Family Relationships: A Must-Have in Your Emergency Survival Kits

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Yes, you read that title correctly. A recent study shows that relationships improve your odds of survival by a whopping 50%.  The data comes from a study of 308,849 individuals, followed for an average of 7.5 years.  Metaphorically speaking, that’s just as important as the items you choose to include in your emergency survival kits.

Of course, most of us can relate to our own families, but  relationships are not limited to family ties.  They extend to friends, colleagues, neighbors and members of our communities.  Professor Holt-Lunstad, one of the authors of the study, says “when someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks.”

To help illustrate the impact of the findings, the study listed these examples of how low social interaction compares to more commonly known risk factors:

  • Equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • Equivalent to being an alcoholic
  • Twice as harmful as obesity

So what does this all mean for my family and I?

Reaching out and socializing more often with friends, neighbors and community members gives us:

  • more purpose to live
  • a larger physical support system when emergencies strike
  • a stronger emotional support system in the aftermath of a disaster

So, invite your close extended family members over for dinner more often,  say “hi” to that quiet neighbor across the way, and introduce yourself to another parent on your child’s soccer team.  You just might live longer.  And you’ll be thankful for the extra helping hands when you’re faced with an emergency.

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Red Cross Rolls Out Hurricane Testimonial Videos

hurricane-storm-preparedness-wind-palm-treesWith hurricane season in full swing as of June 1, the Red Cross has responded with a small series of hurricane preparedness videos aimed at raising awareness on the importance of preparation. They depict real life families that suffered loss during devastating hurricanes like Hugo in ’89, Andrew in ’92, Katrina in ’05, and Hurricane Ike in 2008.

From a family that experienced the adverse affects of a hurricane firsthand, these final words of wisdom ring true: Get a kit. Make a plan. Be informed.

2010 Hurricane Season Prediction: 14-23 Named Storms

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Alex, Bonnie, Colin, and Danielle. Meet the first 4 predicted storms of the 2010 hurricane season.  This year the National Hurricane Center (of the NOAA) has predicted an extremely active season with an estimated 14-23 named storms to occur in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.  They predict 8 to 14 will become hurricanes, with 3-7 major hurricanes clocking wind speeds over 111 mph.

Tropical storms receive a name when wind speeds exceed 39 mph and become hurricanes when their sustained winds reach 74 mph.  Historically, the Atlantic hurricane season from June 1 through November 30 produces 11 named storms and 2 major hurricanes.

Among many variables, scientists and forecasters say there are three main factors we will see more storms this year:

  1. Weak Wind Shear
    Wind shear can dismantle storms and with El Nino dissipating this year winds are expected to be lighter.
  2. Warmer Water
    El Nino also brought warm ocean temperatures which should remain above average throughout the season.
  3. Era of Hurricanes
    Since 1995, the Atlantic has increasingly formed more storms than in previous decades.

AccuWeather, led by researchers at Colorado State University, similarly predicted 16-18 named storms in 2010, with 6 storms striking the United States.

Needless to say, it’s going to be a busy year for hurricanes.  Stay safe, be prepared and enjoy the summer!

Talking With Kids About Natural Disasters

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Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, fires…and the list goes on.  It’s easy for adults to ignore or underestimate the fear and misunderstanding that kids experience after a natural disaster.  We are often so concerned about our own feelings that we forget to provide answers and comfort to our children.

If you’re a parent, it’s likely you’ve pondered these questions:

  1. Should I wait until my kids ask?
    No.  Discuss the disaster openly with your child.  Encourage them to ask questions, and answer those questions directly.  Not talking about it makes the event even more threatening to your kids.  Silence suggests that what has happened is too horrible to even speak of.  Chances are they have already heard about it.
  2. Should my kids watch media covering the event?
    Maybe.  Research has shown that watching media coverage of disasters can create stress for children.  Parents should limit the viewing and watch with their children in order to deal with their reactions.   Reassure them that chances of a similar disaster occurring in their area are slim and correct any misinformation.
  3. Should I share my feelings and reactions?
    Yes.  Consider sharing your feelings about the crisis with your child.  This allows you to exemplify how to cope and plan for the future.  However, be sure you can express a positive or hopeful plan.
  4. How can I help my kids dispel their worry and shock?
    If possible, don’t disrupt normal routines.  Children find comfort in consistency.  If appropriate, consider volunteering for a community relief organization together.  Helping others brings peace and happiness.
Ideas gathered from Anita Gurian, Ph.D (NYU Child Study Center) and David Schonfeld, MD, Director, Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital).

FEMA Website on Your Cell Phone (Your Mobile Emergency Plan)

FEMA-logo-m.fema.govFEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) recently launched m.fema.gov, a skinnier version of its disaster information Web site developed specifically for mobile cell phones. The site provides vital information about floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, winter storms and other emergencies and answers to key questions like “How do I keep my family safe?” and “How do I return home safely?”

Of course, a bigger question is how reliable are cell phones in the aftermath of a disaster? This varies based on the scale and location of the emergency, the data provider, and other factors. There is no guarantee your phone carrier will be available, but it helps to know this resource exists in the first place.

Below is the video from FEMA making the announcement:

FEMA plans to expand and improve the site to allow individuals to apply for federal disaster assistance, check their application status or update an existing application.

With hurricane season beginning June 1, FEMA also launched a hurricane page at m.fema.gov/hurricanes.htm. It offers helpful ideas on how to prepare for a hurricane, how to stay safe during a hurricane, and how to recover in the aftermath of a hurricane.