How To Get Ready For A Hurricane

How To Get Ready For A Hurricane | You'll find this and other quick and easy life hacks and organization hacks at

Nothing is more unpredictable than a hurricane.

As Hurricane Isaac made landfall on the New Orleans coastline as a category 1 storm, residents couldn’t help remembering another storm just a few short years earlier that took the lives of at least 1,836 people and changed the lives of tens of thousands more.  
But even with a category 1 storm like Isaac, lives can change. 
Just ask the residents that didn’t think that Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Irma were going to be as big a deal as Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina and decided not to evacuate. 
People who thought that their homes would be okay, ended up having to grab whatever they could — not necessarily what they would need – and evacuate with just a few minute’s notice.
It certainly proves one thing — you just can’t count on history or predictions, to help you decide what’s right for yourself, your property or your family.

So what’s the best way to prepare for a hurricane?

It’s a good lesson for us all.  Even though you might not technically live in a disaster zone or directly in the way of an approaching hurricane or wildfire, it doesn’t hurt to have the things that are important to you, ready to go. As we tell our customers (and practice ourselves), you have to keep your vital information, documents and keepsakes backed up to at least three different locations and your emergency bin packed ready to go at a moment’s notice.  That way if you suddenly have to evacuate, those things will already be taken care of.  It’s just one more thing you won’t have to worry about doing at the last minute or doing without, later.
The best thing about a hurricane — at least as opposed to earthquakes and tornadoes — is that you usually get a few days notice that they’re coming.  Like our friends in New Orleans and Tampa, Hurricane Isaac was predicted giving some residents time to gather up their belongings and evacuate.  But of course Isaac turned the opposite direction striking areas that weren’t originally expected.  One important take-away from these disasters is the importance of staying aware and using evacuation warnings to get your own stuff together even if the homes on your particular street aren’t in immediate danger.   Heed warnings when they are given!  Stubbornly staying behind because residents think they can “handle it” has gotten thousands of people killed.  Another lesson is to always purchase flood insurance.
So how do you prepare for a hurricane? As we tell our readers, we always follow the Three Step Approach.

Step One

Make sure that you have your disaster survival gear and know how to secure your home and personal safety when a hurricane strikes.

Step Two

Make sure that you’re able to grab everything you need – necessities, keepsakes, vital information – and leave for a safer location, in less than ten minutes. It’s a lot easier than it sounds. All you need is to do is to take the necessary steps now, to ensure you have access to all the items and information that will help you get back to living your normal life, as quickly and easily as possible. You’ll also want to make sure that the things that are most vital to you — your important papers, financial and insurance information, treasured photos, videos and music and scannable keepsakes are backed up onto a portable hard drive and stored in a safe deposit box or safe, in the town where you will go during evacuation. That way it will be safe, sound and waiting for you when you arrive.

Step Three

Make sure that you have a pre-written plan of what you’ll do and where you’ll go when a disaster strikes, including a plan for how you’ll get back to your normal life, once the disaster is over.
If you live in hurricane country, you absolutely need an Evacuation Plan and a Get Back To Life PlanIf you don’t know the evacuation routes in your area, call your local fire department for this information way before hurricane season.  And while you’re at it, make sure you also ask them where the emergency shelters are in your area in case  you suddenly need one.  You always need to know where you’re going and what you and your family would do if your area becomes uninhabitable.   If necessary make a plan with other relatives or neighbors to evacuate together and share transportation and costs.
Even if your home is safe from rising flood waters and away from the areas predicted to feel the heaviest impact of the storm, your neighborhood and city might still without power or basic city services for a few days — or a few weeks.  Just as survivors of Hurricane Isaac and Hurricane Katrina!  Telephone and/or cell service may also be down.   Not only does that mean you won’t have light, but you also won’t have power for computers or televisions and radios. Grocery and drug stores won’t be able to ring up purchases, ATMs won’t work, garage door openers might not function. Name any tool or convenience we rely on in this world and chances are it’s powered by electricity.
So if your hurricane plan is to shelter-in-place make sure that you always have an alternative source of power, battery powered flashlights, extra cash, a supply of canned or frozen food that doesn’t need to be cooked to be eaten, and the all-important supply of water – enough to last you and everyone in your family for three days. Since your home or neighborhood might have significant damage, keep rubber-soled shoes, a warm jacket and other emergency gear within reach of your bed or right inside your closet. Rubber soled shoes will protect your feet from the broken glass, turbid water and rocks that will probably be strewn everywhere.  
We aren’t going to get into the details of how to turn off your gas, when to boil water or a list of items to have on hand for a hurricane, because there are literally hundreds of sources for that information, including a few of our favorite guides and videos listed below:
Hurricane Guide       Hurricane Checklist       Hurricane? Be Prepared, Plan Now Video   Hurricane Video by Weather Channel’s Bryan Cross
You should also create or update your evacuation checklist, detailing the items that you and your family would need if you were unable to live in your home for three or more days. This includes all of your necessities, prescriptions, vital documents (or access to them on portable hard drives, online or in out of area safe deposit boxes), keepsakes, personal and professional contacts, ID and basic medical history and anything else that your family will need while evacuated.

We want you to think about something.

Think about the coverage of the last few hurricanes and floods you saw on CNN.   Like Hurricane Sandy for example.  Remember the faces of the people in the midst of the storm?
They looked shell-shocked, terrified, lost. Most of those people, were at least moderately prepared for a disaster. Those in earthquake country most likely had stockpiled some food and water, those in hurricane country might even have evacuated and done everything their local news and emergency authorities told them to do. And yet, after the disaster, they were standing there, scared and helpless, because their homes, the people they loved, and basically their entire lives have been destroyed to the point that their own existence was now unrecognizable. All of those people, rich and poor, young and old — they all had one thing in common. They had NO idea where to go and what to do from here.
And THAT – knowing what to do and where to go after the disaster, is step three.  The most important step of all.
Facing a disaster without giving yourself a plan to recover from it, is like trying to build a house with no blueprint and no tools!
Having two plans can make all the difference in getting you through those first few days and weeks after a disaster strikes.
What are the plans?  They are the Family Evacuation Plan and the Get Back To Life Plan — the same plans that we’ve built into our newest book Ready.  
The evacuation plan is pretty simple. It all comes from one question… If you were at home or at work and suddenly had to evacuate your home, or your general area, where would you go?
As you think about the locations you’ll use for your evacuation, consider, the people traveling with you, how you’ll get there (car, bus, plane), any pets traveling with you and whether those locations will actually work for you – for instance are they close to stores or services your family might need, like pharmacies, clothing, banks and doctors.
We suggest that people have three different locations in mind, to give you different types of locations and choices depending on the circumstances. As you create your plan, write everything down in detail. If you have to use this plan, you and the people you love are probably going to be in panic mode and following an easy to understand plan, will help calm and focus you.
Write down the people who will be traveling with you, and any special instructions you’ll need to gather everyone together, in case a disaster or emergency occurs while you’re all away from home. Name the location that you and your family will use to meet up with each other and the location you will be evacuating to, if you cannot live in your home, but your immediate area is still safe. Include the address of the location, contact phone, email address and directions.

Location, Location

Next choose a location (writing down the details, address and contact information) that your family will use if you not only need to evacuate your home, but your immediate area or city. This might happen during a moderate hurricane or a tornado. Your third location is out of state, for a serious, widely destructive emergency like the Mexico Earthquake, Hurricane Irma or Maria, the California Wildfires, or other disaster that will make your entire region uninhabitable.
You will also include these locations on your emergency wallet card and your family’s wallet cards. Now, no matter what the disaster, even a fire or local emergency, you and your family will now know where and how to gather, and who will be responsible for what, so you can quickly reunite and travel on to your emergency location together. If you like, you can also give a card to the person you chose to be your out-of-area contact as well.
Will you have any pets traveling with you? Be sure to fill out the pet section, so that you will have all the information you need for them, like the name and numbers for the veterinarian, their licenses, and names/numbers of kennels in the location you are evacuating to and any prescriptions or special instructions you’ll need until you return home.

Your Get Back To Life Plan

The worst part of any disaster, short of losing a loved one, is the possibility that the home you love and care for and everything in it would be damaged beyond repair. That is what your Get Back To Life Plan is all about.
Imagine that you and your family have survived the hurricane, but had to leave your area because it is uninhabitable.
You’re in your evacuation location a week after the waters subside. The phone rings. It’s a good friend of yours, who has just toured your neighborhood and is calling to tell you that your home is badly damaged and he doubts that you will be able to live in it for several months, if ever again.
After you and your family hold each other for a while and talk, you finally feel strong enough to open your Backup Plan Notebook. There you find your Get Back To Life Plan and begin making calls to your insurance agent, your contractor and your boss. You call the local real estate agent in your evacuation city and ask her to begin looking for temporary housing, register your children in the local school, and begin calling the contacts you need (that you jotted down just in case), to help you settle in. Getting settled is easier than you thought, since you have copies of all of the vital documents you need, like your birth certificates and property deeds in a safe deposit box at the local bank. It takes some time, but with hard work and a lot of courage, you and your family are back to living in a matter of weeks.
Now imagine the same scenario, the same phone call, holding your family, talking and then realizing that you have no plan and no clue how to get back to living your life. It’s CNN coverage all over again. The best part of this little scenario is that it hasn’t happened to you and that you have time right now, to make sure no matter what ever occurs in your area, you and your family will be prepared.
If you don’t have a copy of our Get Back To Life Plan yet, just download it here.  
Take a few minutes to think about the following questions:
  • How will we handle our bank accounts, paying our monthly bills and receiving our paychecks?   How much emergency cash do we need to have, while traveling?
  • What are our credit card limits and toll free numbers for emergency increases?
  • How will we work? Will we work remotely or have to look for new positions? What people or  contacts can we call about temporary or permanent jobs?
  • How will we handle our medical, dental and prescription needs while in the new location? What doctors and dentists can we use while there?
  • How long can we stay in our evacuation location? If we need to remain evacuated longer,  where will we go/stay? Who will our real estate contacts be, if we need to find new permanent or temporary housing?
  • How are we going to secure the property or vehicles we had to leave behind?
  • How will we take care of our pets, during the evacuation and until we find new permanent housing?
  • How will we handle our transportation needs? What contacts will we need to purchase or lease vehicles?
  • How will we handle our daycare needs? How will we handle getting our children into school if necessary? What schools or contacts will we need, to enroll them in a new school in a temporary or new location?
  • How will we handle any special needs in our family?
Once you’ve answered the questions, get your family together to work out any potential problems you have uncovered and then draft your plan. And don’t forget to compile a list of real estate agents, financial contacts and jobs, schools, doctors and other professionals or information that you might need to establish yourself in the new city temporarily or permanently.
Starting over is never easy, especially when it happens because of a disaster or other life changing emergency. But taking a few hours now to think through and draft a plan, will give you and your family the direction, information and support that you need, to get through not only the first hours and days after a disaster, but the first steps back to living the life you’ve worked so hard to build.

Have Fun Getting Your Stuff Together!    We’ll talk later…


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How To Save Your Family With Twitter And Facebook

How To Save Your Family With Twitter And Facebook | You'll find this and other quick and easy life hacks and organization hacks at https://rnn10.wordpress.comIn the middle of a quiet day in the lecture hall of a Midwestern university, the silence was pierced by a hail of gunfire.  Students dashed out of the room and ducked under tables.  Those who couldn’t move, tried to make themselves as invisible as possible until help arrived.   
That day at Northern Illinois University, five students lost their lives and many others were injured.  As the police and security struggled to control the situation, a few people were able to find out what was happening, in real time.  They were the only ones fortunate enough to know that their children or classmates had survived. 
On September 11th 2001, in mere seconds, the world as we knew it plunged into utter chaos.  More so, for the people who worked in and around the World Trade Center.  Electricity and telephone service was gone and communications were rendered unusable, cutting victims off from the rest of the world.  But a few people were able to reach their loved ones, some for the last time, others to reconnect with them exactly as planned, once they made it back out into undamaged sections of Manhattan. 
What made the difference between the parents and friends at NIU who remained connected with their students and the majority who did not?  Or the difference between the World Trade Center workers who were able to connect with their loved ones immediately versus those who spent hours or days wondering if the people they loved were still alive?
One Simple Word – Communication 
At the sites of both shocking, unexpected tragedies, communication made the difference.  Some communication was improvised genius and other, the result of careful, thoughtful preparation.  No matter how those connections were born, you can easily tailor the lessons learned from those tragedies, to keep your own family in constant communication, no matter what happens.
The NIU Shootings – Facebook and Twitter to the Rescue 
So how did some parents and friends have a real time view of the NIU tragedy?  Facebook and Twitter!  As unbelievable as it sounds, students ingeniously found a way to use their favorite method of keeping in touch with friends, as a tool to connect to the outside world in time of crisis.  
Students caught under desks and How To Save Your Family With Twitter And Facebook | You'll find this and other quick and easy life hacks and organization hacks at https://rnn10.wordpress.comtables grabbed their smart phones and started communicating.  Tweets went out on Twitter, notes and messages went up on Facebook pages.  Messages told friends and family that the students who were literally in the thick of things, were all right.  Others told loved ones or security officers, where trapped students were located, facilitating their rescue.  Friends started texting each other to find out where everyone was and in the hours that followed, created Facebook pages memorializing the fallen. 
It was an amazing display of people, used to being in touch with friends 24/7, using that same technology to communicate, connect, survive and heal. 
Smart phones, cell phones and notebook computers are a GREAT way to stay in touch during an emergency.  Whether you send a simple email or text, or send tweets or post to each other’s Facebook walls, in seconds you can find out the location of everyone you love, discover if they’re all right, or need help, and even mobilize family and friends to be at the side of the ill or injured.  In a dire emergency you can even confirm or update emergency plans like meeting places, using real time information.  
Most importantly technology can bring your loved ones together, just when you need each other the most.  That was demonstrated in the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti.  Nothing could have prepared Port-au-Prince for that level of devastation.  
This is what CNN has to say about it: “Limited communications hampered reporting of casualties and destruction. But the quake had reportedly brought down The Hotel Montana, popular with foreigners visiting Port-au-Prince. French Minister of Cooperation Alain Joyandet expressed concern Wednesday for the approximately 200 French tourists staying there.   Night fell a few hours after the earthquake reduced buildings as grand as the National Palace to rubble and knocked down phone and power lines.  “Communication with people in Haiti was, at best, sketchy and achieved mainly through social networking sites such as Twitter and YouTube and via Internet phone.”    
The same thing organically began to happen after the recent gas explosion in San Bruno and during the wildfires in Colorado.  People who were jarred from their homes, in many cases with nothing on them but a cell phone, began to get in touch with loved ones, neighbors and emergency personnel with the only thing they had – social media.  In fact natural disaster experts at San Diego State University held a week-long fake disaster drill, using Twitter as the linchpin communications system, just to see how it would work as a disaster application.   
Not only are Twitter and Facebook already the go-to communications devices for people worldwide who need to get vital information out or answers in to their location quickly and easily, but experts hope to study how those applications, especially Twitter would function in a real-world emergency.  If it works as well as they think it will, more and more logistical updates, emergency notifications and critical decisions by disaster personnel may be conducted via social media.
But what does that mean for your family?  In the last few years, the world has changed dramatically.  There are tools and resources available to you and your family that you were unimaginable in the last decade.  Now it’s time to put them to work for you.  
How Can Your Family Use Technology In An Emergency? 
The first step is to make sure that each family member has everyone’s email, text, user names and cell numbers on their cell or smart phone.  When you’re putting together your family’s emergency plan, be sure to list everyone’s information right in the plan.  Our newest book/programs The Backup Plan 3.0 and Keep This Book In Your iPhone, come with specially designed action plans to capture all of this information.
Once you’ve gathered all the information, give each family member has a copy.  Their “homework” will be to enter a contact for each family member, into their own cell phone or smart phone.  We showed you how to do this in a past blog, but if you missed it, you can find it at this link.
You would be surprised how many people have entries for every friend and colleague they’ve had since camp, only to be missing the most vital information for members of their own family!  I guess we just always assume that the people we love most, will be standing right next to us, the moment a disaster strikes.  But this exercise will ensure that even if they aren’t right next to you, that you’ll be reunited as quickly as humanly possible.
When your action plan is complete, discuss it with your family.  Before you sit down with them, come up with some sample scenarios, for example, if a disaster were to happen while your family members were at work, at school or running errands during a normal day.  How would you connect with each other?  Do you all text, or would calling be faster?  If you have teens or young adults at home, their natural proclivity may be to send out a tweet on twitter, to update everyone they know on their location or situation.  Don’t forget twitter can also be used to send personal messages, so you don’t have to worry about broadcasting your personal business for the entire world to read. 
Suppose cell phones were out, but electricity was working.  Or vice versa.  The best way to plan, is to give yourselves as many ways as possible to stay connected.  Then if one or two normal methods are unusable, you’ll all simply turn to a different method to reach each other.  Another idea is to create a Family Emergency Code or Word.  This is a code or word that only you and your immediate family know.  When a family member says it, texts it or emails it to the rest of the family, it signals that they’re in trouble or need help immediately.  It’s only to be used in extreme emergency and means that everyone needs to drop what they’re doing and establish contact immediately.   
And remember that it’s not just the contact names but the contacts themselves, who can save your life or provide lifesaving information in an emergency.   
Recently there was a fire in our neighborhood, which began on the 32nd floor of a high rise condo building.  It was 1 am on one of the coldest nights of the year.  The electricity, elevators and regular phone service were cut off.  One woman, not only afraid for herself, but for the ninety year old couple she cared for, who sat huddled nearby.  The apartment was quickly filling with smoke.  The problem was, the caregiver had no idea where the fire was.  She picked up her cell phone and called her husband who was in a different state.  He got on the internet, found live local news coverage and was able to tell her what floor the fire was on and that the fire department was on the scene.  She knew she would be safe for the time being, and was able to wait until the firefighters knocked on their door to lead her and the couple to safety. 
The moral of the story is, you need to have as many connectivity options available to you as possible. 
You never know which one might save your life.
Have Fun Getting Your Stuff Together! We’ll talk later…


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