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Emergency Lifehacks: Plan Ahead

Emergency Lifehacks: Plan Ahead

    What would you do if you lost power for a day? What about a nasty storm knocking out transport to your area for a week? What if you had to evacuate your home because of a wild fire?

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    A little emergency preparedness can go a long way. Spending an hour or two today, along with a few dollars, can make sure that you have less to worry about in the event of an emergency. And if you’re worrying about a bad storm or a wild fire, I think that any peace of mind that being prepared can bring you is worth the effort. You don’t need to spend a lot of time worry about emergency preparedness, but making it a part of your plans makes sense. Heck, you back up your hard drive on a regular basis, right? That’s basic emergency preparedness right there!

    Planning An Evacuation Bag

    I’ve read about people keeping a go bag for every occasion — from wilderness rescue to a bird flu pandemic It’s up to you how far you want to go, but I’ve focused on stocking a bag that will get me through some basic emergencies. I’m working on the assumption that, after a point, I’ll have access to my (or someone else’s), tool shed, pantry and other stuff and can work with those items when I run out. No sense hauling around more than a first aid kit when you can stock a good number of emergency medical supplies at home.

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    So what do I think is important in an evacuation bag?

    • A basic first aid kit
    • A map
    • A flashlight with spare batteries
    • A blanket
    • At least one change of clothing, with extra underwear and socks
    • Soap and a few other basic hygiene supplies.
    • A coat
    • Medication — a supply of both prescription and over the counter drugs
    • A recent back up of important computer files
    • Copies of important documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards
    • An inventory (for insurance purposes)
    • A list of important phone numbers
    • Snacks
    • A deck of cards or other entertainment

    Since I’m self-employed, that recent back up of my computer files is especially important. If I had to leave my files behind me, it could be very difficult for me to rebuild my business later on. I know that I can’t lug my filing cabinet along on an evacuation, but I can take a USB drive or a DVD. I’ve also added family photos and other important files to my backup. If you have something that you can’t bear to leave behind, add it to your evacuation list — you may need to make a list of things to pick up on your way out the door, and keep it with your bag.

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    Home Preparations

    There are any number of emergencies that could keep you stuck in your home or in your immediate area. The most important step you can take towards preparedness is stocking your pantry — even keeping a little extra food in the house can make the difference between having to go out in a blizzard or being able to wait it out.

    The expert opinions on what to stock at home vary widely. Recommendations to have 1 gallon of water on hand per person are pretty consistent. But beyond that, there are a variety of options. Depending on where you live and your circumstances, some recommendations include stocking up a year’s worth of food. If that’s your inclination, this calculator is a good start. It does assume, however, that you have a good working knowledge of your own kitchen.

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    Storing a year’s worth of food is outside of the realm of the possible for some of us — I don’t know where I could put 750 pounds of flour in my apartment, let alone other foods. I generally try to have about two weeks worth of extra food on hand at any given time. I try to add a few more canned items to my pantry, along with other non-perishables each time I go grocery shopping. As to what to store, I recommend sticking as close to your usual diet as possible. Stocking up on canned beets doesn’t make sense for those of us who hate beats.

    Beyond food, having a more extensive first aid kit on hand is worthwhile. I recommend thinking big: go beyond the roll of medical tape and the gauze pads. I’m slowly adding items as my budget allows, but my goal is to be able to keep going through at least minor medical emergencies. That means that I want a couple of cans of chicken broth, rubber gloves and a splint all on hand. Deciding what should be in your home’s kit can depend on who you life with, where you live and what Nature is likely to throw at your state. Good starting points include Jim McDonald’s jump kit guide, MSNBC’s home flu kit and Ready America’s first aid kit. If you can get even some basic medical training (many employers will pay for employees to get CPR training, and there are a number of free classes available at community centers), it’s worthwhile. There are also a couple of good books worth picking up: the Merck Manual and Where There is No Doctor are both good options.

    Emergency Preparedness in Everyday Life

    Once you’ve started making some plans for emergencies, it’s worth making them a part of your regular routine. If you’ve laid in some canned food or bottled water, make a point to make it a part of your meal plans so that you keep replacing it with new. Putting a reminder to go over your plans or check your supplies on your calendar is a great idea. For some people, once a year is plenty. For others, a go bag might need to be updated a bit more often. I’ve read about families who put together evacuation bags just in case, and then just put them in a closet for a few years. When they next checked on them, their children had outgrown the packed clothing by several sizes.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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