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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Flood Preparedness

The recent flooding in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky caused me to wonder if we are all prepared for this type of natural disaster. So far, 22 people have lost their lives. According to FEMA, "Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States. Flood effects can be local, impacting a neighborhood or community, or very large, affecting entire river basins and multiple states...Every state is at risk from this hazard."

What Should I Do Before A Flood?

How to Plan

Nobody can stop a flood. But if you are faced with one, there are actions you can take to protect your family and keep your property losses to a minimum. The most important thing is to make sure your family is safe.

Before a Flood
  • Keep a battery-powered radio tuned to a local station, and follow emergency instructions.
  • If the waters start to rise inside your house before you have evacuated, retreat to the second floor, the attic, and if necessary, the roof. Take dry clothing, a flashlight and a portable radio with you. Then, wait for help. Don't try to swim to safety; wait for rescuers to come to you.
Kaito Voyager

Buy Flood Insurance
  • One of the most important things that you can do to financially protect your home and family before a flood is to purchase a flood insurance policy.
  • You can obtain one through your insurance company or agent. Flood insurance is guaranteed through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Your homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage.
  • Don't wait until a flood is coming to purchase your policy. It normally takes 30 days after purchase for a flood insurance policy to go into effect.
If time permits, here are other steps that you can take before the flood waters come
  • Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
  • Move valuables such as photos, papers, anything irreplaceable, and needed clothing to upper floors or higher elevations.
  • Fill bathtubs, sinks and plastic soda bottles with clean water. If time permits, sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach. Rinse and then fill with clean water.
  • If time permits, bring outdoor possessions such as lawn furniture, grills and trash cans inside, or tie them down securely.
What Should I Do During a Flood?

Once The Flood Arrives
  • Do not drive through a flooded area. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else.
  • Do not walk through flooded areas. As little as six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires. Electrocution is another major source of deaths in floods. Electric current passes easily through water.
  • Look out for animals - especially snakes. Animals lose their homes in floods, too. They may seek shelter in yours.
What Should I Do After A Flood?

After The Flood
  • If your home, apartment or business has suffered damage, call the insurance company or agent who handles your flood insurance policy right away to file a claim.
  • Before entering a building, check for structural damage. Don't go in if there is any chance of the building collapsing.
  • Upon entering the building, do not use matches, cigarette lighters or any other open flames, since gas may be trapped inside. Instead, use a flashlight or a lightstick to light your way.
  • Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety.
  • Flood waters can pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms and factories.
8-12 Hour Lightsticks

If your home has been flooded, protect your family's health by cleaning up your house right away. Throw out foods and medicines that may have come into contact with flood water.
  • Until local authorities proclaim your water supply to be safe, boil water for drinking and food preparation vigorously for five minutes before using.
  • Be careful walking around. After a flood, steps and floors are often slippery with mud and covered with debris, including nails and broken glass.
  • Take steps to reduce your risk of future floods. Make sure to follow local building codes and ordinances when rebuilding, and use flood-resistant materials and techniques to protect yourself and your property from future flood damage.
Floods and flash floods occur within all 50 states and can be extremely dangerous. They are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters next to fire, so knowledge and preparation is extremely important and will help keep losses to a minimum.

Glass Jars Have More Than Just One Shelf Life

Written in collaboration with Misty Baker
There is something about glass jars being used other than their intending purpose that makes a smile creep across my face.  My grandmother, a child that lived during the Great Depression, never threw out jars or plastic containers.  She believed they had other useful purposes.  Perhaps that is why I like seeing re-purposed glass jars.  It is because the jar has been given a second chance at being useful. 
Because of the durability of glass, if kept in a safe place they can last a lifetime, as well as serve a multitude of purposes.  Yet, many of us (including myself) toss out our used glass jars without giving it a second thought.  But those days of being overly frivolous are over.  The list below details some highly effective uses for re-purposing glass jars:
  • Use the jars to store leftovers and you will no longer have to worry about plastic chemicals seeping into the food.
  • An old spaghetti glass jar could be used to store homemade dry bean soup mixes, sugar, flour, etc.
  • Use them as drinking glasses.
  • For an attractive garden border, turn them upside down and bury them in a row.
  • They can also be made into unique lanterns with a regular candle or a citronella candles placed inside to keep the mosquitoes away during the summer months.
  • Glass jars are a wonderful tool to get plant cuttings started. Just take the cutting, dip it in Rootone, and plant it in a good potting medium. Water it well, and place it in your glass jar in a sunlit area.
  • Use them in your garage to store nails, screws, tacks, bolts, etc.
  • Use them in your craft room to store ribbon, brads, eyelets, stickers, buttons, markers, etc.
  • Glass jars make wonderful gift containers. You can fill them with the ingredients to make cookies, brownies, pancakes, hot cocoa, tea, etc. After you place the lid onto the jar, decorate it with a piece of fabric.
  • Make them into unique picture frames. Insert your picture, place the lid on the jar, and turn it upside down. It is a wonderful way to decorate a shelf or a ledge. (Note: This may not be a good idea if you have small children.)
  • You can use glass jars to house Betas (Siamese Fighting Fish). These fish do not require an air filter.
  • Create a terrarium for African violets or herbs.
  • Fill your jar with potpourri and interweave battery-powered tea lights or decor lights. Place the cord out of the back and put a rubber band or decorative ribbon around to hold the cord in place. When you plug in the lights, the heat disseminates the potpourri’s scent. (Note: If you use Christmas lights instead of battery-powered tea or decor lights, then do not leave the plugged in jar unattended.)
  • Fill a large jar up with water and some tea bags and place it out in the sun for some Sun Tea. 

Next time you go to toss that glass jar into the trash can, remember that any glass jar can still serve another useful purpose, as well as save you money in the long run.  So, with all the creative and useful ways to re-purpose glass jars, perhaps we should give those jars another shot at being useful.

Summer Survival - Avoiding Dehydration

The effects of dehydration can lead to death during a disaster, a crisis or even a common everyday activity. It doesn’t matter if you are in an outdoor or an urban setting. You can also suffer the effects of dehydration in both hot and cold weather. The lack of sufficient fluid for your body will be devastating in either case. The effects of severe dehydration are quite often fatal. The most disturbing thing is that quite often a little advance planning and a decent knowledge about the effects of dehydration and how to treat it can save a life. Except in cases of severe dehydration, the average person can usually treat minor cases of dehydration until proper medical help can be obtained. Without a doctor present or a hospital which is readily available, everyone needs to learn how to recognize and treat the effects of dehydration.

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration:

One of the first things you should learn is the signs and symptoms of dehydration. You need to be able to recognize dehydration when it occurs in order to start effective treatment as soon as possible. The signs and symptoms may include any or all of the following:


Dark colored urine

Lack of, infrequent urination or an inability to urinate

Muscle cramping

Little or no sweat

Dry mouth or nose

Dry skin that feels tight

Weakness, dizziness or a feeling you may faint

Persons at High Risk for Dehydration:

The next thing about dehydration that everyone should know is that the risk factors are different for individuals depending upon your age, the type of activity you are involved in and your physical condition. Persons at risk include the following:

Infants and small children have a high risk factor and are highly susceptible to the effects of dehydration.

Persons that may have current health problems and are taking medications that may contribute to or cause dehydration.

Elderly persons or those persons with weakened immune systems.

Persons involved in strenuous physical activities.

Persons active in extremely hot or cold environments are also highly susceptible to the effects of dehydration.

Avoiding Dehydration

Another important aspect you should be aware of is the simple things you can do to avoid the effects of dehydration. The best treatment for dehydration is to avoid it if at all possible.

Stay hydrated at all times. Making drinking plenty of water on a frequent basis part of your normal routine.

Drink extra water if you are eating dry or salty foods.

Allow time for a water break when involved in any type of strenuous activity.

Always have plenty of safe drinking water available.

Regularly include fresh fruits and vegetables with a high water content in your diet.

Don’t drink untreated water. Water from ponds, streams, rivers etc. that hasn’t been properly treated will probably cause you to become sick. This may make you even more susceptible to the effects of dehydration.
Treating Dehydration

There are some simple steps to help treat dehydration in minor cases that don’t require immediate medical help. In cases of severe dehydration you should always seek immediate medical attention.

Give individuals showing signs of dehydration small and frequent amounts of water, juice or electrolyte solutions (sports drinks, etc.) until their symptoms get better.

Limit the physical activity of persons exhibiting signs of dehydration.

Treat critical areas of the body such as armpits and groin areas with moist cloths to minimize further dehydration.

Try to minimize the dehydrating effects of environmental conditions by moving the affected person to either a cooler environment, in the case of extremely warm temperatures, or a warmer area, in the case of extremely cold temperatures.

In an emergency situation, you can make an expedient oral rehydration solution by mixing 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 3 tablespoons of sugar to a quart of safe drinking water.

Always seek proper medical attention if there is severe dehydration. Extreme dehydration can be fatal if left untreated.
Staying above the water line!

Making Banana Chips by Dehydrating Bananas

Yeah, I've got the dehydrator going again.  I came into a bunch of bananas that I knew my kids wouldn't eat before they went all over-ripe and brown, so I thought I'd get ahead of the game and dehydrate some into banana chips. To dehydrate bananas, you want ripe bananas.  They're not as good if they're green and the more ripe they are the sweeter your dry bananas are, so I like to dry them at the "just right" stage.

When you dehydrate bananas, there's actually a couple of ways to prep them.  You can slice them into rounds or split them long ways into thirds and have "sticks" of whatever length they end up.  I had a friend who liked hers the latter way, so I tried it once.  A banana naturally splits into three sections if you start at one end and kind of work it apart by pushing at the center of the banana with your finger.  Does that make sense?  I'd show you a picture, but that's not how I did mine this time.  Each third comes apart looking kind of triangular and long.  If you dry your bananas this way, they take longer to dry and result in a chewier end product.  Not bad if that's what you're after, but this time I wanted little rounds.  So I got out my handy "Butter Cutter".

What?  You don't have a butter cutter?  You've never even heard of one?  Yeah, you're perfectly normal then.  I got this from my fabulous mother for my birthday last year (along with some other random kitchen gadgets you've never heard of) after she found it in the discarded gear from a school kitchen and apparently thought of me.  Strange but true.  You only wish you got such amazing gifts from your mom.  I thought I might never find a use for it other than slicing globs of play dough, but when I needed uniformly sliced bananas, voila, the Butter Cutter to the rescue.

If you don't have a butter cutter, you can use your egg slicer or even just a plain old knife.  My egg slicer would slice a bit thinner than the butter cutter which is fine.  The idea behind getting uniform slices is that they will all dry at the same rate so you won't have some crispy and some still gooey in the middle.  It's nice, but not totally necessary.

After slicing the bananas, I put them in a solution of water and Fruit Fresh.  About 1 TB fruit fresh to approximately 1 quart of water.  Okay, I didn't measure the water, I'm just guessing it was about a quart.

This is to keep the color from going brown in the end product.  You could also soak them in lemon juice or pineapple juice--the acidity is what keeps them from looking brown.

Then I loaded them on the trays.  It's best if they're not touching so they don't end up all stuck together in one big banana chip mass at the end.

I dried them about 12 hours.  They are crispy on the edges, but still chewy.  Not hard as a rock.

I only filled two trays with the bananas I had.  I don't expect these to last.  I won't be storing them--I'm putting them in a jar that is accessible and am just going to let them get eaten.  If you're planning to store long term, dry them a little harder just to be safe.

28 Survival Spices and Oils or How to Avoid Tastebud Fatigue

A guest post by Kelly Estes from Hot Cookin’.
spices 28 Survival Spices and Oils or How to Avoid Tastebud 
Fatigueimage by Sudhamshu
What would it be like to eat bland food every day? It wouldn’t be fun. It sure wouldn’t be enjoyable! But eating bland food for a while could happen to those ill-prepared for a disaster, especially if supplies were difficult to procure. Thinking about what kind of spices and oils are important to have on hand for survival cooking, there are a few that would be on my ‘must have’ list.
  1. Kosher salt
  2. Herbes de Provence
  3. Ground Pepper
  4. Ground Cumin
  5. Ground Chili Powder
  6. Garlic Powder
  7. Ground Cinnamon
  8. Montreal Steak Seasoning
  9. Ground Ginger
  10. Baking Powder
  11. Baking Soda
  12. Balsamic Vinegar
  13. Soy Sauce
  14. Onion Powder
  15. Dried Parsley
  16. Ground Turmeric
  17. Dried Onion Flakes
  18. Granulated Sugar
  19. Celery Seed
  20. Celery Salt
  21. Beef bouillon
  22. Chicken bouillon
  23. Extra virgin olive oil
  24. Canola oil
  25. Molasses
  26. Corn Starch
  27. Brown sugar
  28. Hoisin Sauce
Now, you may wonder why you’d want such a vast array of spices and seasonings. The reason is it could get boring very quickly eating the same thing over and over.
Spices Like Fashion?   With spices and seasonings, you can mix and match, like with outfits. If you wear the same red shirt day in and out, you’ll soon tire of it (and so will others). But if you have a vest or blazer to wear over the red shirt, or a different color shirt, or different shoes, you’re creating a different look.
Variety is Key   We humans tire of eating the same thing day in and day out. You don’t want to eat pork roast all week. But if there’s a good sale on pork, you can have the roast with sweet potatoes one day, then serve it with brown rice, homemade applesauce and brown gravy the next day, and mix it up by serving a pork and vegetable stir fry the following day. So, prep your pantry with some good ingredients and spices. Your family will be very grateful you did.
Pricey Spices    Remember in the olden days, when spices were very, very expensive? So pricey that only royalty and nobles could afford spices? Even salt was dear and hard to get. Yes, spices can get expensive. But, if you order in bulk and split the spices and shipping cost among spice-ordering friends, your wallet won’t hurt as much. These are things to think about when prepping for any kind of disaster; whether it’s a hurricane or worse.
So, how is your pantry looking?  Are you prepared?  Or do you need to spice things up still?
Kelly Estes blogs about how to whip up nutritious, homemade meals easily at Hot Cookin’.  She intersperses her recommendations for various recipes with no-holds barred restaurant and food product reviews. Follow Kelly on Twitter @hotcookinchick
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