Personal & Emergency Preparedness

I am not sure if I have ever mentioned that I work as a Business Continuity Consultant for Zions Bancorporation or not. We have created a new website and doing a lot more to be involved and in the minds of the Zions Community.

In our outreach program we are doing a testimonial submission contest the top three testimonials will receive notoriety as well as a “Zombie Task Force T-shirt” (part of their Zombie Preparedness Program) from the CDC that says, “Don’t be a Zombie – Be Prepared.” They are great! (Check out their Zombie Novela it’s really good!)

Before we roll this out each member of our department is writing up a testimonial of how being prepared has benefitted their lives. I thought this was worthy enough to share! Besides, my tag line is just an ordinary girl with extraordinary adventures… here some of them come!

Personal Preparedness

by Jen Jenson-Valente

I am one of the luckiest people to have had such an adventurous life! My father worked for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) while I was growing up (and still does). Part of the life of a BLM family is getting to move all over the country every year or two (sometimes more frequently), to remote wilderness areas (I attended 11 different schools by the time I graduated from high school). This put our family in many interesting situations for grand experiences that most people can’t even imagine.

I have been in multiple earthquakes, tornados, fires, flooding, landslides, monsoons, wild fires, mid-sized dust storms, wind storms, blackouts, ice storms, and extreme snow storms. I’ve fallen off cliffs and lived through a bomb scare.  I’ve had biking and rafting/kayaking accidents I’ve been held hostage, witnessed shootings and actions of the KKK, and even had someone attempt to kill me.   I’ve been stranded in elevators, dealt with drug busts, rape and murder at a residential building I managed.  I’ve been stranded in the desert and other random places, had medical emergencies that were 200 miles from the nearest doctor.  The only large natural disasters I haven’t experienced are volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, title waves and hurricanes, thank Heaven!

Our most recent adventure was last December. I was living in Bountiful, Utah, where part of the South Davis County range was hit hard with a terrible windstorm, creating havoc and damage in its wake. Certain areas of Bountiful, North Salt Lake, West Bountiful, Centerville, Farmington, and other locations were hit extremely hard. The wind took down trees, roofs, fences, sheds, and signs. It even flipped fully loaded semi-trucks! We, as a family, lost 22 200-foot trees, eight fences, four roofs, and damage to vehicles, awnings, 30 feet of a 9-foot retaining wall, and a chicken coop. Our home actually made national news! Due to severe damage, the entire area lost electricity in the bitter cold December days.

I woke up that first morning to the howling wind and debris slamming against my windows. When I looked outside, it I felt as though I was in yet another tornado. I knew that if I drove my Ford Explorer to work, I would never make it due to the instability of my vehicle in turbulent winds. I attempted to call out of my home (using both my mobile & home Voice over IP phone) and send text messages to warn others – to no avail.  With no way to communicate with the outside world, I wondered what was happening elsewhere – and especially at the banks! I work in the Disaster Recovery Department of Zions Bancorporation.  “I have to get there!” I told myself.

Once the wind died down after several hours, I was finally able to leave my home and felt that it was safe enough to drive again. Skirting debris on the road, I stopped by our family meeting/message area, but there was no notification as of yet – only more damage. I left a note for those that might be following me. I then drove up the mountain to my grandparent’s home.   Shock, horror, and fear ripped through me as I viewed the entrance to my grandparent’s driveway. There were 3 huge trees blocking the driveway and view of their home. I climbed through the tree branches and debris, fighting my way down to my grandparents. How relieved I was to see that not one tree had fallen on their home! Once I was able to get inside, I found my 84-year-old grandmother, terrified and crying, wrapped in a ball under a table. She had been so scared by the falling trees that she thought she was back in England in another air raid during WWII. I slowly convinced her that she was safe again, that the damage was done, and we were going to be alright. My grandfather found me at that point. The three of us then went to evaluate the damage. “All my beautiful trees are gone!” my grandfather exclaimed, with tears trickling down his face. While we suffered from thousands of dollars of damage, we were one of the lucky families, because we have always planned ahead. We had a ham radio to communicate with others, plenty of food storage, and ways to cook it with the alternate cooking sources (propane barbecues, stoves, and a solar oven).

As I mentioned before, the power had been knocked out countywide, and it took days to get it fully back on. Some areas were out for over a week! We were lucky that we had a back-up generator, even though it had not been permanently installed.  We were able to hook the generator up to the main house heating system. Other people were left out in the harsh December elements, leaving their homes dark and cold for days. Every hotel room nearby was occupied.  Restaurants and grocery stores were also without power.

I learned early on that these calamities are simply part of life.  Emergency preparedness is also be a part of life. How grateful I am for the lessons I’ve learned! I am also grateful that we, as a family, have always known exactly what to do in case of emergencies, such as where to go, what to do, and knowing that – no matter what happens – we are resilient enough to survive. How grateful I am that we, as a family, have always made emergency preparedness part of our everyday lives, and that every family member is included, trained and rehearsed.  I’m thankful that we have practiced for such resiliency together!

While I was trying to figure out what to right I did some brainstorming. I thought these were great ideas that might be useful to others, enjoy!

Emergency & Personal Preparedness Brainstorm

To be prepared is half the victory.  – Miguel De Cervantes

I know that when disaster strikes or calamities show their face in my life that I have a plan and back up to ensure the safety of myself, my family and the people around me.

I come from a family that is really big on Emergency Preparedness. For this, I am grateful since I was a little girl, I have always known what the action plans were and where to check for updates in cases of emergencies, In addition they have helped me be more aware of disasters or situations that might occur. We also grew up with learning how to develop a one-year food storage, how to appropriately store and rotate thru our daily living as well. They were also very big in teaching us wilderness survival as well. As a single adult, I have adapted these lessons to be applicable to me. I have utilized the lessons they taught and random documentation that I have received thru the years to build up my food storage supplies in tandem with my wilderness survival. I know that in the case of an emergency I go to my Uncle’s home, which is the epicenter of our family and where there have been extra measures taken to ensure the safety and long-term well-being of our family unit. While living back east (nearly 3,000 miles away from my family) I knew I needed to do all I could to ensure of my survival in the case of an emergency for myself. Truly realizing what works best for me to always be prepared.

Some ways I have helped myself be prepared:

Automotive Emergency Kits

  •  Road Side Emergency (Things for my vehicle, mini cones, shovels, jumper cables, etc.)
  • 72 Hour Food Kits for each seat in my vehicle (you never know who might be with you – and frankly I would be one to share, I wouldn’t be able to not share to help us all survive.)
  • Emergency Preparedness Kit for 2 people (Sunscreen, Medication, First Aid Kit, Matches, etc.)
  • Water
  • Blankets, Jacket, Tennis Shoes, Sunscreen, Extra clothes,
  • Baseball, Bat, and 2 mitts, Couple Deck of Cards. (These might help you keep your sanity if stranded. They also serve multiple services such as the bat could be a weapon if need be and the deck of cards could help you start a fire.)
  • I am lucky enough to have a large cargo area in addition to many ‘cubby holes’ that have a lot of extra hidden storage, I utilize ever cranny I can find.

Wilderness Survival Kit

  • I enjoy camping I always have so while I was building my camping gear kit I realized this would be another great dual action collection! Thus, I built my camping/wilderness survival kit as easy to gather as possible (although wheels might be a good addition).
  • I built my kit into a large tote, and have my tent and sleeping bag in another easy to grab and tow bag (with wheels). In the case of an emergency I simply grab these two items that are packed to the hilt with everything I could find for camping/wilderness, and I don’t have to scramble threw the entire home for the items I need, in addition to an extensive first aid kit. At this point, my contingency plan is to grab them, throw them in the back of my truck, and go to safer ground, if I must vacate.

Home Survival

  • At home I do have an additional extensive first aid kit, in addition to 72 hour kits for all occupants of my home (I always include all roommates, and housemates depending on how large of place and how many other residents. My reasoning is the same as the vehicle… I can’t watch these people be in need and I not share.
  • I also have been building up my year’s supply of food storage just a little extra every time I go shopping (1 or 2 extra items each time and buying in bulk). I make it a point to also get other non-food essentials such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo/conditioner, body wash, laundry detergent, deodorant, contacts, etc.

Ways I have already benefited from my preparedness:

  • The number one benefit I have gained from being prepared has been in-between employment when I either have been low on funds, or ran out completely. I was able to use my food storage and not go hungry!
  • I first learned the true value of being prepared while living in both Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas, where we would have at least a tornado a week, during tornado season. Each time that this would happen, we would lose all power & gas. It wasn’t uncommon that it would be followed by flooding and due to the small size of the community; we’d be down for days. These turned into some of my favorite times because of the quality time with our mom in the basement safe from the danger. We never went hungry or had to spend too much time in the dark because of my parents’ proactiveness of having food storage, ways to prepare it and a stockpile of candles and matches.
  • In my old home in Pennsylvania, which was on an old county road in the middle of the forest, I would regularly loose my electricity, due to wind, branches, snow, etc.  This would also terminate use of my stove, oven and the oil furnace that heated our home and water, not to mention that the electric would also power our water-well pumping it into the house and of course lights, etc. We were always ok because I had my grill to cook on with extra propane; I could also heat water when needed. We always had a surplus of candles as well which would give us light to see by and games to play so we didn’t go stir crazy. I also had a stockpile of dried wood for the fireplace so that we had heat, which was always good when we’d be snowed in for a week at a time. My tenants/roommates would always tell me how they thought I was crazy until we lost power for the first time when they were in the dark with no water or heat until I pulled out my supplies and forward thinking.

Ways this has impacted my attitude when emergencies arise in the workplace:

  • I know that when disaster strikes or calamities show their face in my life that I have a plan and back up to ensure the safety of myself, my family and the people around me. I have had many occasions in my personal life or work life where disaster has struck and have had the opportunity to either step in and take control of a situation or panic with everyone else. I have found because of my life long learning of being prepared the my mind becomes vividly clear and I am able to absorb the situation and possible recovery strategies.
  • For instance, while working as a Property Manger in North Philadelphia with 1,207 residents and 18 commercial units there was always something new happening. Forcing me to be on my toes at all times, especially in a new building. One of my first days in the new position after being left alone for the first time; our concierge service received a package that was ticking, and the Community Assistant that was managing the service at the time was starting to panic. I quickly took matters into my own hands, knowing the franchise standards on the matter and action plans. I immediately examined the package carefully myself, notified the Temple Police and all Security within my building, in addition to the building owners and my regional manager. Within moments the full evacuation started and officials were on site with a full SWAT team for our potential bomb. We managed to handle our first of many evacuations with ease and maintaining a control of panic of the crowd that had just been evacuated while the SWAT Team properly handled and disposed of the package. If I had not been trained and known what to do in the case of emergencies this situation could have easily gotten out of hand, or escalated to a riot or many deaths due to the bomb.

List of Diasters I have Experienced

I thought this was also rather fun. I compiled a list of all the disasters I have experienced, natural disasters, personal disasters, etc. At the bottom I have a list of a few other crazy things that my immediate (or ex-immediate) family (and one close friend) has been through. I find it really fascinating, I never really thought much of any of this until I was told that most of my department at work hasn’t been in any natural disasters or major experiences. Thus, I just had to make a list.

Categories: Career, Family, Preparedness, Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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