As Hurricane Isaac relief efforts continue, American Red Cross chapters nationwide are uniting to help every family create a disaster plan.
Whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake or house fire that threatens, families need a disaster plan first to make sure they are ready when emergencies happen. “Just like no coach would bring a team onto a field without a game plan, every family needs their own game plan for emergencies,” said Russ Paulsen, executive director of Community Preparedness and Resilience at the Red Cross. “When disaster strikes, it’s too late.”
Disaster plans should include designating a meeting place right outside the home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, a location where everyone should meet if they can’t go home and an out-of-area contact who can help connect separated family members. All members of the household should work together on the emergency plan and each person should know how to reach other family members.
The Red Cross has tools to make it easier for people to make or update their plan. The American Red Cross Hurricane App for iPhone and Android smart phones helps people create a plan and share it with household members and over social networks. In addition, a template to build a plan is available at redcross.org/npm.
“Being prepared is a family’s best defense,” said Richard Bissell, Ph.D., chair of American Red Cross Preparedness Sub-Council and member of its Scientific Advisory Council. “Having a plan is vital to making sure all household members know what to do in an emergency.”
OTHER WAYS TO GET READY
The Red Cross has several programs to help people, businesses, schools and communities be better prepared.
- Be Red Cross Ready is a web-based, interactive tutorial that teaches people how to be ready for emergencies.
- Red Cross Ready Rating™ is a free, web-based membership program that measures how ready businesses, organizations and schools are to deal with emergencies and helps them improve their readiness level.
- The Ready When the Time Comesprogram trains employees from businesses so they can be used as a community-based volunteer force when disaster strikes.
- Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED trainingcourses provide participants with the knowledge and skills to respond to emergencies in case advanced medical help is delayed.
- People can visit redcross.orgfor information on what to do before, during and after emergencies and disasters.
“We can’t control Mother Nature,” said Paulsen, “but we can control what we do. And having a plan can make all the difference.”
1. Keep your home well-maintained on the outside.
Burglars want an easy target. Stand on the street outside your house and ask yourself: Does my property look neglected, hidden, or uninhabited? A front door or walkway that’s obscured by shrubbery offers crooks the perfect cover they need while they break a door or window. To improve security, trim shrubs away from windows and widen front walks.
2. Install motion detector lights.
All sides of your house should be well-lit with motion-activated lighting, not just the front. Simple motion-activated floodlights cost less than $50 each, and installing them is an easy DIY job if the wiring is already in place.
3. Store your valuables.
Thieves want easy-to-grab electronics, cash, jewelry, and other valuables, though some are not above running down the street with your flat-screen TV. Most make a beeline for the master bedroom, because that’s where you’re likely to hide spare cash, jewelry, even guns. Tour each room and ask yourself: is there anything here that I can move to a safe deposit box? Installing a home safe ($150 to $500) that’s bolted to your basement slab is a good repository for items you don’t use on a daily basis.
4. Secure your data.
While you probably won’t be putting your home computer in a safe anytime soon, take steps to back up the personal information stored on it. Password protect your login screen, and always shut off your computer when not in use (you’ll save energy, too!) Don’t overlook irreplaceable items whose value may hard to quantify, like digital photos.
5. Prepare ahead of time in case the worst happens.
- Take a photo or video inventory of items of value in your home, and store the file online or in your home safe.
- Check that you’re properly insured for theft. Note that high-ticket items in your home office, such as computers, professional camera equipment, or other business essentials, may require an additional rider or a separate policy.
Successful burglars have lots in common — home owners who unwittingly give invitations to robbery. Here’s how thieves thank you for your generosity.
You come home to an open front door, a ransacked house, and missing valuables. How did a burglar know you’d be gone? How did they get in?
Check out these 10 thank-you notes from your friendly neighborhood burglars, and their advice on how to stop lending them a helping hand.
1. Thanks for the ladder!
Call me a social climber if you will, but I did discover a ladder in your back yard. Thank you for leaving it where I could lean it against your home and easily reach a second-story window. I really love it when upper story openings aren’t wired to a home security system!
So, if you want to keep me out, store your ladder in the basement or a locked garage. And call your security company to wire upper-story windows into your alarm system.
Vertically yours, A rising star
2. Loved your trash
Can’t tell you how much fun I have driving around neighborhoods on trash day (especially after big gift holidays) when the empty boxes on the curb reveal what wonderful new toys you have. Your thoughtfulness made it possible for me to land a new laptop and a flat-screen television in one easy trip to your home!
Next time, break down the boxes and conceal them in the recycling or trash bins.
Happy shopping! Curbside Cruiser
3. Dear Can’t-Get-Around-To-It
Recently, I noticed you hadn’t trimmed trees and shrubs around your home, so I knew I’d have a wonderful place to hide while I worked to break into your home. I really can’t thank you enough for all the great new things I grabbed.
Next time, trim back bushes and trees near windows and doors. Make sure entry points to your home are easily visible from the street — I much prefer to work in private! While you’re at it, install motion-sensor lighting. I’m scared of bright lights!
Cordially, The Tree Lover
4. Su casa es mi casa!
I was sincerely relieved to find your back door was a plain wood-panel door. I had no trouble kicking it in (my knees appreciate how easy that was!) Imagine how silly I felt when I discovered that your windows weren’t locked anyway.
You may want to take a cue from your neighbor and install steel-wrapped exterior doors with deadbolts on all your entries. And be sure your windows are locked when you’re away.
All the best, Buster Door
5. Bad reflection on you
You’d be surprised how many home owners position a mirror in their entry hall so I can see from a window if the alarm system is armed. (Yours wasn’t, but I’m guessing you know that by now!) Thanks for taking a lot of pressure off of me.
A little free advice: Relocate the mirror so your alarm system isn’t visible if someone else would peer through a window.
Fondly, Mr. Peeper
6. The telltale grass
Wow, isn’t it amazing how fast the grass grows these days? I swung by now and then and noticed your lawn was uncut, newspapers were piling up on the front steps, and your shades were always closed. To me, that’s an open invitation.
Next time, hire someone you trust to mow regularly, pick up around the doorstep, open and close various window shades, and turn different lights on and off (or put a few on timers). One more thing: Lock any car you leave in the driveway, or I can use your garage door opener to get in quickly.
Best, Your Trip Advisor
7. Getting carried away
Many thanks for putting your valuables into an easy-to-carry safe that I could carry right out your back door. (Nice jewelry, and thank you for the cash!)
You may want to invest in a wall safe, which I rarely attempt to open. Or, rent a lock box at your bank.
With appreciation, Mr. Safe and Not-So-Sound
8. Dear BFF
Thanks for alerting a professional acquaintance of mine via your social network that you were away for the week in Puerto Vallarta, having the time of your life. Me? I enjoyed a very relaxing visit to your home with no pressure of being caught.
If only you had known that posting comments and photos of your trip on social networks is fine — but do that after you return so you won’t broadcast your absence!
Sincerely, Cyber Savvy
9. Tag, you’re it!
Where are you? When you use popular geo-tracking apps, such as FourSquare and Glympse, I might know if you’re not home. Web sites such as www.pleaserobme.com help me keep track of your whereabouts.
If you prefer that I not visit your home, be careful about geo-tagging. But, otherwise, thank you for the loot!
— Just Tagging Along
10. Thanks for the appointment
Thanks for inviting me into your home to view the laptop you wanted to sell. I do apologize for the scare I gave you when I took it (and your purse).
Did you know that some large U.S. cities are averaging one so-called “robbery by appointment” per day? If you want to sell high-ticket items to strangers, I suggest you arrange to meet at the parking lot of your local police station. I definitely won’t show up, and you’ll still have your valuables (and your purse!)
It is better to send text messages than to call when natural disasters strike and networks get congested, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday, also urging people to add battery-powered cell phone chargers to their storm emergency kits.
Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told reporters that forecasts for a “normal” Atlantic hurricane season should not keep those in potentially affected areas from getting ready for storms that could make landfall.
“There is no forecast yet that says where they are going to hit or not hit. So if you live along the Gulf Coast, the Atlantic, and as far inland as the folks in Vermont found out last year, you need to be prepared for this hurricane season,” Fugate said at a White House news briefing.
The U.S. government is working to extend its public alert warning system beyond radio and television to mobile networks, Fugate said, noting that most new and upgraded cell phones have the capacity to receive such emergency notices.
Households without fixed-line phones should be ready to charge cell phones during power cuts, the FEMA administrator said, also calling on families to make alternative communication plans for when wireless networks are congested.
“When there’s a big crisis, don’t try to call people on your phones – text message. It’s a lot faster and gets through. Use social media to update people … and also be prepared when power outages occur how you’re going to keep your electronic devices charged,” Fugate said. “Add to your evacuation kits your cell phone chargers.”
(Reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Anthony Boadle) http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/31/uk-usa-weather-storms-idUSLNE84U01D20120531