08 September 2017

Why is a Storm Surge a Big Deal?

It's hurricane season. It's like the Holiday Season, but completely opposite.

There are basically three reasons for evacuating: you're in danger from wind, you're in danger from water, or you just want peace of mind.
If you've been watching the news, one of the catchphrases used this time around is that "storm surge" is the deadliest part of a hurricane. This isn't anything new, but everyone on the television is hoping that by saying it, they will get people who wouldn't evacuate to do so. People still have their own plans, thinking they'll just hunker down and withstand the hurricane. I saw on the news that some are going to ride out the storm in their boats. When storm surge is brought up, people who stay on land say they'll go upstairs or higher in a high-rise building. If it gets too bad, they know they can just go on the roof to avoid the water, right?

What is Storm Surge?

In essence, storm surge is the temporary rise of the sea level due to the wind and atmospheric pressure changes. Hurricane Irma, which is about to hit Florida, is expected to have up to 10 ft. of storm surge. Here's where people get confused. Some think that 10 feet means a 10-foot wave; that the water will come up in a wave and kind of recede quickly, or that it won't be able to sustain itself very well as it moves inland. It would be more accurate to relate a storm surge to a high tide. You know what it's like at high tide. If the tide comes in an extra ten feet, continually pushed by the wind, you get some idea of how much water will surge inland, creating a flood problem. The waters will be pushed in as long as the wind and atmospheric conditions last. The water will stay in low-lying areas until it drains, like a regular flood. Many areas could deal with floodwater for a while if there is not adequate drainage.

So it's just a flood?

Well, yes-ish. The surge itself is basically a flood. To say "just" a flood implies that floods aren't very hazardous. However, while the "surge" is a flood, you can't forget about the "storm" half of the term. Imagine you are in your home and the floodwater starts coming in:

As a last resort, you'll just go on the roof, yeah? Problem is, the storm is still happening:

If the storm is still occurring, there is no way you'll want to expose yourself to that. Storm Surge is different than flooding from rain or broken levees because it occurs during the worst of the storm. If you are stuck in your home, and it starts flooding, that is where the problem is.

Get out of Dodge

  Evacuation is best. If you are not in an evacuation zone and are staying, and flooding is not a major concern, then batten down the hatches. Many buildings in Florida are tougher than other places in the country. If you are in a hazard area, do what you should always do: understand the facts, assess the risk, know your resources, and make a decision. Good luck to you all down there. Stay safe.

12 August 2017

How I Learned to Stop Worrying, Even if I Still Don't Love the Bomb

I'm not afraid of the bomb anymore, and you shouldn't be either.

     Okay folks, let's get serious. A nuclear bomb is possibly the scariest and most dangerous weapon of all time. We have seen a lot of people talking about what might happen if anybody uses one (which probably/hopefully won't happen), and I wanted to talk about a few things to give you some peace of mind. It may not be as bad as you think.

     First off, let's talk about the bad part (the part that is as bad as you think): If you are at or near the location of a nuclear blast, you are probably dead. If that scares you...fair enough, but there is nothing that can be done in that instant.
We're going to assume you were not destroyed in the initial blast. Here's what you need to know:

A nuclear detonation is not a nuclear meltdown


     A nuclear blast does not turn a place into a radioactive wasteland, at least not the way we see in movies. A nuclear core meltdown, something like Chernobyl, is a constant release of radiation from a still-active nuclear source. The nuclear fuel core is no longer cooled and protected and is releasing the radiation.

     In a nuclear detonation, the nuclear material is burned up in a high-speed reaction, releasing all the energy at once. There is no remaining nuclear source to continue emitting the rays of ionizing radiation.

There are different types of radiation


     With a nuclear detonation, we are not concerned with ultra-violet (UV) radiation or microwave radiation, we're more concerned with ionizing radiation, which consists of alpha, beta, and neutron particles, as well as gamma and X-rays. The nasty ones are gamma rays, X-rays, and neutron particles. X-rays and gamma rays are very similar in any important way. These rays are shot out when the detonation occurs.

     At the moment of the blast, gamma and x-rays are really your main concern. they shoot out like beams of light in whichever direction they are headed, and basically just keep going until they are diffused. If you are very near a nuclear detonation, you will get a heavy dose of radiation, about as severe as your exposure to the heat and pressure of the blast. So if you get to survive and have high levels of radiation exposure, you will likely also have burns and possible pressure damage, like ruptured eardrums or burst lungs (that last one means you probably didn't survive). Doses radiation at this point can be fatal or can cause what is known as radiation sickness or radiation poisoning. The more radiation you are exposed to, the sicker you will be. The three factors to limit your exposure are demonstrated below and are Time, Distance, and Shielding.


Okay, I know. I told you I was going to make you feel better. I'm getting to it. At least now you should know exactly what makes the nuclear detonation so powerful. All of that basically lasted a minute after detonation. If you survived that, now is the time for you to take action, and because you are awesome and capable, it gets a lot less scary.

What about fallout?


     For a surface burst nuclear detonation, you get the characteristic mushroom cloud:

     As you can see, after the outward blast, there is a vacuum effect and all that dirt and debris, which is now radioactive, is pulled into the sky. The radiation in this material is basically alpha and beta particles. Here is a simple picture of the penetrating power of alpha (top), beta (middle), compared to x-ray and gamma (bottom).

     Obviously, alpha does not go through much and beta does not go through much more. These two particles are just that; they are particles. They are little tiny radioactive pieces, whereas gamma and x-rays are rays, which you can't pick up.

     Fallout consists of debris which is emitting alpha and beta particles. The fallout will go where the wind takes it. Here's the (kind of) good news. You can get a warning of fallout and you can protect yourself. If you cannot get out of the way by evacuating, then you can shelter in place. Alpha particles can't go through even paper. beta particles can be stopped by your clothes. However, if either of these gets inside your body, they will continue to emit their cute little ionization into your cells.

     After the initial blast, if fallout is heading your way, you can shelter inside, wear personal protective equipment, turn off your HVAC system, and you are not going to be cooked by the radiation. It is very important to use respiratory protection. Do you know what the military wears for radiation protection? Gloves, boots, hooded coveralls, and a mask. That's it. That's enough to protect against alpha and beta particles. After the fallout, it would be a large scale process to evacuate and decontaminate everyone in the fallout zone, but it could be done.

The better news


     Fallout is what happens with a surface burst detonation. Fortunately, the most tactically advantageous way to attack is to use an air burst. With an air burst, the fireball does not touch the ground which means it does not pull up all the debris from the ground, which means no fallout! The damage is contained to the obliterated area, which would be a really lousy place to be, but if you are not in the immediate hazard area, and you're still alive, you did it!

23 March 2017

He Lit a Crayon on Fire...You Won't Believe What Happens Next... (Spoiler: It Burns)

How do you like the clickbait title? I thought it was funny, even if I hate myself a little for it. 

    If you've ever lived on the internet, and you wouldn't be here if you haven't, you may have seen the little "emergency/survival hack" about using a crayon as an emergency candle. They say it will burn for 30 minutes. My first thought is that it would be a dirty, smelly flame and wouldn't even be worth it. Well, as I'm sure we all do when we see something on the internet, I try things out before jumping to conclusions. We all do that, right? Well, here's how it looked...

So it worked! I melted a little wax on the bottom so it would stay up, and I stuck a little bit of paper to the top to give me something to light (some people break the tip off to light it at the crayon's paper). Overall, it burned fairly cleanly. It lasted about 15 minutes. It is possible that crayons of a higher caliber will last longer, but for these run-of-the-mill cheap crayons, that's what you get. As far as emergency supplies go, I think you should pack a flashlight and battery for light, and some actual candles if you need a little fire. Even the little tealight candles can last for hours. The crayon is kind of impractical, but nice to know if you ever really need it. 

18 May 2016

Think of the Children: Emergency Kits for Kids

     We had Family Night on Monday. Each week we try to have a "Family Home Evening" and we do a song, prayer, and some sort of lesson. Often it's some story from the scriptures or an inspirational video. Sometimes we'll have an activity or do something as a family, and tie it in somehow to a principle to help reinforce whatever lesson we want to teach. This week was about preparedness, particularly for the children. My oldest is pretty familiar with the concept of emergencies. Lately she has made up some stories to tell about emergencies that never happened or she might ask for a bedtime story about an emergency I've seen, like that time Uncle Scott "breaked his leg" on the motorcycle.

Scott and Thomas
(One of her favorite stories) 

     We talk about how to handle sticky situations whenever the occasion arises, like if a car battery dies and needs a jump or if some kid drives his car off the road. We explain what is happening, what we do about it, and why we did what we did. To her, they make for cool stories, but over time, I believe it will help empower her to make a difference in her own life or someone else's when things get tough.
     While we have quite a few emergency supplies scattered throughout our house, and some that we have assembled into kits, we haven't had anything, other than a diaper bag, tailored specifically to the kids' needs. Occasionally I have added a baby or kid item to my supply, but nothing focused specifically on them. That's what we decided to work on this week. I usually have the notion that I'll "figure things out" if I need to. I consider MacGyver a role model and personal hero.

"MacGyver Multitool"
     Figuring things out is a badge of honor and I believe it is a necessary skill. However, while I am away at work a third of my life, and we have three kids to consider, that particular preparedness strategy could easily come back to bite us. The two older kids were excited to get prepared for emergencies and were about as helpful as two kids who have no idea what they are doing can be. Although at one point, my daughter yelled to me from the other room, "We need to get some food," so I think she's on the right track.
     She has this backpack that she absolutely loves. It's tiny, so it fits her, and it has some of her favorite Disney characters on it. Our next oldest isn't as tall as her yet. There's probably not a backpack anywhere that would fit him, so we grabbed a fanny pack. That, of course, wouldn't fit around his tiny waist, even if we tried to do a crazy knot in the strap, so we ended up slinging it over his shoulder. He seemed to think that was alright for now. Our daughter's backpack has some items for her brother, like a pair of clothes for him and his diapers and small packs of wipes. It also has clothes for her and a first aid kit for both of them. We gave them each a whistle...which they were able to practice...a lot. They also each have an emergency blanket, poncho, flashlight, glowsticks, granola bars, water, emergency contact information, and .22 revolvers. Okay, that last one wasn't true; it would add too much weight to the packs. I may be forgetting to list a thing or two, but you get the idea. We also plan on adding a couple comfort and entertainment items, like stickers, crayons, a small toy, and candy.
     For the wee little baby boy, we packed some emergency water, diapers, clothes, and the samples of baby formula sent to us by the formula companies after he was born. We added a couple other things, but it while it was baby-specific, he didn't actually have a hand in making it...because he's a baby. So we focused primarily on the other kiddos.
     It didn't take us long, but we have taken a small step in preparing for an emergency. It's definitely not all-inclusive for their needs, but it's all they can carry, so after that we'll probably have to take care of them ourselves...I guess. We didn't go through anything crazy to put these together. We tried to gather a few things ahead of time so it wasn't a mad dash for everything, and we focused only on the kids. We can adapt and add to our own kits any time, and on our own, but it took very little effort to do a kid-focused kit that they could have a hand in preparing. After a very short time, they were both wearing their kits, ready for an adventure.

     A while ago, when we were working on the "When Time Matters" video, we did the mad dash: 5 minutes to grab everything you think you would need if you had to leave right then. It turned out to be an interesting mess, but a fun experience. Any way you decide to start or increase your family preparedness, know that you are empowering your family to be awesome and to have peace when the world tries to introduce chaos. Crazy things happen, but we can be proactive and head them off at the pass.

10 November 2015

When Time Matters

     This idea came from the 5-minute challenge. This time, we did a side-by-side comparison of the scramble vs. being prepared. 
     This is a video we made at work for September's National Preparedness Month.
     Personal and family preparedness are so important. It take so little time to put together a few things.
     Do it now so when time is cut short, you won't have to worry about it. 

Visit http://www.ready.gov/kit for some guidelines of what you can put in a kit. 

25 August 2014

Back-to-School Safety

It's back to school time. That means your family will be going in a million different directions.

I want to talk about being prepared for something we don't like to talk about. This:


     Yeah, creepy. We don't like talking about it. No one does. I want to say just a couple things that I think can help us prepare for it.

Family Password
     Maybe this is something you've heard about before. It works like this; You and your family decide on a word or phrase that is your "family password." It could be, "porridge" or "chunky monkeys sitting on a fence."
     If any sort of weirdo or seemingly nice person approaches one of your kids, they might say something like, "Hey, your mom/dad asked me to pick you up from school. I'm a friend/neighbor/co-worker."
     You kid would then say, "What's the family password?"
     If the weirdo says, "Porridge," then you have weird friends/neighbors/co-workers"
     If they don't know the password, they might say something like, "Your parents asked me in a hurry," or "It's an emergency."
     Without a password, even with all the excuses, your kids would say no, or run, or scream if it gets scary. They would go to the principal's office, or a public place. They would let people know that someone they don't know approached them. Even if they know the person, your kids would ask them for a password, to make sure you sent them. Your kids would call you, the parents, which brings me to...

Cell Phones
     A LOT of people have cell phones, and it's possible your kids do, too. They are extremely handy when they need to call you.
     If you want, you can download GPS apps to smart phones that allow you to know where members of your family are.
    It's a great way to give your kids a heads up if someone is coming to pick them up. Here are a couple examples:


Or, for a little more information,

Remember to change the Family Password occasionally, especially if you have let someone else has heard it, so that only your family knows the password.

Home Alone
     A couple thoughts on being home alone:
     If your kids go home, and for whatever reason, there is no one else there, make sure they know what your family rules are. For example, the rule could be that they leave a note on the kitchen table, go to Mrs. Jenkins' house next door, and wait for parents to get home.
     A different option, which is more likely, is that they stay home, lock the doors, and only let people in who are members of the family or have the family password. Make sure your kids know to never tell anyone the password. It's is for others to say to them.
     A lot of kids spend time home alone, or home without parents. I think it is inevitable. Safety at home is as important as safety anywhere else.
     Communication is key, no matter where you are. Make sure members of the family are not left wondering where anyone else is, so leave a note, send a text message, or have the school's office let them know(You could even use the family password for that). If you'll be a little late, you let them know. If a child is staying after school for Chess Club, they let you know. You know, the normal stuff.

Whatever you do, remember to be safe and be prepared.

14 January 2014

Living in Tomorrow's Yesterday

     How often do you wish you had a time machine so you could go back and change something in your past? I think it would be one of the coolest things in the world. There's a chance you wouldn't change a thing, that you're happy with everything, but there's an even greater chance that, like me, you would want to change at least one thing. What would you tell your past self? Maybe it would be to invest in a certain company, learn a certain skill, study a certain subject in school, to avoid that shrimp platter at your brother's wedding, or to not steal that car and drive it off a bridge.
     Now imagine your future self; you in a year, five, twenty, fifty years. What will life be like if you run the course you're on? Now imagine that your future self is the one with the time machine.

     Your future self is the result of the path you are on. You've come back to give yourself a message. You're living in the past, and future you wants you to shape up a little bit. Future you might tell you to spend more time with your kids, to quit smoking, to get a hobby, or to write a book. Maybe future you will tell you to be smarter with your money, finish college, or choose a different career path. Future you could probably give you insight about stock trends or world events. Would you listen to future you? Would you make the choices now that will make your life better? Since right now is the past, future you is looking back wishing you had done something differently.

     There are a lot of lessons to be learned from future you. If you had that kind of insight, just imagine the choices you would make. Future you would tell you about all the wonderful things you have to look forward to, but you might also get a little heads up from future you. Future you comes back to tell you, among several other important things, that you need to be prepared.

     Let's say future you tells you that your house will burn down or that there will be a flood. Future you wants you to know that there are some things you can do to save you a lot of trouble. You need to learn CPR so you can help your dad when he has a heart attack in a few years. You need to get an emergency kit ready so you have something to take with you when that wildfire gets too close to your neighborhood and you have to evacuate. You need to learn first aid skills so that you can help a hurt stranger. You need to start putting money away for retirement. You don't have to worry about building a bunker, you are told by your future self, but you should change the batteries in your smoke detector and make sure your fire extinguisher is full.

     Future you tells you that there is no better time than the present to get things done...unless you have a time machine. That's why you've been visited now. Now is the moment in time that will make or break your future. Now is the time to decide. You've got an awesome future ahead of you, or maybe a lousy one. It's really up to you. The time machine has just arrived and it contained this message, so go out and change your future's past. What happens tomorrow is determined by what we do today.

Future you also wants you to share this blog with your friends and to like For Tomorrow We on Facebook and to ask questions about preparedness if you've got them. If I don't know the answer, I'll ask someone smarter than me, like Mr. Google, that way we can learn together.