Friday Blog Roundup – Emergency Preparedness Edition

Time for another edition of the Friday Blog Roundup. In this post, I’ll share a few interesting personal finance articles that I came across over the past week. But I will mainly highlight the recent experiences of a fellow physician blogger, the response of the personal finance community, and preparing for emergencies that can impact you at any time.

 

Personal Finance Blog Roundup

  • Do you know what your financial personality is? Apparently I’m a Realist. Find out what type you are by heading over to Northern Expenditure and taking their Financial Personality quiz.
  • J.D. Roth is back and blogging again at Get Rich Slowly. Check out his post about The Core Tenets of Get Rich Slowly.
  • I’m several years away from financial independence. Passive Income MD, on the other hand, has recently become Financially Free From Medicine. I guess I’ll just have to live vicariously through him.
  • Burnout… a reason for FI/RE? Maybe. It seems like my specialty is one of the tops when it comes to physician burnout. Crispy Doc discusses some possible reasons in his post We Are the Champions!?

 

Blog Highlight – DDD Edition

I wanted to take a moment and talk about something that hits close to home – the Northern California Wildfires. As of this post, the fires continue to burn. I live about 120 miles away, but I can tell you that EVERYONE in the Bay Area has been affected in one way or another.

Some recent statistics from Cal Fire as of Thursday, October 19:

  • Tubbs Fire:  36,432 acres, 92% contained
  • Pocket Fire:  16,552 acres, 73% contained
  • Nuns Fire:  54,423 acres, 82% contained
  • Atlas Fire:  51,624 acres, 83% contained

That’s a total of 159,031 acres between the four fires. How big is that? Let’s put those numbers in perspective.

  • One acre = 43,560 square feet
  • 159,031 acres x 43,560 square feet = 6,927,390,360 square feet

That works out to about 250 square miles, or the size of roughly 120,267 football fields.

 

Dads, Dollars, Debts and the Tubbs Fire

Everyone in the personal finance community can say that they know someone affected by these fires. In a recent post, EJ at Dads, Dollars, Debts wrote about his firsthand experience with the Tubbs Fire and the loss of his home. If you haven’t read his post yet, stop what you’re doing and head on over to his site immediately. It’s a must read.

 

The Personal Finance Community Responds

It didn’t take long for the personal finance community respond. Liz at Chief Mom Officer started a “chain gang” in an attempt to spread the word on emergency preparedness.

 

Personal Experience with a Natural Disaster and Evacuation

My firsthand experience with a natural disaster and subsequent evacuation happened way back in 1991 while I was living in the Philippines. My dad was a civil engineer with the Navy, so we were living in Subic Naval base at the time. I was in the seventh grade, and it was the last day of school. Twenty-six years ago, but I remember it like was just yesterday.

 

June 15, 1991

The last day of school is always a memorable occasion. No more homework, plenty of goofing around and playing video games. This one was no different. Classes ended early (around noon-ish), meaning I had the rest of the day to do whatever I wanted. Unfortunately, something else happened that day.

By U.S. Geological Survey Photograph taken by Richard P. Hoblitt.

Mount Pinatubo erupted. It was the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. Although we lived more than 20 miles away, we weren’t going to escape this volcano’s reach.

I remember leaving school, looking up, and seeing dark plumes of smoke and ash slowly fill up the sky. About an hour later, it was total darkness as if it were the middle of the night.

And then Typhoon Yunya hit, bringing with it rain and high winds. Here’s some math for you. What does rain plus airborne volcanic ash give you? Mud. That’s right, it was raining mud. And it would continue for the rest of the day, evening, and through the night.

The power eventually went out. We still had a little bit running water, but we didn’t know how long that would last or if it would be safe to drink. We spent the rest of that day enduring earthquakes every hour or so and watching the dark skies turn red when lightning would strike.

 

The Following Days
By Service Depicted: Navy Camera Operator: SGT PAUL BISHOP (ID:DM-ST-93-01367)

The following morning, when the rain had stopped and the skies cleared up enough to see the sun, I took my dog for a walk. What I saw was utterly surreal. Picture a peaceful, quiet neighborhood covered in several inches of fresh-fallen snow. Now replace that snow with mud. Trees had fallen. Power lines were down. Amazingly, none of the roofs in our neighborhood had collapsed under the weight of the mud. In others, however, that was not the case.

We would remain without power and with minimal running water for about a week. Fortunately, we had some time to make preparations. Because of the media and emergency notifications, everyone knew when, within a window of a few days, the eruption would take place. We had time to stock up on food, water, extra candles, flashlights, and batteries. Our house was still standing, so we didn’t have to worry about shelter. With all that being said, one week without power is still a not-so-fun experience.

 

Leaving the Philippines

Given its distance from Mount Pinatubo, our Naval base was not preemptively evacuated. The decision was eventually made to evacuate all of the civilians living there. We were taken by Naval ship to Cebu. From there, we were flown to Guam, then Seattle, and finally San Diego.

 

In the end, we were lucky. We had some time to make emergency preparations. Our evacuation was organized; it wasn’t last minute or chaotic. We lost our home, but not our belongings. The Navy eventually shipped them over to us a few months later. So although I’ve had some experience with emergencies and being an evacuee, it pales in comparison to what EJ has gone through.

 

Emergency Preparedness

There’s already a lot of great stuff in the various posts linked in the chain gang. You can also check out Ready.gov and the CDC for more information as well.

 

Financial Emergencies

I won’t delve too deeply into this, but essentially you want all of your financial ducks in order. Here are some things to consider:

  • An emergency fund for unexpected expenses.
  • Adequate life and disability insurance for your particular situation.
  • Homeowners insurance. It may be worthwhile to review your policy. Standard insurance may or may not cover certain natural disasters, such as earthquakes.
  • An emergency financial plan.

 

Non-Financial Emergencies

These usually fall under the scope of natural disasters. Examples could include earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, the zombie apocalypse, etc. Basically anything that could affect your access to electricity, food, or water. The goal isn’t to survive forever, just long enough until help arrives (or until you find help).

The following are some of my thoughts on preparing for the unexpected. Remember, I’m not a survival expert or anything like that. I’m just some random guy online.

 

The Basic Necessities

Just as personal finance has basic concepts and principles, so does emergency preparedness. For instance, there are certain things that you must have in order to survive. I think of these as life-sustaining necessities, and all of your planning and prepping should take these into consideration.

Water. You can only survive a few days without water. The CDC recommends one gallon (3.8 liters) of water per person per day. They also recommend storing at least a 3-day supply per person (and pet).

Food. You can last a little bit longer without food, but it’s still a necessity. Again, the CDC recommends storing at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food per person. Examples would be canned foods (don’t forget your can opener), energy bars, dry cereal, peanut butter. Basically anything you don’t need to cook that will provide you with calories. Don’t forget about food for infants and your pets.

Protection from the elements. This can come in the form of shelter and clothing. Also, the elements that you are exposed to will vary depending on your particular location and climate.

 

Other Important Stuff

These are other emergency items that may not be life-sustaining, but important nonetheless.

  • Light source such as flashlights
  • AM/FM radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Medical supplies – basic first aid kit, prescription medications
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Basic utensils for eating
  • Personal hygiene – hand sanitizer/wipes, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap
  • Small stash of cash

You should also store important documents in a safe place, such as a fire-proof safe. These might include passports, birth certificates, and copies of your social security card and identification cards.

 

Emergencies – Staying Put

In these situations, you would stay where you are, usually your home or apartment. The benefit of this scenario is that you have shelter already taken care of, and you would be able to stock up on more supplies. For instance, you can store a one to two week supply of food and water per person. You can also store bulkier items, like a portable camping stove, for boiling water or cooking food.

Yes, you can drink that.

Another important thing to know about your house is where your gas, water, and electric shut-off locations are. Also, there are additional sources of drinking water that are accessible in a pinch. For instance, you can drink water contained in your home’s water heater. There’s also water in your pipes. And finally, the water in the tank of your toilet is drinkable.

 

Emergencies – Getting Out

While some emergencies might require you to shelter in place, others could force you to get out of Dodge. Certain situations will be different, so it’s important to have an evacuation plan for each possible scenario.

For instance, if you had to just get out of your house in a matter of a few minutes, what would you take with you? How would you get out of your house? Where would you meet family members if you become separated?

How about if you needed to get out of your neighborhood or city? Where would you go? How would you get there? What supplies would you need for those next few days?

These are just some of the questions you’ll need to think about when coming up with your evacuation plan. They will also be helpful when putting together a getaway kit, or bug-out bag. I won’t go into the details of constructing one, but you basically want to include supplies that would help you survive for a few days. You’ll need one for each member of your family, included the four-legged ones. It’s also a good idea to keep a kit in your car.

 

In Summary

There are a lot of things that can impact your life. Some are related to finances while others are not. It can be easy to overlook these other types of emergencies since they seem rare. But disasters happen, and anyone can be affected at any time. So it’s important to keep this in mind and plan ahead so you’re not left scrambling when the poop hits the fan.

Finally, I wanted to thank EJ for sharing his story. It has inspired the personal finance community, myself included, to start thinking about emergency preparedness. I know I speak for all of us when I say that we are sorry for your loss, but happy and relieved that you and your family made it out safely. We’re all with you, buddy.

 

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