Disaster prep for pets

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Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities/Special Needs

You’ll find lots of information for people and your service animals here, Strongly recommended that you check this out :

Personal support network
Emergency kit checklist
Service animal emergency kit checklist
People with a disability/special needs – tips
Assisting people with a disability/special needs – tips
Non-Visible Disabilities
Seniors with a Disability/Special Needs
High Rise Safety
Checklist and personal assessment

Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities/Special Needs

Floods – what to do

Floods can have significant effect on people and property. Do you know what to do before and after a flood? Here are some basic tips:

Get an emergency kit.
Put weather protection sealant around basement windows and the base of ground-level doors.
Install the drainage for downspouts a sufficient distance from your residence to ensure that water moves away from the building.
Consider installing a sump pump and zero reverse flow valves in basement floor drains.


For health reasons, it’s important to restore your home to good order as soon as possible but make sure the property is safe to re-enter before.
To avoid electrical shock wear rubber boots, keep extension cords out of the water and shut the power off to the flooded area at the breaker box.
Remove standing water with pumps or pails, then with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
Remove all soaked and dirty materials and debris, including wet insulation and drywall, residual mud and soil, furniture, appliances, clothing and bedding.

For more information on how to get prepared for an emergency, go to www.GetPrepared.ca.

You may also want to check out Environment Canada’s website at www.weatheroffice.gc.ca for more tips, or to learn more about Weatheradio Canada. This service offers weather and related information 24 hours a day, in both official languages. A weatheradio receiver can also be set up to automatically start broadcasting when Environment Canada issues a severe weather warning. The nationwide network has 180 sites across the country and reaches 92% of the Canadian population.

How to survive a major earthquake

Canada has approximately 3,500 earthquakes every year. Are you prepared if one were to happen in your area? Here’s how:

Get an emergency survival kit.
Identify safe spots in each room in your home. Emphasize their location by having everyone in the household physically place themselves in the safe spot.
Move or secure objects that could fall and injure you such as books, plants, mirrors, lamps or china. Keep heavy items on lower shelves. Affix paintings and other hanging objects securely so they won’t fall off hooks.


Stay inside.
Take cover under a heavy table, desk or any solid furniture and hold on.
If you can’t get under something strong, or if you are in a hallway, flatten yourself or crouch against an interior wall.
Stay away from windows, glass partitions, mirrors, fireplaces, bookcases, tall furniture and light fixtures. In an earthquake you could be hurt by shattered glass or heavy objects thrown around by the shaking.

For more tips, go to GetPrepared.ca.

Community Preparedness: Tips for getting involved

Recent disasters around the world, and here in Canada, have demonstrated the importance of communities becoming prepared for emergencies of all types.

The goal of Emergency Preparedness Week, which runs from May 2-8, is to encourage Canadians to become more engaged in emergency preparedness activities, like the ones listed on GetPrepared.ca.

As a member of your community, here are some things you can do to get more involved:

Talk to your friends, family and co-workers about emergency preparedness. Develop the plans you need to make sure you are ready.
Volunteer to help your neighbours and co-workers get prepared, and consider volunteering for a local emergency organization.
Lead efforts in your community. Educate others by teaching them of the importance of emergency preparedness and by encouraging groups to coordinate their efforts.
Take stock of the emergency response agencies in your community. Ask them what they need and how you can help.

Remember, emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere. Experience has shown that individual preparedness goes a long way towards communities being able to cope better – both during and after a major disaster. More information is available on the Emergency Preparedness at GetPrepared.ca.

Careful planning

the key to getting through an emergency
72 hours…Is your family prepared?

Preparing for an emergency is important and something the whole family can do. By taking a few simple steps, you can become better prepared to face a range of emergencies and minimize the impact on yourselves and your families.

Here are three simple steps to better prepare your family to face a range of emergencies:

Know the risks – Although the consequences of disasters can be similar, knowing the risks specific to our community and our region (like what to do in the case of floods, tornados, earthquakes, storm surges, hurricanes, and technological or environmental accidents such as chemical spills and power failures) can help us better prepare.
Make a plan – Every Canadian household needs an emergency plan. It will help you and your family know what to do if disaster strikes. We should all practice what to do in different emergency situations.
Get an emergency kit – During an emergency, we may need to get by without power or tap water. We will all need some basic supplies (items such as three-day supply of water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, batteries, , battery-operated or wind-up radio, first aid kit, pocket knife, prescriptions, extra set of keys and money, and copies of important documents). Be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours in an emergency.

Checklists for what goes into a basic kit and extra items, how to write an emergency plan and details on hazards across Canada can be found on the Emergency Preparedness web site at GetPrepared.ca.

50 Ways to Conserve Water at Home

With many areas of the country in drought conditions – some severe – and others sure to follow, all of us could use a reminder list of ways to cut back on our water consumption around the house.
None of the following steps are as difficult as the results of a drought could be, and as far as disasters go, a severe drought can be the worst. You can go three weeks without food, but only three days without W.A.T.E.R.:
Waste: “Waste not, want not.” Tighten plumbing leaks and prevent other needless losses of water.
Application: Where do you use water that you don’t need to?
Teaching: It’s good you’re following these suggestions, but what about others? Pass these along.
Economy: Where do you need to use water that you could use less?
Reclamation: Where can you get extra water?
Though the following steps fall into the categories just mentioned, we’ve mixed them up in no particular order to encourage you to read them all. These are excerpts from “Disaster Prep 101.”
1. Fire Safety. Summer brings us heat and dryness that leads to wildfires and winter sees increased house fires from the use of additional heating sources. As a sizable fire would need hundreds or thousands of gallons of water to fight, any fire prevention steps taken are water saving steps.
2. Brick in the toilet. A brick in the toilet tank is meant to take up space to replace water. If a brick takes up about half a quart of space, then you save half a quart per flush. Hint: Since bricks can dissolve, paint it with basement water sealant. Another hint: If you can’t fit a whole brick in your tank, use half a brick. Just make sure nothing blocks your valves or causes a leak.
3. Color coded conservation. You don’t always have to flush your toilet each and every time. To borrow an old adage, “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”
4. Buy a low-flow toilet. Though an expensive option, it’s easy to incorporate into your lifestyle, and in fact, some communities offer homeowners rebates for installing these water-savers.
5. Rain barrels. Rain barrels can help save rain water that otherwise would have come down your gutters and soaked into the ground. While you can’t immediately drink this water, you can use it in your food gardens, for outside washing (like if your car really needs it), and you can purify it for drinking or bathing if you’d like.
6. AC condensation. If you have central heat and air, you have a drain line that carries away the condensation that collects from your air conditioner coils. If yours is not connected to sewage lines you can collect and use this water. However, DO NOT DRINK THIS WATER! It can be used, though, to water your garden, outside washing, or watering the house plants. You can collect up to two quarts per day during humid weather.
7. Squeeze-handle shower head. You can buy shower setups that have the head on a hose, and the head is activated with a squeeze lever. This will let you wet down, lather up, and then rinse off without leaving the shower running. If the squeeze-handle variety won’t work for you, you can easily find low-flow shower heads that provide the same pressure but use less water overall.
8. Faucet restrictors. Like the low-flow shower head, you can also find low-flow faucet restrictors.
9. Liquid soap. For hand washing, nothing saves water like liquid soap since it lathers more quickly than bar soap. Squirt a small dollop of liquid soap, give a quick burst from the faucet, thoroughly lather, and then turn the faucet back on briefly to rinse.
10. Spray bottles. Keep a small spray bottle of water by the sink. When washing your hands (with liquid soap), or wetting your toothbrush, all you need is a quick spritz from the bottle instead of using the faucet.
11. Plastic gloves. We’re talking about the inexpensive plastic foodservice gloves that come 100 to a box for just a couple of dollars. If there’s anything you’d do that would make you wash your hands before, during, or afterwards (like painting, cleaning the cat’s litter box, etc.), then wearing gloves will save a hand washing.
12. Paper plates. In times of drought; water takes temporary precedence over other resources. Using paper plates saves dishwashing water. The same goes for paper towels which will cut down on the number of cloth hand towels you have to wash.
13. Keep a jug by the sink. Keep an empty water jug by the sink to catch and save cold water coming from the tap while you’re waiting for the hot water.
14. Consolidate heavy work. Do you do things at different times of day that make you sweaty? On some days do you take more than one shower or change clothes a couple of times? Consolidate these laborious efforts. If you work out regularly and also work in the yard, try to work out and then immediately do your yard work. Stay sweaty, take just one shower, and wear just one set of clothes.
15. Waterless car wash. Several companies produce “waterless carwash” products that let you spray them on and wipe them off leaving your car spotless without the use of water.
16. Disposable paint brushes. If you have to paint, try to use zero water. Wear your plastic gloves and use brushes you can just throw away.
17. No lawn watering. This goes without saying. However, if you collected the rain water or AC condensation earlier, you might use a watering can to cure brown spots, or water shrubs or trees that might die.
18. Check faucet washers. Another no-brainer is to make sure you have no leaky faucets. However, a word of caution. Know what you’re doing before tackling the repairs yourself since a plumbing accident could spew more water than your faucet would ever drip.
19. Full dish washer. Letting the dishes pile up is okay if you’re waiting for enough to make a full load for the dishwasher.
20. Full clothes washer. Full loads of laundry are best as they’re more water-efficient.
21. Hand wash over dishes. If you’re letting dishes pile up and some need some presoaking, use the kitchen sink for hand washing. Let the soapy water accumulate and pull double duty by pre-cleaning your dishware.
22. Dig a well. If you’re on municipal water, yet live in an area where you can have a well, please dig one. Though pricey, it will give you an alternate source of water and will help conserve city water.
23. Dixie cups. These tiny cups can let you see how much (or little) water you need for things like rinsing after brushing your teeth. And since they’re disposable, you don’t have to wash.
24. Pass this list to a friend. It’s good that you’re reading this list. Passing it along to others helps them conserve too. With conservation, it really is “the more the merrier.”
25. No new aquariums. If the kids come home wanting anything more than a fishbowl for a new aquatic pet, do what you can to talk them out of it. Unless of course, you fill it and maintain it with rainwater.
26. Nuke your water. For some hot water needs it’s thriftier to fill a cup with cold water and zap it in the microwave to heat it, rather than let the water run until the hot water shows.
27. Shave from a cup. One use for your cup of hot water is shaving. Rather than let the water run during a shave, just rinse your razor in the cup. Too, you’ll use less water in a cup than you would by having an inch or two in the bottom of the sink. Better yet, if possible, use an electric razor.
28. Skip a shower. If you’re not dirty and you’re not going to do anything but hang around the house, especially if by yourself, why take a shower?
29. Let the kids skip a bath. If you want to be a hero to your children, provided they’re really not dirty and don’t need it, let them skip every other day’s bath or shower.
30. Baking soda for Fido. Your dog’s baths can be a little farther apart too, if you give them a dry rubdown with baking soda in the interim. Rub it in their fur and then brush it out. They’ll smell lots better, and be happy they skipped a soaking.
31. Nuke a washcloth. Wet a washcloth with a quick blast from the faucet, add some liquid soap, and zap it in the microwave for a few seconds. You could wash your face and hands, and probably take half a bath. Wet another washcloth and microwave it a few seconds for a quick rinse cloth.
32. Paper towel dry-off. After your sponge bath with your microwaved washcloths, dry off with paper towels. Like paper plates, they don’t need washing.
33. Kiddie pools. If you’re lacking rain barrels and want to catch a few drops, get one of those rigid plastic “kiddie pools.” They’re only a few dollars and will hold gallons of rain runoff from your gutter downspouts.
34. Solar showers. Have a private back yard? Like being outdoors? You can get “solar showers” at almost any camping supply store (it’s a black plastic jug with a shower head on a hose). You can use your collected rain water for that occasional warm-weather outdoor shower.
35. No swimming pool. Yet another entry in our no-brainer list, everyone knows that you save lots of water by not filling your swimming pool. But how could you use existing pool water in a water shortage? The chlorine will evaporate in a few weeks if not maintained, but not enough to drink the water. However, you could use the water for outdoor washing, your outdoor shower, flushing your toilet, or as a firefighting water reservoir if your home is in a wildfire area.
36. Check your meter. Check for leaks at your water meter. If yours is leaking, notify your local water authority. Also, many meters have flow indicators that move when water is flowing through the pipe even slightly. If you’ve turned off everything in the house and the flow indicator is moving, you might have a hidden leak.
37. Check for a leaky toilet. Put a few drops of food coloring into your toilet tank’s water. If you see the colored water in the bowl after a few minutes it means you have a leak and might need a new tank valve. Hint: Some toilet tank valves are degraded or corroded by the chlorine contained in many toilet bowl tank cleaner / additives. When in doubt, leave them out.
38. Tie up a tarp. If you’re really serious about collecting rain water, tie a few tarps in place to where they drain into your kiddie pool or other collection point.
39. Frozen water bottles. Keep plastic bottles of water (about 3/4 full) in your fridge and freezer (you’ll save electricity since your fridge will run more efficiently). When going on picnics or using your cooler, use a few frozen bottles of water to keep food cold. The water in the bottles can be consumed when thawed (or refrozen), while ice will melt and be dumped out.
40. Water at restaurants. If you don’t plan to drink it, don’t let the waiter leave you a glass of water at the table.
41. Dishes: wipe vs. rinse. If the dishes are too dirty to stick straight in the dishwasher, wipe them off with newspaper rather than rinsing them. You save water and get double-duty from your newspaper.
42. Let Fido lick the bowl. If you have a dog, let Fido clean your dishes before they’re put in the dishwasher. (Just don’t give Fido too much, or anything bad for a dog.)
43. Aluminum foil. When cooking at home, line your pots and pans with aluminum foil. When you’re done cooking, remove the foil to make cleanup easier.
44. Buying your water. If you buy your drinking water, go for the gallons of distilled water rather than the smaller bottles of mineral water. The distilled is a better value and is actually more pure than the “designer waters.”
45. Bug sprayers. Your lawn and garden store will have 2-gallon pump-up sprayers. Most cost less than $20 and will help you use your collected rain water or pool water for washing (and even fighting small fires).
46. “Go Jo.” Go Jo is a waterless hand soap that mechanics use. It’s rather effective on really dirty hands and can be used completely without water. Similarly, you can use the little bottles of clear hand sanitizer.
47. In-line water heater. In-line water heaters can be installed closer to the faucets or tubs they’re to heat, and they use less energy. If you get one, great, but don’t do away with your old water heater (even if you cut off the gas or electric to it) since it’s a great backup reservoir in water shortage scenarios.
48. No mopping. Most households now have a “Swiffer” or comparable cleaning aid intended to replace old-fashioned mops. If you haven’t made the switch, doing so will save a few gallons of water per year.
49. Skip a laundry load. Once in a while, some clothing really doesn’t need to be washed. In mild weather, outer shirts might need just a “fluff in the dryer” or another ironing to be perfectly ready to wear. Bachelors have known this secret for years.
50. General safety. We started this article with fire safety and we’ll close with general safety. Each time you prevent a trip to the hospital, you prevent the extra water that would be used during your visit, even if it’s just from the doctor washing up to examine you.
Water is like money. We should learn to save it well and spend it wisely. We hope these simple ideas prove useful, and we invite you to check back for our next article which will cover municipal water savings.
© 2007 Paul Purcell. About the author: Paul Purcell is an Atlanta-based security analyst and preparedness consultant with over 20 years risk management experience. He’s also the author of “Disaster Prep 101” at www.disasterprep101.com, and a partner / advisor with 1-800-PREPARE.
(Permission is granted to reprint this article provided all portions, including author info, remain

Beat the Heat and Survive the Summer

Beat the Heat and Survive the Summer
By Paul Purcell

The “Dog Days” of summer are almost upon us and record temperatures are sweeping the country. Unfortunately we have the highest number of elderly and medically fragile people in history, and an aging infrastructure that is feeling the strain of heavy electrical use as our senior citizens struggle to stay cool.
We’re here to give you tips and tricks to help you beat the heat should you be susceptible to extreme temperatures, or should your power be out. Here’s a short list of suggestions:
1. Drink plenty of cool water to keep yourself hydrated and reduce your body’s core temperature. (Warm water won’t do this, and cold water might be a shock to sensitive systems.) Drink regularly, every hour, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid soft drinks and alcoholic drinks that are actually diuretic and rob your body of the water it desperately needs.
2. Eat small, light, non-spicy meals. Eating heavy meals cranks your metabolism and can raise your body temperature. Also, digestion robs you of energy. Since the heat is already robbing you of some energy, you don’t need to add to this drain by taxing the digestive system. However, don’t skip meals since it’s food that replenishes the electrolytes you lose through sweating and increased water consumption.
3. Some sources suggest you wear “light colored, loose fitting clothes” in hot weather. However, that’s only if you’re going outside. If you go outside, go with that rule and also wear a loose fitting hat or carry an umbrella for shade. Forget the fashion rules, follow the heat rules. (By the way, royal blue and/or white are the best colors to wear for their heat reflective qualities. This is why most tarps and boat awnings are blue.) For indoors, forget the clothing rules and go with the “bare as you dare” notion. The more exposed skin you have the more efficient your cooling-by-sweating process can work. Also, be sure to tie up long hair, and if you have a beard, consider shaving in order to remove all that facial insulation. When you do have to go outdoors, limit or schedule your physical activity. For example, if you have to do yard work, do it early in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler. Too, consider the fact that the “siesta” concept is a pretty good idea. Rest and take it easy during the hotter hours of the day.
4. Though “bare as you dare” is the way to go indoors in limited AC, most of us would prefer to have good air conditioning. If yours is out, or if power sources are uncertain, go someplace that has AC like the mall or other places that don’t mind people coming in and hanging around a while. Also, you can “AC pool” with friends just like you’d car pool. Go to a friend’s house who has a good AC system.
5. Failing to find another source of AC, and considering that the power might be out, here are a couple more tips. First, stand-alone floor unit air conditioners aren’t that expensive and can run off regular household current without the need for the special 220 volt outlets. This means that they can be operated using the smaller gas-powered electric generators. Can’t afford a generator? You can probably afford a power inverter which can sometimes be found for under twenty dollars. They plug into your car’s cigarette lighter and, using an extension cord, can power an appliance like your stand-alone AC, or at least some fans. Speaking of your car, if nothing else, if your car has AC you can ride around during the hottest hours of the day, providing you can afford today’s gas prices. If absolutely nothing else, go to your nearest “dollar store” and see if they have any of those little battery-powered fans.
6. Can’t afford a stand-alone AC but you have a generator? Your generator or power inverter can also power your fridge and/or freezer where you should have two-liter plastic bottles full of water filling up every empty space in both the fridge and freezer. It makes the appliance run more efficiently and having cold water is a great thing. You drink cool water and use cold water to soak towels to wrap around your neck, wrists, and ankles where the veins and arteries are closest to the surface. This is one of the best ways to reduce your body temperature. Also, setting up a few of the frozen
two-liter bottles in front of a fan can blow a nice cool breeze your way. (Write us at info@disasterprep101.com and we’ll email you instructions for a homemade AC unit that uses these two-liter plastic bottles.)
7. Now let’s backtrack a bit and talk about reducing the heat you might experience. Naturally, the first rule is “block the sun.” Do what you can to reduce the sunlight that hits your house or comes in through the windows. Keep the shades drawn, and you might even consider hanging a white sheet or blue tarp as an outside awning on the side(s) of the house that catch the most sun. These tarps are also effective if placed on the roof as they’ll reflect the sun’s rays. These same rules apply to your car while you’re out and about. Park in the shade where you can, and use sun screens (window shades) to help keep your car cool.
8. Next in cooling the house come ventilation and insulation. If you have an attic, and the power is on, you should have a vent fan that keeps air flowing through the attic. Along with that, we suggest you have roof vent turbines, or a ridge vent (your home supply store can tell you all about these). In extremely hot weather, you might set a garden sprinkler on your roof and let it run for the hottest couple of hours of the day provided your area is not on water restriction. As for “insulation” one way to insulate parts of the house is to close off seldom-used rooms (especially those on the sunny side of the house), and close off their AC vents if any. This blocks heat and also reduces the area that your limited AC has to cool.
While we’re here, we’d be remiss in our duties if we failed to give you the symptoms of sunstroke and heat exhaustion, both of which require medical attention:
Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms include heavy sweating, and skin may be pale, cool, or flushed. The victim will also exhibit a weak pulse, with fainting, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting.
Sun Stroke: (sometimes called heat stroke): Symptoms are high body temperature, hot, dry, red, skin (usually with no sweating), rapid shallow breathing, and a weak pulse. Sun stroke is the more dangerous of the two.
The most immediate first aid for either of these is to get the victim into a cool spot, and reduce their body temperature with ice-cold wet towels around the neck, wrist, and ankles. You can also put them in a bathtub of cool water. Don’t use cold water in the tub as that will shock the system. Regardless of your first aid measures, you should seek immediate medical assistance.
Remember, hot weather is nothing to ignore, even if you’re not among the elderly or medically fragile. Heat can affect everyone. Play it safe, stay cool, avoid exertion, and stay healthy. Also, when considering heat safety, don’t forget your pets.
Copyright 2006 – 2007, Paul Purcell. About the author: Paul Purcell is an Atlanta-based security analyst and preparedness consultant with over twenty years risk management and preparedness experience. He’s also the author of Disaster Prep 101 found at www.disasterprep101.com, and he’s a partner / advisor to 1-800-PREPARE found at www.1800PREPARE.com.
(Permission granted to reprint this article and share it with others provided all portions remain intact.)

50 Emergency Uses for Your Camera Phone

50 Emergency Uses for Your Camera Phone
by Paul Purcell

In an emergency you’ll not only need to provide and receive help, but after the event is over, you’ll face the prospect of return, repair, and rebuilding. Central to all these activities is communication and documentation. Everything in our society carries a heaping helping of red tape, and disasters are no different. Below are 50 of the many ways one simple tool, in this case the camera phone, can be used in an emergency to help you document, record, and relay some of your more important pieces of information.
Granted, any camera could be used for some of the things listed below, but the phonecam carries a distinct advantage with it. It can immediately transmit the pictures it takes. If you don’t have a phonecam, that’s okay. Go with what you have, or with what you can afford. Disposable film cameras and digital cameras are acceptable, and microcassette recorders that will let you record information verbally are useful as well.
However, the phonecam rules, so let’s look at ways yours can be used in an emergency. The following are excerpts from our book “Disaster Prep 101” found at www.disasterprep101.com.
1. Last minute child ID. Whenever the family might be separated, take a series of last-minute pictures of all family members, especially the kids, and also the pets. You might need this to reunite the family later.
2. Draw a map, shoot it, send it. Trying to send or receive directions to or from a certain location and voice directions just aren’t cutting it? Draw a map on paper, take a picture, and send.
3. Injury photos to the doctor. Suppose you’re in a situation where you can’t get to help and they can’t get to you, and someone’s sick or injured. If there are visible signs or symptoms, your phonecam can relay these to medical personnel who can walk you through whatever treatment is possible where you are.
4. Damage documentation for insurance. In mass catastrophes, it’ll be days or longer before even the first insurance adjusters get there to file claims on your behalf. Photo all the damage you can in case some of it gets repaired or cleaned up before your agent arrives.
5. Report suspicious activity. Are you part of a neighborhood watch group? If you see suspicious activity, you can upload pictures of suspects and the situation to the Police immediately.
6. “Here’s the landmark I’m near.” In an emergency, gathering with the family at a “rendezvous point” is one of the most critical steps you’ll take. If you don’t have a fixed meeting place, you can send pictures of where and what you’re near so the others can find you. This also works well if you’re lost and/or injured in the wilderness and you need to relay pictures of landmarks so Search and Rescue teams can find you.
7. “Meet us at this landmark.” If you have a fixed rendezvous point and you want to relay the info to others, send a pic you already have on file, so others will know where to meet. Take these file photos while compiling your family emergency plan.
8. Photo shopping list. If you’re about to stock your pantry in anticipation of an emergency, such as if you’re planning on sheltering-in-place during a hurricane, take a picture of your pantry as a quick way to list things you need from the store.
9. Driving directions. If you’re trying to tell others where a certain location is, such as an emergency shelter, you can send them a picture by picture set of driving directions. This is another good thing to create while putting your family reaction plan together.
10. “Meet this person.” Let’s say your family had to evacuate, and they know the address they’re supposed to head to, but not everyone has met the family emergency contact person. Send them a picture of the person they’re supposed to meet, or you can send your contact person some pictures of the people heading their way.
11. Last minute property inventory. Just as you’d photo the family in anticipation of an emergency, you should do the same with your property. If you’re about to evacuate, snap some quick shots of your property to include any new purchases not included in your last full home inventory, and to show the current condition of your property in general.
12. “Adventure” journal. Who says every potential disaster situation has to be a total disaster? One way to look at it is as an adventure. Take some pictures to record what you do, the places you go during evacuation, people you meet along the way, etc.
13. Situational severity. In a large-scale emergency, first responders will be spread thin and overworked. They might not have anyone to send to get you out of a partly-flooded neighborhood, or to help put out a tiny grass fire. However, the situation might actually be worse than they understand, and you might need some serious help. Sending a picture of just how bad the situation is might help.
14. Quick text messaging. Time is critical in an emergency and so are communications. You might not have enough time to punch in a text message, and the lines might not be open long enough for a conversation. If that’s the case, write a note on paper, take a picture, and send that.
15. Minor traffic mishap documentation. If you have a minor fender-bender while evacuating, and there are no injuries and no one’s car needs to be towed, most jurisdictions will tell you to “swap info and move along.” If that’s the case (always call 911 to ask and make sure), take photos of the vehicular damage, people involved, witnesses at the scene (and their car tag numbers), and if your phone has video, take video of others involved in the accident to show their injuries (or lack thereof).
16. Wallet backup. Just as you’d photograph family members and property, take pictures of your wallet’s contents (or important documents) in order to record numbers, and show that cards actually are or were in your possession. Be very careful when storing or transmitting these pictures as the info is very sensitive and can be used for identity theft!
17. Inclement weather reporting. If you’re the first one to see the funnel cloud, heavy hail, or a river starting to overflow, sending a picture in to the weather service or proper authorities is undeniable and rapid proof that severe weather or other emergency is occurring.
18. First Responder intel. The more first responders know about the true nature of a collapsed house, an auto accident, a fire in progress, or any other emergency, the more rapid and appropriate a reaction they can make.
19. Missing persons report. Send picture of picture. Let’s say a family member goes missing. In addition to the last minute photos you took, you could also send a picture of a photograph you might have in your purse or wallet. This will save a lot of time for you and the authorities.
20. Relay property damage to or from neighbors. Suppose your neighborhood was heavily damaged in a disaster. Whoever goes home first, either you or your neighbors, could photograph neighborhood and home damage and relay the info to the other.
21. Help insurance adjusters find your property. After a devastating incident, street signs will be gone, house numbers won’t be visible, etc. Take current pictures of landmarks or any kind of unique damage near or at your property. This will make it easier for your insurance adjuster to find you.
22. Copy the bulletin boards. If you’re in an emergency shelter, and there’s an info bulletin board, you might need a lot of the info posted, but not have time to write or anything to write with or on. Take a picture!
23. Bus, subway, or city map info. If you’re anywhere you’re not familiar with and you have any sort of posted map, take a picture of it to refer to later if you get lost.
24. Document your route. When traveling to a new area, and either others will be following later, or you want to be sure you can find your way back, be sure to take pictures along the way of landmarks at turns you make, forks in the road, etc.
25. Record medicines or food brand needs. If you have to relay information about your medications to a doctor, or if you have special dietary needs and need to send information regarding certain product or food brands to an outside person or service, then a picture really is worth a thousand words.
26. Remember parking spot locations. Don’t trust your memory, trust a picture. Take a quick pic of where you left your vehicle either in a lot or in a parking deck.
27. Pic of engine problems for mechanic. Should you break down on the road and your vehicle shows outward signs of engine problems such as steam shooting from a certain hose, or liquids dripping from a place on the engine, send a pic to a mechanic who may be able to talk you through a quick fix to get you back on the road.
28. Business or service function and/or hours. Just as you’d photograph a map, you might want to copy posted business hours or listed service functions (and pricing) for later review and recall. This is also a good way to report price gouging on the road.
29. Allowable child custodian. If you can’t get to your kids who are at school or some other function, relay a picture of the person who is coming in your stead to pick them up. Send this picture to both the school or function, and to your child (if they have their own phonecam).
30. Relay info on injured or hospitalized people. You might be in a position to send pictures to people looking for loved ones or vice-versa.
31. Remember your hotel room. Whenever you get a hotel room, take a picture so you can find your way back. Photo not only the room number on the door, but the name of the motel and adjacent buildings for reference.
32. ID your evac gear. As with all your belongings, take a picture to prove ownership. One situation where this might come in handy is with petty theft in emergency shelters. It’s actually a rare occurrence, but it’s best to be ready to prove things are yours.
33. Photo scavenger hunt. If you’ve settled down a bit, say at your emergency shelter or temporary stopover, you’ll need something to entertain the kids. Give them a short list of things they should take a picture of. First one to take all the listed pictures wins!
34. Identify the close-up. Another entertainment idea is to take a really close up picture of something while the kids aren’t looking, and have them figure out what it is.
35. Document your whereabouts during civil unrest. Another remote possibility, but since these things do happen, it’s best to be ready. Let’s say you’re in a location where looting is occurring, or rioting about to happen. You can either help the Police by secretively taking pictures of the perpetrators (not really recommended for safety reasons), or you can take pictures as you’re leaving the area to document the fact that you weren’t part of the trouble.
36. ID the rescue team. If a rescuer is picking up your child or pet, you want to photo the rescuer (and the child or pet) and the vehicle they used. Get their name tag in the picture as well as registration numbers on helicopters, vehicle tags numbers, or names of boats.
37. Document your cleanup efforts. It may be a while before your insurance adjuster can arrive. Take pictures of the damage as you found it, and steps you took during cleanup. Regarding insurance or recovery grants, NOTHING beats documentation!
38. Document your repair or cleanup expenditures. If you buy goods or supplies, rent equipment, or hire a service, in addition to keeping your receipts, be sure to photograph the goods acquired, the equipment being used, or the service being performed (also photo the people involved where possible).
39. Transmit property item pics to retrieval companies. Some scenarios will see you unable to return home. Some companies are trained and equipped to go into these areas to help people gather certain belongings. Having property photos stored on your phone will allow you to send pictures of specific property items you’d like retrieved.
40. Document location / status of fellow evacuees. Authorities will not only want to know who is injured, dead, or missing, but they’ll want to know who is okay and where they are. Taking pictures of those you meet along with way whether it’s during an evacuation, or of people at your emergency shelter, will help ID the living and well.
41. Bridge the language barrier. A picture is worth a thousand words. Ever try to find the restroom in a foreign country and you didn’t know the proper phrase? Imagine how guests in our country would feel in emergency situations where they needed much more than a restroom and didn’t know how to ask. Pictures would make that process a hundred times easier, whether you’re trying to understand their needs, or relay yours to them.
42. Transmit road conditions. Let’s say after a hurricane, you’re one of the first families returning to a damaged area, and you’re taking back roads. Authorities (or others following you later) might not have had a chance to check every avenue of return. If there’s damage that needs to be reported, or no damage at all (which should also be reported), sending a picture can relay tons of information, especially if a roadway has received damage and road crews need to know what kind of damage and its extent.
43. Relay traffic conditions. If family or group members are separated, or heading in different directions, you might need to pass along traffic conditions or the info from traffic warning signs.
44. Crime scene evidence. Many times, people have returned from an evacuation to a home that was undamaged during the event, but later looted. Since the Police might not be able to show up right away, go ahead and take “crime scene” photos (for both Police and insurance) just as you’d photograph your property if it was damaged in the event.
45. Too much info on the screen to copy? Shoot it. Should the TV flash some pertinent information on the screen and you don’t have time to write it down, or should you have a lot of text on a computer screen and you can’t print it out, take a picture for later review.
46. Positive ID to or from your doctor and/or pharmacy. Medical needs are a very real probability during an emergency. Since you can’t get to your doctor in person, and they might be phoning in a prescription to a pharmacy that doesn’t know either of you, use your phone to verify your identity to your doctor, and your doctor can relay the picture to the pharmacy so they’ll know who’s coming to get the meds.
47. Emergency supply information. Suppose a developing emergency has caught you low on goods or gear and you send different people to different locations to help stock up. If supplies are low, these family members may need to send a picture of the types or brands of items available so you can make educated purchase decisions.
48. Picture file of “Last Minute List” items and shutdown. Though everyone should keep a “bugout kit” packed and ready to go, there will be items which cannot duplicated and/or packed in advance. In addition to creating a written “Last Minute List,” create a photo file showing all the items you want to take with you (and their location) and things you should do to shut down and secure the house before leaving.
49. Evac atlas. Create your own “evac travel atlas” of emergency assets available along your probable evacuation routes. This might include lodging, ATM locations, hospital emergency rooms, etc. Travel the routes and take photos, or draw your own maps and shoot that.
50. Photo reaction plan for the reading disabled. If a family member suffers from any reading disability, such as Dyslexia, using photos is a must. Create a photo file that will relay your entire emergency plan without using text.
51. Since InfoQuest always does more than expected, here’s a bonus idea. Your camera phone can relay pictures of structural damage to a structural engineer who can tell you how to shore up certain walls, where safe spots might be, where hidden dangers might be, etc., as your Search and Rescue team looks through a collapsed building for survivors.
These are just some of the many ways a camera phone can be used to help in an emergency. Take a look around at your family and your current threats, needs, and assets and look at ways you can put your phonecam to use. Better yet, look at the things you can do so that your phonecam isn’t needed at all!
Copyright 2005 – 2007, Paul Purcell. About the author: Paul Purcell is an Atlanta-based security analyst and preparedness consultant with over twenty years risk management and preparedness experience. He’s also the author of Disaster Prep 101 found at www.disasterprep101.com, and he’s a partner / advisor to 1-800-PREPARE found at www.1800PREPARE.com.
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