19 April 2010

Year's supply for $800

Costco is running a deal where you get a year's supply of food for 1 person for $800.  May work for certain folks.  Check it out here.

06 December 2009

Winter Driving

Just in case you haven't looked outside in a few days, we are surrounded in snow.  Among the many perils snow can bring, driving in the stuff is the most likely to shorten your life or damage your property.  Here are a few tips to make your winter transportation as safe as possible.

Snow tires are designed to grip the road better in wet, slushy conditions.  Their tread pattern is more open, making room for the snow and slush to be pushed aside and keeping more tread in contact with the road.  Regular all-season radials have a tighter tread pattern, which are more quiet, but have poorer traction in frozen conditions.  If you are regular encountering snow, slush or ice, you need snow tires.  Cars going just 15mph will stop a full car length shorter with snow tires on than those with regular tires when traveling on ice.  At higher speeds this can be much more and may mean the difference between a close call and an accident.
ABS braking systems are standard on nearly all cars these days.  They allow your tires to continue rolling under hard braking, which prevents sliding and maintains steering control. However, if you are using regular tires on snow, ABS is less effective because it relies on resistance feedback, which is gone once you start sliding. 

Defensive driving, while important any time of year, is crucial in wintry conditions.  Following too closely is the #1 cause of accidents in winter.  Also, not reducing speed adequately on hills or before turns will eventually catch up to you.  And then there is the 4-wheel drive myth.  Many SUV drivers think they can drive at higher speeds in snow.  The truth is, if you actually have the 4wd engaged, it will only help you start off on a slick road faster and maybe make it up a hill easier, but helps little on curves and will not help you slow down faster.  In fact, SUVs and trucks are usually much heavier than passenger cars and require much longer braking distances. 

A few more tips

  • If you install winter tires, switch all four tires, not just two. Using just 2 winter tires can cause the car to spin unexpectedly because of greater traction on only two wheels.
  • For driving in excessive amounts of snow you may need to use chains or studs on your tires. Studs are best suited for soft ice.
  • When driving in rough winter conditions, be prepared and bring the following: jumper cables, tire chains, flares, blankets, food, gloves, boots, a flashlight, a cell phone, a first aid kit, an ice scraper, and a towing cable.
  • When you first get on the roads, test your brakes and steering.
  • Watch out for black ice, as well as extra ice on bridges, overpasses, and intersections.
  • Don't use cruise control in the winter.
  • Check the weather forecast before driving to prevent getting caught in undesirable conditions.
  • Handling a Skid: When your vehicle begins to skid, release the accelerator and gradually steer in the opposite direction that you're skidding. Resist the temptation of using your brakes as this will cause you to skid more. If you overcorrect the skid, you'll end up skidding in the other direction. If this happens, gradually steer back the other way.
  • Getting Unstuck: If you feel you can get the vehicle unstuck on your own, first clear snow from around the tires. Then try to get more traction with the use of something like sand, salt, or traction mats. Whatever you use should be spread along the path where you will drive, not just directly around the tires. Now try to slowly drive out. Do not give it too much gas, as all this will do is dig yourself a deeper hole and pack snow in your wheel well. You may want to rock back and forth if you cannot just drive right out. With each rock back and forth drive further and increase your rocking distance. If you still cannot get unstuck, you may require the assistance of a tow-truck or another vehicle with a tow rope.

27 October 2009

Good guide for Winter Emergency Preparations

A blog that I am fond of reading, Lifehacker.com, has a nice piece today on making a winter home emergency kit.  It's worth a look as you ponder your preparations for the coming cold. 

05 October 2009

72 Hour Kits - Article in October Ensign

There is a nice article on pg. 70 of the October 2009 Ensign entitled "Adequate Nutrition During an Emergency" about making up 72 hour kits.  You can also find it by clicking here. It is written by a nutritionist and sounds relatively easy to put together.  I could personally burn through a 72 hour kit in under 12 hours (crises make me hungry) so I would have to really bulk it up. Check it out and let us know what suggestions you have in the comments.

04 October 2009

A Few Statistics

Back in August, we made a short presentation on Emergency Preparedness to the ward and members filled out a brief questionnaire relating their own personal preparedness level.  Here are the results:

How much food supply do you have on hand?        
    A few weeks: 22%
    1-3 months: 42%
    >3-6 months: 14%
    >6-12 months: 19%
    none: 3%

Do you have adequate water for each member of your family for 72 hours?    
    Yes: 51%
    No: 49%

Do you have a 72 hour kit for each person in your family?   
    Yes: 46%
    No: 54%

Do you have means of cooking food if electricity and gas service is lost?     
    Yes: 66%
    No: 34%

Do you have at least a month of extra prescription medication on hand?
    Yes: 60%
    No: 40%

Do you have a home escape plan including two meeting places? 
    Yes: 12%
    No: 88%

Have you backed up all your important documents and photos/videos somewhere safe away from home?
    Yes: 20%
    No: 80%

Do you feel prepared for most emergencies if/when they occur?
    Yes: 29%
    No: 71%

So what do these statistics mean?  When viewed overall, we see that in most areas of preparedness, less than half of us would be ready in an emergency.  It is striking that very few families have an escape plan in place with meeting sites designated.  Relatively few have backed up their important documents, and less than 1/3 of us feel prepared for most emergencies.  In the next few weeks we'll add more posts to give you ideas how you can become prepared for most any disaster that may come our way here in West Virginia.

27 September 2009

Safe-guarding your documents and photos

So you're house just burned down, or was leveled by a tornado, or inundated by a flood. Where are the important documents you may need? Your insurance agreements, your identification (social security cards, birth certificates, passports, titles to cars, etc.)? Your photo albums? If they only exist in paper form in your house, you may be out of luck. Ask anyone who has lost everything to a fire or other disaster and they'll say they miss their pictures most because they aren't replaceable.

There are a few simple ways you can protect all your important documents and have them available to you almost anywhere you go.
  1. Make copies to keep in your house and store the originals in a safe deposit box. Documents are only available to you if you can reach the bank, but the originals are preserved.  Some may consider fireproof safes kept in the home, but these are also not 100% guaranteed.
  2. Scan copies into digital format (PDF is preferred) and email them to yourself. Documents can be accessed anywhere an internet connection is available, but you won't have your original documents.
  3. Build a bomb-proof, steel reinforced, concrete fortress in your backyard and encase your documents in a lead shielded, booby trapped Zero-Halliburton briefcase inside. Great conversation piece for parties, but may not match with your new patio furniture.
As for your photos, getting and using a scanner is a must. You can easily scan all your old photos and upload them to any number of photo sites such as Flickr or Google Photos and they will be saved online permanently. (Some of these sites may limit the amount of data you can upload per month unless you pay for their premium services).  Any new digital photos you take can be easily and automatically backed up for you using free software such as Picasa or iPhoto.

You may have a slew of computer files as well that you wouldn't like to lose in a disaster. These also can be easily backed up for safe keeping and can be available almost anywhere. Several free online back-up services are available, including Dropbox and Syncplicity. They both allow you to back-up most of your documents and computer files online and have them accessible from any computer hooked up to the internet (check their websites for more details as some do not allow back-up of all types of files and have storage limits). Online email services, particularly Gmail, allow you to email documents to yourself then file them away in various folders that can be accessed anytime. 

So if you've been holding on to 19 years of tax returns and MasterCard statements or just saving those paper instructions on how to build a canoe out of phonebooks and electrical tape, you better get to backing them up friend, or you'll be out of luck when the big one hits and your house is washed away in an alluvium of coal ash and mercury laden sewer effluent (worst case scenario, probably won't happen to everybody).

Feel free to respond to this post if you have any questions or suggestions.

20 September 2009

Inventory your property

Your house was just broken into, or lost to fire or another disaster. Do you know everything you had inside? If you'd been in the home for a while you probably accumulated a lot of things, all of which could be replaced by your home or renter's insurance, but you have to remember them to be able to claim them. There are a few ways to go about this.
  1. Make a video recording of all the contents of your home. Go systematically from room to room, narrating your video by talking about everything you are seeing. Use a new video cassette and take as much time as you need to see everything. Put the tape into a safe-deposit box or fire-proof safe in your home. For added security and ease of access, upload to an online video service that allows private videos (i.e. Google Video).
  2. If video isn't your thing, take still pictures of everything in your home. Open every drawer and closet and take photos of all your possessions. Store the photos in a safe deposit box or upload them to your favorite online photo site (see previous post).
  3. Make a paper or electronic list of all your possessions, room by room. This can be time consuming, but your list would be ready in the event of an accident and a claim could be made sooner.
  4. Become a reality TV star, letting them video tape every moment of your dull existence. When the show is finally cancelled, ask them for all that seemingly wasted footage of you hanging out with all your junk, which now serves as your property inventory.
As someone who was recently robbed, I can attest to the utility of this type of preparation. My wife had wisely taken photos of all our possessions just a few days before and this helped us quickly identify what was missing, including some things we probably would have forgotten. Got any other ideas, you can post them below.