Uncommon knowledge, news, and opinion

Uncommon knowledge, news, and opinion

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Extreme Weather, Climate & Preparedness in the American Mind

April 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm By Roz Potter

From a study funded by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication;  Link  


 In 2011, Americans experienced a record-breaking 14 weather and climate disasters that each caused$1 billion or more in damages, in total costing approximately $53 billion, along with incalculable loss of human life. 

These disasters included severe drought in Texas and the Great Plains, Hurricane Irene along the eastern seaboard, tornadoes in the Midwest, and massive floods in the Mississippi River Valley. 

In the period of January through March 2012, Americans also experienced record warm temperatures, with temperatures across the contiguous United States 6.0 degrees F above thelong-term average. In March alone, 15,292 warm temperature records were broken across the United States. 

In March 2012 we conducted a nationally representative survey and found that a large majority of  Americans say they personally experienced an extreme weather event or natural disaster in the past year.

Overall, 35 percent of all Americans report that they were personally harmed either a great deal or a moderate amount by one or more of these extreme weather events in the past year. Likewise, 37 percent report that someone they know personally was harmed either a great deal or a moderate amount by an extreme weather event or natural disaster in the past year

A majority of Americans also say the weather in the United States is getting worse and many report that extreme weather in their own local area has become more frequent and damaging. Further, large majorities believe that global warming made a number of recent extreme weather events worse. 

 Only about a third of Americans, however, have either a disaster emergency plan or an emergency supply kit in their homes. 

To read more -  


Emergency / Disaster Readiness Workshop & Expo – Feb. 25 in Napa

January 28, 2012 at 8:57 pm By Roz Potter
Saturday, February 25, 2012, from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm,  Napa, CA  – Location TBA

We regret that the February EXPO must be postponed. Instead, a 3.5 hour Disaster Readiness Workshop will be held Saturday, March 24th from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the John Muir Inn in Napa. Please call 707.255.7146 for details.

This 6-hour one-of-a-kind event will help get your household ready for a variety of emergencies.

Demonstrations: Learn how to disinfect water, handle utility emergencies, use safety and self-defense devices, see how earthquake protection materials work, and select worthwhile supplies and equipment for lighting, first-aid, communications, sanitation, and 3-day “Go” bags

Tasting, of three types of emergency food bars and water with a 5-year shelf-life

Family Disaster Planning documents, including communication and reunification, urgent medical information, utility emergencies, asset protection, and emergency notification documents

Disaster Readiness Lecture and Discussion, including earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, and hazardous materials

$60 fee ($65 at the door) includes 3.5  hrs of instruction, disaster plan documents,  supply lists for “Go” bags for home, work, car and school, and 7 live demonstrations (2.5 hours). $15 discount for prior Defying Disaster Workshop participants, seniors over 65, full-time students & multiple participants from the same address. Partial scholarships available ($20 total cost).  Register in advance to avoid disappointments at the door.

See Link for details including registration.

Disaster / Earthquake Readiness Workshop and Expo, Feb. 26, 2012

December 27, 2011 at 8:42 pm By Roz Potter

Saturday, February 26, 2012, from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm,  Napa, CA  – Location TBA

A jump-start for preparedness.  This 6-hour one-of-a-kind event will help get your household ready for a variety of emergencies. See event poster here.

Demonstrations: Learn how to disinfect water, handle utility emergencies, use safety and self-defense devices, see how earthquake protection materials work, and select worthwhile supplies and equipment for lighting, first-aid, communications, sanitation, and 3-day “Go” bags

Tastings of Emergency Food Bars and water with a 5-year shelf-life

Disassembly of several ready-made “Go”bags and first-aid kit, so you can see the quality and contents for yourself.

Create a family disaster plan, including family communication and reunification, urgent medical information, utility emergencies, and emergency notification documents

Disaster Readiness Lecture and Discussion including earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, and hazardous materials

$60 fee includes 3.5  hrs of instruction, disaster plan documents,  supply lists for “Go” bags for home, work, car and school, and 7 live demonstrations (2.5 hours). $15 discount for prior Defying Disaster Workshop participants, seniors over 65, full-time students & multiple participants from the same address.

Just 3 days to the Earthquake / Disaster Readiness Expo

November 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm By Roz Potter

The one-day event that will give a big jump-start to your preparedness activities is happening this Saturday, December 3rd, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the John Muir Inn in Napa.

Here’s the talent line-up:

Live Demonstrations:

Water need, storage and purification (4 methods)

Handling electrical, water, and natural gas emergencies

Earthquake protection devices for your home

A multitude of devices for emergency lighting, communications, energy and self-defense

Disassembly of Go bags and First Aid Kits, to see what’s really inside and if you could really live on it if you had to

Disaster Planning and Response - you’ll get many of the documents you need so that your household disaster plan at the ready – you just need to fill in the blanks

Supply lists for Home, Work, School and Car “Go” bags

Instruction and Discussion – 2.5 hours of stories, historic photographs, and lessons from past disasters that past workshop participants have called “profoundly moving and instructive”.

The emphasis is on instruction, but we’ll have some supplies and a deluxe “Go” bag for 2, available

Registration is available at the door.  Call 255-7146 for any questions or to register in advance. $60 fee, with a $10 discount for Seniors, full-time students, prior Defying Disaster workshop participants and individuals from the same address.

Earthquake / Disaster Readiness Workshop & Expo, Dec. 3rd in Napa

November 19, 2011 at 12:01 am By Roz Potter
Dear Readers,
In just a bit over two weeks, in the space of 6 hours, you have an opportunity to jump-start disaster preparedness. The event is the Earthquake / Disaster Readiness Expo. The Expo is being held Saturday, December 3rd 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.at the at the John Muir Inn, in Napa. .

If you’re prepared for disaster, you can react more quickly, safely and decisively to a number of situations that can arise in a heartbeat.

1. You hear the hiss and smell of natural gas, should you turn off the gas or run? Do you know where and how to turn off the gas?
2. Lamps have fallen over in an earthquake, is it safe to touch them? Should you unplug them or turn off the main breaker?
3. You must evacuate, should you leave your pets behind? What should you take with you, if there is time?
4. You smell natural gas, is it safe to flip a light switch?
5. Water is running down the street from broken water pipes. Should you turn off your water? Does this mean that sewer pipes are also broken? Do you know how to protect your home from massive sewer backups that happen after disasters?
6. Electricity has been out for 4 days. Is it safe to eat food from the freezer? Burglars are taking advantage of the situation. How can you protect your home?  Are candles safe to use for extended periods?
7. Phone, cell and internet services are out. How can you communicate with family members, friends or neighbors?
8. Some roads are damaged and impassible. Do family members know where to go if they can’t get home?
9. You’re running low on water. What is the safest method of water purification? What water sources are safe to use, safest to purify?

LEARN essential skills and information from live demonstration and presentations, such as how to:

  • purify water
  • handle utility emergencies
  • shelter in place
  • use safety. self-defense, and earthquake protection devices
  • fight a fire
  • select worthwhile lighting, communication, sanitation, first-aid, food and water supplies

SEE what’s inside those off-the-shelf 3-day “Go” bags and First-Aid kits, and if they’ll really take care of your needs

TASTE 3 brands of emergency food bars and, 5 year shelf life water
BUILD 3-day “Go” bags for yourself, family members or for gifts – we’ll have the carriers and supplies

PUT TOGETHER your own disaster plan with the comprehensive documents we provide

PARTICIPATE in a 2.5 hour lecture that’s full of stories, historic photographs and lessons from past disasters

$60 fee includes lecture, demonstrations, Defying Disaster’s preparedness documents including communication, reunification, utility emergency, medical information and pet plans, 3-day “Go” bag supply lists for home, car, school and work, and a Defying Disaster tote bag.

$10 discount for prior Defying Disaster workshop participants, full-time students, seniors over 65, and individuals from the same address. Scholarships are available ($20 full cost).

For details and to save a place, call 707-255-7146. I hope to see you there.

From USGS: Our Ever-Changing Earth – Science to Mitigate Risks of Change

October 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm By Roz Potter

As the climate changes, the conditions behind the unprecedented erosion of the 2009-2010 winter could become more common. Erosion assessments are helping coastal decison makers prepare for the potential damage of future storms. (Photo Credit: Jeff Hansen, USGS.)



  • As a 5.8-magnitude earthquake near Mineral, Virginia, sent a jolt through 22 eastern States in August, many were surprised and frightened.
  • As roads, homes, and farmlands were swamped by flooding from melting snowpack and spring rains, and as more property, roads, and even century-old covered bridges were washed away by flooding brought on by hurricanes this summer, many were caught off guard by the record-breaking water levels.
  • As severe drought conditions in Texas caused die-offs of fish and wildlife and helped fuel widespread wildfires that forced residents to quickly gather family and escape to shelters, many were not prepared for the damages to their natural resources and homes.
  • As climate change alters the ranges of species (such as moose and beaver), the reliability of vegetation (such as salmonberries), and the predictability of weather in the Arctic, residents have become concerned about their safety, their sources of food, and their livelihoods.

Unexpected hazardous events and changes to the world around us can be devastating.

To read more, Link

Hands-On Preparedness Workshop: Build-Your-Own 3 day Emergency (“Go”) Bags & Family Disaster Plan

September 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm By Roz Potter

Preparedness. You’ve thought about it, and even bought a thing or two. Here’s your chance to get a big part of the job done.

In one day, for 6 hours, in one place, you’ll find an array of the supplies, equipment, instruction, demonstrations, and documents needed to get your household ready for serious emergencies.

Through live demonstrations you’ll learn how to store and disinfect water, handle utility emergencies, use safety, self-defense, and communication devices, and select worthwhile supplies and equipment for disaster essentials such as lighting, communications, and sanitation.

We’ll disassemble several ready-made “Go”Bags and first-aid kits so you can see the quality and contents for yourself. And, we’ll provide supply lists and and have basic contents available for 3-day “Go” Bags you can build for home, work, car and school, for yourself, family members and for gifts. A limited number of  “Go” Bags will be available to purchase

Food, first-aid and hygiene packs, light sources, radios and other communication devices, water storage containers and water purification items, sanitation, self-defense and other equipment, along with carriers, will be on-hand

Put together your own disaster plan so you can easily contact and reunite family members, locate emergency services, communicate with advisers, turn off utilities, access critical records and items, and obtain safe medical care, when options are limited

Saturday, November 12, 2011, from 10 am to 4 pm, The John Muir Inn, Napa, CA

$60 fee includes 2.5 hours of disaster preparedness instruction, Defying Disaster’s preparedness documents including communication, reunification, utility emergency and pet plans,  and emergency medical information forms, 3-day “Go” Bag supply lists for home, car, school and work, demonstrations, and a Defying Disaster Daypack

Advance reservations required. To reserve a space, send $30 deposit and contact information to Defying Disaster, P.O. Box 5927, Napa, CA 94581. For further information, please call 707.255.7146 or use the form on this website’s “Contact” page. Some partial scholarships are available

Space is limited.  A second workshop will be held December 3, 10-4, also at the John Muir Inn

Power outages from disasters- what happens when the lights go out?

September 5, 2011 at 4:41 pm By Roz Potter

From the Huffington Post: Link

Are you prepared for a power outage lasting days? Weeks?

Do you have a back up plan for your insulin, your oxygen concentrator, for water pumps that won’t pump water to your faucets or your toilets? For your electric stove (and coffee maker), your computer, cellphone charger and that phone that requires a plug-in transformer to operate?

Will your workplace be functional or will you be out of a job? Will you need cash,  gas, food, or a prescription? Diapers, dish soap, powdered milk or bottled water?

How safe will your neighborhood be in inky darkness?

Generators depend on fuel. Will your supply last a week? Two?

When the lights go out it will be too late to prepare.


The outages could be critical for the elderly, disabled and others who rely on community services.

“What if we’re without power for days?” asked Pat Dillon, 52, who is partially paralyzed from a stroke. Dillon’s senior care facility in Milford, Conn., lost power when a generator failed. As she sat in the dark, Dillon worried that her wheelchair’s batteries would run out. Even worse, she needs to keep her diabetes mediation chilled.

“Once the refrigerator gets warm, my insulin goes bad,” Dillon said. “I could go into diabetic shock. It’s kind of scary.”

Power companies say they’ll try to get critical services running first. But many are just starting to understand the full extent of damage to the grid. Utility workers must traverse thousands of square miles to find out what’s down before they can start repairs.

“It’s going to be several days at least for our most severely damaged areas” to get power back, said Mike Hughes, a spokesman for Progress Energy in North Carolina, which serves about 3.1 million customers.

Gilbert, with Connecticut Power, said it took two weeks to restore power after Hurricane Gloria knocked out service to 477,000 customers in 1985.

“And this definitely blows those numbers away,” she said.

In Virginia, Irene knocked out power to more than 300 critical services, including hospitals, emergency call centers and fire stations. Dominion Resources expects half of those facilities to be restored by the end of the day and most of the rest fixed by Monday.

Virginia Earthquake Links

August 23, 2011 at 4:40 pm By Roz Potter

I’ll be adding to these view-worthy links: (Updated)

USGS report   Link

Politico report on nuclear reactor shutdowns,  Link

International Business Times report with graphics, Link

Discover Magazine’s  seismic wave animation  Link

Richmond, Virginia Times Dispatch – a local view , Link

NPR, Link

CBS News,  Link

The Guardian, “What the east coast earthquake means to US Nuclear Plants”,  Link

Couch Potato Preparedness Planning, Part I

April 26, 2011 at 10:00 am By Roz Potter

If everyday activities like working, cooking, shopping, house- and garden-keeping, child rearing, socializing, worship, staying healthy, getting through the day, and other pursuits seem more urgent than disaster preparedness, you’ve got a lot of company.

In the absence of a disaster in your life, everyday pursuits are more compelling and many are a lot more fun. But if you find your preparedness conscience being pricked by world events, yet are truly limited in your ability to prepare due to the resources required (cost, time, health), there is a an alternative to full-blown disaster preparedness.

It’s Couch Potato or Incidental Preparedness. And these are the benefits.

First, you’ll have one emergency supply of water. That means survival. You can live without food, but not without water.

Second, you will have food that can be eaten under disaster conditions. Although food is not essential for short-term survival, you’ll be a lot happier, healthier and energetic if you’re able to eat a reasonable diet. For infants, the elderly, the ill and already malnourished, it’s a necessity for survival.

Third, you’ll have medications and medical supplies to sustain you, your family and others, when there is no other supply.

Forth, if you choose to go that far, you’ll have hygiene, sanitation and comfort items, safety and communication, essential documents and cash. We’re not going there this time – that’s Part II of Couch Potato Preparedness Planning.

While the following preparedness activities do require someone to get off the couch, many people can accomplish them in the course of everyday or weekly activities. These activities are a starting, not an end point. The Couch Potato Plan takes some extra effort and cash, but then so does turning on the lights.

1.  Purchase one 2.5 gallon bottle of water every week or every other week, until you have at least 5  gallons for each person in your house. Ten gallons per person is better, twenty is much better. Current cost, around $3.00 per 2.5 gallon container. Benefit, survival. You cannot live without water. Downside, one gallon per person per day is enough for drinking (for most people and conditions) and minimal cooking or hygiene but not both. One gallon containers are a better choice for the elderly, those with arthritis, and for convenience.

2. Once a week, transfer from your cupboard or purchase 2 extra cans or packages of food that your family likes to eat, for each person in your household. Preparedness foods should meet the following requirements: no need for cooking, refrigeration, or heating, under 400mg of salt per serving (if possible),  uses little water, calorie-dense, familiar and liked by household members. Your list may include ready to eat cereal, canned soups, stews, meats and fish, canned fruits and vegetables, high calorie food bars, unsalted nuts, crackers, dehydrated milk and other beverages. Store food supplies in an insect and rodent impervious bin in a cool, dark, reasonably accessible place. Don’t forget a manual can opener.

3. Add one item to your medical kit each week. This could be extra medications, first aid supplies, a first aid and/or home medical care guide, a list of your prescription drugs including their name, dose and frequency, primary medical conditions, drug, latex and other allergies, and if available, blood type for each family member. I suggest you include face masks, gloves and over the counter medications for common ailments such as diarrhea, constipation, pain, allergic reactions,  inflammation, colds, sleep, anxiety (plenty of that during disasters) and other needs.

On a couch potato day, someone could list current contents but don’t push it. This is incidental preparedness. If you make it too burdensome, there could be pushback so that instead of a beginning to preparedness, it’s the end.

If you’re more goal driven, you may want to first set a goal for each of the three categories, i.e. the number of days supply for each person in your family, a food supply that will meet particular calorie and nutritional criteria, or perhaps a full complement of medical supplies and medications needed for most eventualities. You might decide on a 3 day supply of food, water, medications and some contact/medical information. Or maybe a 10 or 20 day version, or just the food and water part. Or, just the contact/medical information part.

In Part II, we’ll take a look at other, above noted,categories of Couch Potato Preparedness including safety and communications, comfort items, hygiene and sanitation, shelter and tools, critical documents and cash. And, if you can bear it, the location and number of supply caches you may want to stock, if only in a rudimentary manner.

A must read: US population and health care system unprepared for major nuclear emergency

April 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm By Roz Potter


“Current capabilities can only handle a few radiation injuries at any one time.” That assessment, prepared by the Department of Homeland Security in 2010 and stamped “for official use only,” says “there is no strategy for notifying the public in real time of recommendations on shelter or evacuation priorities.”

The Homeland Security report, plus several other reports and interviews with almost two dozen experts inside and outside the government, reveal other gaps that may increase the risks posed by a nuclear accident or terrorist attack.

One example: The U.S. Strategic National Stockpile stopped purchasing the best-known agent to counter radioactive iodine-induced thyroid cancer in young people, potassium iodide, about two years ago and designated the limited remaining quantities “excess,” according to information provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ProPublica. Despite this, the CDC website still lists potassium iodide as one of only four drugs in the stockpile specifically for use in radiation emergencies.

The drug is most effective when administered before or within hours of exposure.

Recently the White House and other federal officials concerned about deficiencies in public readiness met with experts to explore what might be done to make nuclear events more survivable. “The bottom line is that the citizenry are not prepared at all,” said Michael McDonald, president of Global Health Initiatives, who participated in White House and congressional briefings.

The “triangle of life” earthquake protection myth

April 3, 2011 at 6:00 pm By Roz Potter

Updated post.

My inbox has received more than 8 forwarded messages urging the use of Doug Copp’s  “Triangle of Life” method to protect lives during earthquakes.  Mr. Copp appears to be a credible source for such counsel. But as is so often the case, appearances can be deceiving. And in this case, following this seemingly sound advice could have serious consequences.

The “Triangle of Life” has been dubbed an urban myth by snopes.com. It has been discredited by the Red Cross, FEMA, the USGS, and the Earthquake Country Alliance.  The links follow, after which you’ll find an explanation, and then FEMA and USGS recommendations.



American Red Cross Link

Earthquake Country Alliance page

Wikipedia entry

Snopes.com article here

article from Dr. Margo Petal, from the Earthquake Country Alliance website  


The examples Mr. Copp uses are from Mexico, Turkey and China. The Triangle of Life is NOT recommended in developed countries with good building codes such as the U.S, where the vast majority of buildings don’t collapse in earthquakes.  In the U.S., Most injuries occur from falling objects and some from flying and breaking objects, NOT from being crushed.

People who don’t drop and cover can be knocked down, sustaining injuries.  So in the US and other advanced countries, suggesting that people stay uncovered where falling, flying and breaking objects will injure them, is wrongheaded.

People can be crushed by concrete buildings and overpasses that collapse, but relatively few people in the US are in such settings when earthquakes strike, and most structures don’t collapse in any case.  The majority are in wood frame buildings which tend to do well in quakes.

The Cypress Freeway collapse in Oakland killed 37 people when one deck pancaked upon the other during the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, but this is the exception, not the rule. The collapsed sections were built on fill soil which liquefied.  The freeway sections not built on fill, did not collapse. There were few deaths outside of this freeway collapse during Loma Prieta, but there were over 7,000 thousand injuries from the falling, flying and breaking objects referred to above.

In S.F, the Marina district, also built on fill soil, suffered a good deal of damage from Loma Prieta; structures were severely damaged and broken gas mains fed fires in the quake’s aftermath. Most of the collapsed buildings were older multistory structures with garages occupying the entire first floor. This is known as “soft story” construction.

In soft story construction, the upper floors of the building are entirely supported by the exterior walls of the first floor garages. There are no partition walls to separate rooms, as there are no rooms – just one vast open space from the front of the building to the back. Due to the lack of supporting walls on the first floor, a “soft story” building is much more vulnerable in an earthquake, especially if it’s built on fill soil.

Fill and other soft soils such as sand, greatly amplify shaking.  For proof of that one need to look no further, than the Cypress Freeway collapse. As noted above, it was only the sections of the Cypress Freeway built on fill soil that collapsed. All others were intact.

In Japan, buildings did not collapse, they were swept away in the tsunami. Japan’s stringent building standards worked – there was scant damage from the great quake, providing more evidence that Copp’s “theory” is incorrect.   In the February M 6.3 Christchurch, New Zealand quake, some buildings did collapse. Christchurch is built on soft sandy soil which liquified in the February quake. This very same area had sustained damage in a 7.0 quake just 5 months before.  Good building codes could not protect buildings weakened by two strong quakes in the exact same area in such a short time, particularly when sandy and other soft soils liquified.

For those of us who spend countless hours working to protect the public, it’s very distressing to have so many people take Copp’s advice to heart. Many needless serious injuries to adults and children can result. Copp doesn’t qualify his advice, he makes it applicable to all situations and that makes it dangerous. And, according to Snopes, he may be a fraud with respect to his 911 injury claim.

USGS and FEMA recommendations for safety during an earthquake:

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe. If indoors

  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.

If outdoors

  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

If in a moving vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

If trapped under debris

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust

World Health Organization issues new detailed guidelines for radiation exposure

March 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm By Roz Potter

These WHO guidelines apply to those exposed to radiation in doses high enough to cause concern for health. This in not the current state of affairs outside of affected area of Japan, except perhaps for Japan’s neighbors. Health risks are dependent on the concentration of particles being disseminated, proximity to radiation source(s), ground wind, weather and atmospheric conditions. and the duration of exposure.

For those not currently at risk,  this is good information to have on hand in the event of a nuclear accident or nuclear terrorism events within a distance that could cause health risks.  Link

Radiation exposure and related information will be covered in the upcoming workshop on Earthquake and Nuclear/Radiological preparedness given Saturday, March 26 from 9 am to 12 pm, at the John Muir Inn in Napa. There will be a question and answer session

Tuesday in Japan

March 15, 2011 at 2:40 pm By Roz Potter

A third explosions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, ripped a 26 foot hole into in the reactor building and damaged the vessel below the reactor, but not the reactor core. The damaged vessel underneath the reactor will make it more difficult to control a meltdown, should it occur.

Three hours later, a fire erupted at a fourth reactor which has been offline.  Steam with radioactive particles is being emitted directly into the atmosphere from nuclear fuel rods stored in a pool.

The US Navy has moved its ships to the east after detecting larger amounts of radioactivity than expected, through air monitoring. Several US military personnel were treated for radiation exposure.

140, 000 people living within 20 miles of the plant were ordered to seal themselves indoors until dangerous levels of radioactive emissions are under control. There is a ban on commercial air travel due to health concerns.

Rachael Maddow and David Lochbaum explain nuclear power and the crisis in Japan

March 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm By Roz Potter

This is a UTube video. First a very solid explanation of events through yesterday by Maddow. Then Rachael is joined by David Lochbaum, the Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Link

Fallout risk. And, superb report on conditions in Japan from the UK’s Independent newspaper

March 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm By Roz Potter


The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the NRC, states today that fallout risk is “unlikely” to the U.S. due to the thousands of miles separating our country from Japan. Link

Scientists in Washington state are monitoring fallout levels. They see no reason for concern in the U.S. or Canada, but have concern for areas close to radiation source(s). Link

For those interested in detailed explanations and graphics of the situation at Japan’s nuclear reactors, see “Battle to Stabilize Earthquake Reactors”  Link, an article from World Nuclear News.

It’s possible the jet stream could bring some highly diluted radioactive particles to the Americas.  This will present no more radioactivity risk than everyday exposure.  We have yet to learn if the meltdown(s) have resulted in breaches of the nuclear reactor container vessels, and if so, what type. That information could change the risk assessment.

Some radioactive elements such as iodine have a half life of 8 days. That means 50% will degrade in 8 days, another 50% in another 8 days, etc.  (correction 3 14 11). Others, such as strontium, cesium and uranium remain radioactive for up to thousands of years.

Japan nuclear reactor meltdowns: One, two or more? What consequences?

March 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm By Roz Potter

There is consensus that at least one nuclear reactor has had a “meltdown”, without explanation as to the extent. There are conflicting reports on the number of reactors involved.  Those within the affected area in Japan are urged to stay indoors, place a  wet cloth over the mouth and nose, and close doors and windows.

If a core meltdown were to occur in the U.S.,  additional precautions would be advisable. These include: changing clothes and showering/shampooing or wiping down immediately upon coming indoors; turning off any heating or air conditioning systems; sealing vents to exhaust systems, bringing all pets indoors, avoiding activities that raise dust such as vaccuming; not consuming food that has been exposed in fields including animals and the milk of exposed animals, or water from open storage containers. An iodine preparation is often prescribed to prevent thyroid cancer but there are many other health effects from radiation.  More on this topic later.

According to an NYT article, meltdowns have occurred at two nuclear reactors, and three more are at risk. Link

Japan’s top government official, Yukio Edano, said Sunday that one meltdown had occurred Unit 1 at Fukushima) and another ( unit 3 at Fukushima) is possible. Link

For a critical look at the nuclear industry in Japan, see the Guardian’s story here

Greenpeace weighs in on the nuclear disaster and states that there will be health impacts, “more or less long term”. Link

For before and after scenes of Japanese communities hit by the earthquake and tsunami, see the astonishing before and after photo gallery provided by the NY Times here . Use your cursor to move the center vertical bar to the right or left to view the entire scene.

Please give what you can to help those affected by this triple disaster. It’s most important that each of us takes this opportunity to add significantly to our own preparedness efforts.

U.S. Unprepared to Care for Children in a Disaster

October 15, 2010 at 1:32 am By Roz Potter


Snip:  The National Commission on Children and Disasters found that even under normal circumstances, most ambulances and emergency rooms are not prepared to care for severely injured children. “If you think of a disaster, there may be hundreds of thousands of kids who need medical care,and you’ll be putting them in an environment where they don’t have the experience or equipment to care for kids”.


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