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Bad weather can hit in time and travelers should prepare for the unexpected.

Bad weather can hit any time and travelers should prepare for the unexpected.

Have you been caught in turbulent weather: Possible tornadoes like the tragedy that happened in Moore Oklahoma; April blizzards in the Dakotas. So far it’s been anything but “spring-like.” To top it all off, experts are saying the upcoming hurricane season could be worse than last year. One scientist even said watch out for Super Storm Sandy 2.0!

As healthcare travelers, you very well could find yourself assigned to any of the states that repeatedly get battered by hurricanes. Or you could be on contract in one of the 45 states and U.S. territories labeled as “moderate to very high risk” of earthquakes. Remember the 5.8 quake that struck Washington, D.C. back in 2011?

So what if you happen to be assigned to an area that falls victim to Mother Nature’s whim; would you know how to react? Do you have the emergency supplies readied?

The following are a few essentials to keep on hand and advice on how to stay safe as recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready Campaign (ready.gov).

THE BASICS
• Extra prescription meds and eyeglasses along with first-aid supplies.
• Water, nonperishable food, and pet food for three days. Remember dietary requirements for both you and your animals. Tip: Avoid salty foods.
• Keep copies of pertinent documents—insurance policies, identification, medication list, allergy list, and bank accounts—in a waterproof container.
• Paper towels, plates, and plastic cups and utensils. Oh yeah, and a manual can opener so you can get to the food.
• Change of clothes, including cold/hot weather attire. Also, stash an extra blanket.
• Battery powered or hand-crank radio and cell phone charger. Don’t forget extra batteries.
• Refresh the kit every few months. Tip: When it’s time to change the clocks, it’s time to change supplies.

EARTHQUAKE EXPECTATIONS
• Keep a pair of durable shoes and a flashlight near your bed.
• Stay inside and find cover from falling objects.
• Ask the hospital where you are assigned about its earthquake response plan.
• If the shaking starts while you’re driving, park in a clear area. Avoid bridges, overpasses, ramps, and of course, power lines.
• Don’t expect to be one and done. Aftershocks can follow for days, even weeks, after the initial rattler. Make no mistake, aftershocks are still earthquakes and should be treated as such.

HURRICANE HOW-TOS
• Tune into a NOAA Weather Radio (noaawatch.gov) for real-time updates from the National Weather Service.
• Bring in outdoor plants or furniture that could be tossed around by winds.
• Turn the refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings. In the case of power outages, your food will stay colder longer.
• Fill up your gas tank.

TORNADO THOUGHTS
• Find a safe location, like a basement, storm cellar, interior room, or hallway.
• If in a car, keep your seatbelt on, duck below the windows, and cover your head.

Predicting Mother Nature’s next move is a fool’s game, but it never hurts to be prepared wherever you are assigned.

Anne Baye Ericksen is a freelance writer who has contributed to Healthcare Traveler since 1996. She resides with her family in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Festive Shopping

Festive Shopping by Richard Collinson, on Flickr

Don’t hit the panic button just yet. There are still a few weeks to find presents for your loved ones. Thanks to online shopping, the process for healthcare travelers is so much easier than going to various stores, wrapping the items, sending them out to family and friends, and hoping they arrive in time for Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa.

However, anytime you buy something online, whether away on assignment or from the comfort of home, there are a few precautions to follow to protect your identity and hard-earned traveler’s salary. Here are a few tips from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (www.privacyrights.org).

1. Security Clearance: Before browsing through a site’s inventory, take a look at its Internet address. It should have “https://” at the beginning, a closed padlock, or an unbroken key, all of which signals a secured system. Sometimes, though, these indicators do not pop up until you on are the ordering page.

2. The Fine Print: How many times have you robotically clicked “agree” when prompted to read terms and conditions? No matter how laborious, it’s a good idea to read the privacy policy portion because it’s where you find out if the business shares your data with other organizations—not a good idea.

Also, see if the data, especially your credit card numbers, are stored as encrypted files. This means they are always scrambled and only authorized personnel can descramble them.

3. Contact Credentials: Look for the business’s physical mailing address and phone number, and give it a call to confirm everything’s legit.

4. Point of No Return? Check out how the retailer handles returns. Who pays for the shipping to send back the product? Do you get a refund on your credit card or only store credit?

5. Charge It: Never, ever—repeat: never, ever—give out checking account or debit card numbers. Also, never use a money transfer system like Western Union. These could give hackers direct access to your accounts, and most banks do not guarantee refunding unauthorized purchases. Credit card companies offer better protection.

Have you heard about single-use credit cards? Apparently they are virtual and generate a random account number in place of your actual number. One drawback is that they are store specific. Once you use it to buy from a website, that virtual card is forever linked to that merchant and cannot be used elsewhere. Inquire with your credit card company to see if it offers this service.

6. Hard Copies: Either save or print all receipts or email confirmations just in case.

Happy (Safe) Holiday Shopping!

 

Anne Baye Ericksen is a professional writer who has contributed to Healthcare Traveler since 1996. She resides with her family in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Ceramic pots are heavy and hard to transport

When you’re moving into new digs every few months, it’s important to make the place feel like home. Few things bring a generic apartment to life more than houseplants: ferns, cacti, blooms, and greenery breathe freshness into your surroundings — literally.

But carting plants from location to location can take a toll on them. Even the most hardy species fall victim to travel overload.

Before you ditch the real thing for silk or plastic impersonators, check out these simple packing and transportation tips to keep your plants alive and well from one assignment to the next.

• Use plastic pots

You may prefer the rustic look of ceramic pots over the more nondescript plastic ones, but they’re heavy and hard to heft in and out of your car. What plastic pots lack in artistic value, they make up for in portability.

Lighten your load with plastic pots

• Examine for bugs & mildew

A few days before you depart, assess your houseplants for bugs, mildew, and diseases. There are several reliable websites out there to help you return your plants to health (try Guide to Houseplants).

This is important because some states have strict regulations about what you can and cannot bring across their borders. California and Florida, for example, both have restrictions. For specifics, check out the state’s department of agriculture website.

• Prune, but don’t overwater

Trimming actually promotes growth in most plants, but it also prepares them for transport. Not only are they more compact, taking up less room, but you can remove fragile pieces.

Be sure to give your plants a good watering a day or so before the trip, too, but easy does it. If you overwater, they could grow fungus in warm weather or freeze in frigid temps.

• Take extra precautions

If you want to protect flowers or branches from breakage en route, cover your plants with a large bag. Prevent them from sliding around in the car by placing nonskid material on pots, or contain them in open boxes. Never pack live plants in the trunk because carbon monoxide can build up in it, which can be fatal to the greenery.

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be able to keep the feeling of “home” alive wherever you go.

Anne Baye Ericksen is a professional writer who has contributed to Healthcare Traveler since 1996. She resides with her family in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Photo: New York Public Library via Flickr.com

There are some amazing perks to living in Southern California: proximity to the beach, mountains, and legendary tourist sites. There’s a lot of fun in the sun to be had, but getting to the beach, mountains, or attractions means driving and filling up at the pump. At $4.29 per gallon (the posted price today), that makes for a costly day trip.

According to GasBuddy.com, California claims the highest gas prices in the country right now and my wallet knows it all too well.

Californians are not alone in feeling pain at the pumps. Other regions have experienced sticker shock, too. Higher gas prices also tend to trickle down to other areas, like food prices going up or airfares taking off. It seems like the ripple effect impacts many areas of everyday life.

While there are certain financial advantages to working as a healthcare traveler—namely having your housing, as well as some utilities and travel expenses covered by your staffing company—it doesn’t mean you don’t incur certain costs while on assignment.

You still have to drive to work, right? You have to eat, too.

We want to know what YOU think are some of the more expensive aspects of life on the road. And, more importantly, how do you cut costs?

Do you ask for housing closer to the hospital?

Do you eat in more often?

What are some of your tricks for keeping cash in your wallet?

Drop us a comment below. Then, watch for a compilation of all the tricks and tips to saving cash while on the road in the next issue of Healthcare Traveler.

Anne Baye Ericksen is a freelance writer based in Simi Valley, Calif. 

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