Friday, August 25, 2017

The Week in Review: What You Need to Know About North Korea

By: Todd Norman, Emergency Zone

North Korea and Donald Trump are buzzwords that have been hitting top searches over the past several weeks. So what's the story? What's going on? Most of all, what is it that we need to be ready for?

In the last several days, things have simmered down just a bit in the news. There has still been talk about war with North Korea, and talk of nuclear attacks, but so far its been just that. Talk.

Up to this point most of the hype around North Korea has focused around a few statements and actions made from and by the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, and from President Donald Trump.

This war of words, so to speak, began with a threat from the North Korean Government when they announced that plans were in the works to launch several nuclear missiles near Guam if there was any US provocation.

In response President Trump responded stating that North Korea would be met with "fire, fury, and frankly power".

Both sides continued to escalate in words, sending warnings back and forth. China also got involved, with sources there stating that North Korea would be on its own if it attacked the US. Being an official ally, though, they would almost certainly take their side in other circumstances.

This became a week long banter, back and forth, between two countries who didn't really want to go to war. The one thing we are fairly certain of is that Kim Jong-un does want to protect himself and if he feels threatened he would be capable of trying an attack.

In the end North Korea backed off of their threats (or at least felt they made a strong enough statement), and the tides have more or less settled for the time being. That doesn't mean we should put our guard down though.

As individuals it may seem at times that there isn't much we can do in situations like this, we can however take care of ourselves and those close to us.

Being ready and prepared is a lifestyle choice. Preparing for an emergency can't effectively happen during an emergency. What could we do now to prepare for future concerns and threats from other countries?

This all starts with preparation now. Here are a few ideas of things to help you be more prepared now.

#1 Stay up to date on national and international news; know what could affect you.

#2 Build up a food and water storage. In an emergency food and water may come into short supply.

#3 Have a first aid kit on hand, it may be hard to run to the store to get anything you need.

#4 Have a grab and go bag, AKA, a "bug out bag." This should have essential supplies and a change of clothes in case you need to leave your home.

The great thing about preparation is it can be an ongoing process. Start now by picking up some extra food when you go shopping. Begin setting aside money to have on hand. Being able to be independent is a good way to be prepared in an emergency situation.

Listening to the news and hearing stories like the one we heard this week about North Korea gives us reminders that we live in a volatile world at times, and should take time to prepare.

What to Know About Hurricane Harvey

By: Todd Norman, Emergency Zone

It's Hurricane season, and Hurricanes are not an uncommon threat along the coasts. It is more rare for a hurricane to actually make landfall. The average of is 1.73 a year over the past 165 years.

On occasion though there are hurricanes that can leave a more lasting impression. Some of us may recall Hurricane Katrina, which devastated Louisiana; and then Hurricane Rita, which hit the same region only one month later.

A new hurricane threat is looming over the Gulf Coast, and here's what you should know...

1. As in any emergency remember people tend to panic and rumors abound. Make sure to look for  
    accurate news and news updates.

2. Hurricane Harvey is major hurricane that is sweeping towards the Texas gulf coastline as of Friday.

3. According to the New York Times and CNN, the Hurricane has developed into a category 2* and
    could hit landfall as a category 3, the first to hit the nation in 12 years.

4. In a recent report by the Weather Channel Hurricane Harvey will reach landfall either late tonight
    or early Saturday morning.

5. There are two major threats currently. They have catastrophic amounts of rainfall and flooding, and the already strong tropical storm strength winds and speeds of 110mph.

What you need to do if you are affected...

1. If your home lies dangerously in the path of Hurricane Harvey, local authorities would have already issued a warning of evacuation. It is important to listen to these warnings. Here is a link to the warnings current to the time of this posting.

2. If an evacuation is not necessary, and you haven't been prompted to evacuate, it is best to stay in your home. You have your supplies and necessities there. It also frees up the roads for emergency responders.

3. If evacuating, take essentials with you: food, extra water, extra clothing, toiletries, and cash if you have some handy.

4. If remaining in place but in an effected area keep a radio or news station playing. Keep up to date on the path of the storm.

5. There are a few things you can do to that recommends prepare yourself and your home if you are staying put during the hurricane.

  • Trim or remove damaged tree limbs from around your yard.
  • Secure and reinforce windows, doors, and roofs. If you don't have time to go out and buy anything, use what you have. Plastic sheets and blankets can protect against shattering glass and rain seeping in.
  • Review items you might have in a disaster kit: First Aid, Food, Water, Hygiene Supplies.
  • Review escape routes in case an evacuation becomes necessary.
  • Make sure you have gas in your car.
The most important thing in an emergency is to keep a cool head. If you listen to the local authorities, keep an eye on the storm, and have basic supplies; you will be okay.

An additional resource in an emergency is knowing where safe houses are. Here is a link to the Hurricane Harvey crisis map. It has useful information about the warning areas and safe houses. Crisis Map

*Hurricanes are categorized on a scale from 1-5 with 5 being the strongest.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Take Landslides Seriously

Today, in Sierra Leone, a catastrophic mudslide is ravaging the outskirts of Freetown. One mortuary alone reported 300 dead so far, and the final count is likely to be much higher. With the continuing rains, the danger is not over. The high level of death and destruction is due primarily to all of the poor not being able to afford to legally construct housing that is up to safety and engineering code.

But if you think it is only a problem for impoverished lands, you'd be wrong.

No region with uneven terrain is immune. In 2014, the same year hapless Sierra Leone was under threat of the Ebola virus, the deadliest landslide in U.S. history occurred in Washington state in the infamous Oso mudslide. 43 people were killed. This year, landslides have caused a number of long-term closures in California.

So what is a landslide, and what can you do to prepare for one?

A landslide is a geological event that includes mudslides and debris flows. They can be caused by earthquakes, severe weather, man-made alterations to the landscape, or poor civil engineering. Landslides globally cause massive damage in lives and property.

Before a Landslide

• Warning signs of shifting terrain in a community can sometimes be spotted early; sudden increase of cracks in foundations and pavement, doors and windows sticking, etc.
• Take note of the paths excess water in storms take, or where flows of debris or water would converge.
• Landscape your yard with concrete, trees, bushes, etc. to prevent erosion.
• As always, have emergency supplies and an emergency plan in place.

During a Landslide

• Many landslide deaths occur at night when people are sleeping. If you are awake, wake your family and neighbors.
• Evacuate if possible.
• Landslides can be fast and fierce. If you can’t outrun it, take cover as you would on p. 20.
• Watch for signs that the slide or flooding may be catching up to you, such as strange noises like cracking tree branches, stream water turning form clear to muddy, etc.

After a Landslide

• While searching for survivors, avoid the main slide zone. Landslides are still possible.
• When it is safe to return, repair landscaping as soon as possible to stop further erosion.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The What, Where, and How of Ebola

You've probably heard of the Ebola virus disease, you may have even heard about the recent outbreak in Bas Uélé, DRC, but what do you know about it? What do doctors and scientists know about it? Could it affect your health and well being? How can you prevent it? If someone is infected, is it curable?

Do we know where it came from?

The answer to that question is yes... and no. We generally know how the disease is transmitted to humans; what we don't know for certain is where the disease originates.

While we are uncertain of a specific origin to the disease, it is thought that a certain breed of fruit bats are the natural Ebola virus host. The disease can then be spread to other animals.

Ebola is transmitted to humans through contact with infected animals' blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids. It can be an animal that is still alive or dead. The disease can then be transmitted to other humans the same way through contact with open wounds, blood, secretions, or other bodily fluids.

When did it first become noticed, and where has it affected people?

The Ebola Virus was discovered in 1976, when two simultaneous outbreaks occurred. One was in what is now South Sudan, and the other in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The disease derives its name from the Ebola River near where the latter outbreak occurred. Since then, there have been sporadic outbreaks throughout Africa.

The recent outbreak from 2014-2016 has been the largest and most complex outbreak since it was originally discovered. There were more than cases and deaths than all other outbreaks combined. There were 28,616 reported cases and 11,310 deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Previously reported cases had been in mostly rural areas. In 2014 it broke out in urban areas; and, therefore, spread more quickly.

Since then, there has only been an isolated case in Italy and a small outbreak of 8 reported cases and 4 deaths in northern DRC. Except the 2015 Italy case (likely contracted in Sierra Leone), all cases of Ebola to date have been reported only on the African continent.

Can it be prevented?

The best prevention, obviously, is to avoid traveling to those areas that have reported cases of the Ebola virus disease. The U.S. Embassy or consulate can provide specific information on areas and facilities to avoid.

If traveling to areas with the disease, reduce contact with wildlife: especially fruit bats, monkeys/apes, and raw meat. Practice careful hygiene, wash your hands with soap and water regularly.

Avoid touching anything that may have come in contact with a diseased persons blood, or bodily fluids. Don't participate in funeral rituals which involve handling in any way the body of someone who was infected with the Virus.

What are the symptoms?

It takes about 2 - 21 days after being infected by the disease to start showing symptoms. A person is not infections until they start exhibiting symptoms.

According to the World Health Organization, the first onset of symptoms includes: a fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, and a sore throat. There are additional symptoms; diarrhea, vomiting, abominable pain, and unexplained bleeding and bruising.

How is it treated?

Ultimately, the Ebola virus disease can be fatal. There is currently no FDA approved vaccine or medicine available to treat Ebola. There are experimental treatments under development but have not yet been fully tested.

A patient's survival is dependent on their own immune system response and their health care. Symptoms are treated as they are exhibited. A patient who overcomes Ebola develops antibodies that are effective for at least ten years. 

It takes time even after recovery for the Ebola Virus to leave certain bodily fluids, for example, semen. And the amount of time it takes for Ebola to leave varies for each man.

For now, scientists continue to work to understand Ebola better and to help better treat the disease..

For more resources and information on the Ebola Virus, we recommend looking at the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.