Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Detour the Dumpster—A Better Approach to Overwhelming Clutter

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

By Guest Bloggers Carolyn Quinn and Jaime Angelini

Do you have too much stuff?

Do you have too much stuff?

The people we meet who have “too much stuff” won’t ever be followed by a camera crew that captures shots of perilous, towering stacks of papers, bins or boxes.  There will never be split screen comparisons of their house or apartment before and after workers and family members arrived.

That’s because clean outs are not our approach.

Though clean outs are good for TV ratings and achieving an immediate solution to a problem, it’s not what we do.  Sure, it’s rewarding for viewers to stay tuned and see those transformed tidy, neat living spaces during the final minutes of the show.  And, truth be told, we prefer tidy homes for those living in unsafe situations, but the means we employ to get to that goal do not include a dumpster.

The reason why we don’t endorse clean outs is often highlighted in those shows:  it’s distressing.  People who are strongly emotionally tied to their possessions have big emotional responses.  Sometimes a dumpster-style clean out can be a trigger that leads to a setback of collecting – often ending up worse than the original hoard.  They begin the behavior again; re-accumulating and filling up all that prime, vacant new real estate.

A confession…In the past—in another job many years ago—one of the authors of this blog, has been “guilty” of these clean outs.  While assisting people under the threat of eviction, she cleaned up and cleaned out while working as a residential case manager.  (So, cable TV, we are not picking on you unfairly.  One of us has evolved from that thinking.)

We are better educated and better informed today.  Older and wiser, as they say.  The practices we teach now are rooted in successful programs that were proven to work long-term on changing behaviors for individuals living with hoarding disorder, also sometimes called Finders/Keepers, which is a modern term we prefer to use.

Can you identify your rooms on this chart?

Can you identify your rooms on this chart?

How it started

We originally sought out help for people in Atlantic County, following Hurricane Sandy, when we met and identified storm survivors who couldn’t part with their wet belongings.   We saw firsthand people who did not get rid of their water-logged possessions weeks—even months—after the storm.  They were stuck; and we worried about their health and safety as we observed layers of hazards in their living situation.

Jaime (left) and Carolyn (right) as part of The Atlantic County Hoarding Task Force

There was another glitch, a big one.

In our area no one local was working with people who lived with hoarding disorder.  We called and asked…a lot.  No one.

The results of online searching and researching led us to a successful initiative in Boston (now called the Metro Housing Boston’s Hoarding Training Institute).  Luckily, the forward-thinking, helpful professionals there were willing to teach others, like us.  Fast-forward through conferences, training, long-distance phone calls, more training and meetings.

The Mental Health Association in Atlantic County started its, “Too Much Stuff? Hoarding Tendency Initiative,” based on Boston’s successful model.   We have been working with people referred to us by code enforcement officials, social workers, nurses, pest control and other professionals who have become partners in our effort to connect help to those who need it and accept it.

Individuals who are ready to make a change start out by attending our “Too Much Stuff” support groups, which are bi-weekly meetings.  During a typical meeting, people at various stages in their own pursuits to declutter are working their way through the process togetherTough topics, like how their possessions affect social relationships, are discussed openly and honestly among peers who understand and offer suggestions based on their experience.

We also provide in-home services to those who are ready for one-on-one support from staff.  Each week staff spends about an hour to offer guidance on sorting/discarding, non-acquiring exercises and practicing other skills critical to manage clutter.

Some of those tips for decluttering include:

  • Start with 15 minutes a day. It’s emotionally draining, so the recommendation is to work in small, daily increments to prevent feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.
  • Resist the urge to do more or “get ahead” in a single day. The downside is that you may not return to the task the next day because of exhaustion.
  • Use a timer.
  • Sort in three piles: “Keep,” “Discard,” and “Maybe.” By the end of the session, assign the “maybes” to either “discard” or “keep.”
  • Work in the same room/space. Do not wander from room to room.
  • Maintain the space that is cleared. Mark the cleared space with painter’s tape as a visual cue to prevent the clutter from accumulating again.
  • Use black trash bags to hold items destined for trash or donation.

    Use signs like these for your ‘Keep,’ ‘Maybe,’ and ‘Discard’ piles!

What we know

Many people with “too much stuff” want to change.  They’d like to make healthier lifestyle changes—such as not buying more stuff, not collecting free stuff, or not saving mail and other ways that commonly lead to a house that is cluttered and unsafe.  We also recognize that, if these people could have changed their behaviors on their own, they would.

The reasons behind these behaviors are complex and individualized, and talking about them among peers helps.

We also know that talking about it all—the impact on family and friends, the challenges, and the successes—is an important part of the process.  People feel less alone; they feel understood.  Peer support helps.

Time and time again, we see that working toward the weekly goals is rewarding and worth the effort.  Based on our experience and what’s been reported, this yields positive results and leads to success.

Science and research have come a long way for individuals with too much stuff.  We understand that there is still a way to go to chip away at stigma associated with clutter.  Shame and embarrassment can keep people frozen in place.  We also know that this blog can make a difference to someone who reads it and shares it.

We don’t know all the answers, but we understand more than we did in recent decades.  We keep looking for answers.  And we’re confident that they’re not found in a dumpster.

We have a place for that idea:  the “Discard” pile.

Like what you read here? Need help? Email [email protected] or call 609 916-1330


Carolyn and Jaime are co-developers of  “Too Much Stuff? Hoarding Behaviors Initiative” at the Mental Health Association in Atlantic County.  

Carolyn M. Quinn works at the Mental Health Association in Atlantic County as the ICE Wellness Program Manager, which provides  peer-led support groups and a variety of wellness workshops to adults living with mental illness and co-occurring challenges. She also is a certified instructor for  Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid as well as a certified Advance Level Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Facilitator. 

Jaime Angelini is the Director of Consumer Services at the Mental Health Association in Atlantic County where she provides support, education and advocacy to individuals living with mental illness, substance use disorders, and those experiencing homelessness.  Jaime is a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor, parent educator, Disaster Response Crisis Counselor and a trainer for law enforcement officials who respond to individuals with special needs.

 

 

A New Year, a New Start – Time to Declutter!

Monday, January 7th, 2019

by Mason Crane-Bolton

It’s a new year and that means a new start! After all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season (and the inevitable clutter for so many of us), now is the perfect time to do a bit of “spring” cleaning. We have some excellent tips for a good cleaning and de-cluttering, and some excellent reasons why you should toss out that old box of knick-knacks and pull out your clothes from seasons past!

Pixabay via Pexels.com

Stuff & more stuff! | Photo: Pixabay via Pexels.com

Easy things to get rid of:

Obsolete Technology: If you aren’t using your computer from 1994, you aren’t going to start using it now, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever watch a VHS tape again. Some items may be of interest to specialized collectors or electronics tinkerers, but if you aren’t one (or if you are but still haven’t touched that “project piece”) now if the time to get rid of it. Do your research with each gadget: If you think it might be of value or interest to someone research local groups and stores who might want it; but most obsolete tech is best recycled—look at electronics recycling in your area, which often has special restrictions.

Clothes You Haven’t Worn: Maybe it was a gift. Maybe you got it at a great price. Maybe it was your style a few years ago. For whatever reason, you never wore it and now it’s sitting at the back of your closet, looking a little sad and forlorn. Luckily there are lots of ways to get rid of excess clothing. If you’re looking to make a few dollars, try a yard/garage sale, consignment shop, or flea market. If you’d like to just get the clothing off your hands, try donating to shelters, dropping it off in clothing donation bins, donating to thrift stores or seeing what organizations in your area accept clothing donations.

Clothes That Need to Be Tossed: If you have old clothes/shoes that are too worn to be reused or can’t be (i.e. underwear and broken shoes) look for special drop boxes or organizations that take textiles as well as clothing donations. Planet Aid (recognizable by their bright yellow drop boxes) accepts socks and underwear, shoes and clothing in all conditions as long as it’s dry and clean.

Books: Books are a wonderful thing to have, but too many books can quickly be a heavy burden. Literally. Keep a few favorites you’ll read again and again and donate or sell the rest. Borrow future books from the library.

Old Prescriptions and Medical Devices: If you aren’t using it, you don’t need it. Although it can be hard to give away medical devices we think we might, one day, need, if they’re creating clutter it’s time to get rid of them. Fortunately you can donate your medical devices to someone in need through local and national groups, such as specific Goodwill locations (http://www.goodwill.org/donate-and-shop/donate-stuff/) and other nonprofit organizations. Contact organizations first to make sure they can take your donation if you have any questions.

Prescription medicines should be responsibly disposed at approved locations. Many drug stores now have anonymous prescription disposal boxes as do many police stations. You can go to The American Medicine Chest Challenge website (http://americanmedicinechest.org/) to type in your zip code and find drop off locations in your area.

Food: Go through your pantry and look for expired food items and things you’re unlikely to eat. Throw away the expired food items (this is different than a “best by” date, which indicates staleness) and donate any unwanted (non-expired or non-perishable) items to a local food bank.

 

Harder things to let go:

Knick-knacks: Many of us have lots of sentimental objects we’ve picked up over the years. Some might be very meaningful and important to us, but most are probably something we can do without. Go through your knick-knacks (souvenirs from vacations, past gifts, old décor); keep a few with the most meaning and decide what to do with the rest. Some options for letting go of knick-knacks are to donate the rest to a thrift store or sell at a garage sale or flea market, or to pass it down to a family member—this last option can be a great gift not only of an object, but of the memories and stories you have to go with it.

Old Cards and Photos: A lifetime of greeting cards and photographs can really add up when it comes to clutter. Just like with knick-knacks, sort through your greeting cards and choose the ones that mean most to you and recycle the rest—letting go of the cards doesn’t mean you’re letting go of the person who wrote them.

Photographs are often the trickiest and hardest thing to get rid of. Instead of trying to sort through which ones mean most to you, first go through your physical photos and get rid of the bad ones—blurry ones, ones with flash spots, over-exposed, ones you can’t remember why you took it etc. Display your favorites, the ones that give you joy. Depending on how many photos you have, store the rest or ask a friend or family member for help sorting through the rest and deciding which ones, if any, to let go. Consider digitizing your physical photos and keeping them on flash drives, rewritable CDs/DVDs, or an external hard drive. Several companies offer this service for a fee, but you can also do this at home if you or a friend have the right equipment. Then you can decide whether to discard your physical photos or keep your digital ones as a backup. You can even use a digital photo frame, which can rotate through several images so you can display more of your favorite moments.

Important Papers: This one is time consuming, but straight forward. Sort through your important papers and determine which ones you need to keep. Keep essential documents (current insurance policies, deeds, warranties, birth/marriage/death certificates, etc.) in a safe place and consider scanning a copy for backup—don’t keep this copy your computer but rather on a flash or external hard drive. Shred documents you no longer need (old bank statements and bills, expired insurance policies or copies with old information, etc.). Sign up for electronic mailings where possible to avoid future clutter—as an added bonus, some companies offer small discounts for choosing e-mail notifications over paper, plus you’ll be helping the planet.

 

There are lots of other things you may need to sort through depending on your individual situation. It may be things long acquired over the years, or things that have come into your life more recently. Whatever the reason, getting excess clutter out of your home is not only healthy, but necessary.

Getting rid of clutter:

  • Removes trip hazards and decreases your risk of falling in your home
  • Keeps your home cleaner and reduces the amount of health-hazardous dust
  • Makes organization of important information better and makes it easier to find favorite treasures
  • Creates a brighter, more attractive living space, which will uplift your mood
  • Helps pave the way for accumulating less clutter in the future
  • Improves stress, motivation, and happiness—decluttering can be extremely therapeutic

 

We hope you have a Happy New Year and reap all the benefits of a good, long decluttering season!

 

Skitterphoto via Pexels.com

Photo: Skitterphoto via Pexels.com

Home for the Holidays

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

Mason Crane-Bolton

Winter can be a difficult time for many…|Photo by Peter Fazekas via Pexels.com

The Loneliness Issue

Loneliness is not a new problem, but rather a changing one. Like all social issues, loneliness is a problem bound to be affected by the other changes in our environment. Historically, loneliness and social isolation have been a great concern in the older adult population due to several factors: friends may have passed away, our health may deteriorate and make socializing extremely difficult, adult children or older parents may have moved away from one another, and long-distance communication has been more difficult to maintain. But there are changes on the horizon.

Several changes that have already come and will keep coming over the next several decades are such to impact the problem of loneliness among older adults. Some changes will be positive while others may have a negative or mixed impact. A quick list of just some potential changes include:

  1. The Digital Age will decrease social isolation—beyond email and chats, we’ve already seen the positive impact of services like Skype, which allows users to freely video chat with friends and family across the globe. The prevalence of cell phone technology means more people will be reachable and able to reach loved ones.
  2. The “graying of America” means we’ll have a much larger older adult population—this could have a mixed impact. The shifting demographics could mean our population of older adults will be harder to ignore and there could be greater calls (both intentionally and unintentionally) for an older adult focused society. However, a disproportionate number of older to younger adults could mean more older adults who become homebound and require care (physically as well as socially) with fewer able persons to assist—this could result in increased isolation and loneliness for many.
  3. Continuing advances in medicine may not only increase our life span, but also our quality of life. We may find ourselves perfectly healthy and mobile well into older adulthood and more able to socialize with family and friends old and new.
  4. Heightened desire and calls for the ability to age in place may add challenges to the natural socialization found in more communal living arrangements and may require extra attention be placed on socialization of older adults.

Bringing the Community Together

Community is at the heart of solving 
loneliness | Photo via Pexels.com

Loneliness is ultimately a community health concern in every sense of its meaning. It is a health problem not only affecting individuals of the community but affecting the community at large. It is, however, also a public health problem with solutions in communities around the state.  Community programs with a focus on alleviating loneliness can and should exist throughout our great state.

Many churches and local organizations do have community wellness outreach programs with at least part of the service focus being on wellness visits. These wellness visits usually focus on individuals who have a hard time leaving their home either for an extended period of time or permanently and provide social contact and possibly delivering food or other necessities.

Solutions for Loneliness

Even though not all solutions may be available for all people, there are different solutions and fixes for people struggling with loneliness.

  1. Getting involved in new activities is a great loneliness solution at any age or stage in life. Consider joining groups that interest you—whether it’s a hobby, an issue you care about, or a group with a similar ideology, being involved with a group will give you social connections now and for later.
  2. For those looking at assisted living or older adult communities, the close proximity to your neighbors can be a huge social boon. While the result can vary greatly between communities, living in a close, communal environment significantly increases a person’s chances of social contacts and new friendships (as opposed to living in a single-family home). Living in a close-knit older adult oriented community can also increase the likelihood that your peers will notice and reach out if someone in the community stops socializing.
  3. Although socializing on the internet can be risky, it can also be a great place to stay in touch with friends and family who are far away or rekindling old connections. If you use social media to reconnect with people or to make new connections, be sure you’re as safe as possible. Never give out any banking or personal information to a social connection. If you choose to meet in person use an abundance of caution and meet in a public place, preferably with an additional friend.
  4. Get out and take a stroll through the neighborhood, if able. You can see old neighbors and meet new ones and, as an additional benefit, outdoor activity and sunshine have been proven to boost mood.

Finally, as we get into the heart of winter and the coming cold, gray days, know you’re not alone! Loneliness and isolation is a problem faced by millions of Americans and many New Jerseyans. No matter your stage in life there are lots of ways to meet new friends and reconnect with old ones. Being aware of your loneliness is the first step—the second step is to reach out for help. Tap into your community if you’re lonely and see what resources are available to you. And if you’re an ally, get involved and reach out to others who may be isolated. Loneliness is a problem that can affect us all, but we can all fight it together.

No matter how lonely you feel, you’re not alone. |
 Photo by Matthias Zomer via Pexels.com 

Who is a Caregiver?

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

As we welcome November we also welcome National Caregivers Month. But, while it can be easy to recognize the month, it’s not always easy to recognize a caregiver. Caregivers range from the professional and paid to full-time non-professional caregivers to informal caregiving on a part-time basis. According to the Mayo Clinic, “About 1 in 3 adults in the United States provides care to other adults as informal caregivers.” Given the numbers, it’s almost certain you personally know someone who is a caregiver.

Provided by rawpixel.com via pexels.comBut who is a caregiver? A caregiver is anyone who provides help to someone in need. Anyone can be a caregiver, and caregiving is widely prevalent. Caregivers are diverse and consist of a wide range of ages, socio-economic backgrounds, genders, ethnic identities, locations, and caregiving arrangements. Despite how many people are caregiving, many don’t identify as “caregivers” because of their idea of what a caregiver is or isn’t. As a result, it’s important for us to recognize that not all caregiving looks the same. For instance, one caregiver might provide near-24 hour care, but another caregiver might drop off groceries once a week or organize medication; one caregiver might need to live with the person who needs help, but another caregiver might be providing help remotely from across the state or across the country.

As we continue to experience the “graying of America,” and our life expectancy rises, it’s likely many of us will become caregivers at one point or another. Being a caregiver is no easy task. While incredibly rewarding, caregiving is also often emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially taxing. Caregivers have been shown to be significantly more at risk for illness, depression, and other health conditions associated with prolonged exposure to stress. If you’re a caregiver it’s vital to take time to care for yourself.

Provided by rawpixel.com via pexels.com

We want to celebrate caregivers and all they do. Caregivers are often the frontline advocate for their loved ones, working tirelessly to make sure the person(s) in their care is receiving all they need despite the impact on their own lives. We also want to remind caregivers to take care of themselves (see our “5 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers,” below). Being a caregiver can be one of the most rewarding experiences, but also one of the most exhausting times in a person’s life. Thank you to all of our caregivers, it’s your efforts that change the lives of so many and help so many live longer, richer lives in their community.

 

5 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

Here are 5 vital ways for caregivers to practice self-care to rest, recharge, and revitalize!

  1. Take breaks every day—try a 5-minute meditation or any other practice that helps you de-stress
  2. Join a support group—in person or online.
  3. Do some self-massage to relieve accumulated tension
  4. Get enough: Water, Nutrition, Exercise, and Rest (caregivers often report a poorer diet and lack of adequate exercise and sleep)
  5. Know when to ask for help—watch out for signs of burnout and escalating health concerns; know when you need to ask for additional help from family or friends, or when outside agencies need to step in

Do you have a story about your caregiving experience you’d like to share? NJFA will be sharing stories in caregiving later this month for our 2nd blog on National Caregivers Month. To share your story, simply leave a comment on this blog or any of our social media pages, or email Communications Manager Mason Crane-Bolton at [email protected]

Provided by Pixaby via pexels.com

National Preparedness Month: Planning Ahead for Disaster…And Staying Safe Because of It!

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

As the last days of a warm and sticky New Jersey summer fade into a cooler fall, we are reminded of all the lovely seasonal changes—the bright green leaves turn to flame-like colors before browning and falling, the lighter summer clothes are changed out for warmer seasonal wear (aka “sweater weather”) and we finally turn off our air-conditioners and hope for a few weeks of respite before we turn on our heaters. We also, however, remember the less happily anticipated changes—the leaves to rake and the gutters to clean, the coming chillier months, and, of course, hurricane season followed by blizzards, ice, and sub-freezing temperatures.

While New Jerseyans across the state deal with rain and flooding from tropical storm Gordon and wait to see what Hurricane Florence will bring, now is the perfect time to think about our disaster preparedness. All too often we put off thinking about disaster preparedness until the danger is at our doorstep in the form of a storm, fire or flood. But don’t wait until the next hurricane warning to be prepared! September is National Preparedness Month and it’s the perfect time to make sure you’re ready for disasters big and small that can happen now or any time of year.

 

Displacement

Do you know where you’ll go? During a disaster you may have to leave your home and find temporary shelter. Whether there’s a mandatory evacuation or you’ve just lost power or heat, you may be temporarily forced out of your home. Regardless of why, there will inevitably be lots of stress and chaos going on surrounding a forced relocation even if temporary, so it’s best to have a few planned locations in place.

Do you have local family or friends you could stay with for a short time? For some people this may be an easy solution for some emergencies (e.g., losing heating or power in your home), but may not be suitable for wide-ranging disasters like hurricanes and intense blizzards. If you do elect to stay with family or friends come up with a plan together to ensure you’re all ready for what your disaster preparedness plan looks like, including how you will get to your temporary lodgings, where you will sleep, and whether there are any accommodations that need to be made for you (e.g., keeping animals away or giving yours a place to stay, clearing enough space for you to easily move about the space, and access to bathrooms for people with mobility issues).

If staying with family or friends is not an option, does your community have shelter for emergency situations? Although this may not be available for an emergency such as a house flood, learn about your community’s emergency shelter plan for natural disasters and follow the directions given to you by emergency and rescue personnel. If you don’t know your local shelter or evacuation shelter during an emergency call 2-1-1 or visit www.nj211.org or www.211.org. While local services may be down or you may not know the phone number for local emergency services, you can always call 2-1-1, free of charge, to connect to a person who will help you find help or shelter in an emergency or disaster.

 

Evacuation

What will be your evacuation plan in case of a disaster? Learn your area’s evacuation route and plan with family and friends how you will evacuate if you need to. Coordinate and plan to carpool if possible. If you or someone you know has mobility issues plan with this in mind. Anyone who has or cares for someone with a disability or mobility issue should register at the “Register Ready – New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters” here at NJ Register Ready. Registering will help alert residents or caregivers when an evacuation has been ordered and will inform emergency personnel of your needs so they can better serve you during a disaster or other emergency. Please note the website and state still urge citizens to make their own plans for emergencies and disasters and to rely on those plans first and foremost.

In case of a natural disaster prediction like a hurricane or blizzard, don’t wait until the last minute to leave the evacuation area. The longer your wait the more difficult it may be to leave the area as more people evacuate and transportation services and public transit shut down. If you have a car you should plan to have at least three-quarters of a tank of gas in your vehicle before a storm—don’t wait until the lines are long and gas is scarce to fill up your car.

If you have pets make sure to take them with you when you evacuate. If possible, plan in advance where your pets will go if you need to leave your home suddenly. Also, practice evacuating your animals so you’ll be able to move them more easily in a true emergency. Evacuate your pet with leashes/harnesses and/or carriers. Do not bring your pets unleashed and/or uncontained, even if they aren’t at home. And again, always listen to emergency and rescue personnel and follow their directions—in an emergency, following directions helps keep you and emergency personnel safe.

 

Food

During a disaster stores may be closed and you should plan accordingly. The minimum recommended emergency food supplies by FEMA is 3 days worth of food per person. If you can, however, it may be better to keep roughly a week’s worth of food in your home in the event of a major storm or disaster.

Canned and jarred non-perishable goods are particularly good for emergencies. In general, canned foods and many jarred foods take several years (or longer) to be considered inedible and don’t require electricity to stay good, unlike refrigerated or frozen items. Foods to consider might be canned beans, vegetables, fruits, and meats, peanut and other nut butters, nuts, and dried fruit. Don’t stock foods that require cooking as part of your emergency food, because you may be unable to cook during an emergency. Also keep a non-electric can opener handy so you’ll be able to open cans during a power outage.

For those who may find it difficult to purchase a larger quantity of emergency food all at once, start early and build slowly. Add one or two cans of emergency food at a time—this will add cents onto each grocery bill rather than a larger amount of money all at once.

If you’ll be bringing pets with you during an evacuation, make sure to bring your pet’s food with you (as many days’ worth of food as you’ll need for yourself) as well as any leashes/harnesses, medications, carriers, and maybe a toy or two for comfort.

 

Gathering Your Essentials

In the event of an approaching natural disaster things will be chaotic and it will be easy to get lost in the preparations of trying to have everything done. Before a storm hits and things gets too chaotic, make sure you have a suitcase or backpack ready in one location in case of evacuation, filled with everything you’ll need for at least a few days. Put a luggage tag with your name and phone number on everything you take with you.

Keep any medications or other daily needs (glasses, mobility assistance aids, shoes, etc.) in the same area of your house, preferably by your packed luggage. Make sure the clothes you pack are comfortable and weather appropriate. Keep your medications filled and check with your pharmacist if you’re eligible for an emergency refill before a major storm.

Keep at least 2 flashlights in easily accessible areas (not down in the basement or hidden at the back of a dark closet). Regularly check that each flashlight is working and has fresh or working batteries with backup batteries available. In addition to a flashlight, consider keeping a battery or crank-powered radio on hand. Having a portable radio that doesn’t require an external electrical source is extremely useful to listen to important weather bulletins and updates when you don’t have power (a list of frequencies for NJ can be found at www.nws.noaa.gov).

 

 

Home Safety

Being prepared and ready for disaster isn’t just about natural disasters occurring outside the home. It’s equally important to be prepared for disasters that may occur in the home, such as fire, gas leaks, and flooding.

To help prevent fire, make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarms for each floor of your home. Test each alarm once a month to make sure the batteries and alarms are both working. Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and learn how to use it. Also make sure your fire extinguisher is charged and up-to-date. Be sure to have it recharged after each use or by the date on the extinguisher—check your fire extinguisher’s gauge (located at the top by the trigger) at least once a month to see if your extinguisher is optimally charged. If your home uses gas for heat or cooking, learn how to turn off your gas in an emergency. If you suspect a gas leak in your home, exit immediately and call the proper services.

To alarm you in case of flooding, consider purchasing a flood detector that will emit a loud beeping noise when it comes into contact with moisture. Remember, flooding and water damage can occur in any home from a burst pipe, leaky roof or just oversaturated ground after a storm, not just those near water!

Power outages and downed electrical lines are another concern and are common after big storms and natural disasters. For many of us this is an inconvenience, but for others who use electrical medical equipment this can be dangerous or even deadly. If you or someone in your home uses electrical medical equipment, contact your power supple company. You may be eligible for priority reconnection in the event of a power outage. In addition, remember to be careful of reduced visibility both outside and in the home during a power outage, and use flashlights instead of candles to minimize risk of fire. Remember to never walk or drive over downed electrical lines and to be careful not to walk or drive through any puddles where an electrical line has fallen.

 

Important Documents

If possible, take any important documents that could be destroyed in a disaster, such as your driver’s license or other photo identification, passport, Social Security card(s), birth and/or marriage certificate(s), insurance, important photographs (both personal and those for insurance purposes), and any other important papers.

In addition to physical copies, take photos or scan your documents and save them to a flash drive or portable hard drive. It’s also a good idea to make a copy and give it to your partner or a trusted family member or friend. Remember to treat your electronic copies just as securely as you would your original documents. Keep your flash drive in an easy-to-find location so you can quickly get it in the event of an emergency.

 

Financial

A disaster can mean a financial hit. Beyond the risk of damaged or lost property, there’s also the risk of interrupted income through disruptions in mail service. But there are ways to prevent financial straits through either damage or an interruption in funds.

To prevent financial repercussions from property damage make sure you know your insurance policies. Check your insurance policies to be familiar with what your policy may or may not cover. This may be insurance for your home, car, or items. Even if you rent and don’t have a car, purchasing insurance for your personal property through renter’s insurance may protect you in the event of a disaster. Know your insurance companies, their phone numbers and your policy numbers.

In the event of a natural disaster mail service may be delayed or interrupted. Even in the event of a personal disaster, such as a house flood or fire, you may have difficulty receiving your mail if you need to temporarily relocate. For those relying on mailed income, such as a pay check or Social Security check, this can cause difficulty in affording immediate daily necessities, with potentially disastrous consequences. Instead of relying on paper checks, consider switching to direct deposit to avoid the risk of being temporarily without funds. Direct deposit is much less likely to be affected by a natural disaster than mail service.

If you have any additional income at the end of the month make sure to put some into an “emergency fund.”  Plan to have some cash or coins ready in the event of a natural disaster, when ATMs and credit card machines may be down. If a disaster occurs you’ll be more secure and less anxious with some emergency funds readily accessible for the immediate and longer term future.

 

Create a Plan & Communicate

You know where you’ll go and what you’ll do. You’ve stocked your pantry with emergency food supplies, your medications and documents are in a safe and accessible place, your detectors are working and your flashlights are hanging in an easy-to-find location. What’s next? Letting everyone else know your plan!

Talk with the members of your household, or family and friends, about what you’ll need to do and what you’ll need help with during a disaster. Remember—if you don’t communicate the plan, no one knows the plan!

Coordinate your plan with the rest of your household, family, or friends. Make sure everyone has a written copy of the plan and knows where it is. Know who will be involved, where you’ll go ifyou need to evacuate and who’s responsible for what. Make sure your plan has basic information for every person, such as full name, phone number, address, and any medical conditions you may need to be aware of. Also keep the phone numbers for emergency services in your plan and the number of someone outside the disaster area you can keep up-to-date with your location and any problems you may have. Make sure your plan has a protocol you can follow in a disaster and alternative options in case something goes wrong. Revisit your disaster plan every 6 months to keep it up-to-date.

 

Now you’re ready to go!

We all hope to never need our emergency plan, but don’t wait until you need a plan to make one! Remember, the key to staying safe is being prepared and the key to being prepared is creating a plan and sharing that plan with others. Now go share your plan with your friends and ask them to create their own! By asking others to be prepared we help our friends and our communities in times of disaster.

To learn more about National Preparedness Month, look at Ready.gov’s website at www.ready.gov/september  (available in 13 languages).

 

Important Websites and Phone Numbers

“Register Ready – New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters” homepage and registry link: NJ Register Ready

National Preparedness Month homepage: www.ready.gov/september

NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, NJ frequencies: www.nws.noaa.gov

New Jersey’s 2-1-1 website: www.nj211.org

National 2-1-1 website: www.211.org

Free and confidential 2-1-1 phoneline, accessible 24/7, 365 days: 2-1-1 (phone number)