with cast iron is a great way to experience many of the benefits that come with using non-stick cookware while also minimizing your exposure to harmful substances.

3. Heatproof Glass

Glass isn’t the most dynamic cooking material and it’s somewhat limited in the styles of cooking that it can accommodate, however, for oven baked dishes there aren’t many materials more safe and affordable than heatproof glass.

When choosing glassware for cooking, be sure to check that the glass is heatproof and of high quality construction. Pyrex has a great range of kitchen glassware for all sorts of different applications, including cooking.

4. Stonewear

Similar to ceramic, stonewear cooking equipment is a non-toxic alternative that usually involves a combination of crushed stone and a PTFE-free coating in order to achieve similar results to those of typical non-stick cookware.

Brands such as Stoneline, Swiss Diamond & Ozeri all provide good products in this range.

5. Stainless Steel

Tried and tested, stainless steel is one of the safest cookware materials in existence and is an excellent non-stick alternative for many forms of cooking. It’s worth noting that using frying pans and skillets that are made from stainless steel will sometimes result in ingredients sticking to the surface of the cookware when exposed to high temperatures. However, if you use ample amounts of a high quality cooking oil, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

Happy Independence Day

07.04.2017

0600

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Independence Day, also referred to as the Fourth of July or July Fourth, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.

Independence day was always a special holiday for me. It marked the existence of summer and it came with barbecued food, swimming and fun with friends and family. The days were longer and the nights were warm. As a kid, July was a particularly a fond month for me to remember, the smell of summer in the air and the empty school playgrounds allowed us to use the basketball courts and soccer fields freely. School life had come to a halt for a few months and you knew you would run into your classmates outside of school. It was a chance to interact with them in a different environment. It was a welcomed break for a daily school routine.

Although now that I’m an adult, the smell of summer still brings back great memories, but there is no break in the daily work routine. I still love the smell of summer but it passes by quickly. I still go and watch fireworks, and I reflect on how lucky I am.

This holiday also marks that the year is halfway over. Time passes by so fast when you’re busy, although being unproductive is also not a good habit. Finding that balance as an adult is critical. We work our entire lives to go to school so that we can be successful in our careers, so we can have enough income that would support a comfortable life, and before we know it were inching towards retirement.

That reality is why I make it a routine to enjoy my evenings each night. Even if it’s only an hour, I work at shaping my daily routine around a simplistic schedule. This leaves time for me to just sit back and relax for the evening. Even on the weekends I have routines that help me enjoy each morning. During these mornings I usually reflect on what I’ve accomplished during the year and what I still want to accomplish.
Even though July marks the halfway point of the year, it also means that we can all take advantage of the rest of the year.

I think about what goals I’d still like to accomplish and set up a plan to follow though. Goals are like meetings, prepare for the meeting, be on time and be ready to interact and engage. You can’t postpone these meetings, set up those goals and get them done- no more excuses.

So my questions to you are:

What goals did you set out for yourself that you haven’t started or finished?
What projects do you have left to do?

What have you been “meaning to get done, but haven’t had the time”?