People say California doesn’t have seasons; but natives know that isn’t true. Like every other region, we too have four seasons – Fire, Flood, Drought, and Earthquake. And once again, it’s Fire Season in Southern California. Right now, the San Gabriel foothills are burning and flames are visible from the long view up my street. Smoke hangs heavy in the air, made worse by our famous L.A. Basin inversion layer, and over 6,000 homes have now been evacuated.
My home is probably out of the danger zone for this fire, but only two years ago my sister and her family spent two weeks out of their home in Silverado Canyon when another blaze forced the evacuation of hundreds in their little community.
You may not live under the threat of California wildfires, but you probably have other potential natural disasters hovering nearby. Maybe you live in tornado or hurricane country, maybe your region is frequently flooded, or maybe you just like to be Boy Scout Prepared for any contingency.
Using a family blog to stay in touch during an emergency is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to communicate. When the fire started in my sister’s neighborhood, she quickly found that she didn’t have time to deal with scores of phone calls from worried friends. In a very short time, however, I was able to set up a family blog at Blogger where we could both post updates about the situation as a communication center for people who wanted to send her family their good wishes.
What makes a family blog different from a genealogy blog, or another type of blog or website? It all depends on your purpose. I won’t go into the specifics of how to set up a blog here; Geneabloggers has done an excellent job in their Blog Primer, and Blogger makes it easy, easy for first-timers. Instead, here are some things to think about when starting a family blog —
Purpose – Do you need a short-term blog intended as a News Center for a specific event, disaster, or crisis? This could be anything from a family reunion, to a natural disaster, to a serious illness. Or are you setting up a permanent family blog which will be available in the event of an emergency? Perhaps you already have a family blog, but you are thinking about how you might handle an event where special communication was needed. Consider a link from your permanent family blog to another special blog. Do think about your purpose, and plan accordingly.
Access – Who do you want to read your blog? If you need to communicate with close friends and family about a seriously ill family member or even a new baby, you may want to restrict access with a password. If you want to act as a News Center for any and everyone you may want to leave all access public.
Expertise – What’s your Geek-Ability? If you already have a special-interest blog and are comfortable in writing and posting, you will be able to put together a special-needs blog quickly and confidently. On the other hand, if you are completely new to the blogosphere, you may want to go slowly at first by using Blogger or another full-feature platform. Whatever you do, make it easy on yourself. This isn’t the time to challenge your tech skills. It’s all about the information.
Privacy – Along with access, privacy is paramount. If the public has access to what you write and you may be evacuated from your home, maintain some level of privacy. Do not post your street address; avoid using full names; be wary of announcing when and where you will be. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Your friends know who you are, and first names or nicknames let them know what is going on.
Name – Choose a blog name that is easy to remember, to spell, and to communicate. Spread the word. Every comment from a friend is one less phone call to handle. Mostly, folks want to say “We care,” blog comments are a great forum for this.
Description – Include a short profile description that identifies the purpose for the blog.
Blog Authors – If possible, ask someone to be your co-author. Many days my sis was exhausted and too emotional to describe her current situation. Later, the blog served as a place for her to share her thoughts and then to thank friends for their prayers and good wishes.
Post Frequently – Especially if the purpose of your blog is for communication, make it your goal to keep it updated frequently. Friends and family will turn to the blog if they know they can find current information. During the Silverado fires, I found local sites that provided fire maps, evacuation orders, and press releases. By extracting information pertinent to my sister’s neighborhood, I was able to keep the blog updated with the fire status.
Remote Posting and Social Networking – Veteran bloggers know that there’s more than one way to post a blog article or photo. By setting up a blog before you really really need it, you will give yourself the time to learn how to send posts from your cell phone, and how to incorporate social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook updates with your family blog.
KISS – Keep It Sweet and Simple. Remember the Purpose and try not to get sidetracked with fancy widgets or images. Focus on information first.
Most importantly, don’t wait for disaster to set up a Family Blog. Get one going now and use it for holiday greetings or family gatherings; Be Prepared.
More on Family Blogs:
- Silverado Lives our Family Blog initiated during the Santiago Wildfires 2007
- Do I Need Lots of Technical Knowledge to Run a Genealogy Blog at Geneabloggers
- How to Create a Blog With Blogger a YouTube Video
Genealogy Videos: Learn How to Create a Family History Blog with podcast host Lisa Louise Cooke