Living Well Resources for Times of Disaster

Living Well Resources for Times of Disaster

Hurricane season is June 1 to November 30, with peak season in September and October.  And hurricanes are not the only disasters we have to contend with.  Living Well in the Panhandle provides the trusted Disaster Resources you need so you know what to do to keep your family and you living well.

Disaster Resources

Below are helpful resources for preparing for and handling the aftermath of a disaster.  For more information, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Food Safety
Is My Food Safe to Eat?
Keeping Your Food Safe During Emergencies:  Power Outages, Floods, and Fires
USDA – A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety-Severe Storms and Hurricanes Guide
Well Water Safety
Well Water Testing

Search for an open emergency shelter near you by texting SHELTER and your zip code to 4FEMA (43362) Example:  SHELTER 01234

lightning storm with palm trees

Lightning storm. Photo Source: UF/IFAS

Cleaning Up After a Hurricane
Safety Comes First!
Get the Right Tree Care Professional
Hiring an Arborist – Spanish
Cleaning Mold After a Flood
Hurricanes and Mosquitoes
Mosquito Control Tips for Homeowners

Money Management/Consumer Issues
Avoiding Fraud and Deception
Six Steps in Making an Insurance Claim
Replacing Lost or Damaged Documents
FEMA – Individual Disaster Assistance
FEMA – Interim Housing Resources
USDA Farm Service Agency Disaster Assistance
Disaster Recovery Loans
Tax Relief After a Disaster
Complaints – If you have a complaint about disaster relief assistance, contact the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s Office at 1-800-323-8603.

Family Health and Wellness
Call the Disaster Distress Helpline 24/7 for free counseling – 1-800-985-5990 (TTY) 1-800-846-8517
OR text TalkWithUs to 66746
Mental Health for Adults
Mental Health for Kids
Mental Health for Adolescents

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Practices to Minimize Flooding Damage to Commercial Vegetable Production
Florida Panhandle Agriculture
Florida Panhandle Agriculture Facebook

Proactive Preparation – National Preparedness Month

Proactive Preparation – National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month, so right now is a great time to think about how you can be prepared, and then act on those thoughts and get ready for an emergency! This article will help get you thinking, give you some great starting points, and provide resources to turn to.

Emergencies Have a Wide Horizon

While hurricanes are likely the first thing panhandle residents think of when it comes to emergencies, are you prepared for others? Fires? Floods? Hail? Lightning? Tsunamis? Drought? Heat waves? Tornadoes? Possible winter storms? Marine oil spills? Major sewage problems? Other life-threatening medical disasters? Being prepared for a hurricane like Michael is vital to panhandle life, but it’s certainly wise to consider other possible disasters and to be prepared for anything.

Being prepared for an emergency can greatly reduce the stress it causes. (Photo source: Stephanie Herzog)

There are also so many ways to prepare for emergencies that it can be overwhelming to think about. Do you have sufficient food storage? What about clean water for your whole family (pets included)? How are you going to wash your clothes? How do you purify water? What if your toilet isn’t usable, what do you do? Can you safely start a fire if there’s no heat? What about shelter? How do you stop a gaping wound? How do you turn off the water to your house? What is the best evacuation route? How do you contact someone when there’s no power? Are those potentially life-saving prescriptions easily accessible? Where is the deed to your house, the title to your car, and your family’s vital identification documents? You’re filing an insurance claim, and you have no idea what brand your Smart TV was, where you bought it, how old it was, or how much it cost – what do you do?

Preparation Brings Relief

Have all of these questions got you thinking, but perhaps exhausted you? Now imagine that you could answer every one of these questions confidently – how do you feel? A weight lifted? Stress is a central source of fatigue for us all, and with it comes a variety of problems – mental, physical, financial, and social. Think of a time when you were prepared for the expected or unexpected – was your stress considerably less? Most likely it was. Preparation is a positive, proactive behavior that gives foresight into the unknown. Procrastination tends to be the default within a human’s nature, so being prepared doesn’t necessarily sound like a fun thing to do with your time. But it will be a game-changer for your life when the time comes that you have to react swiftly and decisively in the event of an emergency. The investment is well worth it!

However, you don’t have to do it alone. Thankfully, there are many professionals here to help you! Here are a few starter tips to aid you in the beginning of your preparation:

  1. Human Life. First and foremost, in an emergency the highest priority is that of preserving human life. Material objects can be replaced – a life cannot be. Always keep this in mind while preparing for and responding to emergencies!
  2. Sustenance Storage. Have adequate food and water storage for your needs. Label your food and water storage with the month and year to help track expiration dates.
    • Canned and dehydrated foods are great for storage, and many items have a long shelf life.
    • Remember one gallon of water per person/pet per day – store as much fresh water as you can! You can only survive a few days without water, but weeks without food.
    • Plan in your near future to eat and drink the food and water supply that are nearing expiration and then replace the storage with fresh sustenance.
  3. 72-Hour Kit. Have a 72-hour kit for each member of your family, including pets. Backpacks or duffel bags are ideal grab-and-go containers. Keep a 72-hour kit both in your home and in your car.
  4. Review Annually. Pick one Saturday a year as your “emergency preparedness day” where you review all of your food and water storage, medical supplies and prescriptions, fire extinguishers, and all other emergency materials.
    • Make an inventory and then head to the store to replace any expired or missing items.
    • Clean and organize your storage space and emergency kits so everything is accessible.
  5. Evacuation Plan. Have an evacuation plan and put it on the calendar to practice it with your family – and even neighbors – every three months.

Start now to be prepared!

Additional Resources


Jaffe, E. (2013, March.) Why wait? The science behind procrastination. Association for Psychological Science.

Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 65-94.

What grade would your kitchen get?

What grade would your kitchen get?

If you are anything like me, you pride yourself on keeping your kitchen safe and clean. Everything is tidy and in its place, there is no expired food in the pantry or refrigerator, and all the appliances are clean and free of debris.

But really. How clean is your kitchen? Out of curiosity, I recently graded the cleanliness of my kitchen using this handy checklist from Rutgers University. And while I received a pretty good grade, there were a few things I discovered I was not doing correctly. As a food safety instructor, I was ashamed of myself!

paper towel dispenser

The safest and most sanitary way to dry your hands is with disposable paper towels. Never use a dishtowel for anything other than drying dishes. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)

The top five things I overlooked are:

  1. While the inside of my microwave oven was clean and free of debris, I failed to pay enough attention to the door. It was a little grubby. While it may not seem important to keep it clean since it does not come in contact with food, gunky buildup from food and other sources can harbor bacteria. Be sure to always keep the door clean!
  2. I have a bad habit of using the same dishtowel to dry my hands that I use for other functions in the kitchen. The best food safety practice is to either use paper towels to dry your hands or have a designated towel for hand drying. In fact, dishtowels should only be used to dry dishes, not to wipe down countertops or clean up spills.
  3. While I hate to admit it, I have sometimes resorted to thawing foods on the counter when I have realized that one of the ingredients for that night’s dinner is still in the freezer. THIS IS A VERY UNSAFE PRACTICE! Thawing foods at room temperature (i.e. on the counter) exposes foods to the Temperature Danger Zone, which can encourage the growth of pathogens. The Temperature Danger Zone is the range of temperatures between 41 and 135 degrees F. Keep cold foods below 41 degrees and hot foods above 135 degrees to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. There are only 4 acceptable methods to safely thaw foods:
  • In the refrigerator.
  • Under running water. (NOTE: The water temperature must always be less than 70 degrees F.)
  • In the microwave. (NOTE: The food must be cooked immediately after thawing.)
  • During the cooking process.
  1. I do not actually store a lot of leftovers. As a single person, I generally prepare small meals that can be eaten in one sitting. However, on those occasions when I do have leftovers, I do not always label them with the date. Leftovers stored in the freezer should be labeled with what it is and when it was put into the freezer. Refrigerated leftovers should not be kept longer than 7 days. Frozen leftovers should not be kept longer than 6 months.
  2. My cats are allowed in the kitchen and even on the countertops. While I always sanitize the surfaces before I prepare food, the best food safety practice is to prevent pets from coming into contact with countertops and other food contact surfaces.

How do you think your kitchen would fare? I encourage you to take a few minutes to grade your own kitchen to make sure you are doing everything you can to keep your kitchen as clean and sanitary as possible.

For more information about food and kitchen safety, please visit

Tune Up Your Lifestyle

Tune Up Your Lifestyle

Eating healthy is not something that just happens by going on a particular diet. In fact, the best kind of diet is where the right choices are made, and it becomes a way of life. Sometimes we need to know some ways to change the bad habits we have developed. There is no ‘quick fix’.

Class working out with weights, MyPlate, fat, and muscle in foreground

Tune Up Your Lifestyle
Photo Source: UF/IFAS

With today’s fast-paced lifestyles sometimes we feel we don’t have the time to do the things we know we should. For instance, to get more exercise, do things like park a distance from the store when you go shopping, walk up and down the stairs instead of taking the elevator, walk to lunch, or even turn up the speed on regular activities you perform around the house.

When grocery shopping choose foods from the basic food groups (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and reduced-fat dairy products) to round out a healthy meal plan.

Convenience foods are a part of today’s lifestyle, but they often lack nutritional quality, texture, and flavor. Preparing foods at home can be healthy and economical. You can boost nutrition and flavor by adding fresh herbs, spices, and aromatic vegetables to the meal menu.

Foods and beverages high in sugar add empty calories to the diet and contribute no nutritional value. Read labels to determine the amount of added sugar in food products. Choose lower calorie beverages.

Experiment with new food items. Try adding different fruits, vegetables, or grains to your diet. For example, try tropical fruits such as mango, guava, papaya, or grains as quinoa, barley, or millet, to add vitamins, minerals and fiber to the diet.

Before you go out to eat, don’t starve yourself. Drink water before the meal to avoid overeating or eat a snack before dinner and you won’t be tempted to overeat.

When socializing don’t meet at eating places. When you do dine out, cut out fried main dishes or ones with heavy sauces and gravies. Eat smaller portions and don’t go back for seconds. Order low-fat foods when possible. However, keep in mind that you too need to allow for indulgence along the way.

Be active! Physical activity has health benefits. Being physically active not only burns calories, it aids in physical strength, and cardiovascular health. U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend being physically active at least 150 minutes a week for adults. (

Chances are, along with a healthy diet and regular physical activity, your tune up will result in living a healthy lifestyle.


For further information, contact:

Dorothy C. Lee, C.F.C.S.

UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County

3740 Stefani Road

Cantonment, FL 32533-7792

(850) 475-5230

The Power of Ice Cream

The Power of Ice Cream

Cold and refreshing on a hot summer day. Official by presidential proclamation. It practically saved my life once. Behold – The Power of Ice Cream.


Some say the Chinese invented ice cream in the first century. Roman emperors are also credited with flavoring ice gathered from mountain tops. Still others say ice cream found its start in the areas of Iran or Ancient Greece. Regardless of its origins, ice cream was often only available to royalty who could afford the resources to make it. Once refrigeration/freezing became affordable, the popularity and availability of ice cream rose considerably. So now, most of us – royalty or not – can enjoy the Power of Ice Cream all year long.

THE 411

  • Ice Cream is made with greater than 10% milkfat.
  • Gelato is generally made up of 7%-8% fat.
  • Soft serve has more air mixed in.
  • Frozen Yogurt is usually lower in fat and is often available soft-serve style.
  • Sherbet freezes a combination of fruit juice with milk, cream, egg white, or gelatin.

THE 911

Picture it. Moving day. One of the hottest, most humid days of the year. The kind of day that you feel like you’re walking around in really warm soup. Though I’m staying hydrated, after about four hours in, it hits me. I go into a fog and literally start to go down to the ground. Luckily, my dad is pretty quick on his feet for a big Sicilian man. He puts me in the shade and says, “Don’t move!’ To this day, I don’t know how he did it so fast, but within two minutes, he got me the best cold ice cream dessert ever. The world was quickly righted as was I. Though this is NOT normal emergency protocol, it’s my miracle ice cream story and I’m sticking to it.


Scoop of vanilla ice cream in small clear bowl with spoon and two containers of sprinkles

A cool and refreshing sweet treat
Photo Source: Angela Hinkle

  • The United States leads the way in ice cream consumption, eating or licking or drinking about 48 pints or 23 pounds a year.
  • President Ronald Reagan declared July National Ice Cream Month. The third Sunday in July, this year July 21st, is National Ice Cream Day.
  • Though boasting 31 flavors, Baskin Robbins’ most popular flavor is vanilla.
  • Because acquiring vanilla was so difficult before the mid-1800s, vanilla ice cream was considered quite an exotic treat.
  • Sometimes, because nerve endings on the roof of your mouth suddenly get cold from eating ice cream, your brain tells the blood vessels, “Contract!” When they go back to their normal size, blood rushes back in. And ooh, “ice cream headache.” One recommendation to prevent this “brain freeze” is to eat slowly. And a recommendation to stop it is to put your tongue up to the roof of your mouth. Nothing guaranteed – so good luck.
  • 15%-20% of Americans say they eat ice cream in bed. For more interesting ice cream trivia, visit


Though not a particularly nutrient dense food, ice cream does have some health benefits. The area of your brain called the orbitofrontal cortex – or pleasure center – is activated when people are happy. Eating ice cream has been identified with having an immediate “happy” effect on the brain. There is also calcium in ice cream, which is good for building strong bones and teeth. Question – should all your daily calcium come from ice cream? Answer – Um, No. Try to choose more calcium-rich foods that are lower in fat and sugar.

So, in moderation of course, enjoy the Power of Ice Cream!

12 buckets of variety color ice cream in freezer

Cold, Delicious, and so many flavors! Photo source: Lyndsey B.

See Below for two healthier ice cream options. Yum!

 MyPlate Sundae

This recipe includes all five food groups.

Layer in a clear glass bowl, mug, or cup so you can see all the colorful layers.

  • Dairy – Gelato or frozen yogurt – your choice of flavor
  • Vegetable – Frozen sweetened rhubarb or cooked, mashed, and cooled sweet potato
  • Fruit – Most any berry works great
  • Grain – granola
  • Protein – Sprinkle on your favorite nuts

Cool and Creamy Calcium Dreamy

Serves 3

Items needed

1 – gallon heavy-duty ziptop bag

1 – quart heavy-duty ziptop bag

rock salt


Procedure – In the 1 quart bag add the following:

¼ cup pasteurized liquid eggs

1 cup fat-free milk

1 cup fat-free half and half

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

Zip the top closed. Put the 1-quart bag inside the gallon bag. Pack the gallon bag with ice and ¾ cup of rock salt. Close the top. Work the bag back and forth – rolling over and over or tossing back and forth for 15 minutes. It may help to have potholders or a dish towel to hold the bag, as it will get very cold. Drain the water off and stir your cool and creamy calcium dreamy. Repack the gallon bag with ice and rock salt and roll or toss for five more minutes.

Serve immediately with fresh local fruits and nuts. Enjoy!

For more about the dairy food group see

Summer and Water: They Go Together Like Peas and Carrots

Summer and Water: They Go Together Like Peas and Carrots

Summer has hit the Florida Panhandle with a vengeance this year! If you’re out in the heat it’s especially important to make sure to keep your body well-hydrated. After all, water is the single largest component of our body, and it’s essential for life.

Recommendations for how much to drink vary depending on several factors including your age, how active you are, how hot it is outside, what you’re wearing, and if you have certain medical conditions. A pretty good “ballpark” from the Institute of Medicine Food & Nutrition Board (IOMB) is to drink around 3 quarts of water a day for women and around 4 quarts for men. It’s important to start hydrating even before your feet hit the floor in the morning, because your body has been losing fluid while you slept. And if you can go more than 4 hours during the day without taking a bathroom break, you’re probably already dehydrated.

Boy drinking water from clear glass

Water: Drink Up!
Photo Source: Ginny Hinton

Why worry about dehydration? In addition to making you more at risk of overheating, dehydration can affect a host of different organs and functions in your body. For example:

  • Dehydration makes it harder for kidneys to flush toxins (poison) from your system, creating an infection-friendly environment.
  • When you’re dehydrated, your blood becomes thicker and your heart has to pump harder to move it through your veins. This can lead to higher blood pressure.
  • Dehydrated skin loses its elasticity and looks dry and flaky. Your sweat becomes more concentrated, making it harder for you to sweat as much as you need.
  • Dehydrated joints are more brittle and more likely to become inflamed or damaged.
  • When your body is low on water, it pulls too much liquid from the stool to use for other functions. That can cause constipation, in addition to inflammation throughout your body.
  • Moist mucus membranes in the nose protect you from airborne allergens. Dehydration can dry them out and make you more vulnerable to irritating allergies.
  • Dehydration makes you have less energy, and it also affects your mood and concentration. There’s a documented link between stress and dehydration.

The good news is that it’s easier to stay hydrated than you think. Water is a great way to hydrate, but it’s far from the only option. Watch the sugar and caffeine content when choosing other beverages, but milk, fruit juice, coffee and tea can all help you stay hydrated. The current guidelines to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of caffeine intake are to drink no more than 1/3 to 4 cups of coffee per day (depending on the caffeine content) and 1 to 8 cups a day for tea. You can cut the sugar content but still have a tasty beverage by mixing half sweet tea with half unsweet, by mixing fruit juice with water, and by drinking flavored carbonated water with a splash of fruit juice to substitute for soda. Even food can help you stay hydrated! Watermelon, for example, is 90% water. Citrus fruits have a high water content as well, and vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce pack a powerful hydration punch.

As you get out and enjoy Florida’s sunny summer weather, just be sure to keep hydration in mind. Your body will thank you for it!