Black Friday Winter Preparedness Gift Ideas from FLASH

Freezing temperatures and snow arrived earlier than normal this year making it even more important to take steps to prepare for winter conditions during the remainder of the season.

What better way to help your family and friends prepare than giving a gift that keeps them safe, warm, and protected inside their home?

This week, when you begin, or maybe as you finish holiday shopping, consider adding safety gadgets to your Black Friday shopping list. The list below will get you started if you want to choose gifts for family and friends that will help prepare for weather of all kinds.

Safety and Comfort

  • AM/FM radio with extra batteries
  • Blankets
  • Car power inverters
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • External cell phone battery pack
  • Fire extinguisher and fire escape ladder
  • First-aid kits
  • FLASH Weather Alerts app
  • Hand-crank powered appliances such as cell phone chargers, power supplies, radios and weather radio
  • LED flashlights with extra batteries
  • Power generators
    • Portable gasoline-powered generators
    • Permanent LP or natural gas home generators
  • Solar-powered backpack to charge laptops, tablets, and other portable devices
  • Windshield scraper

Home Mitigation

  • Attic insulation
  • Gift certificates for professional home inspections
  • Insulated doors
  • Insulation for hose bibs, exposed plumbing, pool equipment
  • Replacement windows
  • Storm doors
  • Weather stripping

Click here for a complete list of tips on how to stay safe and comfortable during power outages. For more tips and resources on winter safety, visit The Great Winter Weather Party campaign, and for comprehensive information on weather of all kinds, visit FLASH.

Six Affordable Home Insulation Tips for Winter Weather

According to the Insurance Information Institute, frozen pipes are the second most common cause of home insurance claims in the United States. And this week’s arctic blast is a reminder to prepare your home and family today. Pipes that are either inadequately insulated or exposed to outside temperatures can freeze, rupture, and cause costly damage. Following these six simple and affordable tips from FLASH will help ensure your home is properly insulated—saving you money and energy too.

Prevent Pipes from Freezing

For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can prevent frozen pipes.

  1. Foam:Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts.  For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can stop pipes from freezing and save energy.
  2. Dome:  Placing an insulating dome or cover on outdoor faucets and spigots will reduce the likelihood of water inside the pipes freezing, expanding, and causing costly leaks.
  3. Drip: Drip your faucets to reduce the build-up of pressure in the pipe as even if the pipes freeze, you have released the pressure from the water system and reduced the likelihood of a rupture. If you are going out of town, turn off the water to the home and open all taps to drain the water system. This will keep you from returning home to a frozen, soggy mess.

Insulate Your Windows and Doors

  1. Check for air leaks around windows and doors using a lit incense stick. If the smoke is sucked out of an opening, seal the leak with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping.
  2. Remember, the most beneficial place to insulate is your attic. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests at least 12 to 15 inches of insulation on the floor of your attic, and more if you are in a colder climate.
  3. If you don’t have energy-efficient windows, consider using a shrink film window insulation kit from a local hardware store to keep warm air in and cold air out.

For more information on how to protect your home from winter freeze, visit the Protect Your Home in a FLASH Blog and the Great Winter Weather Party preparedness campaign.

 

When Frozen Pipes Go Bang in the Night – One Family’s Story

By Terry Sheridan – FLASH Consumer Reporter

Missouri’s the “Show Me” state, and last winter it did just that to St. Louis homeowner Flora Dimitriou, who learned at 1:30 a.m. on a frigid January night what happens when water pipes freeze.

Awakened by a loud bang, Dimitriou knew a pipe had burst in an upstairs bathroom and rushed downstairs to shut off the water line. At first, there was no water to be seen. The fractured pipe was in an exterior wall of a bathroom – the only one of her 3.5 baths to have an outside wall.

But as the water in the pipe thawed, the water came – leaking what amounted to four buckets of water onto the ceiling of the den, directly below the bathroom.

Dimitriou moved aside furniture and punched eight holes in the den ceiling to relieve the water pressure. Buckets under each hole caught the dripping. Hours later, the leaks finally stopped.

Repairs included a teardown and replacement of at least half of the den ceiling, and cutting out and replacing the damaged portion of the bathroom pipe, which required removal and replacement of wall tile, and insulating the pipe. The cost: $1950.

“We had two options: Leave it alone and insulate what was there or actually re-do the way the plumbing was installed, which would mean tearing down the whole ceiling in the den and turning the shower around so the pipes would be coming in from an inside wall,” she says. She says there’s actually one good thing about the experience: The leak started in the bathroom’s linen closet. If the burst pipe had been under the two sinks, the cabinets would have had to be replaced.

Ironically, Dimitriou did the things you’re supposed to do to protect water pipes from freezing: They were insulated, dome covers shielded outside spigots from snow and ice and water lines were drained or allowed to drip to prevent freezing.

But in her family’s 12 years in the house, the side with the corner bathroom had always been cold – even after the builder re-insulated it, she says.

“The next house I buy, I’d want to know more about the plumbing and make sure there was adequate insulation,” she says.

Meanwhile, Dimitriou expects to start using a small space heater near that bathroom a little sooner than usual this year.

Learn more about “foam, dome, and drip” precautions to protect pipes and other winter weather tips for your home at FLASH’s Great Winter Weather Party.

Editor’s Note: Terry Sheridan is an award-winning journalist who has more than 30 years of experience in reporting and editing for newspapers in the Chicago and Miami areas. She covered the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew’s devastation in 1992 in South Florida, and has experienced damage to her own homes from two hurricanes. She now lives in New Hampshire.

 

Tale of Two Homes Superstorm Sandy: A Family and the Decision that Saved their Lives

toth 2

It’s been two years since the rare and devastating Superstorm Sandy, but the timeless story of the Sochacki family and their survival endures. As Sandy barreled onshore in New York and New Jersey on October 20, 2012, John Seth and Karyn Sochacki barely escaped from their 1940 bungalow only to watch the storm wash it out to sea. Fortunately, they were able to take refuge next door in an elevated concrete home that weathered Sandy with little to no impact.

The Sochackis have turned their devastating loss into triumph by sharing their story and inspiring others to build with resilience in mind. The fourth installment of Tale of Two Homes video series that showcases their experience is now the most popular in the series with more than 8,500 views on the FLASH YouTube channel.

FLASH met the Sochacki family though its partners from the Portland Cement Association (PCA).  According to PCA’s Donn Thompson, “We appreciate the Sochackis’ willingness to share their story and inspire other families to build safe and strong. We are proud to partner with FLASH and share their dedication to helping families build to survive in the face of natural disaster of all kinds.”

Drop, Cover, and Hold On! Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill Set for October 16

shakeout

Visit ShakeOut.org today to join millions of people in thousands of businesses, schools, and organizations registered worldwide to practice “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” on October 16. ShakeOut is a fast and fun drill that will help you, your family, and your coworkers get prepared to survive and recover quickly from the next big earthquake, no matter where it strikes.

“Everyone, everywhere, should know how to protect themselves in an earthquake,” said Mark Benthien, global coordinator of Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills. “If earthquakes don’t happen where you live, they may happen where you travel.”

Registration is free, and the drill will only take a few minutes. The website has resources for planning, getting prepared for earthquakes, encouraging others to participate, and more.

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

By Terry Sheridan – FLASH Consumer Reporter

Most of us have heard “it takes a village” to do something. That hits home hard when it comes to surviving natural disasters. It takes you, your neighbors, your subdivision, your condo or homeowners association, and your town to prepare to survive.

September 1 marked the beginning of National Preparedness Month, a month-long campaign to raise awareness about disaster preparedness and inspire people to take action before a disaster strikes. The campaign culminates on September 30 with America’s PrepareAthon!, a day for “the village” to come together to practice preparedness through drills, group discussions, and exercises.

Kevin King, executive director of Mennonite Disaster Service in Lititz, Pa., knows all too well the importance of taking action to be disaster aware ahead of time, and the dangers that follow when you don’t. “If we try to do it on our own, we lose energy and focus,” says King, who offers recovery services nationwide and in Canada. “People say, ‘What’s the big deal? Why develop a disaster plan?’”

Then, in the aftermath, he hears, “If only I prepared.”

King offers the following preparation tips for your family and town to heed. We’ve suggested a few, as well.

  • Communications plan: Businesses, houses of worship, schools, homeowner associations – any operation that involves numerous people who may scatter before or after a disaster – should have a list of everyone’s cell phone numbers, where they would go if they leave, and emergency contacts’ names and phone numbers.
  • Inventory: Whether it’s your home or business, document what you have. Take photos, make lists. Scan these to your computer or a flash drive that can be stored in a safe deposit box, use cloud storage sites, or simply email the images to yourself so you can access them from any computer.
  • Copy important documents: Also scan and/or email to yourself insurance policies and cards, car titles, loan and mortgage paperwork, passports, driver’s licenses, prescriptions, and a list of medications you need. For good measure, consider carrying hard copies with you.
  • Pack a survival kit: Include water, non-perishable food, medications, documents, cell phone charger, blankets, maps, multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items, first-aid kit, flashlight, batteries, and cash (ATMs won’t work during power outages).
  • Gas up the car: Unless a station has a generator, pumps won’t work during power outages.
  • Plan for your pets: Find out ahead of time which shelters allow pets. And bring water and food for them, too.
  • Practice your plan: “It’s even more important than having a plan on the shelf,” King says. Would your house of worship or school know how to get everyone to the basement if a tornado threatens? Who decides how it’s handled?
  • Know what’s coming: Whether you use a weather radio or your smartphone, know the status of approaching trouble. Last year, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes released a Weather Radio smartphone app that provides alerts for up to 100 types of events. The app also includes safety and preparedness tips.
  • Take time to clean up outside: Remove debris, dead grass, leaves, and twigs, and cut back hanging tree branches. Clean out gutters to help move rain water from the home.
  • Strengthen your home: Visit flash.org to learn simple, affordable ways to mitigate damage from hazards of all kinds.

Finally, register for America’s PrepareAthon! and pledge to prepare your family and community before it’s too late.

As King and Benjamin Franklin put it, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

QuakeSmart Now—Earthquake Safe Later: California Employers Lead the Way

By Terry Sheridan – FLASH Consumer Reporter

The magnitude 6.0 earthquake that struck picturesque Napa Valley on August 24 was Northern California’s strongest since Loma Prieta 25 years earlier. And if there is anything positive to come from it, it’s that it likely shook awareness into people about the need to prepare.

That’s where QuakeSmart™ comes in.

QuakeSmart is a mitigation program for businesses launched in 2008 by FEMA and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. The goal is to guide business owners in protecting their buildings, employees, and equipment with non-structural and structural reinforcements.

That’s how Becky Pereira and Tom Spada, both in San Jose, California, discovered what they’d need to do for their homes or office buildings. They learned that mitigation efforts can be as simple or complex as you want to make them — including projects like anchoring office and kitchen appliances and securing cabinet doors, desks, file cabinets, computers, TVs, and racks.

Becky’s in charge of health and safety coordination as a vendor for a Silicon Valley technology company in three high-rise office buildings totaling 54 floors. Each floor has a break room with a refrigerator, beverage cooler, and countertop appliances like microwaves and coffeemakers. Labs for software testing have numerous equipment racks, and their café has larger kitchen appliances and equipment.

Her experience in the Quake Cottage™ simulator of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake during a Building Owners and Managers Association presentation helped convince her that mitigation was needed. As a result, she made sure that anything that could move or fall was anchored by a contractor’s crew who spent several nights doing the work.

Even more, employees were receptive to retrofitting their own homes after a few seconds of simulated shaking in the Quake Cottage which the company brought to its offices for employees to experience.

Tom is the facilities maintenance administrator for the Santa Clara Valley Water District. He oversees maintenance of an administrative campus that includes six office buildings, a yard, two warehouses, four water treatment plants, three pump stations, and a water quality lab where one piece of equipment alone costs $500,000.

Bearing in mind that Santa Clara County sits atop three major fault lines, Tom brought in a contractor who provided anchoring kits and trained and certified Tom’s staff so that everyone knows how to use the tie-downs. So far, the project has cost about $7,300 for the lab.

Tom’s unsure how much the overall cost will be, but he is sure of an earthquake’s toll. A prior water treatment plant was destroyed in the 1989 magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake that decimated the San Francisco-Oakland area.   

Nothing is foolproof, of course. But, as Becky says, “It’s not if another quake will hit. It’s when.”

Find out more about QuakeSmart and what you can do at flash.org/quakesmart, and consider joining FLASH and QuakeSmart for a free Earthquake 2014 Summit on Sept. 18 in Riverside, California or Oct. 30 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit www.earthquake2014summit.com for more information.