Archive for June, 2013

Lessons From Calgary: How Prepared Are You For a Disaster?

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Recent catastrophic flooding in southern Alberta has caused many people in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region to re-think their own emergency preparedness and to wonder just how well we would survive a disaster of this type.  If you Google “72 hour survival kit”, many worthy sites presenting much useful information appear.  But how many of us have actually followed through on this information to put together an emergency plan, emergency kits and the like?   How do you even get started doing this?

Start with a Plan

A very good site to begin with is  Download their publication 72 Hours: Is Your Family Prepared? Your Emergency Preparedness Guide.  Detailed instructions guide you through the creation of an emergency plan for your family, and the building of an emergency kit.  Most authorities recommend having enough “stuff” to keep you self-sufficient for 72 hours, the critical time period during which you may need to wait for help from emergency assistance providers, and during which time you may be without essential services of water, power and gas.

Build Your Survival Kit

Your emergency kit may be one you’ve assembled yourself or it may be a commercial one you purchase from an organization such as the Canadian Red CrossTheir basic 72-Hour Disaster Preparedness Kit sells for $59.95 and includes the following items:

  • 1 box of 45 waterproof matches
  • 1 wind-up flashlight/radio/alarm (no batteries required)
  • 1 50-hour candle
  • 1 multi-function knife
  • 1 S.O.S. sign
  • 1 emergency rescue blanket
  • 1 emergency preparedness guide
  • 20 water purification tablets
  • 2 biohazard waste bags
  • 1 collapsible water container
  • 1 whistle
  • 1 pair of work gloves
  • 1 12-hour light stick
  • 1 first aid kit:
    • 1 emergency plastic sheeting
    • 1 duct tape
    • 2 dust masks
    • 1 nylon backpack
    • 2 gauze pads 5 cm x 5 cm (2 in x 2 in)
    • 5 antiseptic towelettes
    • 1 proviodine swab
    • 4 alcohol swabs
    • 2 insect sting relief swabs
    • 10 plastic adhesive bandages
    • 2 fingertip bandages
    • 2 knuckle bandages
    • 1 first aid instruction card
    • 2 adhesive patch bandages 5 cm x 7.5 cm (2 in x 2 in)
    • 1 conform bandage
    • 1 roll of adhesive tape
    • 1 pair of nitrile examination gloves
    • 1 pair of tweezers
    • 1 pair of scissors
    • 12 safety pins

These items are just the beginning, of course.  Most experts recommend that your kit include enough non-perishable food for 72 hours, and at least 4 liters of water per person per day.  Seasoned backwoods campers and backpackers will have lots of other suggestions, such as warm, water-resistant clothing, a small tent and sleeping gear, food preparation equipment including mess kits and a tiny stove that fits in a backpack, and special dehydrated meals.  Whatever goes into your kit needs to reflect your careful consideration of your personal situation:  What would you need to have with you to be safe, comfortable and healthy during those 72 hours?  Study carefully the lists on the site as well as the following sites to devise the exact 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit that works for you and all family members (including pets).

Store your kit somewhere in your home where it’s readily accessible and hope you never have to use it!

Leaving Your Home

What if you had to evacuate your home as so many southern Alberta residents were forced to do?  What do you take with you when you escape?  Well, your emergency kit of course, and a few other essentials:

  • Identification (passports, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, marriage licenses, insurance, wills, financial statements, etc.) Tip:  Scan all these documents onto your computer and then download them onto a memory stick which then goes into your emergency kit.  Check and update your digital records every 6 months.
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Important phone numbers (relatives, work, insurance, doctors, pharmacy, etc.)
  • Extra set of keys (house, garage, storage, lockbox, etc.)
  • Money $$ (cash, including coins, and credit cards)
  • Critical medicines & prescription glasses
  • Personal hygiene items and change of clothing
  • Computer backup
  • You can probably think of a few other easily portable and absolutely essential items.

People who have survived disastrous fires, floods and severe weather events will tell you that one of the hardest things about leaving behind their homes is the thought of losing the tangible evidence of precious and irreplaceable family memories.  These days, technology can help if you plan ahead and take the time to do things like digitizing family photos and then uploading them to online storage services.  Make sure a copy of your home inventory is there too.  (See my blog article “Home Inventory: Do You Have One?”)

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.



Spring Decor Ideas

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

If you’re looking for free and current decorating ideas applicable to Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton area, look no further than the Edmonton Journal’s Homes & Design magazine.  The Summer 2013 issue is now available at  Some of the topics in this issue:

  • Spruce up your patio with the latest decor ideas, including some 60s Mad Men inspired looks
  • Learn all about “cottage style”
  • Furniture in bright colors is back.  Learn how to integrate this look into your home
  • Grow your own food this summer with gardening tips that anybody can follow
  • Quartz or granite?  Replace your counter tops with the finish that’s best for you

If you like what you see in this online magazine, sign up to be notified when the next issue is posted, and happy decorating!



Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow!

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Sometimes the descriptions of homes for sale in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region make you wonder what kind of building you’ll see on a property.  Bungalow with a bonus room?  How is that different from a 1 ½-storey house?  Raised bungalow?  How does that differ from a bi-level?  Searching Google to define house styles doesn’t help much because the same term might have very different meanings elsewhere in Canada or the US. 

So, let’s take a look at a few phrases commonly used to describe homes in the Edmonton region.  Note that the descriptions below assume that the homes have basements since that is generally the norm in Alberta. 

Bungalow:  A one-storey home whose basement has the same square footage as the main level.  Basement is reached from a full flight of stairs leading “below grade”; that is, dug into the ground.  Entry into the home is usually at ground level or up a few steps.  May have attached garage that leads directly into main level of the home, or sometimes into the basement.

Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

  • Raised Bungalow:  Same description as above (one-storey home, full basement reached via full flight of stairs, entry into home up a few steps from the ground), but these homes are built higher up on the land, allowing for larger basement windows and making them better for nanny or mother-in-law suites.  They are also less likely to take on water in the basement.Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam
  • Hillside or Walkout Bungalow:  From the front this home looks like a standard bungalow.  From the back it resembles a 2-storey house – because it is literally built into a hillside, or a steeply sloped yard.  Very popular because the basement appears to be at, rather than below, ground level.  The basement therefore has much larger windows, and residents can access the outdoors without climbing stairs to the main level. Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam
  • Bungalow with Bonus Room:  Basic bungalow format with a single large room above an attached garage, reached via a full flight of stairs.

Bi-level:  Sits higher up on the land, like a raised bungalow, and has the same advantages as a raised bungalow.  Unlike a raised bungalow, the stairs inside a bi-level are split.  From the front entrance, a half-flight of stairs leads up to the living area, and a half-flight of stairs leads down to the basement.  The depth of the basement below the ground is less than that of a standard bungalow, allowing for bigger windows and less of a cellar-like feel.  The home’s back door often exits onto a high deck with a full flight of stairs outside leading down to the yard.  This style has fallen out of fashion with builders, except in areas where digging a deeper basement would be problematic due to soil type. Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

One and a half-storey:  Full flight of stairs goes up to bedroom area which has a steeply slanted roof with dormers, resulting in reduced head space in the slanted areas – thus, the “half-storey”.  (Two and a half-storey homes exist as well.  Same principle but with two full levels having standard head room and the third with a slanted roof). 

Two-storey:  Main level has a full flight of stairs leading up to the second level and a full flight of stairs down to the basement.  Often built with bonus room above an attached garage.  The most common home being built these days for several reasons:

1) A home’s square footage is determined by the amount of space above grade, and this home style puts more living space above ground on a smaller footprint than a bungalow of equal square footage;

2) Larger homes, ones with greater square footage but a smaller footprint, can be built on today’s smaller lots;

3) Given today’s high heating costs and concern for the environment, a 2-storey home is more energy- and cost-efficient. 

Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Split-level:  This home style was very popular around the 1970s.  Many people these days would say the reason it fell out of favor was that residents were always running up and down stairs to get to different rooms in the house!

  • Two-storey split:  One side of this home looks like a bungalow, while the other side looks like a standard 2-storey.  A full flight of stairs accesses the upper portion of the home, and often a living room or family room will be sunken.  There may be less head room in the basement under the sunken areas – a common complaint in split-level homes in general.  Some people mistakenly label this home style as 1 ½-storey (see that description above).

Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

  • Three- or four-level side split:  From the front, looks like a bungalow on one side, bi-level on the other.  Half flights of stairs lead up and down between levels.  Bedrooms are usually above, family room below.  Some split-level homes have a regular basement under the bungalow-style portion only, and a crawl space under the lowest above-ground level.  This crawl space may have a ceiling height as low as 4 feet.  Other houses will have a basement that is itself two different levels, resulting in homes that have four or even five different levels, all joined by half-flights of stairs. 

Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

  • Back split:  Same as the previous description but oriented on the lot so that the home looks like a standard bungalow from the front, taller portions behind. 

Duplex:  The true definition of this term is a home that looks like a standard bi-level with one dwelling on the upper level and another on the lower level.  But many people use the term to refer to what is technically a side by side duplex:  two homes above grade (with basements) joined by a common wall. 

Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

A couple of other things to note when house-shopping by style:

  • Townhouses may allow first-time buyers to enter the home market since they are generally less expensive than stand-alone or detached homes.  Usually a 2-storey home with basement, sometimes with attached garage, joined to similar neighboring homes in a row.
  • While many people think of apartments when they hear the word “condo”, a condominium is not really a style but rather a type of ownership that allows people to own their space to the walls and share common property (buildings and land) with other condo owners.  (See my blog article “Is Condo Living For You?”)
  • A villa is a condominium style that may be a detached home or perhaps half of a side by side duplex.   Often located in “gated communities” where summer and winter outdoor chores, such as lawn mowing and snow removal, are provided to the residents. 

Need more information about this topic?  I’m happy to help.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.


Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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