Why Don’t People Prepare For Natural Disasters?

If you live in a part of the country known for a certain type of natural disaster, like hurricanes or earthquakes, it stands to reason that you would make preparations for it. Things like having an emergency plan, reinforcing your home and making sure you have adequate insurance for the event.

Yet, time after time, we see news stories of people who were caught unawares by the approach of a natural disaster. These events range in scope from scrambling to get provisions at the last minute and emptying the shelves of grocery and hardware stores, to tragically losing a home and other possessions in a total disaster.

So, if people live in zones where they know there is a reasonable probability of a natural diaster, what would cause them to ignore preparations for that disaster until it’s too late?

A new book written by two directors from The Wharton School’s risk management division sheds some major light on the psychological processes that drive underpreparedness scenarios. Called “The Ostrich Paradox“, it examines in detail how disaster planning goes wrong — and how to do it the right way.

The authors identify six specific biases that cause people to not properly prepare for natural disasters:

  • Inertia: The ongoing feeling that you don’t need to protect yourself just quite yet.
  • Myopia: The irrational feeling that since things are fine now and have been fine for as long as you’ve been in the area, they’ll continue to always be fine.
  • Herding: Looking to others to tell you what to do to prepare for a disaster, and not doing it if you do not see an authority telling you to.
  • Optimism: While this is normally a positive trait, in the event of a disaster it can make you downplay the risks and thus fail to take adequate measures to protect yourself.
  • Amnesia: No matter how badly natural disasters damage an area, people are quick to forget these events and the lessons that should have been learned from them.
  • Simplification: A lack of awareness of the full extent of damage that a natural disaster can cause, and the scenarios that a family will be in if they’re caught in one (i.e. how they are going to get out of the area if the roads are shut down).

It’s tough to identify and admit to mental bias, but it’s very important to try to do so for the sake of protecting your property and family. The authors of the book advise people to draw up firm rules about how to handle a disaster long before there is any risk, keeping in mind that any or all of these biases could be influencing you once the first warnings of the disaster come in. Keep the rules in writing so there’s no confusion, and commit to following them to the letter. It’s also always a good idea to review your insurance policies and verify that you are adequately covered for the type of disasters that are common in your area, especially if you’ve done renovations or additions to your home recently.

So You’ve Just Witnessed A Car Accident … What Do You Do Now?

At some point in your life, you’ve probably been given the basic rundown of what to do if you’re involved in a car accident. You’re not always told what you should do if you’re a witness to someone else’s accident, however.

Witnesses to car accidents play a very important role. They’re often the first people able to respond if the parties in the car accident are injured and unable to call for help themselves. Both law enforcement and insurance companies also rely to a great deal on what witnesses report to determine what action they should take after an accident.

If you’re not directly involved in a car accident, you’re under no legal obligation to stop or to act as a witness. You can think of it as a civic duty or “good samaritan” deed, however. Someday, you might be involved in a similar accident, and would hope that the people around you would help you to get assistance and provide testimony so that your insurance company paid you fairly.

Keep the following in mind if you happen to witness an auto accident:

  • Safety First
    Take care of your personal safety first, and avoid contributing to the crash or creating a new hazard in the road. Stay at a safe distance until you are sure it is safe to approach. If you are going to check to see if someone needs medical attention, first find a safe place to park, and be sure to turn your hazard lights on before exiting the vehicle. Also be wary of environmental hazards as you approach, like shattered glass from windshields and downed power lines if someone hit a pole or tree.
  • Check On The Victims And Call For Help
    Unless you know CPR or have medical training, it’s best not to attempt to intervene with anyone who is injured. Instead, call 911 for an ambulance and describe the condition of the victims, and if they are conscious reassure them that medical help is en route. Simply being present and speaking to them calmly can help by lowering their stress levels.
  • Aid In Securing The Scene
    If you have road flares, or something like an emergency cone on hand, it is OK to deploy these in the road to alert oncoming traffic of the accident. Just be sure to check for liquids in the area before using a road flare or anything that involves a lighter. If you aren’t absolutely certain the liquid is water, refrain from lighting anything as it may be flammable.
  • Take Photos
    If the victims are unable to photograph the scene, you might consider doing it for them once they are stabilized and the area is secured. Photos taken immediately in the wake of the accident can be very helpful during insurance claims investigations.
  • Wait For The Police And Medical Personnel
    If an ambulance was called, most likely that will arrive first. Even if the police take longer to show up, however, it’s helpful to wait for them and add your eyewitness testimony to their report. If you don’t mind being called by an insurance investigator later, you can also offer your contact information to the parties involved.

Health – Getting your flu shot: Fight back against influenza!

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Fall evokes memories of cool nights, pumpkin pie and family gatherings. It also signals the beginning of the influenza season in the United States. Influenza vaccines remain our greater defense for this serious and sometimes deadly illness.

Influenza vaccinations are provided annually usually starting in late August to early September. The CDC recommends everyone over the age of 6 months obtain the vaccine each year. The vaccines are regarded as very safe and there are many benefits for obtaining the vaccine. Several forms of the vaccine are available and many different locations.

Influenza vaccines are very safe. Despite popular belief, you can not get influenza from the vaccine. The most common side effect associated with the vaccine is redness, discomfort and swelling at the site of the injection. This reaction is usually mild and lasts only a few days. Major side effects and reactions are very rare. Benefits from the vaccine greatly outweigh the risks. The influenza vaccine helps prevent you from contracting the illness by triggering your immune system to build antibodies as protection from the virus. This process generally takes up to two weeks before you develop full immunity. Some people can still contract influenza despite obtaining the vaccine, however, those who obtained the vaccine generally have a more mild case of the illness and are less likely to be hospitalized due to complications from influenza.

For the 2016-2017 influenza season, several different injectable vaccines are available including a high dose option for those over age 65 and a vaccine for those with severe egg allergies. The CDC does not recommend the use of nasal spray influenza vaccines this year due to concerns over their effectiveness. Vaccinations can be obtained from many sources including your primary care provider and pharmacy. Many community healthy organizations and state health departments also arrange vaccination drives at low or no cost to the community. The CDC also provides a Flu Vaccine Finder on their website to assist in locating the closest provider to your zip code.

Regardless of the vaccine, you chose the important thing is to simply be vaccinated. Vaccinations can protect those closest to you such as young children, elderly individuals and those with chronic medical conditions who are at greatest risk from this potentially deadly disease. Check here to learn other ways to protect you and your family. No matter where you go, or which vaccine you chose, simply chose to be vaccinated and fight back against influenza.

Check The Fireplace Before The Stockings Are Hung

Blog-Check-The-Fireplace-Before-The-Stockings-Are-Hung-picWhen leaves are falling, our thoughts drift towards the fireplace. But before you fire up the gas logs, schedule an annual house call with an HVAC professional. Annual inspections and cleaning will extend the life of your fireplace, minimizing costly repairs due to unseen problems. Here are some things to check before holiday decorating.

  • In order to confirm that all components are working safely, everything from the glass doors to the combustion chamber to the outside vent needs attention.
  • The vent kit may need replacing if there is damage from leaves, dirt or insects.
  • If the pilot light was turned off for the summer, do not attempt to re-light it yourself. Spider webs and cobwebs need to be cleaned out of the pilot tube before lighting by a professional.
  • The fireplace box, burners, and logs need to be thoroughly cleaned and vacuumed.
  • Evaporation of water vapor can erode gaskets, causing rust. This, combined with loose connections, will cause the gas logs to burn inefficiently and possibly dangerously.
  • If the fireplace is unsafe due to loose seals, carbon monoxide can leak into your home. A carbon monoxide alarm will monitor your home for leaks and is highly advised.
  • Gaskets, and nuts and bolts on the glass doors should be checked and cleaned. Between annual maintenance checks, use hearth appliance glass cleaner exclusively. Do not use a window cleaner with ammonia, which can cause toxic fumes when the gas is lit. Failing to clean the glass doors properly will cause the glass in the doors to become permanently cloudy.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes of a gas fireplace to make it visually appealing, energy-efficient, and safe. For peace of mind this season, make sure your hearth and home are well maintained.

Top 10 Holiday Shopping Safety Tips [Time Sensitive-Holidays]

Blog-Top-10-Holiday-Shopping-Safety-Tips-[Time-Sensitive-Holidays]Holiday Shopping Safety

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easy to get too distracted to practice everyday safety measures. But it’s so important to do everything you can to keep yourself, your loved ones, and your belongings safe from harm. Here are our Top 10 Holiday Shopping Safety Tips.

  1. Be wary of strangers approaching you for no apparent reason. Thieves sometimes work in teams — one distracts you while the other steals your purse or packages.
  2. Ensure kids know what to do if they get separated from you, which includes knowing how to identify mall security guards. Never allow kids to visit the restroom alone or to make their own way back to the car.
  3. Have your keys out and ready before going to your car. Always look around the car and into your backseat before getting in. Never put your purse on the hood of the car while you load the car.
  4. Never leave your car running, no matter how short a stop is. Always roll up the car windows, lock the doors, and set your alarm.
  5. Shop with a buddy whenever possible. If you have to shop alone, try to walk close to a group or stay in sight of a large crowd.
  6. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially when walking to and from your car. Avoid texting or overloading yourself with bags so that you will not be distracted.
  7. Take small valuable items in with you at your next stop. Hide larger presents and bags under seats or in the trunk.
  8. The holidays are prime time for pickpockets and purse snatchers. Women should wear a cross-body purse. Men should put their wallets in a front pocket or an inside coat pocket (preferably one that zips or buttons).
  9. Try to shop only in the daytime if possible. If it’s dark, park in areas of the lot that are well-lit. Never park in an isolated area of the lot, whether it’s day or night.
  10. Watch out for distracted shoppers backing out of parking spaces whether you are driving or walking. Same goes for looking out for pedestrians — especially over-excited, darting children — when backing out of a spce or driving around looking for one.

4 Easy DIY Holiday Decorating Ideas

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Decorating your home for the holidays can take a toll on your energy, bank account, and time constraints. Many home owners don’t consider do-it-yourself tasks to be  cost-effective and time-saving solutions, but there are a wide variety of simple, quick, and inexpensive decorating projectsavailable to easily add some holiday cheer to your home.

1. Wreaths

This colorful candy cane wreath is a simple way to satisfy your holiday decor cravings for just pennies on the dollar. To achieve this look arrange 18 full-sized candy canes in a heart pattern and hot-glue a glittery snowflake ornament in the middle where they all intersect, then hang from a thick solid red ribbon.

2. Ornaments

Wooden sled ornaments are so easy, cheap, family-friendly, and infinitely customizable you will want to hang them on your tree from top to bottom. These little pieces of sweet holiday nostalgia are made with popsicle sticks, glue, paint, and twine.

3. Advent Calendars

Daily advent calendars work double-duty as both a charming piece of holiday decor, and a fun activity to count down the days until the happiest day of the year. They don’t have to be elaborate and costly to add character. Consider this little advent house constructed of toilet paper rolls and cardboard. Eco-friendly and whimsical, simply fill with tiny treasures and enjoy.

4. Luminaries

All you need for this 5 minute DIY are glass jars, cranberries, seasonal greenery, and votive candles. You can upcycle old jam or condiment jars, mason jars, or decorative jars for a little extra pizzaz. Put some winter greenery clippings from your yard in the jar with some cranberries, fill with water to submerge them, then pop a votive candle on top. These luminaries will look festive on any holiday tabletop or mantle.

Tree Damage

Are your trees in trouble?  Check the trees in your yard before the next storm threatens your property.  See our infographic for danger signs to look for.

 

TreeDamageInfographic

 

What’s the best way to prune your trees?  Watch Barbara Arnold, Horticultural Program Coordinator for the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio in this short video:

 

 

 

Driving Safety Tips for the Winter

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Winter will soon be upon us. With it comes cold weather, frost, snow, and ice, and the driving hazards they present. Here are some driving safety tips to help keep you safe on the road.

  • Take your car to an inspection. Before the winter, you want to make sure that there is nothing faulty with your vehicle. Take it to an auto repair facility to make sure that the brakes, belts, tires, battery, exhaust system, wipers, and everything else are in perfect working condition.
  • Keep a winter survival kit in your car. This should include things such as a snow shovel, an ice scraper, salt, warm gear and gloves, some basic medical supplies, and some food and water.
  • Watch the weather forecasts. Whenever planning a long-term drive, make sure to keep up with the weather updates, either via the radio, a smartphone app, or via the internet. Make sure that the weather will be conducive for driving.
  • Wipe the snow off your car’s mirrors, windshield, lights, hood, front, trunk, and reflectors before you drive.
  • Don’t use cruise control in snowy or icy conditions — you want to be in full control of your vehicle.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half-full — this way, if you get stranded, you will have a source of heat.
  • Always drive with your cell phone, and make sure that it is sufficiently charged. Keep your local AAA’s number in the contacts.

By using these tips and precautions, you will be safer and happier on the road during the winter.

Driving Tips (Safety): Creating An Emergency Car Kit

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As the seasonal crisp starts to cool the air, drivers begin planning overdue road trips to games and family events. While no one wants to think of something going wrong on the road side, the possibility always exists. Prepare before you leave by creating an Emergency Car Kit so that nothing catches you off guard while you are on the road.

Comfort Must Haves

Choose a small plastic tote to hold your kit items in. Something that is easily accessible but will not take up a lot of precious cargo space. The majority of your kit should include things to keep you and your passengers warm and safe during an unexpected event.

The items you want to include are a small first aid kit, extra blankets (make sure you have one for every person in the car), small snacks (nothing with chocolate so it doesn’t melt), and water for everyone. Thanks to modern technology your wait shouldn’t be long, but you want everyone to stay calm and comfortable.

Breakdown Kit Components

Along with the creature components, you should include some basic emergency repair items in your kit. They should include flares, a jack, a spare tire, a small tools kit, a flashlight, and a head lamp. If possible, a tarp would be good too.

Special Note for Motorcycle Riders

Motorcycles don’t have a lot of storage room, but riders can and should make a small kit. They can include a poncho, emergency blanket (check the camping section), flares, and small tools. Adjust your kit depending on your destination and the weather you will be traveling in. If the weather is severe you may want to look into other forms of transportation.

Enjoy your plans this season without worrying about what might happen. Relax and know that if the unexpected does happen, you are prepared.