Friday, September 26, 2014

Emergency Preparedness

September is National Preparedness Month.  Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Preparedness Month aims to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.

The last time I seriously looked at our level of preparedness for an emergency was back in 1999.  I was working in the IT department of a major bank, managing a team tasked with testing the PC-based applications for 4-digit date compliance.  And while I knew that the bank I worked for was definitely still going to be fully functional at the stroke of midnight January 1, 2000, that nagging “what if” drove me to put together some of the basic items recommended by preparedness experts.

FEMA recommends the following in your emergency kit:

1.  Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
2.  Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
3.  Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
4.  Flashlight and extra batteries
5.  First aid kit
6.  Whistle to signal for help
7.  Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
8.  Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
9.  Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
10.  Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
11.  Local maps

A .pdf file of the FEMA brochure on what to include in an emergency kit can be found at

Fast forward fourteen years.  All the water I had stashed has long since been used. The 72 hour emergency kits we put together in 2007 haven’t been opened at since then. What was inside? A 12-oz bag of raisins.  Three each of the following:  granola bars, cereal bars, instant oatmeal, hot chocolate mix, hot cider mix, and M&Ms.  The only package with a date was the raisins – and it said “Best before” 9/2009.  Keeping it.  Sadly, I found no Twinkies.  Rumor has it that they keep forever. 

I opened one of the cereal bars.  It looked OK.  It smelled OK.  I took a bite.  It tasted OK.  Keeping them, and assuming that the preservatives contained in the rest of the items were working just as well. I laugh because we have worked very hard the last couple of years to get preservatives out of our diet.  Still, I think even Dr. Oz would agree that, in an emergency, food with preservatives is better than no food at all.

Fortunately, we live in the food storage capital of the world.  Also fortunately, we own a generator and lots of camping equipment.  And most fortunate of all, our neighborhood has put together a preparedness plan that includes knowing who has what so we can pool our resources in case of an emergency.

I bought a case of bottled water and put it downstairs with the emergency kits.  Hey, it’s a start.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Turn the Radio On

We did not have television service in our campground this summer – primarily because we didn't have electricity.  However, last summer, when we did have electricity, we made the conscious decision not to hook up the satellite dish (which still sits on the top of our trailer).  We didn't think we’d spend enough time watching it to make it worth the cost.

We did, however, have Sirius satellite radio installed in our trailer when we first bought it.  And the radio has been our source of outside news and entertainment all three summers we've spent in camp.

We found our favorite music stations from the variety of stations available.  Classic Vinyl and Classic Rewind reminded us of our high school and college days and kept us singing along.  Deep Tracks, which played obscure cuts from albums throughout the decades, challenged our music knowledge, as they always played a series of songs with a theme.  And occasionally we would have that ‘aha’ moment when we actually recognized a ‘deep track.’  We have (or at least – had) that album!!!

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed listening to both the World Cup and to baseball games on the radio.  I am totally impressed by the radio announcers’ ability to paint a picture with their words so that I could see clearly what was happening.  I realize that as a writer, I attempt to do that, but these radio announcers are doing it on the fly.  And in baseball, which has a lot of dead time, they manage to come up with trivia and statistics that would give Ken Jennings a run for his money.  Did you know they keep track of how many players have hit home runs on their birthdays?

I thought I would enjoy NPR more than I did.  I guess I missed the local flavor our KCPW is so well-known for.  The same went for any news station – while it was good to hear the national news I missed knowing what was happening in Utah.  Although one of our friends, when asked what was happening in the news, summed it up pretty well mid-summer:  “Same stuff – gay marriage, John Swallow, Susan Powell.”  Ouch.

Maybe not having 100% access to the news 100% of the time is not such a bad thing after all.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Emotional Intelligence in Camp Hosting

I was surprised to learn from our area managers that they hire about 1/3 more hosts each year than they actually need.  Why?  Apparently some would-be hosts quit before they are scheduled to report, and others quit after a couple of weeks when they find out it’s just not for them.  The part of the job that usually results in early departures is not cleaning toilets or shoveling ashes out of fire pits.  It’s dealing with the public.

In our experience, camp hosting is 75% customer service, and only 25% cleaning the campground.  The people who visit our campgrounds are our customers.  As such, we want to treat them with courtesy as we share our little corner of the mountains.  I've found that when approaching a customer, whether it’s to collect a fee or to enforce a rule, I keep the following two assumptions in mind.  I assume:
1.  They want to do what I’m asking, whether it is to pay the fee or to comply with a rule.
2.  They are honest.

For example:  we had several people over the summer come into camp late at night with no cash and no checks, asking the next morning if we take cards.  We don’t.  So they've basically already used our campground and have no means to pay.  It would be really easy to get angry with these people and chew them out for theft of services, but that just makes them angry and much less likely to make arrangements to get the fees paid.  I found that if I told them they could go into town, get the cash and bring it back, over half did.  I had a few others tell me they would mail their payment to the office.  I have no way of knowing whether or not they did, but the fact that I did not yell at them or embarrass them in front of their families likely increased the chances that they did.

In our experience, 95% of the people who come to a campground respect the forest and respect other people.  Yes, there will always be the 5% that will be less than respectful.  The emotional intelligence skills will always help in dealing with difficult customers.

1.  Self-Awareness:  (The ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and to understand your own tendencies in different situations.)  I don’t like being yelled at or talked down to.  That said, I am aware that as a camp host, I am only the messenger in most cases, and it is the message – not me – that they are reacting to. 

2.  Self-Management:  (The ability to act – or not to act – on your own emotions.)  Since I couldn’t change the message, I learned not to take a customer’s reaction as a personal attack. 

3. Social Awareness:  (The ability to accurately pick up on emotions of other people and to understand what is really going on with them.)  Every time a visitor pushed back on a fee collection it was because they perceived that they had already paid – either through the Mirror Lake Highway Rec fee, a National Parks Pass, or even their income taxes.  Being able to empathize with them usually lightened the mood and eased into the solution.  And when it didn’t, I was able to fall back on my self-awareness and realize that the amount of money involved just wasn’t worth a conflict.

4.  Relationship Management:  (The ability to use your awareness of your own emotions and those of others to manage interactions successfully.)  Most people will calm down once given the chance to express their anger or disappointment.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Farewell to Shady Dell and Cobblerest

Fall in Samak
It is fall in the Uintas.  Labor Day weekend has come and gone, and effective September 2 at 1:00 PM, we were fired.  We cleaned the campgrounds early that morning, returned our supplies to our area managers, and hooked up the trailer for the trip home. 

As we drove west down the Mirror Lake Highway, trailer in tow, we passed some of the landmarks that have become so familiar this summer.   

The Beaver Creek Nudist Ranch, on Nudist Road in Samak, really doesn't exist.  The sign has been there for years, but no naturists actually inhabit the area.
Beaver Creek Nudist Ranch?!?

The Notch, a pub in Samak, has a beautiful patio, great food and good beer.  We celebrated our second-to-last day there with good friends.

Samak is Kamas spelled backward. 

The donuts at the Chevron station in Kamas really are fabulous. 

The Mirror Lake CafĂ© has great food – most of it named after campgrounds and attractions on the highway.

The Sinclair station sells espresso and vanilla crisp Powerbars.  I hadn’t found them anywhere in Salt Lake, in fact, my last vanilla crisp Powerbar was from Dave’s Jubilee in Ashton.  I bought them out.  Hopefully they’ll restock by next year.

At The Notch
The best part of hosting at Shady Dell and Cobblerest was the close proximity to home.  It was really easy to go home for our “weekend,” get laundry done, get groceries, and even keep the house up a bit.  Because it was so close, we had several friends and relatives come up to visit.  And we had the opportunity to really get to know Rick and Judy, who live in Kamas and visited several times.

The worst part of hosting at Shady Dell was the Fairy Forest.  Don’t get me wrong – the Fairy Forest is delightful.  But since it isn't really sanctioned by the Forest Service, we got no support from them regarding parking instructions.  I was exceedingly grateful to all the bloggers who directed people to park outside the campground and walk in.  I was exceedingly grateful to all the visitors who willingly paid the day use fee and had picnics and played fairy games in our campground.  I was exceedingly perturbed by those visitors who drove past at least four signs stating that the campground was a fee area, that a day use fee was required, and that the Mirror Lake Highway Recreation Pass didn't cover our fees, only to park in our best pull-through campsite, and not pay.  OK, rant over.

We’ll be back on the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway next summer.  We expect to get our assignment in January of 2015.