Risk Assessment or Business Impact Analysis, Which Comes First?


This is a topic of great debate, and is the chicken or the egg question for contingency planners everywhere. Recently, I was asked to share an infographic that placed the Business Impact Analysis before the Risk Assessment.  While there is nothing wrong with the graphic, and you can see it, Disaster Recovery infographic by Singlehop I am in some disagreement with the placement.

Interestingly enough, I just had a conversation with a colleague, whom I respect, and that works for another large company that provides business continuity and disaster recovery services, on this very topic.

With the creation of the ISO 22301, which does not specifically address the order, but does mention BIA’s first, many businesses are now conducting the BIA first. Here is my personal and professional opinion on why this is both wrong, and a mistake.

Whenever I work with a business, and we are conducting an analysis on their risks and associated impacts, we always do the risk analysis/risk assessment first. I have a great many reasons for doing it in this way, but let me share just a snippet of why we do it this way.

First, let’s look at the Risk Assessment. The Risk Assessment looks at a given hazard.  It measures both, the potential likelihood of the hazard occurring, and the potential impact it may have on the business. This provides you with some system of measurement on how great the risk to your business the hazard will be.

I just want to mention here that there are many methods of scoring the actual measurement to achieve, or arrive at a final hazard score. For instance the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1600 utilizes a method of scoring of High (H), Medium (M), Low (L) for probability of occurrence and the same H, M, L for impact. This provides a score, such as, ML which would be equal to Medium probability of Occurrence with a Low impact.

I use a slightly modified version of the NFPA 1600 model that I developed over the years, but it is generally the same idea. Once we look at all the potential known hazards we take the top 10, top 5, and top 3 hazards respectively to know which hazards are the biggest known threats to the business.  

This process allows us to have a high-level overview of what the greatest risks are to the business, and what the potential impact will be.

Once we arrive here, it is time to take a deep dive into the impact the top threats will have on your business. It also provides us a potential outline of events that are likely to cause major disruptions to the business. This provides us with a scenario to use for context during the Business Impact Analysis.

During the deep dive into the Business Impact Analysis you will look at each individual process, individuals and applications that support each process, the interdependencies between departments and each process has upon each other, the financial impact to the business if this process is disrupted, additional financial impact of fines, penalties, SLA’s, and contractual agreements. Does this process need to be recovered immediately? Can it wait? Should it be on hold indefinitely until operations return to normal? What is the recovery costs associated with each process?

The Business Impact Analysis gets into such fine details of each business process and business unit that it can itself become a disruption. This is why they are done only every couple of years. Usually two years being the norm, but some companies may do them only every five years.

The Risk Assessment, being such a high-level overview can be done monthly, quarterly, or even yearly, with little to no disruption to the businesses normal operations. It also provides an excellent way of tracking emerging and future threats to the business.  

I hope with this you can see where I am coming from, and why a risk assessment should be done both first, and more frequently. Also, as a big proponent of the NFPA 1600 standard, if you have the book, Implementing NFPA 1600 National Preparedness Standard, turning to page 12, and page 19 respectively provides an ordered list where the Risk Assessment comes before the Business Impact Analysis.

The NFPA 1600 Section number 5.3 on Risk Assessments also provides an ordered list of steps that includes identifying hazards, Assess the vulnerability, Analyze the potential impact, and then lastly to conduct a Business Impact Analysis to determine business continuity and recovery strategies.  

I am a big believer in knowing your risks and conducting risk assessments on a regular basis. Performing a BIA with just an overal organizational risk or operational risk falls short of a complete and proper risk assessment.

Also, risk assessments should be tied into your enerprise risk management if you have one and should have controls established for reductions or prevention of risks when possible.



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Where are the Safest States to Live In 2014?

The death toll from monsoon floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal has climbed above 1,200, as rescue workers scramble to provide aid to millions of people stranded by the worst such disaster in years. All three countries suffer frequent flooding during the June-September monsoon season, but international aid agencies say things are worse this year with thousands of villages cut off and people deprived of food and clean water for days.

Milaap – India’s largest crowdfunding platform

According to the study, Massachusetts is the safest State to live and New Hampshire comes in at number two. Overall the entire North-East of the United States is pretty safe overall based on this study. The study used the following safety factors to determine the relative overall safety of each state. Financial Safety of the State, Driving Safety Rank, Workplace safety, Natural Disaster Rank, and finally, Home and Community Safety. These factors then provide an overall rating of each State giving us the safest and least safest States to live in based on the study.
To see more on this study see 2014’s Safest States to Live.

Ebola Virus – Why Has It Spread So Far, So Fast?


Source: CDC – Ebola Virus

The Ebola outbreak in the West African Countries of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone has so far caused Suspected Case Deaths: 961, with Suspected and Confirmed Case Count: 1779 as of this writing.

The spread of the virus has grown “out of control” and this state will likely remain this way for the next few weeks. Global Government agencies such as the CDC and NGO’s alike are responding to stem the spread of the ebola virus. Though, several agencies are reporting that the current ebola virus is spreading beyond current efforts to contain it.

Why is it spreading so far so fast?

Part of the reason why ebola virus has spread so far so quickly has more to do with the cultural customs and beliefs in the areas where the ebola virus has occurred.

  • First, is the distrust of western doctors and medicine. This is not so in every instance, but does play at least some role. 
  • Another, as with the American citizen that travelled to Nigeria, after he became infected after his wife died of the disease, is a complete denial that they are infected. With an incubation period lasting as long as 21 days, some people are in denial they have become infected.
  • Another reason is the mishandling of the dead. As with many other places in the world, people have customs and rituals dealing with the treatment of the dead. In this case, some family members clean the body for burial without the use of proper protective clothing. If I am not mistaken, it is also proper practice to burn everything, including the dead that are infected with ebola.
  • Lastly, and perhaps the biggest contributing factor is having infected people “break” quarantine efforts. They either leave, or as in some cases have family members “break” them out of the facility.

Granted, these are not the ONLY factors in why the ebola virus is spreading, but do present unique challenges to stem the spread of the disease further.

As you probably know by now, this is the worst Ebola virus outbreak in history, and is also the first outbreak to occur in West Africa. This may also be considered another potential contributing factor in that the ebola virus had not directly occurred in this region of Africa in the past.

I recently wrote another article about Ebola Virus Facts and Information on my corporate blog. It is an excellent resource to share and includes information from the CDC, and WHO.

Since then the CDC has also shared an Ebola Virus Infographic that is good to have a look at.

 



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Ebola Virus – Major Issues Coming to Light on Containment


Source: CDC Ebola Virus

While I took some downtime for my birthday major things were going on in the world that I missed. One of these events surrounds some major developments regarding the containment of Ebloa or the lack there of.

Though current reports still suggest that the current Ebola Virus is not airborne, it is highly contagious requiring close contact to infected persons, bodies and other objects that have been contaminated with another infected persons bodily fluids.

With this being the case – the current Ebola Virus Epidemic IS spreading out of control and unchecked in parts of West Africa. The most significant development that came to light on August 11, 2014 is that WHO Confirms that patients in fact ARE being turned away from overflowing and taxed medical facilities.  

With this situation remaining unchecked, it will only be a matter of time before he virus spreads to other parts of Africa, the Mid-East, and potentially to Europe and the U.S.

More. Far more needs to be done as a global community to control the spread of infection.

Here is a brief excerpt from the WHO Report on Barriers to rapid containment of the Ebola Outbreak:

Lack of capacity makes infection control difficult

This lack of capacity makes standard containment measures, such as early detection and isolation of cases, contact tracing and monitoring, and rigorous procedures for infection control, difficult to implement. Though no vaccine and no proven curative treatment exist, implementation of these measures has successfully brought previous Ebola outbreaks under control.

The recent surge in the number of cases has stretched all capacities to the breaking point. Supplies of personal protective equipment and disinfectants are inadequate. The outbreak continues to outstrip diagnostic capacity, delaying the confirmation or exclusion of cases and impeding contact tracing.

Diagnostic capacity is especially important as the early symptoms of Ebola virus disease mimic those of many other diseases commonly seen in this region, including malaria, typhoid fever, and Lassa fever.

Some treatment facilities are overflowing; all beds are occupied and patients are being turned away. Many facilities lack reliable supplies of electricity and running water. Aid organizations, including Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), which has provided the mainstay of clinical care, are exhausted.

If controls are not put in place soon (and it may be to late already) – the potential for a global crisis increases rapidly.



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WHY YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE A THREE DAY SUPPLY OF WATER


Water is Life by Williami5 via Flicker

Having water is essential for survival. This we know. Over the years however a massive campaign was launched to get ALL Americans to have At Least three days of water stored for emergencies. This then become 72 hours. Over time the message of At Least three days seems to have become lost.

In fact over the last year I have seen some messages put out by local Emergency Management Offices around the country change this message to a week or a months worth of water. This is a good thing.

Though, I have written about this before as a Disaster Tip of the Week as, Is 72 Hours Enough To Prepare For Disaster this message of storing water for emergencies, has still become lost.

Basically, the PR campaign for three days worth of water was so effective that people “hear” they only need three days of water and end up not storing any. Thinking they can get by for three days or it is such a small amount they really do not need it.

So. How much water do you really need? Well. That is a great question. It is normally stated that you NEED 1 gallon of water per person in your home per day. This amount is supposed to take care of all your needs. From sanitation to drinking. Have you ever tried to get by using only 1 gallon of water per day? This amount also does not account for pets and other needs. So, you will need extra for them.

If you live in a warmer climate, plan on being active, have medical or special needs, you are going to require an increased amount for drinking.

Though I will consult people to have greater amounts on an individual basis. As a general rule, I believe 3 gallons per person/ plus 1 gallon per pet, extra activity per day for one week is a good water storage plan.

Yes. That is a lot of water to store. However, when your tap stops flowing you wont regret the “extra” you have on hand. See also Treating Water.



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Medicine and Preparedness: The 22 Medications You Need in Your Personal Stockpile


Mdeicine for Survival

Medicine and Preparedness: The 22 Medications You Need in Your Personal Stockpile NOW!

I have seen and read many posts over the years about adding or using medicines meant for pets during preparedness or survival situations. Now, I am not going to go all out and say that you shouldn’t do this or go this route, but there are several problems with this. I am also going to provide you with what I believe is a better solution.

The first problem that arises is the expiration data and shelf life of medicines. The biggest factor in this is that some medicines can as they degrade become toxic. Other medicines contain preservatives that may allow bacteria to grow once the preservative is no longer effective.

In addition, during survival situations – scavenging comes to mind and where we tend to find most medicines throughout most homes (the bathroom) is not the ideal place to store medicine. The heat and humidity is not ideal and makes the medicines degrade faster.

What is interesting is that the Department of Defense had the Federal Drug Administration test some drugs for what is known as the Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP). It has been found that the shelf life of some drugs can be extended. Though not all drugs, and the drugs tested were kept in their original containers – unopened and in optimal temperature and humidity conditions. NOTE: When you obtain a prescription drug at the pharmacy and they place it into a medication bottle – that is not the original container.

Some other life-saving drugs have been found to degrade after the expiry date, such as EpiPen’s and Insulin. Nitroglycerin decreases in potency quickly once the bottle is opened. Most vaccines and biologicals such as blood products also degrade quickly after their expiration dates.

If any medicine has become powdery, crumbly, caked, has a strong smell, cloudy, or has dried up it should be discarded and not used.

During normal situations if you have medicine at home and you need to take it and the medicine is expired no evidence has been found that it would be unsafe to take. Though, it would be best to acquire a new prescription as soon as possible.

Research does show that medicines past their expiration date do and will degrade in potency over time. Under ideal conditions and in original containers within the military stockpile medications have been shown to retain as much as 90 percent of their potency. Though most household conditions do not meet these standards.

The second problem is that pet based medicines were not included in these studies. Now some of the medications may be the same thing, but as I said I have a better solution for you.

If you can, start your own stockpile of medicines. This may cost you some money out of pocket but you will have them when you need them. The good news is, most of the medications I will be recommending have been found to have no failures when tested and typically can have a long shelf life.

In addition to the medicines I recommend you should consider obtaining and even storing some of the medicine you may need on a regular basis. This may be easier said than done, since most drug insurance programs limit the amount you can obtain. So, you may have to get creative or even pay out of pocket to establish your supply.

Uncle Sam and Your MedsThe government does even recommend you keep a small extra supply of medicine in case of a disaster. Try telling that to your insurance company though. Some things you can do to get creative in this area:

1.       Tell them you lost your medication while on a weekend trip.

2.       Tell them you need an extended supply for a trip.

3.       Try telling them you need extra in case of an emergency.

4.       Purchase the extra month- 3 months’ worth from the pharmacy.

Some insurance programs will give you up to three months’ worth of medicine if you purchase through a mail order program. Ask them.

 

Once you are successful in obtaining ‘extra’ medicine it is important that you store them properly and rotate them. So, as you get new prescriptions filled, store those and take the ones you were holding onto in case of an emergency.

Now, here is an extensive list of medications to obtain for your own Disaster Preparedness Supply. Please do your own research on usage, dosages and contraindications.

Medication List for Survival

NOTE: These and all medications listed are intended for your preparedness stockpile. If you become sick during normal times and you need medication go to your doctor and obtain a prescription. If you have the medicine and can swap out of your stockpile even better.

ANTIBIOTICS:

1.       Cipro (Ciprofloxacin) 500 mg – 750 mg tabs – 750 mg is a high dosage, but if you can get it go with that one. Otherwise get the 500 mg.  Reasons to have: It can treat a wide variety of ailments but can also treat Anthrax, Plague, Travelers Disease, Cholera, Tularemia, Typhoid, Pneumonia, Infectious Diarrhea, and Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s). In the event of a major outbreak, epidemic, or even pandemic supplies may be short and allocated to certain individuals. I do not recommend for prophylactic use just to have in case of real sickness. Please review contraindications of use on your own.

2.       Bactrim DS (trimethoprim/sulfa methazole) 160/800 mg tabs This is another Cover it all antibiotic agent. Good for UTI’s, pneumonia, bite wounds and MRSA skin infections.

3.       Amoxicillin 500 mg tabs – This is good for Upper Respiratory Infections, UTI, Bronchitis, skin or soft tissue infections, Pneumonia, and Lyme Disease.

4.       Flagyl (Metronidazole) – 500 mg tabs This covers Giardiasis (Beaver Fever)

5.       Azithromycin – If you can get it I recommend adding a couple of 3-day and/or 5-day Dose Packs for each member of the family. Good for Pertussis and Pertussis Prophylaxis, URI, Bronchitis, and several STD’s.

Topical Creams and Ointments:

1.       Triple Antibiotic Ointment (Neomycin, Polymyxin B Sulfates, Bacitracin Zinc, Neosporin,) – A good cure-all for topical based infections. While I like creams and ointments, I had a wound specialist doctor share with me that the Neosporin cream is better than the ointment. It helps promote faster healing and reduces scaring. He seemed to be correct and I primarily use this now.

2.       Lamisil or Tinactin Cream – Antifungal. Athletes foot, Jock itch, Ring Worm

3.       Lotrisone (Betamethasone/Clotrimazole) – prescription strength Antifungal (covers entire body)

4.       Hydrocortisone Cream – Great for skin rashes, bug bites/stings, and itchy skin.

5.       Silver Sulfadiazine (SSD) – For preventing and treating skin infections after second and third degree burns. Targets multiple types of bacteria and yeast.

Anti-Diarrhea:

1.       Imodium (loperamide) – The best solution for diarrhea.

Anti-Vomit:

1.       Zofran (ondansetron) – Anti-Vomiting.

Pain:

1.       Aspirin 325 mg tabsAspirin is often overlooked these days, but 2 tabs or 650 mg works great for relieving most aches and pains.

2.       Ibuprofen – Another good choice for aches pains and minor to moderate injuries. Also, helpful at reducing fever.

3.       Tylenol (acetaminophen) Another good choice for minor to moderate injuries, aches and pains. Fever reducer.

4.       Oxycodone 5 mg – Narcoticis great for major injuries, but will require a prescription and is a heavily restricted narcotic.

5.       Codeine 30 mg – Narcotic – Good for moderate pain but again a prescription is required.

NOTE: For high and prolonged fever, you can give both Ibuprofen and Tylenol together at every six and four hours respectively.

Other Medications:

1.       Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) – is an antihistamine for treating sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, hives, skin rash, cold and allergy symptoms and mild allergic reactions. (severe allergic reactions will require a shot). Will cause dizziness and drowsiness (sleepiness).

2.       Neosporin Antiseptic Spray – easy to use spray that offers both antiseptic properties and pain relief. Topical use only.

3.       FlexSEAL – Spray on water tight bandage. Great for quickly covering minor cuts and scrapes.

4.       New-Skin – Liquid bandage – waterproof.

5.       Hydrogen Peroxide.

As mentioned previously, some of these may be difficult to obtain unless you have a prescription from your doctor. If you have a close trusted relationship with your doctor you may be able to ask and explain why you wish to obtain these. Additionally, you may want to consider adding a doctor to your preparedness group if you have one and have them help you gather the needed supplies for your group.

If you do not belong to a preparing group, now is a good time to start considering one and looking for good people like a doctor or pharmacist to join you.

All the information in this post are based on survival and preparedness and not considered medical advice. As with any medical situation you should always seek out proper medical advice. We recommend consulting with your doctor before proceeding.

You can also download a PDF of our Medications to Stockpile for Preparedness.

 



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Maharashtra Floods of 2005

The Maharashtra Floods are referred to as the floods that occurred in various parts of Maharashtra, India. This included most of the area of metropolis city Mumbai located on the west coast of India beside the Arabian Sea. Because of these floods on an average 1100 people were found dead and many were left homeless. This disaster came just after a month of Gujarat Floods of June 2005. This day is remembered by many as the standstill day for all Mumbaikars (people of Mumbai).

Maharashtra Floods of 2005

A large number of people were standing on roads, lost their homes, while many walked long distances back home from work that evening. The floods were caused by the eighth heaviest-ever recorded 24-hour rainfall figure of 944 mm (37.17 inches) which lashed the metropolis on 26 July 2005, and intermittently continued for the next day. 644mm (25.35 inches) was received within the 12-hour period between 8 am and 8 pm. Torrential rainfall continued for the next week.

The highest 24-hour period in India was 1,168 mm (46.0 inches) in Aminidivi in the Union Territory of Lakshadweepon 6 May 2004 although some reports suggest that it was a new Indian record. The previous record high rainfall in a 24-hour period for Mumbai was 575 mm. Other places severely affected were RaigadChiplun, Khed Ratna 31 July after heavy rains disrupted the city once again, grounding all flights for the day.

On 26 July 2005, around 2:00 pm, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region was struck by a severe storm and subsequent deluge. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) station in Santacruz recorded 944 mm. of rain for the 24 hours ending at 8:30 a.m. on 27 July. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai [MCGM] control room started receiving phone calls reporting the heavy rain and subsequent water logging in suburban areas.

Local train movement came to a halt by 2:30 p.m. due to the water-logging on the tracks. This caused traffic on roads to increase dramatically with water logging and submerging of certain low-lying pockets of the region, such as Dharavi and Bandra-Kurla Complex.

Thousands of school children were stranded due to flooding and could not reach home for up to 24 hours. The following two days were declared as school and college holidays by the state government.

The rain water caused the sewage system to overflow and all water lines were contaminated. The Government ordered all housing societies to add chlorine to their water tanks while they decontaminated the water supply.

Development in certain parts of Mumbai is haphazard and buildings are constructed without proper planning. The drainage plans in northern suburbs is chalked out as and when required in a particular area and not from an overall point of view.

The Environment Ministry of the Government of India was informed in the early 1990s that sanctioning the Bandra-Kurla complex (a commercial complex in northern Mumbai) was leading to disaster. No environment clearance is mandatory for large urban construction projects in northern Mumbai. Officials in the environment ministry claimed that it was not practical to impose new guidelines with retrospective effect “as there are millions of buildings”.

For the first time ever, Mumbai’s airports ( Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport and Juhu aerodrome) were shut for more than 30 hours due to heavy flooding of the runways, submerged Instrument Landing System equipment and extremely poor visibility. Over 700 flights were cancelled or delayed. The airports reopened on the morning of 28 July 2005.[2] Within 24 hours of the airports becoming operational, there were 185 departures and 184 arrivals, including international flights. Again from early morning of 31 July, with increase in water logging of the runways and different parts of Mumbai, most of the flights were indefinitely cancelled.

Rail links were disrupted, and reports on late evening of 30 July indicated cancellation of several long distance trains till 6 August 2005. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway, which witnessed a number of landslides, was closed the first time ever in its history, for 24 hours. According to the Hindustan Times, an unprecedented 5 million mobile and 2.3 million MTNL landline users were hit for over four hours. According to the .in registrar (personal communication), the .in DNS servers in Mumbai had to be reconfigured because the servers were not operational.

The floods have been the subject of research by scientists and social scientists attempting to understand the causes, impacts, and short/long term consequences. Scholars have studied the floods in Mumbai from the perspectives of climate change, disaster management / mitigation, urban health, vulnerability and adaptation, hydrology, environmental degradation and encroachment etc. Kapil Gupta (2007) assesses urban flood resilience, while Andharia (2006) contrasts the “widespread acts of generosity and altruism” in Mumbai with the general social disorder that was seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Aromar Revi (2005) draws lessons from the floods for prioritising multi-hazard risk mitigation. Parthasarathy (2009) links social and environmental insecurities to show that the most marginalized groups were also the most affected by the floods.

Climate change has played an important role in causing large-scale floods across central India, especially the Mumbai floods of 2005. During 1901–2015, there has been a three-fold rise in widespread extreme rainfall events, over the entire central belt of India from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar, leading to a steady rise in the number of flash floods. The rising number of extreme rain events is attributed to an increase in the fluctuations of the monsoon westerly winds, due to increased warming in the Arabian Sea. This results in occasional surges of moisture transport from the Arabian Sea to the subcontinent, resulting in widespread heavy rains lasting for 2–3 days. The Mumbai 2005 floods also occurred due to moisture surge from the Arabian Sea, and the heavy rains were not confined to Mumbai but spread over a large region across central India.

 

An Introductory Guide To Surviving Hot Weather


The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines extreme heat as “summertime temperatures that are substantially hotter and/or more humid than average for location at that time of year”.  The year 2014 was the hottest in modern history and more hot weather may well be on the way.   Extreme heat and high temperatures can lead to health issues and eventually death if not properly addressed.  Young children, older adults, those who are sick and/or overweight are even more likely to succumb to the effects of extreme heat and temperature.  There are things one can do now, however, to mitigate against the effects of extreme heat.  The following is an introductory guide to doing just that.

Extreme Heat: General Preparation

  • Having air conditioning installed at home or place of business is a good starting point.  The system must be in good repair and installed properly.
  • All air-conditioning ducts should be inspected for proper insulation.
  • Do not rely upon fans as a primary source of cooling.
  • On a temporary basis, window reflectors can be installed to reflect heat back outside.
  • Be sure to cover windows that receive sun with drapes, shades, or other coverings.
  • Outdoor awnings or louvers can also reduce the heat significantly.
  • Weather-stripping can be installed on doors and window sills to keep cool air in the building.
  • During a heat emergency, limit your exposure to the sun as much as possible.
  • Cooling showers or baths may be taken to reduce body heat.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water.  Hydration is key to survival.  For those with medical conditions that require a fluid-restricted diet, consult with your family physician first.  Note very cold beverages can lead to stomach cramping.
  • Beverages containing caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar should be avoided.
  • If possible, have a backup source of water available at all times.  A sudden stoppage of the normal supply of water could be catastrophic during an extreme heat event.
  • In addition to having backup sources of water, consider obtaining the equipment and skills to filter and purify your own water from natural sources.
  • Wear sun screen and appropriate clothing for the weather.
  • Be sure to eat a well-balanced, and preferably light, meals during the event.
  • If possible, avoid hard work during the hottest part of the day.
  • At no time leave small children or animals alone in a closed vehicle.  Temperatures in such enclosed spaces can climb from 78° to 120° F in under eight minutes.
  • Be sure that any animals you have (e.g., pets, livestock, etc.) have proper shade and access to water.
  • If one own a mobile device (e.g., a smartphone, tablet, etc.), consider install the free American Red Cross Emergency App.  The app contains information on preparing for and coping during a heat wave.  Alternatively, with the proper tools, the free app may also be run on a Mac OS based machine or on Windows based device.
  • Be sure to check on people you know, such as friends, family, neighbors, etc., that do not have air conditioning, are elderly, have small children, or have medical conditions that may be adversely effected by extreme heat.  Be prepared to render first aid should they require said.
  • Stay informed by tuning into the radio or Internet sources for updates on the heat wave.

Heat-Induced Illnesses

There are a number of heat-induced illnesses that the reader should be aware of.  Some are similar, but each have unique symptoms and treatments.  The American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), local emergency management organizations, citizens-organized groups (e.g., The American Civil Defense Association, etc.), and others all can provide training for addressing heat-induced illnesses.  However, in brief, the conditions that should be noted are:

Heat Exhaustion:  Heat exhaustion can result in heavy sweating, but the skin may be cool to the touch.  Additionally, the victim may have a weak pulse and experience nausea, dizziness, headaches,  and vomiting.

Heat exhaustion can be treated by having the victim loosen or remove clothing articles, lie down in a cool place, and apply cool, wet cloths.  An air conditioned location is best for treatment.  The victim can be given small, even sips of cool water, but no more than half a glass every fifteen minutes.  Should vomiting occur, stop administering water, and seek medical treatment immediately.

Heat Cramps:  Heat cramps are painful spasms that typically occur in the abdominal muscles and legs.

A victim of heat cramps can be treated by moving to a cool location and gently massaging and stretching the affected muscles.  As with heat exhaustion, small sips of water can be administered, but must be stopped if the victim feels nauseated.  When in doubt, seek medical treatment.

Sunburn: Sunburn usually manifests with skin redness, irritation, and pain.  Blisters and swelling may also be present.  Secondary symptoms include headaches, fever, and disorientation.

Mild sunburns can be treated by taking a cool shower.  If blistering occurs, apply sterile, dry dressings and seek medical attention.

Heat Stroke:  Heat strokes is a very serious medical condition in which the victim’s temperature control system stops working.  It can feature high body temperatures (105°+ F), a rapid and weak pulse, and shallow breathing.  If a victim is exhibiting these signs, do not administer water and do not delay in calling 9-1-1 or other emergency medical services.  A delay may prove fatal.  Until medical help arrives, the victim can be moved to a cool location and remove unnecessary clothing.  The victim’s should be monitored for breathing problems.

The preceding has been a short introductory guide to the topic of extreme heat.  Additional material may be accessed in the sources listed below.  If the reader wishes to discuss extreme heat preparation, or other disaster related topics, the free Disaster.com forum is available here.  Sign up is quick and easy.

Sources

  1. Extreme Heat Prevention Guide – Part 1. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat_guide.asp
  2. NASA, NOAA Find 2014 Warmest Year in Modern Record. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://www.nasa.gov/press/2015/january/nasa-determines-2014-warmest-year-in-modern-record
  3. Harrison, K. (2008). Wildfires. In Just in Case: How to Be Self-sufficient When the Unexpected Happens (pp. 118-119). North Adams, MA: Storey Pub.
  4. Are you ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness (pp. 85-92). (2002). Washington, D.C.: FEMA.
  5. Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness. (2011, June 20). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/warning.html
  6. Heat Wave Safety Tips | Heat Illness Prevention | American Red Cross. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/heat-wave
  7. TACDA ACADEMY – CIVIL DEFENSE BASICS 1 9. WATER PURIFICATION. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://www.tacda.org/docs/TACDA_Academy_CDBasics_9Water.pdf
  8. Heat Wave Safety Tips | Heat Illness Prevention | American Red Cross. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/heat-wave
  9. Rosdahl, C., & Kowalski, M. (2008). Textbook of Basic Nursing (9th ed., pp. 465-466). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  10. Schwartz, R. (2008). Tactical Emergency Medicine (pp. 84-87). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  11. Heat and alcohol–a dangerous combination. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://www.hazelden.org/web/public/ade70528.page
  12. Extreme Heat. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://www.ready.gov/heat
  13. Sunburn | Doctor | Patient.co.uk. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/sunburn
  14. (2013, June 10). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/
  15. Extreme Heat Tip Sheet for Individuals. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/emergency/natural/heat/tips.pdf

extreme heat

Preparing for and Surviving a Blizzard


A blizzard is an extreme form of winter storm.  It is categorized by massive snowfall and sustained winds of at least 35 miles per hour.  In addition to these parameters, the National Weather Service (NWS) also adds that it is a snow storm lasting three or more hours.

As a blizzard is marked by extreme cold, high winds, and reduced visibility, they can present unique challenges and dangers.  Heavy snowfall can result in vehicle accidents, collapsed roofs, disrupted distribution systems, damaged power and communication systems, the death of pets and livestock, and serious injury or death to those caught outside.  The following guide will assist the reader in being prepared for blizzards and related winter weather.

Be Informed about Winter Storms

First and foremost, one must be aware that such a weather pattern is on the way.  Serious winter storm conditions are generally known days in advance, so one can prepare and adjust plans accordingly.  Governmental authorities, as well as members of the scientific community often provide guidance in the days before a blizzard occurs.  Be sure to tune in your radio or television for regular updates.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also broadcasts information on a continual basis.  These broadcasts may be listened to on the Internet or with a radio receiver.

Preparing for Blizzards

There are steps that can be taken today to reduce the risk of injury or loss of property due to severe winter weather.  These include:

  • Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite.  The American Red Cross has information on these life threatening condition.
  • Consider installing or obtaining a generator for emergency electricity.  Note:  never run a generator indoors as the carbon monoxide can kill.
  • Winterizing one’s home, business, barn, etc., will help with extreme winter weather and makes good economic sense.
  • Supplies should be available before the storm arrives.  These include:
    • Plenty of food items.  Food that require little heating and water are best.
    • A first aid kit.
    • Warm clothing, blankets and other bedding should be on hand.
    • Have snow shovels on hand.  Rock salt or an alternative can aid in the melting of snow and ice.
    • Sand can improve the traction of vehicles.
    • Enough heating fuel (e.g., firewood, propane, etc.) should be on hand for many days of bad weather.  During particularly bad weather, one cannot rely upon delivery of fuel.
    • Emergency lighting (e.g., candles, oil lamps, etc.).
    • Prescription medications should be refilled before a storm.
    • A radio to receive updates is necessary.
    • A snow rake is helpful to have on hand to safely remove snow from your roof.
  • If one absolute must travel, the vehicle should be prepared beforehand.
    • All systems should be in good working order at the correct levels.
    • All fluids should be at the correct level.  The antifreeze levels are particularly important.
    • Good, all weather tires should be installed on the vehicle.
    • For icy conditions, studded tires or snow chains are a necessity.
    • Emergency-related items should be in the vehicle at all times.  These include:
      • Nonperishable, light, but calorie-dense food items.  These include protein bars, jerky, MRE entrées and the like.
      • Bottled water
      • A flashlight.
      • Road flares.
      • Jumper cables.
      • Ice scrapers or a canned deicing agent.
      • A shovel.
      • A basic first aid kit.
      • Emergency blankets or a sleeping bag.
      • Cat litter for traction.
      • A tool kit.
      • Cellular telephone.
      • Citizen Band radio.
      • A small pocket knife.
      • Small hygiene items.
      • Snow chains if studded tires are not installed.
      • Warm clothing and related articles (e.g., gloves, hat, etc.).
      • A road map or GPS system.

After a Winter Storm Strikes

Waiting Out the Winter Storm

Once a blizzard has struck in your area, it is important to have taken shelter.  If outside for any reason, adequate clothing should be worn at all times.  While waiting out the storm:

  • Conserve fuel as the duration of the storm may not be known.
  • Monitor the progress of the storm by listening to radio broadcasts, television news, and/or a NOAA Weather Radio.
  • Eat regularly and stay hydrated.
  • Watch for any signs of hypothermia or frostbite.
  • If power is lost and a backup generator is utilized, be sure the vapors are ventilated properly.
  • Take care when using oil lamps and candles as a backup lighting source.
  • If you have livestock be sure they are properly sheltered.
  • Travel only if it is absolutely necessary.
  • If traveling and you are trapped in your vehicle:
    • Remain in your vehicle.  Do not leave unless you are sure you can reach a warm building.
    • Activate your emergency/hazard lights to alert rescuers.  Turning on the interior lights may also alert rescue workers to your location.
    • If you have a Citizen Band radio installed, you can try to call for assistance on Channel 9.
    • If you are within range of a cellular tower, you can attempt to call for assistance by phone.
    • Drink water, juice, or other fluids to stay hydrated.
    • Stay warm in blankets, sleeping bags, and mylar blankets.  If with other people, huddle together to share warmth.

If you wish to discuss surviving during a blizzard or other disaster-related topics, consider joining the free Disaster.com forum.

Citations

  1. Sims, J. (2013). The No-Nonsense Guide To Blizzard Safety. Cork: BookBaby.
  2. Glossary – NOAA’s National Weather Service. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2015, from http://w1.weather.gov/glossary/index.php?letter=b
  3. The American Civil Defense Association.  Cold Weather Survival. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.tacda.org/docs/TACDA_Academy_CDBasics_11ColdWeather.pdf
  4. Winter Storms & Extreme Cold. (2014, August 27). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from http://www.ready.gov/winter-weather
  5. Allen, J. (2002). Blizzards (pp. 11-17). Mankato, Minn.: Capstone High-Interest Books.
  6. Oliver, J. (2005). Encyclopedia of World Climatology (p. 165). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
  7. Are you ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness (pp. 80-85). (2002). Washington, D.C.: FEMA.
  8. Singh, D. (2014). Winter Survival Kit. In A Beginner’s Guide to Winter Survival – How to Survive Cold Weather (pp. 22-27).
  9. Winter Storm Preparedness. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2015, from http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/winter-storm
  10. There’s No Business Like Snow Business This Winter. (2011, February 4). Retrieved February 13, 2015, from http://www.npr.org/2011/02/04/133477343/theres-no-business-like-snow-business-this-winter

winter storm

Fire Safety and Wildfire Preparedness


Wildfires (also known as a brush fire, forest fire, desert fire, or vegetation fire) are uncontrolled fires in areas in which combustible vegetation can be found.  Practicing good fire safety is paramount when wildfires may be imminent. These fires can be started by natural occurrences, such as lightning and volcanic eruptions, or by man-made sources, such as accidents, carelessness, military action, terrorist activity, or arson.  Droughts, heat waves, and climate changes can impact the behavior of wildfires.

According to a recent study, wildfires, and related burns, kill 339,000 people worldwide every year.  The majority of the recorded deaths are in Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by southeast Asia.  The death toll is lower in the United States and Canada, but property damage is in the multiple billions annually.  Millions of acres are consumed each year by wildfires.

The largest, though not deadliest, wildfire in American history was Great Fire of 1910.  It was dubbed the Big Burn and approximately three million acres in Idaho, Montana, and Washington state.  Eighty-seven individuals, mostly firefighters, lost their life in the event.  The largest wildfire in North America was the 1950 Chinchaga fire in British Columbia and Alberta, which destroyed around 3.5 million acres.

While a fearsome force of nature, there are preparations that private citizens and home owners can take today to help mitigate against the ravages of wildfires.  The following are some steps to take before and during a wildfire event.

Fire Safety – Preparing for a Wildfire

  • Read up on the the dangers of wildfires and how to be prepared.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state level organizations, the American Red Cross, and citizen-initiated groups all publish material on the topic.
  • If you have a mobile device, consider installing a free, real time wildfires app such as that published by the American Red Cross.
  • Practice good fire safety in general:
    • Install smoke alarms in your home and business, if they are not already in place.  Fully functional smoke alarms have been shown to decrease the chances of dying from a fire by fifty percent.  Each level of a home or business should have a smoke alarm.  Smoke alarms should be tested each month and the batteries changed once a year.  After a smoke alarm has been in service for ten years, replace it with a new unit.
    • Have fire extinguishers available in places where they are handy, especially in locations prone to fires such as the kitchen, laundry room, etc.  Make sure they are checked regularly.  In many communities, the fire department will do this for free.
    • Be sure to have an escape route planned and discussed with your family.  Fire safety practice runs are not a bad idea either.
    • Escape ladders for upper story rooms are essential.
    • Make sure all windows are able to open properly in the event of a fire.
    • Insure all members of the family are familiar with the procedure to stay low to the floor when escaping a fire.  Also, make sure everyone in the household is familiar with the Stop, drop, and roll procedure in the event their clothing is on fire.
    • Reduce clutter, such as old papers, trash, periodicals, etc., as these are fire hazards and represent poor fire safety.  This goes doubly so for flammable materials such as gasoline, kerosene, benzine, motor oil, etc.
    • If you smoke, make sure to never do so near flammable materials and ensure that the cigarette or cigar is properly put out when finished.  Dousing is the best method to extinguish such items, but deep ashtrays work as well.  Never smoke in bed.  Smoking related materials remain the leading cause of death by fire in the United States.
    • Make sure that matches, lighters, candles, and other such items are out of the reach of children.  Small children are curious about such articles and they may inadvertently start a fire.
    • If within your budget, consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system and/or install a home security system that monitors for fire.
    • If there is any doubt as to the state of your electrical wiring, have the system inspected by a licensed electrician.
    • In many communities, the fire department will do a free walk through and inspection of your home.  If available, it is worth having the inspection completed.
  • Make sure your home or business has the entrance marked with an easy-to-see sign so that emergency vehicles can locate you easily.
  • Ensure that water sources, such as fire hydrants, swimming pools, etc., are accessible by the fire department.
  • Ensure that your yard, garden, shrubs, and trees are kept well maintained.  Remove debris, dead wood, leaves and other combustible material around at least a 30 foot radius around your home or business.  Consider planting fire-resistant vegetation.
  • Firewood should be stacked at a distance from your home.  Thirty feet or more is best for maximum fire safety.
  • Using fire resistant materials for roofing can reduce the risk to your home or business.  The installation of fire-resistant drapes can add an additional protection.
  • Cover exterior vents and eaves with a ¼ inch metal mesh screens to keep sparks out.
  • Flammable materials, such as fuels, lubricants, grease, oil-based paint, solvents, etc., should be stored in metal containers and be located at least 30 feet away from structures and other wood material.
  • Have tools on hand, such as shovels, rakes, axes, etc., to fight small fires until responders can arrive.
  • If a wildfire is close, lawn sprinklers can be placed on the roof and used to douse the structure.
  • Consider storing fire retardant gel to be applied in the event of a wildfire.
  • If a wildfire is close, shut off gas sources, such as natural gas, propane, etc.  Connect all garden hoses.  If available, fill any contains (e.g., pools, jacuzzis, children’s pools, trash cans, etc.) with water.
  • If you must evacuate, be prepared with the necessary supplies to do so.  The American Red Cross has a checklist available here.
  • Before leaving, close all doors inside the structure to prevent a draft.
  • Review the fire safety resources below
  • If an evacuation order is issued, do so immediately.

This has been a short, introductory guide on fire safety and things you can do to help protect yourself and your property from wildfire damage.  Additional information is available in the sources listed below.  If the reader wishes to discuss wildfire preparation, the Disaster.com forum is available here.  Sign up is quick, easy, and completely free.

Sources

  1. Silverstein, A., & Silverstein, V. (2010). Wildfires: The Science Behind Raging Infernos. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow.
  2. Wildfire | U.S. Drought Portal. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.drought.gov/drought/content/products-current-drought-and-monitoring/wildfire
  3. Wildfire Prevention Strategies. (1998, March 1). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.nwcg.gov/pms/docs/wfprevnttrat.pdf
  4. Terrorist Interest in Using Fire as a Weapon. (2012, May 31). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from https://info.publicintelligence.net/DHS-TerroristFireWeapon.pdf
  5. Sheridan, K. (2012, February 19). Wildfires kill 339,000 people per year: Study. Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://phys.org/news/2012-02-wildfires-people-year.html
  6. American Experience: The Big Burn. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/burn/
  7. Wildfires. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/wildfires
  8. Are you ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness (pp. 115-122, 123-125). (2002). Washington, D.C.: FEMA.
  9. Harrison, K. (2008). Wildfires. In Just in Case: How to Be Self-sufficient When the Unexpected Happens (pp. 124-126). North Adams, MA: Storey Pub.
  10. Linton, J. (2004). Wildfires: Issues and Consequences (pp. 43-45). New York, New York: Nova Science.
  11. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://m.fema.gov/wildfires
  12. Wildfire Preparedness | How to Prepare for Wildfires | Red Cross. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/wildfire
  13. Causes of fire. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/causes
  14. Fire retardants that protect the home. (2007, November 25). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-re-fire25nov25-story.html#page=1
  15. Home Fire Safety, from http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/home-fire

fire safety