After the Drought: Identifying and Replacing Dying Trees

Dead and dying trees across California are a grim reminder of five years of devastating drought. The southern parts of the state were hit hardest by the drought and have the heaviest tree losses. Most of the affected trees were stressed by lack of water, then devastated by bark beetles.

Although they are only about the size of a grain of rice, bark beetles have huge appetites. Different species of bark beetle attack different species of trees; out of 2,000 known species, approximately 200 are found in California alone. Outbreaks of bark beetles can kill large areas of forests and may spread tree diseases like Dutch elm disease.

Damaged trees will eventually rot, become unstable, and fall—on your home, vehicle, or even on a family member or pet. Removing dead trees opens up an opportunity to replant with locally native trees or trees more suited to surviving future droughts.

Bark beetle tunnels beneath the bark of an American elm. (Photo by Deborah Bell/Smithsonian Institution)

According to CalFire, signs and symptoms of bark beetle attack and infestation include bleeding or frothy wet material on hardwood trunks, pitch streaming on the trunk of some conifers, pitch tubes that can vary in size and color, from white to reddish brown or pinkish brown and cinnamon-colored, fine sawdust-like boring dust that collects in bark crevices and spider webs. An arborist can confirm the infestation.

If you have dead trees on your property, first determine if they are on a utility or city right-of-way. If so, check with the city, county or utility company to determine if they will remove the affected trees or if a permit is required to remove them. If no other entity will remove the trees, property owners are encouraged to safely remove them. Dying trees infested by bark beetles cannot be saved and must also be removed in order to prevent further infestations.

If you choose to replant, check with your local city or county to determine which trees will grow best in your area. Check with your local energy company; some have programs that offer free trees to customers. If you decide to remove the trees yourself, be sure to handle ones that show signs of bark beetle infestation carefully.

The California Contractors State License Board recommends when choosing professional tree removal that you always use a licensed Tree Service Contractor or licensed Landscaping Contractor. Before hiring any contractor, check the status of their license. Depending on where you live, a Timber Operator licensed by CalFire may be able to remove the trees.

 

Dodge the Dog Bite

As the summer heat soars, so do reports of dog bites. According to several veterinary and insurance sources, there’s an estimated population of 70 million dogs living in U.S. households and each year more than 4.5 million people – most of them children – are bitten by dogs.  018h0302ec-1

If you routinely enjoy outside activity, then there’s a high probability you’ll encounter a dog that’s off its leash.

If you find yourself face-to-face with such a situation, use stern commands such as “stop,” “no,” and “back” to discourage the animal from approaching. If these don’t work, experts suggest:

  • A walking stick may work to keep the dog at bay
  • A dog whistle or a regular whistle will irritate a dog, causing it to run the other way.
  • Dog deterrent spray. The effective range is up to10 feet when sprayed directly at the eyes, nose, and mouth of the attacking dog
  • A stun baton that works on dogs may frighten them away before you have to use it. The dog will see the baton and hear the crackling electric charge, frightening it
  • Spray bottle of water

It’s also recommended to avoid making eye contact with the dog and don’t show your teeth, because the dog may perceive it as a challenge and aggression. Obviously, always be aware of your surroundings and carry your phone.

Interestingly, dog bites were responsible for one-third of all homeowner liability insurance claims recently in the U.S., with insurers across the country paying out over $483 million in dog bite claims, reports an industry group. Along with children, seniors and postal carriers rank as the most frequent victims of dog bites. As a matter of fact, most dog bites affecting kids occur while interacting with familiar dogs, and 66% of those bites occur to the head and neck.

In 2015, more than 28,000 reconstructive surgery procedures were performed because of dog bites. (American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2015 Plastic Surgery Statistics.)

Any dog can be dangerous, and any dog can bite. Education and awareness are key. Dogs just don’t snap—there’s usually something that causes them to bite. A new software application, Blue Dog, is designed to teach children to think twice about how to treat and approach pets so they know when to play and when to stay away.

Always keep in mind some dogs aren’t ready to meet new people, so don’t assume that a dog out for a walk wants to be petted. However, if you can’t resist that adorable passing pooch, ask the dog’s owner before you approach. Keep your hand flat with your fingers together. A flat hand will keep you safe and show the dog that you aren’t a threat. Extend your hand but don’t touch the dog until it’s ready. Wait for the dog to come to you.

For your dog’s health—and in case of an accidental bite—your dog should be licensed and vaccinated. In order for your dog to be licensed you need to provide verification of rabies vaccination—something you get from the veterinarian, along with a tag, at the time of the vaccination. If you need to find a veterinarian in your area, be sure his or her license is in good status by searching on the Veterinary Medical Board’s website www.vmb.ca.gov. 

Fight the Bite: Mosquito Control Awareness Week is June 26-July 1

mosquito-control-aw-cropped.jpgAfter a particularly wet winter and spring in California, mosquito season has arrived. National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, June 26–July 1, is an ideal time to take preventative measures that will help you fight the bite of mosquitoes this summer.

The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) emphasizes the “3 D’s” of protection from mosquitoes—drain, dress, and defend.

Drain. Because mosquitoes can lay eggs in a source of water as small as a bottle cap, it’s important to empty all sources of standing water around the home such as flower pots, old tires, children’s toys, and buckets and storage containers. AMCA also recommends drilling holes in the bottom of recycling containers and changing water regularly in pet dishes and bird baths.

“Don’t forget that your rain gutters, tree holes, old buckets or tires—they all make excellent spots for mosquitoes to lay their eggs,” said Joseph Conlon, a technical advisor for AMCA. “Mosquitoes require water to complete their life cycle. If their water source is eliminated, so are their offspring.”

Dress. Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing is best to prevent mosquito bites. Studies have shown many species of mosquitoes are more attracted to dark clothing, according to AMCA, and often they are able to bite through tight clothing. Whenever practical, long sleeves and pants are best.

Defend. The Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California recommends applying insect repellent containing Environmental Protection Agency-registered active ingredients such as DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 according to label instructions. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.

To cut down on mosquitoes in animal water troughs or ponds, stocking mosquitofish is recommended. Many local vector control agencies will provide mosquitofish to homeowners free of charge.

Fewer mosquito bites and less annoying buzzing will help consumers get the most enjoyment out of summer outdoor activities.

DCA Sounds the Alarm on Fraudulent Alarm System Company Practices

They are out there, and they may be knocking on your door soon. During this time of year there is usually an upswing in alarm companies sending out their employees to canvass neighborhoods, trying to sell alarm systems. While selling alarm systems door-to-door is legal if required permits and licenses are in place, there are some unscrupulous companies that have their agents use tactics that violate the law, which can result in consumers paying excessive costs for alarm services or entering into a new alarm contract for what they believe involved an upgrade to the alarm system on their current alarm contract.
Here are some tips DCA’s Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) wants you to know:

Sales agents must be licensed
BSIS licenses and regulates alarm companies and their employees, alarm agents. Alarm agents sell, install, and service alarm systems at homes and businesses. They must carry proof of licensure and present it when asked.

Verify the license and check the company
Before doing business with any door-to-door alarm company salesperson, ask to see their BSIS Alarm Agent Permit to confirm that individual is currently licensed.

If the salesperson claims to be there to update your current alarm system, also ask for proof of the name of the company he or she works for and the company’s BSIS alarm company license number. You should verify the sales agent’s license and, if applicable, the alarm company’s license using the “License Search” button at www.bsis.ca.gov.

Read the contract before you sign  
Before the work to install any alarm system begins, a copy of the full contract signed by an agent of the alarm company must be provided to the consumer. Alarm company contracts must be in writing and must include the following information:

  • The alarm company’s name, business address, telephone number, and BSIS alarm company license number.
  • The alarm agent’s BSIS registration number if an agent solicited or negotiated the contract.
  • The approximate dates your scheduled work will begin and be substantially completed.
  • A description of the alarm system to be installed, including what work is necessary to install the system, the materials that will be used for installation, and the cost of the system and services.
  • A description of other services (e.g., alarm system response or monitoring services) to be provided by the alarm company after installation of the alarm.
  • A clause stating the alarm company will teach the buyer how to properly use the system after it is installed.

If the total value of the contract exceeds $250, it must also include a schedule of payments and information about the permit fees charged by local governments. (NOTE: A down payment may not exceed $1,000 or 10 percent of the contract price, excluding finance charges—whichever is less.) The contract must also disclose if monitoring services are being provided. Also, never sign a blank contract.

The Federal Trade Commission’s “Cooling-Off Rule” gives you three business days to cancel the deal if you sign the contract in your home or at a location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business. You don’t have to give a reason.

Beware the automatic renewal
Alarm system monitoring contracts may contain an automatic renewal clause that binds a consumer to the contract for an extended period after the expiration of the initial contract term unless the consumer cancels the contract as specifically outlined in the contract. Effective January 1, 2017, consumers must be provided a written notice if the alarm contract presented to them includes an automatic renewal provision that renews the contract for a period of more than one month. Prior to signing the contract, the consumer is to acknowledge receipt of the disclosure by signing or initialing it. If written acknowledgement is not obtained from the consumer, the automatic renewal provision in the contract is invalid.

Don’t be pressured
If you’re not interested, say so. If the salesperson won’t leave, call the police.

If you are interested in an alarm system, ask for referrals from friends and family members who have had successful experiences with an alarm company. Also, get an estimate from more than one BSIS-licensed alarm company.

The BSIS “Consumer Guide to Alarm Companies” details important information about alarm companies and their employees, purchasing an alarm system and/or alarm system monitoring services, and how to file a complaint against an alarm company or one of its employees.

To file a complaint against an alarm company or an alarm agent with BSIS, visit www.bsis.ca.gov or call (800) 952-5210.

Neti Pots: Tap Water is a No-No

Spring is almost over, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of allergies. Those
who suffer year-round look for relief in a number of ways—from daily doses of allergy medicine to regular sessions of acupuncture. Another popular—as well as drug-free and inexpensive—method is nasal rinsing.

A common nasal irrigation device is the neti pot—a small, teapot-like container that you fill with a saline solution to clear nasal passages. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the neti pot can flush out dust, pollen, and other debris, and also help to loosen thick mucus.

The FDA states that, when used properly, the neti pot is safe and effective in reducing allergy symptoms—as long as they are used correctly. Neti pots must only be filled with distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water. If you use tap water, you risk putting organisms in your nasal passages that can cause serious infections, or even result in death. You don’t get sick from drinking tap water because your stomach acid can kill low-level organisms.

According to the FDA, other tips for safe use of your neti pot include:

  • Making sure your hands are clean before use.
  • Checking that the device is clean and completely dry.
  • Carefully following the manufacturer’s directions for use.

Before using any nasal rinsing device, consult with your doctor to see if it’s the best solution for you. Be sure to check the license of your doctor by going to the Medical Board of California’s website, www.mbc.ca.gov.

 

 

Celebrating Diversity and Showing the Path to Licensure in Two New Videos From DCA

Did you know that the State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) offers assistance and materials to consumers and licensees in Korean, English, Spanish, and Vietnamese?

Did you know there are four easy steps on the path to obtaining professional licensure with the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists (BPELSG)?

You can learn about one—or both—of these subjects by watching two new videos available on the Department of Consumer Affairs’ YouTube channel.

BBC Celebrates Diversity” highlights the board’s recognition of California’s diverse population and its continuing efforts to provide meaningful access to its services, programs, and activities to all of its consumers and licensees. Its expanded language accessibility includes interpreter services via a toll-free language phone service as well as specialized training for board staff.

Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists—Apply for EIT or LSIT” provides a step-by-step roadmap for students on the four components necessary for obtaining a certificate as an engineer-in-training or land surveyor-in-training—both essential in the path to licensure.

Visit the Department of Consumer Affairs’ YouTube channel for a variety of instructional videos, public service announcements, webcasts, and much more, then subscribe to be notified when new videos are available.

Expert Practice Consultants Wanted by the Board of Registered Nursing

Nearly all industries have them. From medicine to technology. Expert Practice Consultants (EPCs), also known as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are bona fide experts in a particular field who are called upon to provide guidance or counsel, and sometimes expert testimony in lawsuits or other legal matters.

Typically, EPCs have developed proficiency in their career after a great deal of immersion in their particular field over a period of time.  Many EPCs have advanced degrees in their area of specialization and maintain continuous study in their profession as required for licensure.

The California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) is actively recruiting EPCs who are experts that specialize in various areas from emergency room to risk management.  

An EPC plays a crucial role in the investigation process of an enforcement case.  By providing an objective, reasoned and impartial evaluation of the matter, the EPC is primarily concerned with whether there was a departure from the standard of nursing practice.

These experts must meet the specific criteria set by BRN and possess a current and active California RN license devoid of any disciplinary action.

EPCs have day jobs and their responsibilities are very specific as they serve in this capacity for a limited term.

Duties include case review, preparation and creation of an expert report and possibly, testifying at an administrative hearing.

Sound interesting?  For more information about EPCs or if you are interested in performing a greater service for the State of California by becoming one, you can view BRN’s new brochure Become An Expert Practice Consultant or contact the board via phone (916) 322-3350 or email Expert.BRN@dca.ca.gov.

Your Healthy Summer

The official start of summer is around the corner. Warmer, longer days usually mean squeezing in as much activity as possible. That’s why now is the perfect time to take stock of your health and strive for improvements.

Start out in the right direction by heading outdoors. According to a study from Environmental Science & Technology, just 5 minutes of activity in natural areas resulted in improvements in self-esteem and mood. Also, an article on the American Society of Landscape Architects website reports that, in 1984, researcher E. O. Wilson coined the term Biophilia, which suggests outdoor preferences are an evolutionary response and there is an intuitive link between nature and well-being. For many, Biophilia explains the stress reduction connected to gardening, so it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get busy. IMG_0193Plant a small garden and if space is limited plant a few flower pots—indoors and out. Enthusiasts will confirm there is something cathartic and grounding about feeling the crumbly soil trickle through your hands. 

You may also want to try skipping the gym and  embrace green exercise by hiking, cycling, walking, roller blading or swimming. Both your brain and body will feel revitalized after breathing in fresh air and observing nature.

While out in the summer sun, remember to shield your eyes from intense rays with sunglasses that block at least 99% of ultraviolet A and B rays. Sunglasses can also help prevent cataracts as well as wrinkles around the eyes. The thing is, the closer you travel toward the equator, the harsher the sun’s UV rays, so all types of sun protection can be powerful tools.

Other healthy summer suggestions include taking advantage of California’s summer crops by loading up on seasonal berries. A cup a day of blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries will provide a healthy dose of fiber and antioxidants. The fiber helps keep cholesterol low and may help to prevent some cancers, while the antioxidants may help prevent damage to tissues and reduce the risks of age-related illnesses.

When entertaining, acknowledge the fact that food-borne bacteria thrive in warm weather. The picnic-without-food-poisoning rule-of-thumb is that no food should be left out for four total hours then eaten. Food should only be out in the sun two hours max, and if it’s
90 degrees or hotter, cut that to one hour.

You won’t be able to enjoy summer picnics and parties if your teeth and gums aren’t in top condition. Your dental hygienist isn’t wasting her breath when she goes into floss sermon mode. Do it every day. According to several dental associations, flossing reduces oral bacteria, which improves overall body health, and if oral bacteria is low, your body has more resources to fight bacteria elsewhere.

Ultimately, embrace your summer and take a vacation—or even a staycation. Studies have shown multiple benefits from R & R including lowering your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones such as cortisol, which contributes to a thick waist and an increased risk of heart disease.

To verify the license of a dental hygienist, visit the Dental Hygiene Committee of California’s website at www.dhcc.ca gov; for an optometrist, visit the Board of Optometry website at www.optometry.ca.gov, and for a Landscape Architect, visit the Landscape Architects Technical Committee’s website at www.latc.ca.gov.

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is most often associated with military veterans but PTSD affects more than those who have experienced combat warfare.

The National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder defines PTSD as a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.

PTSD does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone.

Here are some facts from the National Center for PTSD:

  • About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives
  • About eight million adults have PTSD during a given year
  • About 10 out of every 100 women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 out of every 100 men

Symptoms of PTSD vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms are:

  • Replaying the traumatic event over in your mind
  • Anxiety around people or places that trigger memories of the event
  • Feeling on edge and angered easily
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or depression

In 2014, to increase the promotion and public awareness of PTSD and the availability of effective treatments, PTSD Awareness Day, formerly June 27, was expanded to the entire month of June and 2017 marks the fourth consecutive year of the awareness campaign.

Only a mental health or medical professional can properly diagnose PTSD.  The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) licenses such professionals through the Board of Psychology, Board of Behavioral Sciences and the Medical Board of California.

To check the license status of a mental health or medical professional in California click here.

For more information about PTSD and the National Center for PTSD, view the PTSD Awareness PSA below and visit the VA’s website at https://www.ptsd.va.gov/

 

FDA Warns Against Prescribing Codeine, Tramadol, to Children and Breastfeeding Mothers

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued its strictest warnings to date against the use of codeine and tramadol in children and breastfeeding mothers. The drugs carry serious risks involving slowed or difficulty breathing and death, especially for children younger than 12.

Codeine and tramadol are a type of narcotic medicine called an opioid.  Codeine is used to treat mild to moderate pain and also to reduce coughing.  Tramadol is a prescription medicine approved only for adults to treat moderate to moderately severe pain.

The FDA also recommended that these drugs should not be prescribed to teens to treat pain after surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids; to teens who are obese; or to teens who have sleep apnea or lung disease.

Parents, caregivers, and patients should always read the label on medicine bottles to find out if a medication contains codeine or tramadol. For prescription medications, consult with your health care provider at the time the prescription is written, and with your pharmacist when the prescription is filled.

If a child has been given either of these drugs or received it through breastfeeding, watch closely for signs of breathing problems. Danger signs include slow or shallow breathing, difficulty or noisy breathing, confusion, more than usual sleepiness, trouble breastfeeding or limpness. If you notice any of these signs, stop giving the medicine immediately and seek medical attention by going to an emergency room or by calling 911.

Click HERE to view the document on the FDA website.