Friday, March 18, 2011

Earthquake Preparedness: 101

Yesterday, at my quarterly work meeting I had the incredible honor and privilege of hearing a co-worker who endured and survived the recent Japan earthquake speak.

It was riveting to say the least. To hear his story, and what he went through was life changing. For him to recount the excruciatingly long 5+ minutes he endured on the 30th floor of an office building was heart wrenching. 'I reached for my phone from under the table, but could not type', 'The buildings were swaying and in opposite directions', 'I thought this was the end', 'Millions of people in the streets with nowhere to go', 'people stuck and terrified in the monorails'.

It's hard to imagine from way over here the true devastation. We watch news clips and we pray that the destruction will stop. We hope that people eventually reach their loved ones that are still missing. We feel helpless. We feel grateful it's not us and fear that someday it will be.

There is no denying that Portland and the rest of the west coast is at risk for such a catastrophic event and in times like this when I have no other way to help I write.

Over the course of the week I've listened to various news and radio programs, I've read blogs on earthquake safety and preparedness. I heard a co-worker explain what got him through and so I've decided to write down my findings first and foremost to organize the items I plan to gather together but also in hopes that my friends and family may find it helpful and god forbid we ever find ourselves in this horrific situation we are prepared, as best we can be. If nothing else, It just makes me feel better to know I've done what I can.

Before an Earthquake

1. I think the biggest fear people have (or at least mine) is to be at work and away from their children. Or, to not be able to reach friends and family. My co-worker that spoke explained that he was neither able to text or phone his wife for some time. However, he was able to Facebook and Twitter to his loved ones. He used this means for days to communicate. So if you currently boo the social network, use this as a reason to at least sign up in case you need it as a form of communication. It is recommended that your family identify an out of state contact to reach and keep tabs on everyone as it is easier to call out on external lines than local ones. Also, identify a meeting place if your family lives close.

2. Most of us plug our phones into electric wall chargers. In an earthquake, the power may go out so look into battery packs and external charges for your cell phone or computers.

3. Generators can be used to temporarily restore electricity to your home. They are fairly inexpensive for a smaller one and could prove useful for any natural disaster.

4. Bolt down and secure heavy objects in your house. This includes water heaters, refrigerators, furnaces, and gas appliances. Fasten shelves, bookcases, mirrors, and brace high and top heavy objects such as armoire's to wall studs.

5. Locate and identify safe spots in each of the rooms in your home. For those that have children include them in this process. Safe spots include under heavy tables or against an inside wall, and away from windows.

6. Store at least 3 days of food and water for your family. 2 quarts of water per day per person. Children, nursing mothers, and the elderly may need more. Change this water supply every 6 months. Keep liquid bleach on hand to kill micro-organisms if you have to use untreated or contaminated water. 16 drops per 1 gallon of water and let stand for 30 minutes. Ready to eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, high energy foods such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, trail mix; foods that will not increase thirst. Vitamins, foods for infants and elderly with special dietary needs. Comfort/Stress foods: cookies, hard candy, sweetened cereals, lollipops, instant coffee, tea bags. Pet Food, at least one ounce per animal pound per day. Avoid foods like rice, pasta and dry beans that require a great deal of water and remember to restock your food once a year.

7. Ensure you have a collection of medical supplies: sterile bandages, safety pins, cleansing agent (soap) latex globes, sunscreen, gauze pads. Non prescription drugs such as pain relievers, Antacid, Syrup of Ipecac (used to induce vomiting), scissors, tweezers, needle, moistened towelettes, antiseptic, thermometer, and tube of petroleum jelly.

8. Supplies to keep on hand: paper cups, plastic plates and utensils. Battery operated radio and batters, cash or travelers checks in case banks are closed, non electric can opener or utility knife, fire extinguisher, pliers, tape (duct tape actually keeps toxins out of your home), matches in waterproof container, aluminum foil, signal flair, paper/pencil, needles/thread, medicine dropper and a wrench to turn off gas and water.

9. Have sturdy shoes or work boots, rain gear, blankets and sleeping bags and warm clothing on hand.

10. Make sure all critical documents including will, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds, passports, social security cards, immunization records, bank account numbers and family records such as (birth, marriage, death certificates) are in a central location if not kept in a safe.

During an Earthquake

1. If indoors, take cover under a sturdy desk, table, or bench or against an inside wall. Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls or anything that can fall such as light fixtures or furniture. If in bed, stay there and protect your head with a pillow. Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity. Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Most injuries occur when people are hit by falling objects when entering or exiting a building. DO NOT USE ELEVATORS.

2. If outdoors, STAY THERE. Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.

3. If in a moving vehicle stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses and utility wires.

4. If trapped under debris, do not light a match. Do not move about or kick up dust. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.

After an Earthquake

1. Be prepared for aftershocks.

2. Open cabinets cautiously and stay away from damaged areas.

3. Beware of tsunamis if you live in coastal areas.

I'm quite aware that this is a depressing and scary concept to grasp. Nothing sounds more depressing than spending time putting together disaster relief kits for your family. For me, I'm making this a priority to ensure that worst case we find ourselves in this position? I've done what I can to protect my children, my family and have communicated a plan with them in how to reach each other. Because the most important thing to me would be the peace of mind that my loved ones are safe, and alive.

I'm sending constant prayers to Japan and all the people there and hoping for an imminent stop to the continued devastation, every day, every hour, every minute.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

7 years Ago

This not for the faint of heart or for those who have not yet had children; are still considering it, but have doubts.

It never ceases to amaze me how life can so quickly and abruptly change. My mom has told me several times in the last year that your life can COMPLETELY change in 7 years. If you look back 7 years, where did you live? Did you have a different job? Were you single where now you're not? Were you childless and now run ragged by little people?

Last week I had a day that made me roll my eyes, it made me shudder, it made me gag, and near the end when I thought I couldn't take anymore it made me laugh. Of course all of this occurred on the busiest day of my work month, it always does. Like clock work.

7 years ago, I may have woken up to the sound of my alarm clock. I'd hop in the shower, get ready for work, and head downstairs to gather my neatly packed lunch. The coffee would already be brewing because I would have started it the night before and set the timer. It would have taken me 3 minutes to get dressed as I'd have ironed and laid out my clothes the night before. Today, I wake up to a curly headed, bad breathed 3 1/2 year old standing at the edge of my bed who 'wants to go downshtairs and have cheerios'. On the way down, I find my other curly headed 5 year old perched on the toilet mumbling in her half asleep gibberish that she's out of toilet paper and she's so tired, 'can I wipe her?'.

7 years ago, I would have spent 2 hours on a Sunday doing our laundry. 2 maybe three loads including towels. Today, I spend practically my whole life running laundry for four. It's an EVERYDAY deal. If I'm not starting it, I'm changing it, or folding it or putting it away and regardless of all that there is always 3 full laundry baskets at the top of my stairs. So I wear the jeans I wore 2 days ago, and the sweater I think I wore Friday and hope nobody notices.

7 years ago, I would have kissed Sean goodbye, and said 'Have a good day'. We may have talked about our schedules for the day and I may have tidied up the house before leaving, ensuring that when I get home, it's just as I like it. Today, I don't directly say goodbye to Sean or talk to him at all because a)I'm late, and b)I've kissed two milk mustache ridden tiny humans and don't want to leave a mark. I do however overhear him explaining to Ian what a 'wedgie' is. 'It's kind of when your undies get stuck in your Heine', he says. 7 years ago, Sean would never EVER have used the words 'undies' or 'heine'. I trip over a trail of toy cars on the way out the door and shut the door to the train wreck that is my house and I'm off to work.

7 years ago, I would have driven to work in my fast and powerful Red Honda Prelude. The car would be glistening because I would have washed it over the weekend and vacuumed it out within the last month. I LOVED THAT CAR. Today, I drive in a FILTHY, rotten cheerio ridden, art project infested MDX (WHICH I LOVE) but let's face it. It's a minivan without the sliding doors. I throw my target bag filled with some (well thought out and planned) lunch items like Gogurts and string cheese onto the passenger seat, pull down the mirror to check my face and then I spend the next 20 minutes driving to work and wondering why I look so weird.

Halfway there it hits me. I've forgotten Mascara. On one of my eyes.

7 years ago, I would have worked late. Put in close to 10 hours because hey...Sean is in grad school and what else am I going to do? Today, I get a phone call at 2:30 that Ian is sick and has thrown up on his nap blanket. So I leave EARLY. I take him home and find the dog has thrown up in my hallway. 7 years ago I never had to clean up vomit.

7 years ago I'd go home and I can't for the life of me remember what I did. I may have, I don't know...RELAXED? Kicked my feet up? Taken a load off? I would probably make ONE healthful dinner for the two of us, watch a show or two and be in bed by 9. Today, I go home and start my second job of making 2 variations of dinner, wash other people's bodies, read books, organize homework, pack the kids lunch and sit down for the first time somewhere around 9.

Don't get me wrong. I love being a mom. I love my kids more than life, and if I could I would not go back to 7 years ago. Well, I take that back. Most Days I would not go back. But I do admit on days such as these I wonder how I got here. How in 7 years my standards, my life, and the cleanliness of which I live in has so drastically been compromised.

Sometimes I just laugh as I look back over the past 7 years. I think back to Sean and I planning our family and what we thought that would mean for us. We never imagined our kids would break our noses and give us black eyes. We never thought we'd be patching walls from slamming doors and settle for hot dogs and mac and cheese on a Saturday night. You would never imagine that the times in which you work best together or support each other would be when your kids are sick and throwing up all over the place. I mean, what High School 'captain of the football team' would ever stand up and confess that one day he'll use the words 'Undies' and 'Heine' in front of his kids to prevent 'potty word' talks with teachers at school. If someone told me that having kids meant going to work with half your makeup on, I may have re-considered.

My mom tells me many wise things that maybe 7 years ago I would not have listened to. But now, when she says 'you will one day look back on this moment and laugh and then be sad at how time has flown' I believe her. Because although most of these last 7 years have been the hardest in my life, they have been the best too. And 7 years from now, I know that I will not have a tiny, brown toothed little fellow who can't pronounce his s's at my bedside needing me to make him breakfast. Unless of course, one day Sean changes his mind on having another bambino. I guess 7 years will tell...