When we lived in Southern California, I signed our daughter up for a really sweet little Montessori preschool in the Conejo Valley (this, of course, after researching about 15 different schools and rating them according to cleanliness, safety, teacher/student ratio, types of activities, lunch options, disciplinary guidelines, and appearance - but I digress...). The teacher was loving and engaging, and we especially loved that the children spent as much time outside as possible. Of course, the organizational structure of the Montessori method appealed to me greatly as well.
Imagine my surprise when the list of required parent-supplied items came home, and I was asked to send in...an earthquake kit. Yup. You SoCal readers will not be at all shocked at this request, but I was pretty spooked. Where does one purchase an earthquake kit? What's in it? What happens to it if there actually IS an earthquake?? Buying the thing didn't put any of my fears to rest, and it was such an oddity to this Southern girl that it is one of the few things that I have hung onto well past it's expiration date, just because it's fascinating history to me. Check out the package:
Gosh, I felt so much better about dropping our daughter off every morning. But despite the dire message, it did illustrate a smart commitment on the part of the schools in the area. Earthquakes, of course, are real out there (as are fires and mudslides), and sticking our collective heads in the sand about that reality would not serve a class of 2-year-olds particularly well in a time of disaster. Although not likely, it could happen that my husband or I could be stuck and unable to get to her for a period of time. The children and their teachers should have the means to provide for basic needs in the interim.
September is National Disaster Preparedness Month, and I have been thinking about the earthquake kit as I realize that our family is not especially well-prepared in this area. In Tennessee, we have the ever-present threat of tornadoes. In recent years, flooding has taken a toll, and ice storms are often a fun surprise too. Unfortunately, a recent CNN article notes that 6 out of 10 families in America do not have an emergency plan in place. Our family, at least, has communicated that we should all meet at our mailbox if we get separated, and I have about six gallons of water, flashlights and batteries stored in the laundry room. But that's not nearly enough. If something truly major hit our area, or even if we had a fire or carbon monoxide leak, we would not be adequately prepared. I have wondered since our California days why we don't have "tornado kits" for schoolkids here.
Fortunately, the good folks at FEMA have a great website to help people plan absolutely everything out, and get the kids on board while you do it, too: www.ready.gov. I can't begin to cover all of the information they include (the topics range from hurricanes, to flu pandemics, to terrorist attacks), so I would just strongly urge you to take a few minutes this Labor Day weekend and read through their suggestions and tips. They've thought of everything: basic needs, caring for the elderly, pets, volunteering in your community - you name it. It's actually a little overwhelming, so if nothing else download the "Are You Ready?" checklists for both kids and adults. It's important to talk to kids about this process and have them help with gathering items and planning, and the ready.gov site has some good graphics and games (even app suggestions) to help kids understand the concept of preparedness in a less frightening way.
And speaking of apps, why not download the Weather Alert USA app ($3.99) and/or FEMA app (free) while you're at it? Is it slightly annoying to hear that weather alert signal while you're out shopping or in a meeting? Yes. Is it helpful to know if a tornado is coming and you need to get yourself to that "safe spot"? Absolutely.
We're not heading out of town for the holiday, so tonight at the dinner table I think I'll spring my weekend preparedness plans on my family - I know they'll be so thrilled. But we'll work together to get key items like extra batteries and non-perishable food in a secure location, and maybe I'll even open up that old earthquake kit just for giggles. What plan, if any, does your family have for disaster preparedness? Have you talked with your family about what needs to happen in an emergency? Share with me in the comments.
Picking apples on a fine day...
It's been high time for me to look at some new stuff at the App Store. If you read here regularly you know I'm all for finding technology that makes life smoother, more efficient, and I happen to think...more fun. Here are a few recent finds, completely unrelated to each other, that I think stand out:
Unstuck - http://www.unstuck.com/, free for iPad. Do you ever get "stuck" on a particular problem or issue, personal or professional? Unstuck takes you through a set of questions to pinpoint the characteristics of your "stuck" moment, then makes targeted suggestions about how to trouble-shoot and move through the problem. Kind of like a high-tech Magic 8 Ball with more bells and whistles, it's also a website and free newsletter. I wish I had had a resource like this during my various career changes. I might have had more tools to work through things like... "I have no rising 8th grade tuba players - what will I do?", or "Which daycare? College prep, Montessori, or nice lady who runs it out of her home?" While it's a little bizarre to think that an app can help you solve major life issues, I think it's very effective as a starting point (particularly if you are not ready to share your stuck moment with the outside world). The only downside - at this point the app is only for iPad.
CamCard - https://www.camcard.com/. Works for iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Mac and Windows 8, and syncs across devices. Free and "pro" versions. Every office I go into seems to have an endless dumping ground of business cards tucked into a drawer or shoebox or, often, just piled up on the desk. It's time consuming to get everything typed into your contacts, and pawing through a shoebox is frustrating and inefficient. With CamCard you simply take a picture of any business card with your smart phone. It will automatically scan, crop and straighten the photo, and get the information about 75% of the way into your contacts. I say 75%, because if it's a card with a lot of graphics or unusual fonts it will miss some of the fields, but it's still so much better than trying to enter everything in from scratch. Most of the time I just end up viewing the actual card photo anyway. You can create groups for sets of cards to keep the categories straight, for instance, "Home Improvement", "Networking", or "School." You can call, text or email directly from the app, and even request to connect via LinkedIn. If you find that you're just not using a particular contact it can easily be deleted. So, are some of you out there still clinging to your Rolodexes?
Foresee - http://foreseetheday.com/. iPhone and iPad, $1.99. Billing itself as "Your personal Activity Forecast", Foresee allows you to check out weather conditions for most any activity you'd like to plan. I'm a serious planner, so anything that gives me a leg up on the future is perfect for my world. What's the difference between using this app and just checking the weather? Well, what if you actually love walking in light rain? Or wind? Each activity you choose allows you to create personalized settings for things like the time, temperature, precipitation, humidity, and even UV Index. The activities are pre-set and include everything from skiing and biking, to mowing the lawn and planting flowers. I especially got a kick out of "picking apples" (what is the perfect UV Index for picking apples?). It would be nice to be able to create an activity (attending outdoor concerts or frisbee golf are choices I would appreciate), but perhaps that feature is coming. If you want to get a group of friends to join you in your outdoor endeavors, you can tweet your conditions or post them to Facebook ("Weather at 8am on Friday looks good for Walk the Dog! via @foreseetheday "). All in all, a pretty neat tool.
I'm always looking for new things to try, so if you have a favorite app or tech tool you'd like for me to check out put it in the comments. Here's to all things smooth, efficient, and fun!
Sara Skillen - I'm a Certified Professional Organizer®, coach, wife and mom, and serial list-maker. I'm excited to be in the process of becoming a Certified ADHD Organizer Coach. I love to help people from all walks of life get organized and productive - and I'd love to help you, too:
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