Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Tips To Survive a Hurricane

Hurricane season arrives every year toward the end of summer, and the first storm of the 2011 season — Irene — is threatening the U.S. East Coast. Though it’s too early to determine exactly where the storm will hit, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced that if you live along the Atlantic coast, you should start preparing well before the storm comes to your area.

While many who live in hurricane-prone areas already consider themselves pros at hurricane prep, it’s a good idea to review these safety precautions before a storm rolls in.

Before the Hurricane:

A joint report from FEMA, the American Red Cross, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggests that you plot out the safest and most effective evacuation routes before a storm strikes. Once you have an evacuation strategy in place that will keep you, your family, and your pets safe, don’t neglect these important, but easy-to-forget steps.

“Remodel” your home. Purchase plywood and other materials to board up your windows, and install straps to fasten your roof to the frame structure — this should help minimize roof damage. And don’t forget to trim those trees and bushes; doing so can cut down on the amount of post-hurricane debris you’ll have to clear.

Fill up your tank with gas. In the event of an evacuation, the last thing you’ll want to do is wait in line at a gas station — that’s why you should fill up before a storm gets close and keep your tank filled throughout hurricane season. Also, if the gas stations in your area become inoperable, filling up in advance will ensure that you still have enough gasoline to get out of town.

Stock your pantry with good-for-you foods. Once a hurricane hits your town, you can expect power outages and limited access to grocery stores — which means you need to prepare a healthy meal plan in advance — one that includes foods with a relatively long shelf life. For protein, stock up on canned tuna, chicken, or salmon, as well as beans and nuts. Keep fruits and vegetables like apples and potatoes on hand; frozen fruits and veggies will keep in the freezer for 24 to 48 hours after power goes out. Stock up on healthy snacks, such as high-fiber, low-sugar cereals, rice cakes, and energy bars (which offer a lot of healthy calories in a small package). Most important: Don’t forget about hydration. The National Hurricane Center recommends storing enough drinking water — one gallon per person per day for three to seven days.

Have a pet plan. Do you know what to do with Fido and Fluffy in the event of a hurricane? The National Hurricane Center suggests keeping a current photograph of your pet on hand and ensuring that your pets have collars with identification (in case you get separated). And don’t forget to consider your furry friends in your evacuation strategy — if you’re planning on staying in a hotel along your evacuation route, locatepet-friendly hotels or pet shelters nearby before you leave.

Keep your documents dry. Important documents — such as birth certificates, insurance information, and social security cards — should be kept in a safe, dry place (even if that means taking them along with you in an evacuation).

Insure yourself. Make an inventory of the contents in your home (consider documenting them in a video diary), in case you need to file an insurance claim after the storm. Be sure to include your most valuable and expensive assets, such as electronics. Also, review your homeowners’ insurance plan. In a press release, Weather Channel’s hurricane expert Dr. Rick Knabb noted that flooding is not covered under most policies.

Create a hurricane supply kit. Stock up on emergency food, water, and equipment, and don’t forget to test everything to make sure it works. According to the National Hurricane Center, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Water (1 gallon per day per person for 3 to 7 days)
  • Food (non-perishable packaged and foods, baby food, utensils, and healthy snack options) — don’t forget the non-electric can opener!
  • Prescription medications
  • A first aid kit
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Battery-powered cell phones
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Clothing and rain gear
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Toiletries
  • Pet food, pet medications, a pet carrier or cage, and a leash
  • Tool set
  • Blankets and pillows
  • Toys, books, and games

During the Hurricane

If you’re in a “watch area” or a “warning area,” stick by your radio or television for official weather bulletins — and leave immediately if officials instruct you to evacuate. If you live in a mobile home, high-rise building, or on the ocean, you should strongly consider leaving — people and property in these areas are most at risk. Be sure to unplug all small appliances like toaster ovens and alarm clocks; you may be directed to turn off utilities and your propane tank as well.

If you choose to stay at home, go to a small interior room — away from windows and doors. During the “eye” of the storm — the period of calm found at the center of the hurricane — remember that the storm is not over. Winds will pick back up as soon as the eye passes.

After the Hurricane

Steer clear of closed roads, bridges, and areas with downed power lines — and don’t reenter an evacuated area until it’s declared safe. When inspecting your home, check your gas, water, and electrical appliances for damage (and be sure to use a flashlight during your inspection — not a candle, which could easily start an accidential debris fire and lead to even more damage). Also, stay away from tap water until you hear from health officials that it’s safe.

This A Guide to Healthy Eating in Extreme Winter Storms

Big winter snowstorms, like nor’easters and blizzards, bring on extreme cold, major snow accumulation, and other immobilizing conditions. Winter storm experts at theNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Red Cross offer advice on how to prepare and stay safe and healthy during blizzards and other winter storms.

In addition to dressing appropriately for the weather, experts recommend stocking up on disaster supplies: flashlights, batteries, candles, waterproof matches, a radio, a first-aid kit, sand or rock salt for icy walkways, a snow shovel, and extra blankets.

However, your most crucial disaster supplies will be your food, water, and any prescription medications you, your family, or your pets need. Even if your home doesn’t suffer any storm damage, you could have trouble getting to the supermarket, pharmacy, or doctor during extreme winter weather conditions.

Healthy Meal Plans in Extreme Winter Snowstorms

A bad snowstorm or blizzard doesn’t have to derail your regular healthy eating regimen. As soon as you hear a winter storm warning, start stocking up on emergency water and healthy, shelf-stable and frozen foods that your family will enjoy. Be sure to pay special attention to the diet-specific needs of family members with health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, celiac disease (gluten sensitivity), or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

It is essential for people with health conditions like these to pay attention to their diets during winter storms. People with diabetes must stay on a regular eating schedule to keep their blood sugar stable, and people with high blood pressure must remember to stick with low- or no-sodium canned goods and packaged foods — not the high-sodium prepared foods that are typically set aside for times when the electricity goes out.

Read the shopping lists and sample menus below to get more ideas about how you and your family can eat healthfully during a winter emergency.

Shopping Lists and Sample Menus by Condition and Special Food Plans

These healthy-eating plans help those with medical conditions, as well as people who choose a vegetarian diet, make it through in good health.

Healthy eaters/high blood pressure/heart disease

Diabetes

Celiac disease (gluten-free)

Pregnancy

Vegetarians and vegans

Healthy-Meals Kit for Blizzards and Winter Snowstorms

Part of your emergency plan to stay nourished and hydrated during severe winter storms should include creating a healthy-meals kit. Joy Bauer, a registered dietitian and nutrition expert for Everyday Health and NBC’s Today show, recommends preparing your healthy-meals kit at the start of winter, in anticipation of blizzards and snowstorms. “Doing it at the beginning of the season is especially important if you don’t regularly keep nonperishable foods on hand year-round,” says Bauer. Choose foods for the kit specific to your health conditions and make sure they remain properly sealed until you’re ready to use them. “At the end of winter, you can add whatever you didn’t use back into your main pantry,” suggests Bauer.

Your kit should contain a supply of shelf-stable foods, frozen essentials, and bottles of water sufficient for several days. “I also recommend keeping a small stash of high-calorie, shelf-stable food in the trunk of your car in case you get stranded in the snow,” says Bauer.

Fill up your blizzard healthy-meals kit with the following:

  • Shelf-stable foods: These include low-sodium canned beans and soups; peanut butter (or other nut or seed butters); pasta sauce; canned light tuna, salmon, and sardines; fat-free evaporated skim milk (in cans); turkey jerky; dried fruits and nuts, trail mix, and nutrition bars; boxed cereal and whole-grain crackers; fruit canned in 100 percent juice; and applesauce cups.
  • Frozen essentials: Stock your freezer with an extra loaf or two of whole-grain bread, some healthy frozen meals, and frozen vegetables and fruits.
  • Emergency water: Amass at least one gallon of water per person (and pet) per day — and keep at least a three-day supply, so your family can stay hydrated. For a family of five, that amounts to 15 to 20 gallons.
  • Tools: Be sure you have a manual can opener, since power outages can prevent you from using an electric one,. Also keep on hand a battery-powered hot pot or, alternatively, a gas camping stove. “Just don’t cook with it inside the house!” warns Bauer, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from improper ventilation. You’ll also need thermoses in which you can store hot soup and tea or coffee; a cooler and ice packs for foods that need to be kept cold; a food thermometer; disposable plates, cups, and utensils; and aluminum foil to cook over a camping stove, grill, or an open fire outdoors.
  • Medication: Set aside a five- to seven-day backup supply of all your family’s prescription medications. Carefully note the expiration dates and replace as necessary. Anyone who is regularly taking medication should continue to follow the prescribed directions.
  • Backup supplies: If you have pets or a baby, maintain a backup supply of pet food and baby food and formula. Choose ready-to-drink formula if possible, so you don’t have to add water — if necessary, use bottled water to prep the formula.
  • Car trunk stash: Keep a small kit of emergency food in the trunk of your car in case you ever get stranded in a blizzard. Fill it with nutrition and granola bars, bottles of water filled halfway (to allow for expansion when freezing), trail mix, turkey jerky, and similar camping foods. Replace the emergency food at the start of every winter.

“If you have power or a heating source, you’ll have far more options,” says Bauer. She recommends preparing healthy comfort food while you’re snowed in — a pot ofturkey-bean chili, lentil stew, minestrone soup, or pasta with sauce and Parmesan cheese. If you end up losing power, you can still prepare cereal, sandwiches, bean salads, and many other healthy meals without a heating source.

Jessica Fishman Levinson, registered dietitian and founder of Nutritioulicious, also suggests that throughout the winter you make a habit of regularly buying vegetables and fruits that don’t need to be refrigerated (for example, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, apples, and oranges). Keeping them on hand will ensure that you have a source of fresh fruit and veggies during winter emergencies.

Here You Go An Expert Resource for the Conscious Consumer

Imagine a marketplace where retailers and manufacturers are compelled to make only safe,environmentally sustainable products from ethically sourced raw materials, produced by a fairly treated workforce. For Dara O’Rourke, it’s not an abstract idea; it’s his vision for the future. As associate professor of environmental and labor policy at the University of California at Berkeley, O’Rourke is a co-founder of GoodGuide.com, an online consumer resource that uses scientific calculations to create sophisticated ratings and assign “health” scores to thousands of products and companies.

Sound complicated? It’s actually quite the opposite. It’s O’Rourke’s way of giving consumers the information they need to understand the personal and social health costs that may go in to producing that household cleaner they’re using, the baby’s diaper, the jeans they’re wearing — the list includes more than 115,000 products so far.

“The idea for GoodGuide came about while I was putting sunscreen on my then 3-year-old daughter’s face. I started wondering about the ingredients in her sunscreen, so I went back to campus at UC Berkeley, where I teach, did some research, and found out that the sunscreen contained traces of potentially toxic chemicals. I then researched the rest of my daughter’s stuff and found that her shampoo, her favorite toys, and even her furniture contained ingredients with potential health hazards. This surprised and angered me,” O’Rourke says. “I realized that even though I have a Ph.D., and study products and supply chains full-time, I knew almost nothing about the products I was bringing into my own house. This motivated me to create GoodGuide, to give consumers the information they need to make better decisions about which products best match their health, environmental, and ethical concerns.” O’Rourke shares more of his findings and story here.

My health breakthrough: I grew up never really thinking about health issues. My family was luckily always very healthy and active. I was a swimmer and water polo player growing up and through college. My father is still a masters runner (in his seventies). So I honestly didn’t really think much about health issues until I was in my twenties conducting research in factories in Southeast Asia. While living and working in Southeast Asia, I got sick a number of times from poor water and hygiene. But more importantly, I saw firsthand the incredibly tough health conditions of workers in factories producing shoes, clothes, electronics, even food for the U.S. market. Over a number of years in the mid-’90s, I was able to get inside these factories and conduct research on worker health and safety conditions. This research ultimately led to a report on the working conditions of Nike workers in Vietnam, which ended up as a front page story in The New York Times and helped spur my interest in health conditions around the world.

My health impact overseas and in the classroom: Since the mid-’90s, I have worked in Asia and Latin America on issues related to the health and safety of the workers who make the goods we consume here in the United States. More recently, I have tried to conduct research that connects impacts across global supply chains, from workers to consumers.

In my role as a professor at UC Berkeley, I also teach a large undergraduate course on environmental justice. The course ends up focusing a lot on environmental health issues in the United States, in particular on inequitable distributions of health and environmental outcomes.

My health projection: GoodGuide.com is still in its early days. We see a trajectory — in the not-too-distant future — of fully personalized, fully localized tools that empower consumers to shop their values whenever and wherever they make decisions. I believe in the next two to three years, people will be able to walk into any retailer, or land on any e-commerce site, and get instant advice on the products that best match their own values. We see long-term potential to really cut through marketing and advertising to provide consumers with exactly the information they need to make the best possible decisions.

My favorite healthy habit: Swimming. I try to swim three to four times per week, about 2,000 yards per session. I also love surfing whenever I can (which isn’t that often these days!).

My health heroes: I have a long list of people I think are doing amazing work related to health issues. Take just one example: the obesity epidemic in the U.S. People like Dr. Kelly Brownell, Dr. Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, and many others have been doing amazing work to raise awareness about our food system, agricultural policies, subsidies for certain crops, and food marketing (in particular to children).

I have also been amazed at what I’ve learned from GoodGuide members. These are busy parents working hard to change their lives — to protect their families’ health and safety — and ultimately to try to make a difference in the marketplace.

Seasonal Tips for Clean Your House

Indoor air quality may be invisible, but it still has an impact on your family’s health and your home safety. Levels of many pollutants can be far higher indoors than they are outdoors — and indoor pollutants can seriously affect your health. Major factors impacting indoor air quality and home safety are air circulation and moisture levels.

Ted Schettler, MD, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, says that air filters, which help capture particulate pollution, play a major part in home air quality.

Clean, efficient fans and filters on dehumidifiers, furnaces, refrigerators, and other appliances allow them to function efficiently and can also reduce moisture in the air and minimize particulate pollution in your house.

Similarly, for home safety, it’s important to vacuum or dust smoke and carbon monoxide detectors frequently, as spider webs and dust can limit their effectiveness. While you’re dusting, take a moment to test them and make sure the batteries are still working.

Take these steps throughout the year to improve the air quality inside your home:

  • Be sure air vents between the indoors and the outside aren’t blocked by snow, leaves, dirt, or other debris, depending on the season.
  • Vacuum rear grills on refrigerators and freezers, and empty and clean drip trays to prevent mold growth.
  • Be diligent about fixing any plumbing leaks — even small drips can create favorable conditions for mold growth and affect air quality.
  • Clean clothes dryer exhaust ducts and vents.

What’s in Your Garage?

In general, air circulation inside a home should be encouraged, but air shouldn’tcirculate freely between an attached garage and your family’s living space. Car exhaust and other pollutants found in garages can have a serious, negative effect on the air quality inside your home and on your home safety. Make sure the door between the garage and your home seals completely, and keep weather stripping in good repair.

Tips for Year-Round Home Health

These seasonal tasks can help improve your home’s “health:”

Spring

  • Clean your air conditioner and have it serviced as necessary, at least every two years; clean and replace the filters as necessary.
  • Turn off the gas furnace and fireplace pilot light if applicable.
  • Check your home’s sump pump to ensure it’s functioning properly before the spring thaw.
  • Clean ceiling fans so they don’t spread accumulated dust particles throughout the house.

Summer

  • Inspect and repair vermin screens on chimney flues.
  • Inspect chimney flues and outdoor electrical fixtures for bird nests, which can prevent ventilation of combustible gases, decreasing air quality and posing potential fire hazards. Repeat this task in the fall.
  • Inspect the outside perimeter and trim shrubs and bushes away from the house, foundation, and roof, as growth that’s too close to the house can promote algae and mold.

Fall

  • Clean humidifiers in preparation for seasonal use.
  • Remove screens from windows where they might trap condensation on glass, promoting mold growth.
  • Sweep the chimney to remove creosote buildup and inspect for necessary repairs.
  • Seal any openings on the exterior of the house to prevent rodents and other pests from entering.

Winter

  • Test for carbon monoxide and radon levels.
  • Clean humidifier(s) regularly when in use.
  • Clean air vents on heating systems and space heaters, and be sure to service your furnace/heating system at least every other year.

Following these maintenance tips can help you and your loved ones breathe easy all year long.