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Three Family-Friendly Activities to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Hurricane Michael was the first ever Category 5 hurricane on record to impact the Florida Panhandle.

Are you ready?  The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season began June 1. The official hurricane weather season continues until November 30, 2019. For Florida residents, it is never too early and not too late to prepare for this year’s hurricane season.  NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released a forecast prediction reporting a 40% chance of a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season and a 30% chance “above normal” indicating a range of 4-8 hurricanes, including 2-4 hurricanes of category 3 or higher.  With this information provided as a means to increase disaster preparedness awareness, it is imperative that our families take action now to minimize the anxiety, stress, and hardships that occur when a disaster strikes. The following information details three family-friendly disaster preparedness activities to complete during the month of June to be hurricane ready for the 2019 season followed by useful informational links.

 

Build a Disaster Preparedness Bucket

complete disaster bucket

The contents of a disaster bucket assembled by Wakulla County Emergency Management Director Jennifer Nagy.

One annual activity that families can do together is “build a disaster preparedness bucket.”  Families may prepare large plastic storage containers with lids for hurricane snacks and other necessary items. In a storm situation where conditions may require you to move to safety, preparing a 5 gallon bucket with a lid full of recommended essential items will provide a portable, easy-to-store alternative that the whole family can use. Buckets may be purchased at local hardware or home improvement stores. In your area, organizations like your local city or county emergency management department or the Red Cross may offer a bucket giveaway program with pre-stocked disaster preparedness kits.


Talk About Your Communications Plan

As a family, decide who will be the point of contact for all members to contact in case of emergency.  This activity is an excellent way to engage your child in critical thinking and problem solving. The person or people should be located outside the impacted area – a grandparent or other relative or family friend in another state would be one possibility. Provide each family member with a laminated contact list – with emails, phone numbers, and addresses – that can be kept in disaster preparedness kits, saved in phones, or stored in wallets and backpacks.  Local business supply stores, mail or copy centers in your area may offer laminating services to make waterproof contact lists for safe storage and easy reference.


Have a “Meals To Ready” Taste Test Dinner

After a disaster, your family may be without power for several days or longer. To enjoy safe, hot meals, one option is “meals ready to eat” also known as MREs.  MREs are a complete, filling & nutritious way to feed your family. MREs can be purchased online or in the camping section of stores like Bass Pro or Wal-Mart. These meals have a long shelf life and can be stored for months until needed. Some MREs include built-in heaters while others require boiling water to prepare. Camping MREs tend to be an entrée only. Military style MREs will have most, if not all, of the following components: entrée, side dish, bread, spread, dessert, cold drink mix, instant coffee, spoon, condiments, napkin, moist towelette, and a flameless ration heater.

Completing an MRE taste test as a family planning activity will help you determine which products your children will eat when the time comes to use the MREs. The taste test can be fun for the whole family – have everyone taste and then rate each meal or meal component on a scale of 1 to 5 – with 5 being the best possible in flavor and food quality. When you get ready to purchase a supply of MREs, you will know whether your family is going to prefer lasagna to white chicken chili and can shop with confidence!

For more information about hurricane season preparation or 4-H programs in your county, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.


Resources 

Handling the Holiday Blues

Christmas tree

Aim to find JOY in this holiday season.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, many people are filled with extra holiday cheer and enthusiasm.  Some are jolly but still overwhelmed with all of the activities, decorating, and shopping that needs to be completed.  Then, there are those that find the holiday season as a reminder of things such as the death of a loved one, family feuds, divorce…the list goes on. If you are feeling this way, here are a few tips to make getting through the season a little bit easier.

  1. Feel your emotions – Many people want to suppress their sadness or anxiety, but this only makes it worse. We are all allowed to grieve, cry and feel mad at times.  If you feel this way, let yourself feel your feelings.  You will feel better once you have accepted and worked through the emotions. You also do not have to force yourself to feel happy just because it is the holiday season.
  2. Reach out to others – Instead of secluding yourself, spend time with others whether it’s at church, a community group or with family and friends. Spending time with others and socializing is good for the spirit.
  3. Volunteer – There are tons of volunteer opportunities during the holidays.  Try something new and volunteer your time to a worthy cause.  You’ll feel great about helping others and contributing to a cause.A national survey commissioned by UnitedHealth Group talked to 3,351 adults and found the majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience.
    The research showed:
    *  96% reported volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
    *  94% of people said volunteering improved their mood
    *  80% of them feel like they have control over their health
    *  78% of them said volunteering lowered their stress levels
    *  76% of people said volunteering has made them feel  healthier
    *  About a quarter reported their volunteer work helped them manage a chronic illness by keeping them
    active and taking their minds off of their own problems
    *  Volunteering improved their mood and self-esteem
  4. Be realistic – Realize that times and traditions change as families grow and age. Do not focus on things having to be the same every year.  Be willing to accept changes, such as adult children may not be able to attend the family gathering, so utilize technology and talk through video conferencing, share pictures on email and/or Facebook.  Find a way to make it work.
  5. Set aside differences for everyone’s sake. Aim to accept family and friends the way they are, even if they do not meet your expectations. Leave grievances at the door for the day and enjoy your family and friends. Share those grievances and talk at a more appropriate and private time. Also, remember they could be feeling the stress of the holiday too. So, be patient if someone is grouchy or sad as you celebrate.  You may both be feeling the same way.
  6. Learn to say no – Be realistic in the number of activities you and your family can participate. Do not feel guilty because you cannot attend every party and event you are invited too.  Graciously decline an invite and share that your schedule is booked, but thank them for thinking of you. A host does not expect that everyone will attend their parties.
  7. Take a breather as needed – If you start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety, anger or sadness take a few minutes to be alone. Take 15 minutes to spend in the quiet to reduce the stress and clear your mind. For example: listen to soothing music, do a few mindful breathing exercises to slow yourself down or read a book to temporarily escape the stress.
  8. Seek professional help as needed – there are times when the emotions are just too overwhelming to sort through on our own. If you continue to feel sad, anxious, angry, etc. there is absolutely no shame in seeking the help of a doctor or mental health professional. It will only help you work through your feelings with a non-bias person. Helping yourself feel better will improve your quality of life and those around you.

Learn to take care of yourself first. Learn your limitations and accept them.  Don’t t let other’s expectations overwhelm you.  Just remember when you start feeling extreme levels of emotions and/or stress, take a few deep breathes and remind yourself to relax and feel the moment.  Be mindful of your surroundings and remind yourself of your many blessings even when going through difficult times.  Make it your personal goal to feel your feelings and enjoy what you can about the holiday season whether it is the twinkling lights, time with friends and family, the food or any of the many special holiday traditions.

Striving for and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an achievable goal and a National 4-H Council mission mandate for all of our 4-H members, families and volunteers.  To learn more about healthy lifestyles and 4-H, find your local UF/IFAS Extension office.

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