Billions of Us – Virtual Solutions for a COVID-19 World

Over the last few weeks the world has been forced to forge a new path as we learn to protect ourselves and each other while trying to keep support services functioning. This first phase has been reactionary. We’ve mainly been figuring out how to establish a home base from which we can accomplish the things we need to do. Even those who still go to their workplace, like those in public works or emergency or medical services, are figuring out how to operate in a much changed work environment.

Fortunately humans are adaptable and already we seem to be shifting to the next phase in which we try to figure out how to best leverage available resources. One initiative I see working in this direction is Billions of Us, “a creative collective devoted to using virtual technologies to improve the real world in this time of vast systemic change.” This effort is just getting off the ground so their website has minimal information. Instead, they are engaging more on their Billions of Us Facebook group which you can request to join if interested. Yesterday after I saw a notice about it on LinkedIn, I messaged Reuben Steiger who graciously welcomed me to the Facebook group.

While making use of social media channels, Billions of Us has also set up space in the virtual world of Second Life (SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Billions%20of%20Us1/245/12/28). This specific venue appeals to me because I know from past experience Second Life can provide the framework and opportunity for people to work together to achieve goals that might not otherwise have been possible. If you have not yet been in a place like Second Life this may sound surprising. And yes, there are places in Second Life, like in our offline world, that are NSFW. But there are many places only focused on business where professionals engage and learn from each other and have been doing so since the early 2000s. I have worked on projects by both teleworking and by working in Second Life. Only the experience of working with others in a virtual world like Second Life has allowed me to develop the same type of professional relationships I would develop in a face-to-face environment.

Billions of Us Town Hall in Second Life

So what will Billions of Us achieve? And will this situation in which we find ourselves become our “new normal? Obviously it’s too early to tell, but I like the idea of a group focused on leveraging technology to help us get through it. So I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to participate and learn from others in the group and provide any support I can. I hope others who are interested in or who are already well-versed in virtual technologies will also join the initiative. We are all in this together, and what we achieve together will determine our outcome.

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National Preparedness Month is Here!

National Preparedness Month is here - congratulations!

We made it – National Preparedness Month is here, and we are prepared! If you followed along, congratulations to you too!

Below is a photo of the result of our efforts in our household over the last 20 weeks. As you can see, we ended up buying a regular plastic container I was able to find last week at Meijer for $5 on sale, and then with a 10% discount using mperks, we were able to get it for $4.50. So we were able to fit just about everything in there except of course the water. With eight cases of water, it just isn’t worth it to us to put it in a container. Also I left the garbage bags out since they too are so large.

Preparedness Kit with cases of water and garbage bags

And here’s a closeup of inside the container. It’s mostly food.

Closeup of Preparedness kit

Over the next few weeks of September, we’ll be following the preparedness month information to see if there is anything else we can do. If you have a family or business or if you are working for government and want to share preparedness tips with others, you can find many resources at the National Preparedness Month website: https://www.ready.gov/september

Below is just one of the many videos available:


As a side note, throughout this series of posts about getting prepared, I may mention certain products, services, agencies, etc. At no time is it my intention to promote a specific product or service or agency. Each is mentioned only for informational purposes.  Of course as a government employee, I do receive a salary from the government for the time I work on my job which by the way is not affiliated with this site, but I don’t receive any compensation from any commercial entities I mention or include in these posts.

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Build a Kit – Container – Week 20

Build a Kit - Container - Week 20

This is it – the last week of our preparedness journey. We finally have all our items, and now we need something to put them all in. Because we have such a large number of people in our family, we ended up with eight cases of water and a lot of food in addition to all the other non-perishable items. Other than the water, I have it all on a shelf so probably could get all that in one plastic container. The water will just have to remain out on its own. This week then, when I get to the store, I’m going to pick up a plastic container and see if it all fits!

If anyone else followed along, I hope you made it through finding all that you needed each week. It did take a long time; we’ve been working on this since April. For us, it was definitely worth taking the time because by the end of this week, we will finally have what we need should a disaster happen in our area. It’s already been a lot less stressful for me now when I’m at work, and there is a tornado or storm watch. We make use of the communication plan, and we know anyone at home will have what they need. Going forward, it seems the focus will be on maintaining the supplies in our kit since some family members have already raided it for food and water when we have run out of our regular supply!

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Build a Kit – Pet Items – Week 19

Build a Kit - Pet Items - Week 19

 

Those who have pets understand, someone’s pet is usually a very important member of their family. So during a disaster, pet owners are not only concerned about the well being of themselves and other humans in the household, but also the safety and care of their pets. And like humans, pets also have survival needs when disaster strikes. If you don’t have a pet, or if you are in the position of planning to accommodate pets during a disaster, you may wonder how prevalent of an issue this could be during an event.

According to the most recent publication by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), approximately 57% of U.S. households owned a pet at the end of 2016. The majority, 38% of households, owned dogs while about 13% of all households owned a more exotic pet such as a lizard, rabbit, or turtle. However, pet ownership was also shown to fluctuate between states. Wyoming has the highest with 72% of households having a pet. Rhode Island had the least with 45%.

With those types of numbers, it is important to understand and plan for what will happen to pets when a storm other other event hits. Your pet will most likely need food and water, so it’s important to have food and water for your pet in your preparedness kit.

If you need to relocate outside your home, are there shelters in the area which will take pets? Will they take the type of pet you have? If they take them, will they require proof of up-to-date vaccinations? Also, if you need to go to a shelter, they probably will not have the essentials your pet needs so you will have to bring all of that yourself. And even if you don’t have pets yourself, if you relocate to a shelter that takes pets this might be important for you to know, especially if you are allergic to pets.

Other important things to keep in mind in preparing to keep your pet safe after a disaster is to also have an up-to-date pet tag attached to a collar on the pet, a current photo of you and your pet, and a leash or harness for your pet. The AVMA has more tips and advice here: Pets and Disasters.

And if you have livestock, the AVMA also has a good list of preparedness tips here: Large Animals and Livestock in Disasters.

While we’ve had pets in the past, right now we do not have any in our household, so for us, we won’t need to add anything extra to our kit.


As a side note, throughout this series of posts about getting prepared, I may mention certain products, services, agencies, etc. At no time is it my intention to promote a specific product or service or agency. Each is mentioned only for informational purposes.  Of course as a government employee, I do receive a salary from the government for the time I work on my job which by the way is not affiliated with this site, but I don’t receive any compensation from any commercial entities I mention or include in these posts.

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Build a Kit – Special Needs – Week 18

Build a Kit Special Needs Week 18

It is week 18, and we are really moving towards the finish line on our kit. Only a couple more weeks after this!

So today we are trying to figure out what else we need in the kit based on some of the needs special to our home. Anyone with small children would definitely want to add something to keep them busy. Putting crayons and coloring books in the kit is an easy add along with some playing cards. If someone has even smaller children, diapers and formula can be necessary items. All of these are low-cost items to pick up at the store so we’ll grab a few next time we are out this week.

I was also thinking traveling any distance with a small child can be difficult. If the child is small enough, you can put them in a child carrier that you wear. But if the child is too big for that, having even something like a low-cost umbrella stroller might be helpful.

Some lists online mention the importance of having a pad of paper and pencil or pen if there is someone in your family who does not speak. I was thinking another useful item to make on the computer might be cards with symbols or common words. That way if a person needs to communicate with someone who does not speak the same language, the cards can be used.

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Build a Kit – Miscellaneous Items – Week 17

This is the week we add to our kit all those extra things we think we might need. For me, I have been thinking about adding matches and maybe a change of clothes, feminine supplies, and some soap.

I hadn’t really thought about putting a blanket in the kit since it will take up so much space. And we already have blankets stored in an area close to where I have our preparedness kit items. I do have something that might come in handy though – the foil wrappers I received after the two times I ran the Chicago Marathon. They help keep you from losing heat. So I’m going to fold those up and put them in the kit.

Not sure what other items people might choose for their kit – if you have any ideas you want to share, just add them in the comments!

 

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