Thursday, April 28, 2011

Disaster Strikes Again

Have you been watching the stories about the devastating tornadoes that hit Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, as well as several other states on Wednesday? It's terrifying to think about something that large and powerful coming right at you with only a few minutes warning.

Some people didn't even hear a traditional warning. I heard stories about several people who had called to check on family or friends and that phone call was the only warning they had to get to shelter. I saw an interview with a truck driver who sought shelter under an overpass, and he told the homeless man he found there to hold on.


I don't think my area has tornado sirens. I don't remember hearing any when I worked downtown and one passed by a few blocks from my office. Of course, a lot of us were on our computers. If you're on Facebook or Twitter and you see people talking about a twister, even if you don't get specific information there, you at least know to check the news websites, the National Weather Service or other sources of official information.
  • Would you have had the maximum warning (24 minutes, I think they said) or would you have known about the tornado only when you heard the roaring of a freight train outside your home or office? 
  • Do you have a plan in place for reconnecting with your family? A lot of people were at work or at school when the tornadoes starting forming Wednesday afternoon. If your home was destroyed, if roads were impassible, if cell towers and phone lines were down -- what would you do to find your loved ones?
  • Have you thought about how to notify family or close friends who live outside your area? 
  • Do you have copies of important documents stored somewhere safe? It's not a bad idea to place copies of important papers - insurance documents and ID, a list of phone numbers for credit cards and utilities - in a bank vault, with a trusted family member out of town or even store them electronically (with password protection) "on the cloud." You'll need to know who to call if your home is destroyed.
It's never easy to imagine such utter destruction striking your life, but advance preparation can make a huge difference in what happens after disaster hits. I think about those poor people whose homes are demolished, blown away, and if their only copy of their insurance paperwork was in the house, they don't have the phone number or their account number, and how much harder is it going to be to file a claim without having that information?

Think ahead. Plan ahead. Be ready.

I hope that all my readers are all right. If you are in the danger zone, please know that a lot of people are thinking of you and praying for you.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Long-Lasting Hand Sanitizer: WIN!

In the aftermath of any natural catastrophe or man-made calamity, staying clean and healthy is a primary concern. When you don't have access to hot running water, you need some other way to clean your hands and ensure that you're not spreading germs or ingesting them with your food when you eat.

The U.S. government's Be Ready checklist suggests keeping moist towelettes in your disaster kit, and FEMA's disaster supply list includes waterless hand sanitizer. I bought two large bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in 2005, and I can attest that it will last awhile, as both bottles are still mostly full. We'd use it more, but the heavy citrus fragrance is tough on my husband's allergies.

Prefense Foaming Hand Sanitizer

I'm pleased to say that the newest hand sanitizer in the house has just a light fragrance that dissipates after a few minutes, so I can use it around him more often. This new brand of hand sanitizer is called Prefense. I've been using it for the past couple of weeks, in order to write this review. Since my husband won't believe me when I saw I need a microscope in the kitchen, I have no way of testing the scientific claims,  but I can tell you that it's easy to use, it absorbs or dissipates quickly, and it doesn't leave my skin feeling sticky or dry.

The 1.5 ounce bottle that I've been using is a great size for keeping in my purse, and it's within the TSA guidelines for carry-on liquids. Each spray, according to the company, will stay on your hands through ten hand washings, for at least 24 hours, so you don't have to constantly re-apply all day. That means your hand sanitizer will last longer and it's one less thing you have to worry about, whether you're cleaning up after a disaster, trying to avoid catching cold while you're working at a cash register during the Christmas season, or preparing a picnic in the park for your family reunion.

The Prefense website lists more than six-dozen bugs that its hand sanitizer protects against, including several types of staph bacteria, flu viruses, germs, molds and fungi.

How does it work?

In a 2009 press release, Prefense president Aaron Powers described how the product works.  “Ours is a silicone based product made up of zillions of tiny micro filaments,” Powers said.  “And instead of shrinking or poisoning pathogens into submission like alcohol based products, Prefenz literally slits the cell’s wall and destroys it on contact.  That means there’s no opportunity for these cells to mutate and to come back as some kind of new super strain.”

Cool, huh? Oh, I should explain that the product has also been marketed as PrefenzBotanicals, and that's what the labeling says on the bottle I received, but it's the same as Prefense.

Prefense contains just four ingredients: Amosilq Silica Complex, water, cocamidopropyl betaine, and essential oil fragrance. You know what water and fragrance are, and I'll try to tell you a little about the other two.

I looked up cocamidopropyl betaine on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database. This is a great site that tells you more about ingredients found in personal hygiene and cosmetics products. According to Skin Deep, cocamidopropyl betaine is used in more than two-thousand products as a cleansing agent, foam booster, and an agent for increasing viscosity. I think this is what helps keep your skin from drying out like with other hand sanitizers.

The key ingredient for germ protection in Prefense seems to be the Amosil-Q, a chemical compound patented in 2003 by Dr. William Peterson, President and CEO of Coating Systems Laboratories, and two co-creators. When I did a search for Amosilq (as it appears on the product label), not a lot of results came up. Then I found an FDA advisory warning consumers to be wary of hand sanitizers that claim to protect against MRSA. None of the products listed in the advisory contain Amosil-Q, but I started digging for more information and eventually (it took a couple of hours, at least) I found a product listing on a National Institutes of Health site, and that led me to a Wikipedia article on Benzalkonium chloride.

After all this reading, I feel pretty confident that Prefense protects against all those bugs it lists as well as it claims. I probably wouldn't use it every day, but I think it's great to use on days when you know you're at higher risk of contamination: yard sale days, working a cash register during the holidays, traveling on any kind of public transportation, and yes, cleaning up after a hurricane.

Your Chance to Win

One winner will receive an 8-ounce bottle of Prefense Foaming Hand Sanitizer.

FIRST ENTRY:  Leave a comment here on why you think Prefense is perfect for a disaster kit, plus tell us what other item you think should be in everyone's kit.

Please be sure that I have a way to contact you, in case you're the winner. The form asks for your email address, but that's just for logging into Blogger; I can't see it. Be sure that your Blogger profile shows your email or include your email addy with your comment.

EXTRA ENTRIES: For each item you complete, leave another comment here (two comments in the case of tweeting) and be sure to include a link to your comments and tweets.

*leave a relevant comment on any non-giveaway post on this blog (+1)
*like Prefense on Facebook (+1)
*follow Auriette and Prefense on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway (+2)
suggested tweet: Enter for your chance to win a revolutionary new hand sanitizer from @prefense and @auriette: #giveaway ends May 14.

You can earn a maximum of five entries per household. Eligible comments must be made no later than 11:59pm ET on Saturday, May 14, 2011. Entrants must be 18 or older, with shipping addresses in the United States. One winner will be selected by random drawing no later than Sunday May 15 and notified by email. Winner must respond to the email with mailing address within 72 hours or another winner will be selected.


The makers of Prefenz Botanicals provided me with a 1.5 ounce bottle of their product so I could try it for myself and write this review. The company is also providing the 8 ounce bottle that will be given away through this post. I received no other compensation or consideration, and the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

WINNER - Hurricane Safety Kit

The winner of the dynamo-powered flashlight/radio and the multi-tool kit is CarolPie with comment #83. Congratulations! Carol has already responded with her mailing address. Thank you to everyone who visited and commented on the blog.

Some of you mentioned that you don't really have a disaster kit prepared, and I hope you'll all take a little time and money to put together a kit for you and your families.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Guessing Game is On!

Dr. Bill Gray is a noted hurricane researcher who regularly issues predictions for tropical cyclone activity. He and his protégé Dr. Philip Klotzbach study global weather patterns and historical hurricane records and then issue warnings about how busy they think hurricane season is going to be. On April 6, they issued their predictions for the 2011 season, and until the season is over, they will continue to study the shifting weather patterns and issue updated reports.


For the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, Drs. Gray and Klotzbach anticipate above-average activity, with 16 named storms and five of those, major hurricanes (category 3 and above). They have calculated a 72% probability of a U.S. landfall.

The complete report, which is filled with charts, graphs and colorful maps, is available online.


I found it interesting that the researchers compared the 55-year period of 1901-1955 to 1956-2010, and the earlier period had a much higher number of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes. Of course, the data-gathering tools available in the first half of the 20th century was very different from what's available now.

The report also stated that we can expect busier hurricane seasons for the next ten years or so, but then it should quiet down.


For the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, Drs. Klotzbach and Gray issued an initial forecast in December 2009, plus three updates based on changing weather conditions. The final column is the actual number for the 2010 season. I've copied the chart below, and you can read the full report, which includes a glossary defining all the terms they use in the chart.

Another great site for historical data is provided by Unisys. Pick a year, and you can look at maps and detailed information about all the tropical activity from tropical depressions to major hurricanes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gotta Light?

My mom called me on Monday evening and said that her power was out. She lit some candles until she went to bed, then she kept a flashlight handy in case she had to get up in the night. Shortly after she woke up on Tuesday, the phone stopped working; she has her phone through her cable provider and it relies on electricity. About 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, Gulf Power crews repaired the problem on her street.

She was without power for more than 24 hours because of a thunderstorm.


It's always good to have back-up lighting in your home. A simple battery-operated flashlight can be purchased for a few dollars at stores like Wal-mart, Target, Home Depot or Lowe's. A flashlight with 5 or 6 LED bulbs can give you enough light to get around and do simple tasks.

For prolonged outages or if you anticipate having to do things that require two hands (change a diaper, prepare an insulin injection, deal with storm damage) it's nice to have a hands-free lantern. They're a little more expensive and take a larger battery, but they put out more light and don't have to be held and aimed.

Rechargeable flashlights are great, but in a prolonged outage, where will you recharge it? If you have a generator, you can plug in the flashlight and your cell phone at the same time as you're cooling your fridge. During the last few major hurricanes, I was working at a TV station with a huge generator that served the entire building. I think we all brought rechargeable items from home.

Check in the camping section of a department or sporting goods store for a good selection of more expensive lanterns. Some of the camping lanterns burn LP gas and give off very bright light. If you can afford it, you'll be glad to have it when the lights are off for an extended period of time.


You can spend hundreds of dollars on a flashlight or lantern, but it's not necessary. Twenty dollars will get you several small flashlights that will get you through an emergency. If you don't already have some around the house, start watching for sales. Summer is a popular time for camping, and we're also getting close to Father's Day, so you may find some good deals if you keep your eyes open for them. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can sometimes find gift packs of small LED flashlights at the hardware stores; they usually package five or six small flashlights for under $10.


When you have battery-operated items stored for long periods, remove the batteries or at least check them regularly. We don't have central air, and we've had batteries burst from the heat. The battery acid can render your device useless and make a mess in the drawer or cupboard where the device is stored.

Check your storehouse of batteries and/or LP gas regularly. Make sure that you have viable materials when you need them. Also be sure that the flashlight or lantern and its batteries are easy to find in a blackout. You don't want to be rummaging through a drawer or box in the dark trying to find the flashlight and load the batteries.


Finally, a few words of warning about open flames:
  • Keep burning candles or lanterns in a clear area where the flame cannot ignite nearby materials. A dried floral arrangement on the mantle may be pretty, but it's also highly flammable. Curtains can blow in the wind. A candle placed on the floor near the bed could set a wayward sheet or blanket on fire. 
  • Never leave an open flame unattended. Not only does it increase the risk of an accidental fire, but if you have children or pets, they could be attracted to the flame and burn themselves.