Is Calling 911 with An Old Cell Phone or No Wireless Plan Wise?

Many Americans have a cell phone of some sort for emergency purposes only and if so, largely for the ability to call 911. For some this might be an older hand-me-down or refurbished cell phone which may or may not have GPS or a service plan. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) laws require wireless service providers to connect ALL 911 calls to Public Safety Answering Points regardless of cell phone age or plan.

However, there are some big drawbacks to those who may be relying on older phones without GPS and/or no wireless service plan to get help in an emergency. Depending on how old the phone is, the 911 answering center may not be able to map where that phone is located if the caller is unable to talk. The call may even go to the wrong answering center. And if the phone is without a service plan and should get disconnected, there is no way for anyone to call back to that phone as the device does not have an assigned number.

This exact scenario played out in Boone and Dallas Counties in Iowa in this spring. Fortunately for the caller in this scenario, emergency responders were eventually (3.5 hrs later) able to reach the victim and get the medical help that was needed. As a result of this incidence, emergency responders have issued warnings of this peril.

In that light, perhaps it is time to consider other options if you, a loved one, or an elderly family member is replying on an older phone or a phone without a service plan as a means to contact 911 in a medical emergency. Options to consider may be a minimal cell phone service on an updated device or contracting with a Personal Emergency Response Service (PERS) for a medical monitoring device. There is some assistance for these services and devices for those that qualify.

Phone service assistance. Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia and Puerto offer programs that offer free phones and free service to Americans on government assistance or those who are below certain income thresholds. (Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota are included.) The programs and eligibility vary by state. To find out more about these programs, check out Free Government Cell Phones. The FCC offers the Lifeline program to help low-income individuals and families get discounted landline or cell phone service.  A Place for Mom offers some excellent suggestions on plans and phones for Seniors.

PERS assistance. Medicare, Medicare supplemental insurance (Medigap), and most private health insurance plans for the elderly do not cover assistance for PERS, medical alert devices or any other form of personal safety monitoring for seniors. However, some options that may be available include Medicaid, state assistance programs for the elderly or fixed income residents that do not qualify for Medicaid, and veteran assistance programs.

When there is an emergency, it is important that responders are able to reach the caller expediently; to make sure that can happen, everyone needs to understand the equipment and service they have and how it works.

 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Glass Kitchenware Cautions

In recent days I’ve spent a lot of time browsing social media to pass the long hours at the hospital with a family member.  In doing so, I came across a ‘pyrex bashing’ which in turn brought back an old memory.  Some years ago, I had prepared a casserole dish ahead using a glass baking dish.  When it was time to bake it for serving, I brought it out of the refrigerator and popped it into a cold oven.  As the oven came to temperature, I heard a loud pop and cracking sound.  Sure enough, the baking dish had cracked and split.   This was a baking dish I had used for several years and probably had done the same with it many times.  So what happened to my trusted “Pyrex” and why bash Pyrex?

I have no intention of bashing Pyrex or any other brand of glass kitchenware.  Rather, I would advocate to be a conscious consumer, know what one has, and use it properly.  Pyrex has been a trusted household name for decades and is often used as the word to refer to glass kitchenware and bakeware used for cooking and baking whether it is the Pyrex, Anchor Hocking, Bake King, or any other brand.  Pyrex was valued for years for its sturdiness and ability to withstand rapid, dramatic temperature changes that typically shatter normal glassware.  With changes in manufacturing, that old-fashioned reliability has changed.

Pyrex (trademarked as PYREX) is a brand introduced by Corning Inc in 1915 for a line of clear, low-thermal-expansion borosilicate glass used for laboratory glassware and kitchenware.  It was later expanded to include clear and opal ware products made of soda-lime glass. In 1998, Corning sold the Pyrex brand name to World Kitchen LLC. World Kitchen stopped the manufacture of borosilicate glass and changed to less expensive, tempered soda-lime glass for kitchenware sold in the United States.  Tempered soda-lime glass does not handle heat as well as borosilicate glass but does withstand breakage when dropped better.  With some caution, tempered soda-lime glass withstands thermal shocks reasonably well.  (To be fair, Anchor Hocking and Bake King products are also made from tempered soda-lime glass.)

I have a mix of Pyrex glass kitchenware that has accumulated over the years and the one that cracked was newer.  How can you tell whether you have a newer or older form of Pyrex? Here’s what to look for:

 

PYREX® (all UPPER CASE LETTERS plus, in the USA, a trademark notice comprising a capital R in a circle = low-thermal-expansion borosilicate glass either clear or opaque originally made by Corning Inc.

 

 

 

 

pyrex® (all lower case letters plus a trademark notice comprising a capital R in a circle) = clear tempered high-thermal-expansion soda-lime glass kitchenware made by World Kitchen.

 

 

 

 

PYREX (all UPPER CASE LETTERS in an encircled oval with no trademark notice with European country noted) = European license for use on borosilicate glass products manufactured by International Cookware.

 

 

So, in short, if glass kitchenware made from borosilicate glass is important to you, look for the trademark in ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS.  You will need to scour estate auctions, thrift stores, antique stores, or purchase in Europe to acquire it.  I’m glad that I still have some of the PYREX® pieces.

If you are resigned to using the modern-day tempered soda-lime kitchenware, some precautions are necessary.  In 2010, Consumer Reports tested some Pyrex and found that taking the newer glass out of a hot oven and placing it on a wet granite countertop yielded poor results with the glass shattering almost instantly.  As a result of its investigation, Consumer Reports called on the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to look into the problem of shattering bakeware.

Further, Consumer Reports issued ten precautions to consumers to minimize the chances of the glassware shattering:

  • Always place hot glassware on a dry, cloth potholder or towel.
  • Never use glassware for stovetop cooking or under a broiler.
  • Always allow the oven to fully preheat before placing the glassware in the oven.
  • Always cover the bottom of the dish with liquid before cooking meat or vegetables.
  • Don’t add liquid to hot glassware.
  • If you’re using the dish in a microwave, do not use browning elements, and avoid overheating oil and butter.
  • Do not take dishes directly from the freezer to the oven or vice versa.
  • Never place hot glassware directly on a countertop (or smooth top), metal surface, on a damp towel, in the sink, or on a cold or wet surface.
  • Inspect your dishes for chips, cracks, and scratches. Discard dishes with such damage.
  • To avoid risks associated with glass dishes, consider using metal bakeware for conventional and convection ovens.

As always, it is the consumer’s responsibility to read and save the manufacturer’s instructions for handling the product safely and then follow through.  If it’s too late for those instructions, check the label on the glassware for the designations given above to determine the glass content; and if it is an Anchor Hocking or Bake King product, know that it is a tempered soda-lime product.  If in doubt, the precautions issued by Consumer Reports will suffice for all.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Deicers–helpful or harmful?

“What do you recommend for deicing sidewalks?” was a recent question to AnswerLine.  Most deicing products readily available on the market contain salt compounds known as magnesium chloride (used as a liquid on roads), sodium chloride (table salt), calcium chloride, and potassium chloride (fertilizer). Each winter these materials are applied to sidewalks, driveways, and steps to prevent slipping and falling.  However, they are often applied without regard to the substance, application, or the damage that they may cause to the home, property, environment, pets, and nearby plants.

As for mentioned, deicing products are primarily comprised of salt.  And just like household salt, all salts are not the same.  Salts can cause injury to trees, lawns, and shrubs, corrode metal and concrete, and even do bodily harm to pets and humans.  The most problematic element in any of the deicing products is the chloride; it causes corrosion and is toxic to plants.

The University of Maryland offers some great information on deicers in their help sheet, Melting Ice Safely.  While this is an older publication (1998), there is good information on how deicers work and how to use them effectively and safely.  On the second page of the publication, there is a table comparing the fore-mentioned products along with their effectiveness, corrosiveness, and potential harmfulness to plants. 

A more recent product, calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), contains no chloride and is less damaging to cars, metals, and concrete and less toxic to plants.  It is also said to be biodegradable and pet and wildlife friendly.  It works very much like the traditional ‘chloride’ products to melt ice.  The big downside is the cost.

If you want to avoid deicing products, consider using sand, kitty litter, or chicken grit. While these products won’t melt snow, they will provide traction in slippery spots. Sand and kitty litter are safe for pets and plants and can be swept up when the snow melts. (Chicken grit may be too sharp for the paws of some pets but will not harm plants.)  Boots or shoes traversing any of these products should be removed upon entering a home as they could scratch floors.

Should the landscape fall victim to deicing, a recent article published by Reiman Gardens suggests flushing the area around the plant roots in the spring with water to leech out the salts.

The best advice is to know something about the substance (salts used in the product), consider the application, and then READ AND FOLLOW the manufacturer’s directions for applying the product to minimize damage to property and landscape.  And if possible, apply even less than is recommended.  Deicing products are not meant to replace shoveling or to melt all snow and ice, but to aid in removal efforts to prevent slipping and falling.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Stolen Packages

My husband and I recently were in Chicago for several days at our daughter’s house while she was away on a business trip. Sadly, on our watch a thief stole 3 packages that had been delivered to her front porch while we were out to lunch. Luckily she has a security camera so the whole thing was caught on tape which made it easier to submit a police report but the whole experience was very frustrating, maddening and unnerving.

According to an article in Consumer Reports there are some things you can do to lower your risk of being a target. Even though my daughter has a working internet-enabled security camera installed and has a security system to protect the house, it still happened and it can happen to anyone anywhere. The holidays are over for 2018 but you may want to consider being proactive in 2019 to help prevent a theft happening to you or someone you know.

If it is possible, avoid home delivery altogether. If you shop on Amazon they have lockers available in some locations (often a Whole Foods store) where you can have your packages delivered to and you retrieve using a security code for the locker. Amazon also offers a Key Kit that can be used for the delivery person to unlock your home and put your packages inside the door. An Amazon Key app is another alternative that is available for your packages to be put in the trunk of your car. There is a cost for some of those services but if you shop on Amazon a lot and buy a lot of things online it may be worth researching.

UPS recommends sending packages to where you are – not where you are not. Check with the company you work for to see if it is an option to have your packages delivered to you at work. Send to a relative or neighbor who is home during the day. Send to a walk in store and pick it up there if possible. UPS offers               “access points” in some locations which are delis, grocery stores, dry cleaners, florists, etc that allow packages to be dropped off by UPS and picked up by you later. Some UPS stores have mailbox service. UPS also has a service called My Choice that is free and lets you know when your package will be arriving so you can be there to accept it, reroute or reschedule the delivery, or authorize a shipment release.

USPS offers Informed Delivery Manager. It is also free and allows you to track your packages and leave delivery instructions if you are not going to be home.

Some shippers allow a required signature at delivery so if no one is home the delivery service will take it back to it’s facility and try again later or let you come pick it up and sign for it.

Door bell cameras, motion sensors and internet-enabled security cameras have their benefits but the benefit is usually realized after the theft has been committed, which was true in our case.

I sincerely hope you never have any packages stolen but if you do, notify the police immediately and file a report. You can also contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. They are the law enforcement arm of the postal service. You should contact the shipper and delivery service as well as your credit card company and the company you bought the packages from to see if you can get reimbursed or have a new package sent. We were, thankfully, able to get all three packages we had stolen replaced at no charge.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

More Posts

Plastic Straw Ban

There has been quite a controversy lately surrounding the reduction in use or ban on plastic straws. The goal, of course, is to help protect the environment. Straws are a small fraction of all plastic waste but the movement to ban plastic straws is definitely growing. Major corporations (Starbucks, American Airlines) have announced they will phase out plastic straws. Seattle recently became the first major city to institute a ban on plastic straws. California became the first state to officially adopt plastic straw regulations. The food service industry there is being banned from making plastic straws available unless requested.

The merits of a plastic straw ban depend on who you ask. Those pushing the idea consider plastic straws to be a “product of convenience” or a “symbol of waste”. They would like all straws to be biodegradable and have offered some alternative materials – paper, pasta, bamboo, and hay – for straws to be made out of. Criticism has come from disability advocates. Paper straws can cause difficulties for those individuals who have difficulty swallowing. Reusable straws, like those pictured above, can be potentially hazardous.

The University of Georgia was recently awarded a grant to develop a totally biodegradable straw. It will be interesting to follow this story. It will take time for them to develop some prototypes and go through the approval process however.

As a consumer, I think it is important to research ahead of time what our options might be if straws do indeed disappear.

 

 

 

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

More Posts

Washing Produce

Last week we had a question from a food safety educator located in Minnesota. She wondered if it was necessary to wash onions, garlic, and ginger root before using them. She told us that she found information from both schools of thought. Some resources indicated that it was necessary to wash before using while other resources were vague on that point.

We did some research and had the same problem the educator from Minnesota had; we could not find a definitive answer either. We contacted our own food safety specialist and fortunately, she had a contact at the Partnership for Food Safety that knew the answer.

By now, you too, may be wondering if you should wash those vegetables before using. The answer is that you should always wash vegetables before using. Like cantaloupe or watermelon, we cut through the peel or rind when cutting into these foods. That means that any bacteria living on the outside of the food could potentially ride on the knife through the food contaminating the surface.

We often get callers wanting to know what type of soap works best when washing produce. According to the Partnership for Food Safety, running water and the use of a brush are enough to remove bacteria. Patting the produce dry with a clean paper towel will also help remove surface bacteria. The Partnership does not recommend using soaps and bleach on produce and are not something people should eat.

I had not realized that I needed to wash my garlic and onions; I rarely use ginger root. I plan to start washing all my produce before using it.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Beware of New Medicare Card Scams

The Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) began mailing new Medicare cards to Medicare beneficiaries in April and will continue with mailing for the coming year. As the cards began to go out, so did the scams. Here are some things to know and to share with those in your life who are Medicare recipients to prevent them from becoming victims of fraud or scams:

No action is needed. The new cards will be mailed to the address on file with the CMS. Beneficiaries do not need to provide any additional information to anyone claiming to need more.

A temporary card is not needed. The existing card may be used until the new one is received.

There is no charge for the new card. CMS does not charge for the new card.  It is free.

CMS does not call recipients. If anyone calls about the new Medicare card, hang up.

There will be no change in your health care benefits.  Ignore anyone threatening to cancel your health benefits due to the change in Medicare numbers and cards.

Never give out personal information on the phone unless you are 100% certain who you are talking to.   This includes the new number on your new Medicare card, social security number, and bank account information.

Once you get your new Medicare card, carefully destroy your old card right away.  The card should be shred or cut into small pieces rather than tossed into the trash.

You can learn more about the new Medicare card by visiting the CMS website or reading a previous Answerline blog.  If you get a suspicious call, contact 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227); TTY: 1-877-486-2048.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

Prepare Now for Safe Summer Boating

Summer will be here soon and with it will come many outdoor recreational opportunities.  If boating is something you or you and your family will do, then it’s time to think or rethink boat safety.  ​According to the National Safety Council, about 74 million Americans engage in recreational boating each year.  Most boat outings are fun times, but the good times can quickly turn otherwise if boaters are not vigilant about safety at all times.  The most common boat tragedies occur when someone falls overboard or a boat capsizes or collides with another boat.  The US Coast Guard statistics show that 7 out of 10 boating accidents resulting in death occurred due to operator error or lack of boating safety instruction.

The good news, though, is that saving lives and reducing injuries can be as easy as taking a boater safety course. That way, you familiarize yourself with operation basics and etiquette, as well as state and federal waterway rules. And, by taking the course, you may even be able to lower your insurance premium.  Some states actually require completion of a boat safety course in order to operate a vessel on lake and streams within the state.  Since this blog is written largely for audiences in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota, I will make reference to requirements for these three states only.  (Additional information can be accessed at Boat Ed®.)  For these three states, the requirements are as follows:

Iowa – Education is required for those 12 to 17 years old who will be operating a motorized vessel over 10 hp or a personal watercraft (PWC) in Iowa.  Cost of the course is $29.50 with an additional $5 state fee.  Permits are issued by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  The course may be taken by anyone 12 years of age or olders, non-residents included.  Anyone under the age of 12 years may operate a vessel powered by a motor of more than 10 horsepower, including a PWC, only if he or she is accompanied by a person 18 years or older who is experienced in operating a vessel. Anyone older than 18 years of age may operate a motorized vessel or PWC without any restrictions.

Minnesota – Education is required for those 12 to 17 years old who are unsupervised and will be operating a boat over 25 hp in Minnesota. Education is also required for those 14 to 17 years old who are unsupervised and will be operating any personal water craft (PWC).  Anyone under the age of 13 years may not legally operate a personal watercraft (PWC) in Minnesota.  Those 18 years of age or older may operate a motorized vessel or PWC without any restrictions. Cost of the online course is $22.50 and may be taken by anyone 12 years of age or older, non-residents included.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will issue the permit to those who complete the course.

South Dakota – South Dakota does not require boating education.  The course may be taken to save on insurance or to operate a boat in states that require a card. Cost of the course is $19.50 with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks issuing the permit. There is no minimum age or resident requirement to take the online course. Anyone under the age of 12 years may operate a vessel powered by a motor of more than 6 horsepower only if accompanied by a person 18 years or older. Anyone under the age of 14 years may operate a PWC only if accompanied by a person 18 years or older.

Boat Ed® offers courses and tests recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard, approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and meet individual state’s certification standards.

Besides completing safety courses and being familiar with federal, state and local laws, life jackets should be worn rather than just stored onboard.  While most states have a mandatory life jacket law for youth, the Just Wear It Campaign advocates that everyone in a vessel should be wearing a life jacket at all times.  Life jacket requirements for the three states are as follows:

Iowa – Iowa law states “a person shall not operate a vessel in Iowa unless every person on board the vessel who is age 12 and under is wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.” A life jacket must be worn when the vessel is underway, which means when a vessel is not at anchor, tied to a dock or the bank/shore or aground. A child age 12 and under in an enclosed cabin, below deck, or aboard a commercial vessel with a capacity of 25 persons or more is exempt.  The law became effective in 2008.

Minnesota – As of May 2005, Minnesota law requires a life jacket to be worn by children less than 10 years of age when aboard watercraft in Minnesota when the craft is under way (not tied up at a dock or permanent mooring).

South Dakota – Every person on board a PWC must wear a certified personal flotation device (PDF) at all times.  Children under seven years old must wear a PDF while on any vessel operating at greater than “slow, no wake speed” unless below deck or in an enclosed cabin.  Requirements do not apply to boats 12 feet or less in length without a motor of any kind.

There are many styles and kinds of life jackets available.  For more information on how to choose an approved life jacket appropriate for you, check out How to Choose the Right Life Jacket from the US Coast Guard.

To further reduce risk, the Coast Guard offers these tips:

  • Don’t drink: Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination
  • Get an annual vessel safety check
  • Know about carbon monoxide; this odorless, colorless poisonous gas is emitted by all combustion engines and onboard motor generators

The extra effort that goes into taking these kinds of precautions will help create fun-filled adventures for you and your family on the water.

 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

More Posts

AnswerLine

Subscribe to AnswerLine Blog

Enter your email address:

Connect with us!

AnswerLine's Facebook page AnswerLine's Twitter account AnswerLine's Pinterest page
Email: answer@iastate.edu
Phone: (Monday-Friday, 9 am-noon; 1-4 pm)
 1-800-262-3804 (in Iowa)
 1-800-854-1678 (in Minnesota)

Archives

Categories