Monday, August 31, 2009

California is on fire...again

I do hate to be a broken record, but we need to talk about the California Wildfires...again. As many of you may know, my grandmother was visiting my sister and I in Arizona a few years ago when the huge southern California fires forced the evacuation of thousands of homes. While my grandmother wasn't in the mandatory evacuation area, her house was only a mile from that area and the air quality was so bad she was unable to return for almost 3 weeks.

This vacation/evacuation caused a lot of problems, the first revolving around her prescriptions. When she left she thought she would stay with us for less than a week, so she put her medications in a cute pill box marked "Monday morning, Monday lunch, Monday afternoon, etc."  While it was nice to know when her medications needed to be taken, we had no idea what the medications were or what the dose was. As her doctor's office had been evacuated, we had to track down a doctor willing to go back and find her records.  Why not call the pharmacy you might ask. Well, we did.  The problem was she had a lot more prescriptions on file than she had in the pill box and we couldn't tell which were the current medications and dosages.

The second problem was her paperwork. My grandmother has a lot of paperwork related to her benefits. She has insurance documents, medicare paperwork, social security contact numbers, medicaid information. She has her government identification, her prescription benefits and a host of other documents.  All this information is required to contact government agencies to receive medical care and her monthly income.  The problem was, we didn't have any of it. We attempted to call family members still in California to have them go through her rooms and look for it, but they couldn't find it all.  Needless to say, she was worried.

So now we flash to the current fires around Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains which threaten over 10 thousand homes according to major news outlets.  Included in this area are the transmission towers for all major TV and radio stations in the area. While the firefighters are doing their best to keep the fires from burning homes and property, my question is this, how many of the people and businesses in the area are prepared to evacuate? How many of them have the paperwork they need, their medications, and their emergency plan ready to implement? What will they do without TV and radio to guide their evacuation? Are they prepared?

Today's question is this: Could you evacuate your home in 15 minutes? What do you have ready to go, and what would you need to find?

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Life in the Junk Drawer

So we have decided to take stock of our lives, and by we, I mean you.  What now?  Unlike the grocery store, our lives are not stacked neatly into evenly spaced cans and boxes waiting to be counted.  If you are like me your life probably looks a little more like the stuff I find in my kitchen junk drawer. If you just looked over your shoulder to see if anyone saw you blush, I want you to know I feel your pain.  Don't get me wrong, the items in my junk drawer are all useful on their own, they just don't belong together.

So where do you start? I suggest taking a month of vacation, kicking your family out of the house and emptying every box and drawer onto the floor to look through.  (Please tell me you didn't believe that!)  As tempting as it is to start a project with a ton of energy and get a little too excited, don't.  You goal is not to hate this.  Your goal is to love this.

Start with a binder, of course I suggest Prepared Binder - Home Edition, this is my blog obviously. As you run across things that are important, stash them in the binder.  If you have a copy of PB-HE you will note there are pockets provided, if not, go get some.

Make the first goal your personal paperwork. Climb through the bowels of your filing system and pull out your birth certificate, your marriage certificate, your social security card and similar items for every member of your household.  Now dust off the cobwebs and muffin crumbs and put the documents in sheet protectors in the binder.  (You guessed it, PB-HE provides those too.)

Pat yourself on the back.  Job well done!  Oh wait...did I hear someone in the back say they couldn't find their birth certificate? Ahhhhh! What to do....what to do.  Don't panic, really, don't. You have just done yourself a huge favor.  You realized you needed a document BEFORE the crisis.  Pat yourself on the back again.  Look up the department of vital statistics in the area you were born.  In the U.S. it is usually filed by county.  Give them a call, send them an email, or submit an web site query to ask how to get a certified copy.  You will likely need to send proof of who you are or how you are connected to the person whose certificate you are requesting, and there is sure to be a small fee. Go ahead and get 2-3 copies for your later use.

Wow! That was amazing.  Did you see yourself take charge like that?  Impressive.

So now you are wondering why I made you do that.  I mean really, when was the last time you looked at your birth certificate? Personal information like birth certificates and passports are tricky things.  You never need them until you NEED them. If you needed to evacuate your home and relocate, you would need all that information to re-register kids for school, to obtain new government ID and to travel out of the country.

So here is today's question: What information do you know you have "somewhere" that you can't find? How big of a problem could that be?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bookstores and Root Canals

Apparently my last post broke the cardinal KISS rule. "Keep It Simple Stupid" (and might I add, Short) was never something I was good at, but I will do my best from here forward.

Preparedness is a scary topic for some.  Being prepared implies that something bad may happen in the future. I know that sounds a bit obvious, but think about it.  Emergency preparedness doesn't get us ready for a relaxing spa vacation, it gets us ready for an unpleasant experience.  To some this may feel like prolonging a trip to the dentist for a root canal.

I on the other hand LOVE preparedness. In this world of "who knows what will happen" I find it comforting to know I have done everything I can to control my future. (Are you reading into that last statement?  For the record, yes, I have control issues...) One great philosopher, or maybe many great philosophers, have said you don't know where you are until you know where you are going.  Where are you?

We are all standing in the great bookstore of life.  Are you stuck in the fear and denial section, or are you moving along to the self help aisle? Taking the time to inventory your life from a practical aspect can do wonders for your motivation, and dare I say, self esteem.  We all have more than we think we do. Look at getting prepared as a way to show how much you care about yourself and others.

So here is today's question: What stops you from taking stock? What are you afraid of?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Maybe I'm just odd...

The Truth is that we will all go through this process.  The Choice is to do it when it is convenient or during an emergency.  What is "this process" you may ask.  I am referring to the process of collecting paperwork and documentation. Lest you think "yuck" and click onto a more exciting web page, think about this for a minute, what do you need in an emergency?  When I say emergency, I mean the things that happen in our lives that fall into the "that wasn't on the schedule" category.

Here is a good example.  The weekend I got engaged was a bit of a whirlwind.  I had not expected to get engaged, so I was unprepared for the excitement and the lack of sleep.  Chain calling friends to spread the great news requires a lot of time and an amazing amount of squealing energy. (ahhh, for the days of Facebook where one message could have spread the word...) Anyway, I was tired, excited and preoccupied, which is probably why I didn't see the brand new car parked illegally behind me in the apartment parking lot.  I was late to church, which was bad in and of itself, but that also meant I would have less time to chat with friends (read into that "brag") and tell them about the upcoming nuptials. So I quickly backed of of my parking space, and WHAM, I had the sensation of being on a roller coaster as the car braces itself to head up an incline.  I whipped my head around to see that the back end of my car was firmly planted in the side panel of another car.  Oops.  After getting my heart to beat normally, I got out to investigate. My car wasn't too bad, but the other car had a huge dent in the side panel.  Now the problem.  It was early in the morning and there was no one outside.  I had no idea who's car it was and I really needed to get to church.  What to do....

Now stop thinking that I was a horrible hit-and-run kind of jerk and just left.  I ran back in my apartment, grabbed some paper and left a very hurried note telling the owner who I was and what had happened.  I left numerous ways to contact me and a pathetic apology.  I then jumped into my slightly dented car and sped to church.

This accident obviously fell into the "not on the schedule" category. What was even a little worse was the paperwork.  I had insurance agents to contact, information to transfer and my lame story to recount to numerous official type people.  It turns out the car belonged to my next door neighbor and it was her first brand new car.  After a few weeks and a trip to the body shop her car was as good as new and I was free to plan the wedding without looking out my bedroom window to see her smashed car.

I tell this long and sordid tale to point out that my emergency was a paperwork emergency.  I had to have contact information, insurance details, and a registered certificate of my absent minded stupidity. (Okay, the last was my attempt to explain to my fiance why on our 2nd day of official togetherness I had incurred vehicle repair debt.)  It was a good thing I was organized enough to have all the information ready for use, as my brain was definitely elsewhere.

Now to the bigger question, what if there had been medical injuries? Did I have my long and extensive medical history, including many allergies, available for use by emergency personnel? (Nope, I was young and ignorant...) Did I have contacts written down so my roommates could have gotten in touch with my parents or fiance? (No again.) Did I have a way to get in touch with my company and verify my medical benefits and medical leave policy. (You guessed it, no.)

So what ended up happening?  I got married as planned.  My fiance just raised an eyebrow when I told him the story. The neighbor ended up becoming a friend. I sold my car as soon as I could, you know, bad memories and all.  (That and it never ran well.) And then I moved on to become the Planning Queen I am today.  Okay, there were a few more steps in there, but I digress.

This and many other experiences led to the formation of Prepared Binder as a company. Having organized information can mean the difference between getting through an emergency smoothly and having that emergency be a crisis. If it is up to me I always pick smooth over crisis, but maybe I'm just odd.