One More Slanted View Of Preparedness

CNN is the latest media outlet to portray the “prepper” community as a bunch of paranoid eccentrics.  What disturbed me more than the slant of the article itself was the number of negative comments made in response to it.     And although someone out there may be in the market for a condo in the Vivos silo system, the vast majority of the “prepper” community is not.  Mr. Ellis redeems himself somewhat when he in concludes with Phil Burns  (American Prepper Network) insight on a “preppers” mindset and a reasonable method to prepare.

The cost of preparing for doomsday – Mar. 13, 2012. by Blake Ellis

On one hand I get frustrated with the media’s sensationalizing the efforts people are making to get prepared.  On the other hand, it is opening up a crucial dialog that may not happened otherwise.  My current mindset is that all this attention may motivate a portion of the audience to take some personal responsibility and do something to get prepared.  I can live with that…and I’m not crazy!

“A Community Action Plan” from SurvivalBlog

One of the weekend posts on SurvivalBlog was read is a from the perspective of  a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) member/leader and a Search & Rescue Volunteer in our local community.   “A Community Action Plan” by ShepardFarmerGeek simplifies an often challenging topic.   It would also make a great working template for groups to get organized  in an emergency situation.  It could be adapted to any size community.  His strategies will definitely be added to  improve our neighborhood plan.

It’s a great idea to bring a copy of this plan to a Neighborhood Watch if only to bring up the topic of preparedness and evaluate the resourcefulness of your neighbors.   If you don’t have a Neighborhood Watch, check with your local police department for information on how to get one started.  CERT is also a great way to help others in your community get prepared.


Insurance Checkup

Years ago, I would sit at the dining room table doing homework when Mr. Seal would come for his annual visit to review my parent’s insurance policies.  Today I am grateful for the service he provided my parents and to me.  When our home was burglarized in the late 80’s, he was there to walk them through the process.  Fortunately, that is the only time my family needed the policy.  Insurance is one of those things we buy with the hope that we never need it, much like a fire extinguisher or a spare tire.  It’s also one of the most important and responsible things we can do for our families and it is one more critical step in the preparedness process.

So today, I spoke to several insurance professionals about the steps they would recommend including in an annual “Insurance Checkup” and added it to a list of my own to come up with the following checklist:

  1. Inventory Your Home:  A video recording of your belongings and a corresponding spreadsheet detailing each item will be invaluable in the event of a disaster.  The more detail you can provide the insurance company, the smoother the claims process will go.  With the technology that is available today, you can store a copy online and on a flash drive or DVD in a fireproof home safe or safe deposit box.  A spreadsheet should further document the items included on the video inventory and any that are left out.  Be sure to print out a hard copy of the inventory with photographs of the items, as well.
  2. Save Your Proof of Purchase:  The claim filing process should go smoothly if you can provide proof of purchase in the form of sales receipts, credit card statements, or cancelled checks.  Including the model and serial numbers, when available will also help speed things along.  In the event of theft, it helps the authorities track stolen items, as well.   Some banks allow customers to view cancelled checks online for up to six months.  Be sure to print out copies to store with your inventory.
  3. Inventory Everything:  Be sure to include everything in your inventory. People often forget seasonal items or sporting goods since they are stored away.  It can be very expensive to replace three Rubbermaid containers of Christmas decorations, hockey equipment, golf clubs, or camping equipment.   Be sure to list it all, including your emergency preparedness supplies!
  4. Add Riders:  As you add items to your household, be sure to check your insurance policies and secure a “rider” if one is needed.   Collectibles, jewelry, and heirlooms may not be covered by a traditional policy.  A “rider” may not replace the irreplaceable, yet it will ensure you recover the true value of the item.
  5. Store Three Copies:   Most of the insurance professionals I consulted recommend storing three copies of your policies and inventories.  One copy should be stored in a fire proof and waterproof safe at home. One copy should be stored with a family member out of the area.  And finally, one copy should be in your “Go Bag” or the emergency bag that you will take in the event of an evacuation.  If you want to be extra prudent, keep an additional copy in your car and stored securely online. In each package, be sure to include the 24-hour contact information for your agent and the insurance carrier’s claims department.
  6. Understand Policy Coverage:  It is critical that you do so.  It might be interesting to know that most homeowners/renters policies in California do not include earthquake insurance.  Other areas may exclude flood or fire.  Be sure to read the fine print.  Most companies will provide the additional coverage at an additional cost.   Be sure to understand the difference between “replacement value” and “cash value”.   The “cash value” policy will include a depreciation schedule that you want to consider carefully. .  The “replacement” value policy may cost up to 25% more, yet the peace of mind may be worth the price.  Also, be sure your policy covers any pets in your home and your college student living on campus.
  7. Include Temporary Housing Costs:  No matter the disaster, check your policy to ensure that temporary housing costs are covered.  You will still have to pay the mortgage even if you are unable to live in your home.  It is crucial to have the extra coverage, especially in the event you are displaced geographically for an extended amount of time.  Ask anyone who was affected by wildfires or tornadoes in recent years.  It makes all the difference in the recovery process.
  8. Evaluate Your Policy Annually:   The best time to review your homeowners or rental policies is when you are preparing to file your income taxes.  It’s also a good time to call your auto insurance and ask for a better deal.  You will know what you have spent money over the previous twelve months to add new purchases to your inventory.  Also, if you have a child going off to college or already there, be sure to inventory the items they are taking.   Most policies will cover them.  It’s one more reason to check your policy on an annual basis.

Agents from State Farm, AAA, Liberty Mutual, and Farmers provided input in compiling the checklist above.  I encourage you to research the best company and agent that meet the need of you and your family.  The 2011 JD Powers & Associates Study of Customer Satisfaction with Homeowners Insurance is provided as a reference.  Keep in mind that insurance rates and regulations vary from state to state.

APN: The Five Principles of Preparedness

The Five Principles of Preparedness

Phil Burns brings us the Five Principles of Preparedness through the American Preppers Network and does an outstanding job at sharing his own families approach and presents it in such a way that any family can make it their own.  My favorite phrase is “Standard of Living Insurance” as he refers to the goal of having a year’s supply of provisions as a buffer.

We will be ordering his book Preparedness Principles  that expands on these principles and will publish a review in the weeks to come.

Moving Beyond AM Radio

Portable Ham Radio

Wouxus Powerwerx KG-UV

We were curious when a colleague first recommended a radio that is growing in popularity among emergency responders. We did some research and bought one for ourselves at the local Ham Radio Outlet. The Wouxun Powerwerx KG-UV is tough, inexpensive, and compact radio that can handle many of the popular local emergency frequencies and can be powered by AA batteries. It is sold mainly as a 2 meter ham radio but has also obtained permission to operate on other frequencies.

The radio can be unlocked with a simple software download and programmed to the Marine Band channels, the NOAA Weather/All Hazards channels and regular FM radio. It will not receive AM radio, but our local county emergency AM station has a mirrored FM station.

You can also listen in on some local police, fire, ambulance stations, although many departments have migrated to encrypted 800MHZ radios. Most agencies do still maintain their old VHF/UHF radio systems and opt to use them when there is an emergency situation when there is need to accommodate volunteers and outside agencies.

Another major advantage is that even without a license you can transmit and receive on the FRS and GMRS channels. These are the channels used by the very popular family service walkie-talkies that are available at most sporting good stores. You can also take advantage of the MURS channels which are hardly used and have very few restrictions. So if you already have a few FRS or GMRS walkie-talkies around you can keep in touch with the whole family. Channel 1 on FRS and GMRS are also used as the main frequency of many emergency groups.

And then you have the arena where the big boys play. Most large emergency management and disaster recovery groups use dedicated groups of ham radio operators to communicate in an emergency. With the little Wouxun, you can listen in and stay informed of what is going on around you. Before the disaster, you should find and program in the frequencies used by your local SKYWARN, RACES, REACT, SATERN, ARES, SALVATION ARMY, ARRL, RED CROSS, CERT and Search and Rescue groups. You can always listen without a license, yet this might be just the exercise and radio to encourage yourself, your spouse or another family member to get that license. Most of these groups hold regular radio meetings and usually have an interesting speaker after the normal business is concluded. Many of these groups also continuously monitor their frequencies. If you have an actual personal emergency you are always allowed to key the mic and ask for help.

To top it all off, the Wouxun is equipped with a built in LED flashlight! It’s not amazingly bright, yet it provides enough light to read or find your keys in the dark. The radio retails for approximately $120. It can be found for less if you shop around. The price is higher than most AM radios, but it is a bargain compared to its competition. There are 3 models on the market: KG-UV1D, KG-UV2D, KG-UV3D. From all reports they are all the same internally just a few updates to the case over the years. Within these models though there are a few different frequency ranges available. We recommend the most popular in the USA, which transmits on 136-174 & 420-520 (VHF & high cut UHF) range.  It’s also the version we chose. The next step is to purchase the programming cable and research all your local frequencies on your own. Or alternatively, you can accomplish the same goal the “preponomical” way and find a local member of one of the groups listed above that uses this radio who is willing to program it for you. The communications team members in these groups will understand exactly what you are looking for and are always happy to help.