Germs are Bad Rappers.

Have you noticed that something seems to be going around Santa Cruz County?  2 of my neighbors are sick, at least 2 of our regular volunteers, and this very AM, I woke up with that particular sensation in the back of my throat that says, “You’re gonna wish you were in bed ALL DAY.”

There’s been some pretty big talk about the flu this year.  So much so, that you’re probably reading this blog post and thinking, “Not AGAIN!”

Still, it’s always a good idea to follow a few simple rules to keep yourself healthy… and if you aren’t healthy, to keep others around you from picking up what you’re putting down (if you know what I mean).  You can check out some tips here: Red Cross Flu Checklist (PDF).

Or, you can take the hint from an old Red Cross friend, Scrubby Bear.  We still offer this program, but thankfully, since this video… there have been some updates.

Tornado Preparedness

“Tornado, you say..?”

Yep,  I say.

Did you know there was a Tornado Warning in Orange County today?  The storm passing through California has not only the ability to cause Mudslides and flooding, but may be powerful enough to produce a tornado…even in Santa Cruz County.  Knowing what to do in a tornado can be the difference between life and death.  So, because we care, here’s a quick cram on what to do during a tornado, in the unlikely event of a Watch or Warning here in Santa Cruz County.

Tornado Preparedness

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. Tornado intensities are classified on the Fujita Scale with ratings between F0 (weakest) to F5 (strongest). They are capable of completely destroying well-made structures, uprooting trees and hurling objects through the air like deadly missiles. Although severe tornadoes are more common in the Plains States, tornadoes have been reported in every state.
Know the Difference

Tornado Watch
Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!

Tornado Warning
A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately under ground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom) and Duck and Cover (just like you would in an Earthquake).

What should I do to prepare for a tornado?
  • During any storm, listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about watches and warnings.
  • Know your community’s warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornados, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
  • Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
  • Consider having your safe room reinforced. Plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection can be found on the FEMA Web site at
  • Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
  • Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
  • Watch for tornado danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish clouds-a phenomenon caused by hail
    • Wall cloud-an isolated lowering of the base of a thunderstorm
    • Cloud of debris
    • Large hail
    • Funnel cloud-a visible rotating extension of the cloud base
    • Roaring noise
What should I do if a tornado is threatening?
  • The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room.
  • If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
    • Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes or other severe winds.
    • Do not seek shelter in a hallway or bathroom of a mobile home.
  • If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, abandon your mobile home immediately.
  • Go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately, using your seat belt if driving.
  • Do not wait until you see the tornado.
  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter:
    • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
    • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. Now you have the following options as a last resort:
      • Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
      • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
    • Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.
What do I do after a tornado?
  • Continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
  • If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Wear long pants, a long sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes when examining your walls, doors, staircases and windows for damage.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings.
  • Use battery powered flashlights when examining buildings—do NOT use candles.
  • If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out of the building quickly and call the gas company or fire department.
  • Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Keep all of your animals under your direct control.
  • Clean up spilled medications, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids that could become a fire hazard.
  • Check for injuries. If you are trained, provide first aid to persons in need until emergency responders arrive.

Kitteh has a smart.

funny-pictures-cat-has-an-earthquake-drillThis kitty has it half right.

To be “Preparedness Geek Specific,” kitty should:

  • DROP to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!),
  • Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and
  • HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

But, we still give the little guy props for covering his head, not running outside, AND for performing a drill so that he could plan for an emergency.

If there was an earthquake right now, do you know what you would do?


Back in my day (and place), every town had sponsored firework displays on the 4th of July.  Not so in Santa Cruz County.  sparklerScotts Valley has a show which is a big hit for families – and it was canceled last year, so you can bet it will be packed with onlookers this year.  But, lets be frank… there are those that aren’t down with the SV crowd.  You know who you are… you’re going down to the beach, aren’t ya?  Don’t lie.  You picked up some fireworks on a trip to Montana or some such place, and you’re going to set those suckers off.

I know.  I can hear your thoughts.

I suppose I don’t have to remind you that setting off fireworks is illegal here in Santa Cruz County… or that we’re in wildfire prone area… or that setting off fireworks can be really dangerous to your person.  What I can do is give you some tips from my neck of the woods that can help keep you a bit safer.  Of course, we recommend that you find an alternative to this dangerous and illegal activity, which takes a huge amount of resources away from our law enforcement and fire officials every year to contain.  Check out this PDF from the Denver Red Cross chapter for more facts about the amazing amount of injuries that fireworks cause every year [PDF]  (There are nearly 9,000 emergency room-treated injuries associated with fireworks a year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission).

You could have a bonfire… you can’t roast marshmallows on a firework!


  • Make your own fireworks.
  • Re-light an ineffective firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Have any part of your body over fireworks.
  • Carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
  • Light fireworks indoors.
  • Never give fireworks to small children
  • Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.


  • Have an adult present
  • Wear eye protection
  • Use earplugs if you have sensitive ears
  • Properly dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water and then depositing them in a trashcan.
  • always follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Keep a supply of water close-by as a precaution.
  • Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection and is an adult.
  • Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.
  • Leave any area immediately where untrained amateurs are using fireworks.
  • Stay at least 500 feet away from professional fireworks displays.

Just in case you didn’t get my drift the first time, here’s an article reinforcing firework laws in the County care of the Mid-County Post:

Loma Preita, 20 years later

I wasn’t here in 1989.  In fact, I was 2200 miles away from here.  I was also far too preoccupied with My Little Ponies to watch the national news or the World Series (I was 8).  Hence, I didn’t even know that it had happened.  But in October of 1989, this town that I’ve come to call home was shaken to its very core.

We’re working with our fellow area chapters including the Monterey-San Benito Chapter, Carmel Chapter, Silicon Valley Chapter, Sonoma & Mendocino Chapter, and the Bay Area Chapter (SF) to plan some preparedness activities for our region… but I personally feel behind the curve.  While most people here remember the Loma Prieta Earthquake well, I have no recollection of it.  So, as so many of us do nowadays, I’ve turned to the inter-tubes to help me.

If you happened to be playing with your G.I. Joes or My Little Ponies (respectively) and missed the Loma Prieta earthquake, and now you live on the Central Coast, maybe this video will convince you to prepare. I encourage you to check out other Loma Prieta videos on YouTube. Remember, the Loma Prieta Earthquake’s epicenter was in Santa Cruz County, despite the fact that the earthquake is sometimes referred to as the San Francisco Earthquake. The destructive force was felt far away… this particular news clip comes from a channel in Sacramento.

Remember that preparing personally for the next earthquake as well as encouraging your workplace and community centers to prepare can help keep you safe. If you need help putting a plan together, let us know (it’s free)!

“Resolved, I will no longer be a sink-easy”

I’m sure that the day will come when people look back on our primitive blogging and say, “I can’t believe people used to talk that way!”  Of course, they’ll say it in a crazy futuristic language.

Anyway, I was looking for some information on water safety for summer, when the PDX chapter (Portland, OR) beat me to the punch again with their seemingly endless energy for Google searching.   Here’s their latest find, a Learn to Swim article circa 1921 – I can’t believe people used to talk that way.

click for large version

click for large version

Wildfire Awareness Week, May 3-9

Did you know that this week is Wildfire Awareness Week?  After a rainy start, its hard to imagine that we’re heading straight into another Wildfire season, and that CAL FIRE is already ramping up their training.

Santa Barbara is feeling the heat – big time.  Their chapter headquarters had to evacuate and they are doing their work from a local community center.  Their flickr account has some amazing shots from this terrible fire.

As we say with most potential emergencies, “Don’t be Scared – Be Prepared!”  If you’re prepared, evacuating for a wildfire can be a little bit easier on you and your family.  A little piece of mind can go a long way.  Check out our Wildfire Preparedness Guide.

I caught a bit of the news yesterday afternoon, and a firefighter was talking about the importance of clearing a 30-50 foot safety zone around your home if you live in a fire prone area.  He said that in most cases, if houses don’t have this clearance they are impossible to protect… so make sure you have a safe clearance!  It can really make a difference.

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