Ready for Erika?

With Tropical Storm Erika in the news, it seems appropriate to repost this hurricane preparation reminder. Modified from June 2, 2014.

I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s time to prepare for hurricane season. It’s been eleven years since we’ve felt the impact of a hurricane, and ten years since we’ve HAD to prepare, however, that doesn’t mean preparation isn’t a good idea.

Image from NOAA; Friday, 8/28, 8:00AM

Last year at this time, I encouraged you to prepare for hurricane season, but it’s time for a repeat:

Get cash.
Fill your car with gas.
Buy water.
Prepare a first-aid kit.
Get a phone charger for your car.
Prepare for darkness.
Check out your battery operated radio.
Stock up on paper products, cleaning products, and personal care products.
Organize important papers, some clothing, and other items in case you need to leave.
Plan for pets.
Waiting until the last minute to prepare for a storm is stressful and expensive. That’s why I recommend you start preparing early. This is the time to check and replace your flashlights and batteries, but you may also want to buy gas cans, lanterns, or ice chests if yours need to be replaced.

It’s also a good idea to start putting away cash in case a hurricane comes your way. Without electricity you won’t be able to use the ATM so cash is essential. By setting aside $50 in cash every time you get paid, you should have a good start on collecting cash needed, and if there’s no storm this year, you can use this money for Christmas shopping or a weekend getaway.

Check out my memo from last year, It’s Hurricane Season or the American Red Cross Hurricane Preparation for more tips.

I’m hoping Erika turns out to be a dud and for a quiet hurricane season, but as my mom always says, “it’s better to be safe than sorry”!

I Wanted to Get to Omaha in the Worst Way

As I boarded the plane to Omaha last week, I was reminded of former Utah Senator, Mo Udall’s opening line of a speech given at Western Carolina University in 1977. He started by saying that he wanted to come to Cullowhee in the worst way…so he flew Piedmont.  Piedmont was a regional airline serving Western North Carolina and the butt of many jokes.

However, after flying Allegiant Airlines, I think Mo would have considered Piedmont a luxury airline.

We flew Allegiant because the flight was half the price of one of the major airlines. It was a good way to make a quick trip for a relatively low price. However, upon reserving our tickets, I found Allegiant charges for EVERYTHING.

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Paying for checked luggage was no surprise, but there is also an $18 fee for carry on bags (that’s $18 each way).
There’s a charge for priority boarding and another for selecting a seat on the plane, and not just a seat with perks like extra leg room but any seat…with the warning that seats will be assigned without regard to those traveling together. (I decided to take my chance on this one.)
Failure to check in prior to arrival at the airport would result in another $5 fee if a boarding pass needed to be printed at the airport kiosk.
All food and beverages incur charges, including water.

It even cost extra to pay for the tickets using a credit card. Another excuse for a $10 fee.

Upon boarding I wondered if we were required to pay for air conditioning since the plane was extremely warm and stuffy.

Of course, the lack of leg room was expected. After all, we were on a plane, but the noise not only surprised me, but frightened me. I can only compare the sound in the plane to that of the roar heard inside the cockpit of bombers seen in movies. You know, the ones where the crew is forced to shout at one another to be heard. I’ve never noticed hearing the sound of engines accelerating and decelerating will in flight and the noises heard when preparing to land was quite unexpected. I wondered if the low fares were really worth it.

I can honestly say that the pilot and crew were wonderful on the way to Omaha. They helped inspire confidence in a plane that left a lot to be desired. I even thought I could look for future Allegiant deals.

IMG_9370However, the return trip made me rethink that decision. Starting with an early morning wake up call about a delayed flight, an apology about the delay that involved a story about the need to replace the crew due to FAA required rest times, and then interacting with a surly flight attendant whose response to questions always involved the words, you can pay for that and do you want to see the company policy?

When asked if we could move across the aisle to the emergency exit row, the flight attendant said, "That'll be $30 each!"  Hope we don't experience a problem in which she needs our help opening the door, because there will be a charge for that!
When asked if we could move across the aisle to the emergency exit row, the flight attendant said, “That’ll be $30 each!”
Hope we don’t experience a problem in which she needs our help opening the door, because there will be a charge for that!

Finally when I returned home, I received a message from Emily letting me know she was so glad we were still alive and included this news report:

I’ll think long and hard about another Allegiant flight, but at least I know what to do if I want to get somewhere in the worst way!

 

Slow Down and Move Over

I’m sure you’ve heard of Florida’s Move Over law that requires drivers to vacate the lane closest to an emergency vehicle, law enforcement vehicle, or tow truck when driving on the Interstate. And I’m confident that you know you are to slow down when approaching construction zones on our highways. But did you know that the Move Over law applies to sanitation and utility vehicles as well?

I didn’t until a friend told me she’d been pulled over for passing a garbage truck on Ft. King Street. She approached the truck decided she could safely pass since there was a lane available to the left of the truck in which she could drive. You can imagine her surprise when blue lights started flashing behind.

Truly confused, she asked what she’d done, to which the officer told her she’d violated the Move Over law. He went on to explain that drivers are required to reduce their speed by 20mph when passing a sanitation truck performing sanitation tasks. He then challenged her to think about how scary it would be to have traffic blow past while working on the side of the road.

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After admitting that she was unaware of the law, she explained her thought process as she passed the garbage truck, hoping to convince the officer she did carefully assess the situation prior to passing.

Fortunately, the officer used the opportunity to educate instead of writing a ticket and my friend’s spreading the word so others know of the requirements of the Move Over legislation. So, in addition to moving over on the Interstate, slow down when passing vehicles on city and neighborhood streets as well.

From Florida Statute 316.126Operation of vehicles and actions of pedestrians on approach of an authorized emergency, sanitation, or utility service vehicle.

If an authorized emergency vehicle displaying any visual signals is parked on the roadside, a sanitation vehicle is performing a task related to the provision of sanitation services on the roadside, a utility service vehicle is performing a task related to the provision of utility services on the roadside, or a wrecker displaying amber rotating or flashing lights is performing a recovery or loading on the roadside, the driver of every other vehicle, as soon as it is safe:

1. Shall vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle, sanitation vehicle, utility service vehicle, or wrecker when driving on an interstate highway or other highway with two or more lanes traveling in the direction of the emergency vehicle, sanitation vehicle, utility service vehicle, or wrecker, except when otherwise directed by a law enforcement officer. If such movement cannot be safely accomplished, the driver shall reduce speed as provided in subparagraph 2.
2. Shall slow to a speed that is 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit when the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour or greater; or travel at 5 miles per hour when the posted speed limit is 20 miles per hour or less, when driving on a two-lane road, except when otherwise directed by a law enforcement officer.
Please, slow down and move over…not only to avoid a ticket, but for the safety of others.

 

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

You have to love technology.  It makes it possible to multi-task by working, searching the internet, sending emails, texting, talking on the phone, reading books, watching videos, or listening to music while doing other things. But while technology makes it possible to pack a lot into your hectic day, it can also cause you to be distracted.

Even before all of these distractions, John frequently admonished me for not paying attention to my surroundings. I remember one time in particular when he yelled to me from the car as I walked through a parking lot because someone was following me, and he felt I was unaware of a potential problem.

awareWith the news this past week of three attacks on the University of Florida campus, it seems like a good time to remind you of the importance of taking some simple precautions for your personal safety.

The Electronic Security Association provides good tips concerning personal safety that we should all think about so we’re in control of our environment. Check them out:

Walking/Running Precautions:

  • Take a friend (even a furry one). Walking a dog, especially one inclined to bark at strangers, is better than venturing out alone.
  • Take your cell phone with you so you can call 911 if you see something suspicious.
  • Let a friend or family member know where you’re going and when you plan to return.
  • Avoid walking too closely to bushes or areas with any kind of tall overgrowth.
  • Stay attentive to your surroundings and if listening to music, keep the volume at a low level so you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • Only run or walk in familiar areas.
  • Use caution when out at night. If you are out after dark, always carry a flashlight with fresh batteries.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk facing traffic. Facing traffic makes it more difficult for someone to drive up behind you without being noticed. 

Driving and Parked Car Precautions:

  • Before heading to your destination, make sure you have enough gas to get you there and back. You don’t want to be stranded alone.
  • If you feel like you are being followed, drive to the nearest gas station or open business. Do not drive home until you are completely sure you are alone.
  • Roll up the windows and lock all car doors every time you leave your car.
  • When you approach your car, have the key ready.
  • Avoid parking in isolated areas especially at night. If possible, park your car under a lamppost.

If You Are Attacked:

  • Noise is your most immediate defense. Not only will sound attract attention to you and make your location known but it may also cause the would-be attacker to flee.
  • If possible, run in the direction of help. An assailant usually will not engage in a pursuit because it could increase the possibility of detection or apprehension.
  • If the assailant demands your purse, keys or money, give it to him or her. Don’t risk your life.
  • Never leave the site of the attack when prompted by an attacker. Don’t believe an assailant that says he or she won’t hurt you if you leave with him or her. Stay where you are, fight and scream.

Since you can only be in control of what you are aware, please be aware of your surroundings!

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Mom

 

 

 

 

It’s Time to Prepare for Hurricane Season!

I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s time to prepare for hurricane season. It’s been ten years since we’ve felt the impact of a hurricane, and nine years since we’ve HAD to prepare, however, that doesn’t mean preparation isn’t a good idea.

Last year at this time, I encouraged you to prepare for hurricane season, but it’s time for a repeat:

  • Get cash.
  • Fill your car with gas.
  • Buy water.
  • Prepare a first-aid kit.
  • Get a phone charger for your car.
  • Prepare for darkness.
  • Check out your battery operated radio.
  • Stock up on paper products, cleaning products, and personal care products.
  • Organize important papers, some clothing, and other items in case you need to leave.
  • Plan for pets.

Waiting until the last minute to prepare for a storm is stressful and expensive. That’s why I recommend you start preparing this week, and since the state’s Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday is in effect until Sunday, June 8th, you may as well take advantage of the lower prices on a few of the items you’ll need. This is the time to check and replace your flashlights and batteries, a good first step. But you may also want to buy gas cans, lanterns, or ice chests if yours need to be replaced. Many of these products are on sale this week so in addition to paying no tax, you should be able to take advantage of discounted prices.

It’s also a good idea to start putting away cash in case a hurricane comes your way. Without electricity you won’t be able to use the ATM so cash is essential. By setting aside $50 in cash every time you get paid, you should have a good start on collecting cash needed, and if there’s no storm this year, you can use this money for Christmas shopping or a weekend getaway.

Check out my memo from last year, It’s Hurricane Season or the American Red Cross Hurricane Preparation for more tips.

I’m hoping for another quiet hurricane season, but as my mom always says, “it’s better to be safe than sorry”!

 

 

Don’t Text and Drive – It’s the Law

no-texting-while-drivingI know you know the dangers of drinking and driving. This has been drilled in your head from the day you got your learner’s permit. In fact, even before you got your permit you took a drug and alcohol course. Then there was plenty of information in Driver’s  Ed regarding the dangers of drinking and driving.

Of course, each year there were dramatic displays of wrecked vehicles the week before homecoming or prom to serve as a visual reminder. Some years assemblies were held with speakers  who would share gut wrenching stories about accidents they had caused when driving under the influence or injuries they suffered at the hands of an impaired driver. These messages continued in college, but I know you’ve also seen many stories on television that have reinforced this message.

Unfortunately, you probably also know people who have not heeded these warnings and have been in accidents or had their license suspended due to poor choices regarding getting behind the wheel after drinking.

While I hope these messages have been imprinted in your brain so that drinking and driving is never a consideration for you, this is not the only dangerous activity to avoid while driving. More and more research has been done regarding other issues that impair a driver’s abilities behind the wheel and tired drivers and distracted drivers have been found to create dangers just as serious as those impaired by alcohol.

I know I find the phone a much more difficult problem. I can talk and drive! I’ve always talked to passengers and driven so what’s the difference? But apparently there are differences. So while I know we all talk to one another frequently while driving, please use extra caution. The more important task is driving – not talking on the phone. Don’t hesitate to ignore a call or hang up so you can to concentrate on the road. Please don’t talk on the phone if it’s raining, you’re  in a construction zone, the traffic is heavy, or you’re lost. Don’t talk on the phone if you’re upset or angry.

But most of all when it comes to your phone, don’t text while driving. I know how hard this is. I’m in the car and hear that “ding ding” indicating that I have a message. I want to grab the phone and read it immediately – I’m trained to respond when I hear that signal. That is a change that I need to make, we all need to make. Do not read the message and definitely do not text back!

If someone is in the car with you, let them read and respond to the texts. If you’re alone, let it wait. I know it seems like you can quickly check the message. I know I’ve done it. But it’s crazy. It’s stupid. It’s foolish. It’s dangerous.

Should you take the risk? What if you cause an accident? What if you get hurt? What if you hurt someone else? What if someone’s killed? What if you just wreck your car? Can you really afford a new car or the increase in your insurance?

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This is a commitment I plan to make and keep. No more picking up the phone to check that text – not even at the stop light! So if you send me a text, and I don’t answer and you really need an answer – call. I might be driving and unable to respond.

I hope you’ll join me and make a commitment to end texting while driving. And as an extra incentive, Florida’s legislature finally enacted legislation that will go in effect later this summer making the practice illegal. Maybe that’s what we all need to eliminate this bad habit.

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Mom

I also must send this quick note. I know I recently wrote about getting dressed when you get up in the morning. You may or may not have decided to take that advice, but PLEASE…if you are staying in a hotel and are going to the lobby for breakfast….get dressed! I’ve seen far too many pajama clad people while on vacation.

Thanks, John! Writer’s Block Solved!

As I sat on the porch trying to write something to post today, John came to my rescue. After only about 30 minutes of fishing, he returned to the house and called me to meet him downstairs. I noticed that he was holding his hands in front of him so I wasn’t sure what to expect. A fishing lure dangling from his right thumb greeted me when I stepped outside.

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He preceded to tell me that he needed me to wrap a piece of fishing line around the hook and then quickly yank on it to dislodge the hook. Me…the one who passes out when someone merely mentions they know someone who was hooked…the one who lies on the floor of the kitchen when her daughter splits open her forehead so she doesn’t pass out…the one who breaks into a cold sweat at the mention of blood. I’m proud to say I did not pass out. I did not run to the bathroom. I did not lie down. I also did not pull out the hook.

Sure, loop fishing line around the hook and jerk it out!
Sure, loop fishing line around the hook and jerk it out!

After several attempts to get the line at the right angle, John decided that it would be wise to first remove the lure from the hook embedded in his thumb. This would reduce the possibility of a being hooked a second time while in the process of removing the hook. My job…take the pocketknife and open the ring on the lure so it could be removed from the portion lodged in John’s thumb. Surprise…success! Now we were back to the looping line around the hook.

At this point I started looking up addresses to the nearest walk in clinic so someone else could remove the hook. John Googled “how to remove a fish hook from your finger” and the number one method was indeed wrapping a piece of line around the hook and then firmly jerking to remove it. With renewed confidence, John took the matter into his own hands (or should I say hand) looping the line, pulling tight, and then rapidly jerking to remove the hook…no problem!

My only responsibility: open the band-aid and apply to his thumb.

John put the lure back together so he could go back out in the boat. His plan: catch fish and eat them for dinner as a payback for the injury to his thumb.

What a great husband! Willing to shed a little blood to unlock my writer’s block!

Spring Forward and Change Batteries

clockIt’s that time of year again. Time to change our clocks to Daylight Savings Time this weekend. You can remember that you set the clock forward an hour if you simply remember to “fall back” and “spring forward”. While I hate losing an hour of sleep on the night I move the clock forward, I like the end result.  Who doesn’t like an extra hour of light in the evening? More time after work to walk, ride bikes, or sit on the patio enjoying the warmer weather.

There’s another task that you should do every time you change your clock – one that’s equally important-change the batteries in your smoke detector! I know that the batteries last longer than six or seven months, but this is a great time to make the change since you’re already thinking about making changes around the house.  And while this is a safety issue, there is nothing more annoying than the batteries in your smoke detector dying in the middle of the night. We’ve made that mistake and the shrill warning emitted by the smoke detector cannot be stopped. We’ve had to resort to taking the smoke detector down and moving it to the car so we could get back to sleep when we’ve been awakened from a sound sleep by the irritating tweet.

Buy batteries now so you’ll be ready this weekend…change your clock one hour ahead on Saturday night before you go to bed and change the batteries in your smoke detectors.

Be a Safe Driver!

crash dummiesThrough no fault of his own, Danny was in a serious car accident recently totaling the Expedition. Fortunately no one was injured beyond a few bumps and bruises but this incident inspired me to remind you of the importance of being a safe driver. I think Danny will attest to the importance of tip #6 and tip #8 below!

1. Don’t drink and drive. I know this is common sense, but it’s easy to think you’re capable of driving after just a few drinks. In fact, if you think you’re capable after drinking, that may be a sign you’ve had too much. Plan ahead for a designated driver or call for a ride. Even if you’re lucky enough not to cause an accident, the risk of getting caught and the consequences that follow are not worth the risk.

2. Be well rested before getting behind the wheel. I always enjoyed driving through the night – less traffic, less wasted time; but make sure you are not tired if you drive late at night. Don’t hesitate to stop, get out of the car, do jumping jacks, eat at the Waffle House, or better yet, look for a place to stay and get some sleep if you’re getting sleepy while driving.

3. Watch you speed. The slogan “speed kills” applies to driving as well as drugs. You are permitted to go slower than the posted speed limit especially when traffic or weather conditions don’t warrant the higher speeds. Don’t let other drivers push you to drive faster than conditions permit. Slow down and be safe.

4. No texting while driving. This wasn’t even something you could’ve have learned in driver’s ed when you were learning to drive since texting wasn’t an option at that time, but believe it or not, texting while driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving. Distracted driving is not safe driving.

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5. Keep your car safe. Besides having enough gas in the tank, check oil, coolant, tires, and other systems regularly. Also, pay attention to the signals the car provides concerning problems – NEVER continue driving when the light indicating overheating comes on! Doing so will insure you get to purchase a new car sooner than expected. Ouch! And, it’s just not safe.

6. Watch out for the other guy! This may be the most important tip of all. I’ve heard it said you should assume every other driver on the road is an idiot. That’s pretty good advice, and that’s why I look both ways when the light turns green. I check that all the idiots really are going to stop. Try to plan ahead for the stupid things other drivers do. (John Graham, a family friend, always said to make sure you can see the back tires of the car in front of you when at a stoplight to insure you will have room to go around in case of a problem. He found himself behind a car involved in a gunfight in Miami one day and this practice enabled him to get out of a dangerous situation…although usually it’s just a way around a disabled vehicle.)

7. Don’t’ let road rage get the best of you. This can be a tough one. Assuming all other drivers are idiots, it’s hard not to react to their stupidity. When others tailgate, cut you off, drive for miles with turn signals on, or do other irritating things; take a deep breath and resist the urge to shout at them, make obscene gestures, or retaliate with an equally stupid move behind the wheel. Remember your mom wants you to get to your destination safely.

8. Wear your seatbelt. This is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself from injury in case of an accident. I remember our first car with seatbelts. It was purchased in 1964 after an accident in a VW Karmann Ghia. We loved playing with them, but we also used them! Seatbelt use is essential for a safe trip – even around the block.

Seatbelts protected Danny and a teammate from "the other guy".
Seatbelts protected Danny and a teammate from “the other guy”.

Drive safely, and remember, as Grandma always says, “You can’t be too careful!”

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Mom

 

Buy gas when the guage reads 1/4 tank.

Time to fill up!
Time to fill up!

 

This is not a lesson I learned quickly. In fact, I was known for running out of gas. One of the first times your dad and I went out on a date was when we were in college at Western Carolina University. Since he didn’t have a car at school, I drove. We went to Sylva to see a movie. (I think it was a real classic – You Light Up My Life, but there weren’t a lot of choices in Sylva, NC.) On the way back to campus, I famously ran out of gas. Of course, your dad had no idea this was one of my bad habits.

Fortunately, we were not far from a gas station so we walked down the road, bought some gas, put it in a borrowed container from the station, and then poured it in the tank using a rolled up up road map as a funnel. And off we went – no harm done.

This was a pattern I continued for years. In fact, I’ve run out of gas on my way home from Ocala Springs twice, but not in the last 15 or so years. So take it from one who knows, keep gas in your car! Not only is it inconvenient, embarrassing, and dangerous to run out of gas, it’s also not good for your car. When the gas level gets too low, condensation forms in the tank and you do not want water in your gas since this can do some serious damage to the engine.

While this is always a good idea, it’s even more important during hurricane season since nothing would be more frustrating than

Wonder if Albert ever let the Bat-mobile drop before a 1/4 tank?
Wonder if Albert ever let the Bat-mobile drop below a 1/4 tank?

to be unable to use your car before, during, or after a storm – since stations make lack power or run out of fuel. So make a habit of filling the tank when it reaches the 1/4 level. You’ve got several months to make this a habit before hurricane season rolls around in May. And don’t get frustrated with your dear ole mom when she texts or calls to remind you to fill up due to an approaching storm. If nothing else, I may save you a few bucks since gas stations are notorious for raising prices during times of peak usage.

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Mom