Fireproof Storage

January 9th, 2008  |  Published in Preparedness

Welcome to Above Yourself, a blog about self-improvement and faith. If you're new here, you may want to subscribe in a reader or subscribe by email. Many of the topics here are related to my faith in Jesus Christ and Mormonism, but all are welcome to share their own beliefs. Thanks for visiting!

Fireproof SafeAs part of our Emergency Preparedness lesson for our Family Home Evening this week, we made a goal to get a fireproof safe by the middle of next month. It’s an interesting Valentine’s project, sure, but we wanted to make put the date out a bit in the future because of the unpredictability of our high-altitude weather. Here are some of the things we plan on storing in our safe:

  • Important Documents: These include things like birth certificates, car titles, our marriage certificate, and several other miscellaneous documents.
  • Emergency Money: We want to have enough cash for about three days’ expenses in case power failure prevents us from using credit cards. The amount of cash you want depends on your family’s own needs.
  • Regular Computer Backups: In addition to off-site backups of important documents like photos, resumes, and other important files, we plan on keeping a recent copy of these files on CD or DVD in the safe in case of hard drive crash or other computer failure.

We’re not totally decided on which safe we plan on getting, but we’re excited to implement these next steps in our Emergency Preparedness plan. From research we’ve done, we’ve seen good safe recommendations at Unclutterer, as well as recommendations for what to keep in fireproof storage. Although they don’t recommend storing computer backups or hard drives in the safe (mostly because they wouldn’t last through a fire because they can’t withstand high temperatures as well as paper), a fireproof safe still gives fairly good protection in case of burglary, and storing them in a single location provides easy access to all important items in case of evacuation.

Learning as a Foundation for Experience

December 14th, 2007  |  Published in Preparedness

My personal background is in the ever-changing field of technology, but I don’t think I gained most of my skills from college courses. Does that mean I regret going to college? Definitely not. I view my experience there as a foundation for everything I have done since then. It’s more about learning how to learn - developing good habits that will lead you on a path that you can use to take advantage of the future experience that you will have.

A friend once asked me for advice to give to her younger brother, who wanted to go directly to work after high school because he thought he could make more money that way. He was a computer guy, so he cited examples like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell as rich computer billionaires who didn’t have college degrees.

I’ve thought about that question a lot since then. Why should anyone go to college? I think it’s more fundamental than just getting a degree- it’s about learning how to learn, developing the habits that can lead you to be more successful and live a meaningful life. Education unlocks the potential of experience because it provides a foundation upon which that experience is organized and built. It teaches problem-solving skills that can later be applied to larger decisions. My professors at college realized this, and they said that part of the reason they would even teach technology skills in such a structured environment with regular assignments and lessons was so that we could just pick up a manual in the future to learn how to use a technology.

Our current prophet Gordon B. Hinckley has always stressed the importance of education. A recent article in the New Era gives a lot of insight into the importance of education:

You have the potential to become anything to which you set your mind. You have a mind and a body and a spirit. With these three working together, you can walk the high road that leads to achievement and happiness. But this will require effort and sacrifice and faith.

You must get all of the education that you possibly can. Life has become so complex and competitive. You cannot assume that you have entitlements due you. You will be expected to put forth great effort and to use your best talents to make your way to the most wonderful future of which you are capable. Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.

You have a mandate from the Lord to educate your minds and your hearts and your hands. The Lord has said, “Teach ye diligently … of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—that ye may be prepared in all things” (D&C 88:78–80).

Gordon B. Hinckley, “Words of the Prophet: Seek Learning,”
New Era, Sep 2007, 2–5

Education helps us use our experience for good. I am extremely grateful for the chance I had to go to college, and I echo President Hinckley’s words: “sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world.” I have had many personal examples of people who have taken this advice to heart, and their lives have been greatly blessed for it.

Building Your Emergency Preparations

November 1st, 2007  |  Published in Preparedness

We hear about emergency situations and disasters more and more frequently these days, and it’s important to be prepared should something happen. Although the chances something like this would happen to us are somewhat small, it definitely happens. I never expected to see something like this in my own lifetime, but in May 2000, our family was evacuated from our home because of the Cerro Grande Fire in Northern New Mexico. Without any sense of preparation, we wouldn’t have had any idea of what to do. In other situations, you might benefit from a 72-hour kit, or simple emergency preparations. Building up your preparedness isn’t something that happens overnight; it’s a topic that needs to be revisited often. As a result, our own stock of emergency supplies should be built up over time. At his blog The Simple Dollar, Trent takes a look at how to frugally build up your emergency supplies. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:

  • Stock canned goods for food to start with. We have often been advised to build up our food storages, so stocking up on foods in cans that we would actually eat is a good way to begin. They last a long time and frequently go on sale, so we should try to buy a can or two extra instead of just what we’ll use that week.
  • Request some of these items as gifts. A good first aid kit or emergency kit for your car really does make a good gift. I can’t count how many of these little things we always run out of - personally, I wouldn’t be against getting a box of band-aids as a stocking stuffer, because we all know I get plenty of candy at Halloween.

What are your emergency essentials? What is your strategy for building them up?

Defining Your Gameplan

October 16th, 2007  |  Published in Preparedness

I’m a bit of a baseball nut. I can’t help but get excited for the playoffs every October, and I get even more excited if the team I’m rooting for is doing well. For baseball players, this is not just fun, it’s a job. They study and practice different aspects of the game, watching videos and doing drills to hone their skills. During a baseball game last night, the camera focused briefly on Micah Owings, the starting pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He had just sat down after striking out Rockies slugger Todd Helton and was writing in a small book. In that book, Owings keeps information about his approach when facing different batters, including what worked and what didn’t work. The next time he prepares to face Helton, he will look back in his book and try to repeat his performance, basing his strategy on the knowledge he has of his opponent.

Do we have a personal game plan? Do we keep a record of the things that we do, including what works and what doesn’t? If we don’t attempt to learn from past mistakes or successes, we can’t expect to progress. Personally, I’ve set a goal to apply this at work, basically creating a personal user’s manual for all of the things that I routinely do. What other aspects of life could this be applied to?

Making a 72-hour Kit

August 14th, 2007  |  Published in Preparedness

It’s hard to justify preparing for a disaster if we’ve never been in one, but news of events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes seem to come more frequently all the time. Preparing ourselves for these types of situations helps us focus on more important things during times of need and helps us rise above ourselves and help others. My wife and I have both experienced situations where we’ve been in extended power outages, and on a separate occasion my family had to evacuate our house because of a fire that came into our town. To help us prepare for situations like this, it’s important to put a some items together in a 72-hour kit. Below are some resources for putting together a 72-hour kit. If you are just getting started (like we are), I recommend buying some pieces of the kit each week so that the cost is spread out and the kit is easier to manage.