Sunday, August 30, 2009

Assembling a Disaster Supplies Kit

In recent years our country has experienced some serious disasters–hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, mud-slides, wildfires, earthquakes, terrorist attacks. We know it can happen. How prepared are you if any of these catastrophes should it happen in your neighborhood?

Keep in mind that in a large disaster first responders and assistance organizations will be overwhelmed, meaning you likely will be responsible for your family’s safety and well-being for an extended period of time.

Preparedness isn’t difficult and needn’t be expensive, but it takes time and planning. Take the steps now to ensure your family’s safety in an emergency. The American Red Cross urges every household to assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit with enough supplies to last three to five days. This kit will help provide your family with the necessities should you need to evacuate, or to be confined to your home.

Consider these items for your Disaster Supplies Kit:

WATER. Water systems are often damaged during disasters, allowing harmful microorganisms to contaminate water supplies. You must have clean water available to survive and it is a simple matter to have water on hand.

Empty bleach jugs make ideal water containers, but any clean, sturdy plastic containers will work. Keep in mind that an active person needs at least two quarts of water a day, more with intense physical activity. You should store at least a 3-day water supply. For example, a family of 4 should have a minimum of 6 gallons of water on hand.

A water shortage could exist beyond three days. According to the U.S. Department of Health, there are three alternatives you can take to provide clean water for your family: If available, obtain water from a safe source, such as bottled, sterile water; another option is to boil water for three to five minutes, which is possible only if you have fuel for boiling; or, you can treat water adding unscented, liquid chlorine household bleach.

Disinfecting with bleach may be more practical than boiling. Follow these simple steps furnished by the Department of Health, State of Washington, to help ensure water purity for your family:
– Add 8 drops of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water. If water supply source is cloudy, double the amount of bleach.
– Let mixture stand for 30 minutes prior to use. Waiting 30 minutes is very important, because the chlorine needs this time to kill harmful organisms.
– Chlorine bleach treated water should have a very slight chlorine odor; if not, repeat the dosage and allow the water to stand for an additional 15 minutes. If the chlorine taste is too strong, expose it to air when possible, or add additional water.

FOOD. Store at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food. For food storage, use covered pails, or other containers that can be easily carried and stored. Consider foods that are ready-to-eat or that take very little cooking, such as canned prepared meals, powdered milk, and high energy foods (granola bars, peanut butter, etc.).

If after one year you haven't needed these goods (and let's hope you haven't!), replace these items with a fresh supply. Even canned goods have limited storage life and you want to be sure your emergency food is absolutely safe to eat. Warning: Never use cans that show signs of bulging or corrosion.

FIRST AID KIT. Assemble a first aid kit for your home and for each car. A plastic tool box or tackle box works well for a kit. Include adhesive and rolled bandages, antiseptic, cleansing agents or soap, and other standard first aid supplies such as aspirin, ant-iacid, and anti-diarrhea medication.

TOOLS AND SUPPLIES. If you are campers, you will have most things on hand for emergency tools and supplies. Keep your RV, camper, or tent in ready condition to be used as temporary housing. In your emergency supplies, include dishes, cookware, and stove, plus emergency stove fuel. Include flashlight and batteries, ABC type fire extinguishers, candles and matches.

It's a good idea to keep your car's fuel tank at least half full at all times. In the event of disaster, service stations may be unable to operate their gas pumps, so it's a good idea to keep a can of fuel stored in a safe place at your home.

CLOTHING AND BEDDING. Include at least one change of clothing and bedding per person. Include sturdy shoes, hats, gloves, and rain gear.

SPECIAL ITEMS. Remember special needs, such as for infants or disabled persons, medications, eye glasses, and entertainment items such as reading material, games, and cards. If you must evacuate your home, remember to take your family documents such as medical records, insurance policies, and wills.

Cash is another special item to have on hand. Without electricity, ATM's will not be available; your credit cards and checks won't work either. During an emergency, banks and stores might be closed. If stores are open and electricity is off, much of their equipment will be inoperable. It's a good idea to have on hand a supply of cash in small denominations so that you can purchase necessary goods.

LIST OF EMERGENCY SUPPLIES. Make a list of your supply categories and where they are stored so that nothing will be overlooked in the event you must suddenly evacuate your home: water, food, first aid kit, tools and supplies, clothing and bedding, and special items including cash.

Assembling a Disaster Supplies Kit will give you confidence and peace of mind should disaster strike. If you need to evacuate your home, or be confined to home, you will have the basic supplies you need. Act now to protect your family. For additional emergency management information, visit

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Review: Lucy Shook's Letters from Afghanistan

Lucy Shook’s Letters from Afghanistan, edited by Shook’s daughter Liz Adair and granddaughters Ruth Lavine and Terry Gifford, is an amazing chronicle of an American woman’s view of Afghanistan from 1965 to 1970. Serving with the United States’ Agency for International Development, Lucy’s husband, Jim, works in agricultural development while Lucy oversees their life in an Islamic country she describes as "2,000 years behind the times."

Shook soon finds that running a home staffed with servants isn’t fully utilizing her capabilities and she takes on the responsibility of a Staff House, a respite for visitors. Along the way, she becomes involved in the lives of those who work for her. She endears herself to these hard-working people of grinding poverty, people who are capable of such love and dedication that she is often moved to tears.

In the course of business or pleasure, the Shooks travel throughout Afghanistan, taking the reader along on camel rides, desert markets, and the oddities of doing business in a third-world country.

Shook successfully manages both her home and the Staff House and becomes known as an expert hostess. Indeed, she frequently manages two or three events in a day, often honoring dignitaries with 150 or 200 guests in attendance.

During their tenure in Afghanistan, Lucy suffered a severely broken leg and several environmental illnesses; Jim recovered from a heart attack and also had sundry illnesses. But they forged on, bolstered by their strong Mormon faith, relying on the love for family, and gathering strength from letters from home.

Shook’s letters to her children reveal great compassion for life and for doing her very best with materials at hand, all with honesty and openness to her own short-comings. Her witty and loving approach to her fellow man endears her not only to those she served, but to her readers as well.

On a personal note, as a former Peace Corps volunteer (1979-1981, The Gambia, West Africa), I appreciated her involvement with the Afghanistan volunteers. Living at the other end of the spectrum, Peace Corps volunteers don’t usually have much in the way of luxuries such as air conditioning, a balanced diet, even opportunities to carry on a conversation in English. Being invited to the Staff House must have seemed like heaven on earth to those volunteers.

Afghanistan has now become a household name, yet I doubt if the people have changed that much since the Shooks lived among them. I highly recommend this book for a look at a country few of us understand; at a people fierce, yet loyal to a degree we seldom see in America. Books can be ordered through Liz Adair’s website is

Friday, August 14, 2009

In the event of my death....

We’ve all heard the sad story of a beloved parent passing away, leaving the sorrowful family without a clue as to how to take care of the estate. Sometimes, when there are no directives, disposition must be decided by a court. It’s a sad enough time, but when left with the burden of "cleaning up" the deceased’s property and personal affairs, it’s really helpful to have things in order.

My husband Bruce and I tackled this job a few years ago. Our oldest daughter has been appointed the executrix of our estate. We have provided information for either the surviving partner or, in the event of our simultaneous deaths, the executrix to finalize the particulars of our estate.

You don’t have to have an attorney to prepare these papers, although depending upon your situation, it may be wise. There are good forms available for the various documents recommended. However, you should have the documents signed by two witnesses in the presence of a notary public. Following are documents you should consider:

– Individual wills - a legal document declaring a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of their property when he/she dies
– Durable Power of Attorney - documents appointing one another as Attorney-in-Fact, or an executor/executrix if neither survive
– Community Property Agreements
– Living Will - A Directive to Physicians regarding life-sustaining procedures you wish to have
– Directives regarding Funeral and Burial, or Disposition Authorization for Cremation
– Other directives such as whether or not you want to have viewing of bodies, scattering of ashes, traditional funeral or celebration of life, etc.
– Stipulate whether you are organ donors

If you keep important papers in a safe, make sure the executor knows the combination. If you keep things in a file drawer, make sure the executor knows exactly where to look. It’s good to have copies of these documents someplace other than in the home in case of fire or other disaster.

In addition to the documents listed above, another document with the following information will assist the executor or surviving partner in taking care of the many details that present themselves.

– Social Security Numbers, Birth Dates, Driver’s License Numbers
– Cars - makes, models, license numbers
– Insurance: life, cars, house, health. List policy numbers, agents to contact
– Financial/Investment information with name of bank or institution, account numbers and contact information. Include credit/debit card information. Indicate where statements from these institutions can be found so the executor knows how much money is involved.

It’s a good idea to go over all of this with your appointed executor/executrix ahead of time. Grief is tough enough without having to figure out complicated business issues.

It took us quite awhile to gather this information into one document. Imagine how difficult it would be for someone else to do it!