Thursday, June 22, 2017

Portugal wildfire claims dozens of lives: Are you ready for a wildfire?

On June 18, an enormous wildfire swept through an area of central Portugal. More than 60 people died, half of whom were trapped in their vehicles, according to news reports. Although most wildfires over the past 10 years have been caused by people, this wildfire was caused by nature. Portuguese authorities said that the fire was caused by lightning during dry thunderstorms.

With this tragic event, many people can’t help but ask “Would I know what to do in a wildfire?”

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, if you’re trapped in a vehicle during a wildfire, it’s important to stay calm. Park your vehicle away from vegetation and close all windows and vents. Cover yourself with a wool blanket or jacket and lie on your vehicle’s floor. Use your cellphone to call 911.

If you find yourself on foot and not near a home or building, Cal Fire recommends finding an area clear of vegetation, such as a ditch or depression on ground level. Lie face down, cover yourself and call 911.

If you’re at home during a wildfire, stay inside and fill your sinks and tubs with water. Close your doors and windows but don’t lock them. Stay back from outside walls and windows and listen for emergency updates.

Preparing for a wildfire begins long before the first wisp of smoke, however. If you have not already, make an emergency plan. Then set aside time to practice. This will help ensure that if a wildfire does happen, you and those you live with will be able to act quickly. You also want to have emergency supplies and keep them in an easily accessible place. Be sure you have a way of receiving emergency information from officials. This can be a radio, phone or other device. Cal Fire recommends evacuating as soon as authorities recommend it.

Remember, wildfires are uncontrolled and unplanned, so being able to act quickly is in your best interest.

Read our fact sheet for more information and check out this wildfire evacuation guide.

Photo courtesy FEMA/Jana Baldwin

Thursday, June 15, 2017

APHA’s Get Ready Store: Our easy gift guide

  Whether it’s for graduation, Father’s Day or a birthday, we’re always on the lookout for great gifts. If you’re scrambling to find the perfect gift, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone, and then relax because the Get Ready Store is here to help.

 Whether you are shopping for mom, dad, grandma, mother-in-law or an “it’s complicated” loved one, the Get Ready Store has great gifts for every style. Not only will they enjoy our fine wares, you’ll be reminding the people you care about that their preparedness is important to you.
 Here are five gifts that will land you the spot of “favorite” (no matter what they say to the other people in your life):

• Pajamas in all sizes, from adults to babies.   There’s no doubt the people in your life have helped you develop into a fine human being, so help prove to them that those lost hours of sleep were all worth it. The pajamas come in white and black .

• A cute travel mug for warm beverages that will make them think of you often, especially if they have an appreciation for caffeine. It’s a hug in a mug that won’t break the bank, and it easily beats the last-minute mixed CD you’ve given them the past five years. And if they prefer cold beverages, we’ve got tumblers, too. 

• A reusable shopping or tote bag for their trips to the store.

• A useful wrist watch or wall clock for all the times they held your hand through breakups, coached you when you needed inspiration for finishing calculus and taught you the importance of preparedness.

• An iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone case for your tech-savvy parent or friend. Add an emergency app to their phone and you’ve made it the best gift ever.

 Find more great gifts on the Get Ready Store website and give those you care about your preparedness best. Happy shopping!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Above-normal hurricane season on its way

Get ready to batten down the hatches! The Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1, is expected to be above-normal. That means residents along the East and Gulf coasts could see a lot of storms coming their way.

According to forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center there’s a high likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms, which have winds of 39 mph or higher. As many as nine of those could become hurricanes, and up to four could become major hurricanes.

An average season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, according to NOAA. So this year’s prediction is definitely higher. The 2016 season was also above normal, with seven hurricanes, four of which were major. Residents of North Carolina and other East Coast states will remember Hurricane Matthew in September, which caused 34 deaths and $10 billion in damage in the U.S. alone.

"Regardless of how many storms develop this year, it only takes one to disrupt our lives," said Robert Fenton Jr., acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "Get ready now with these easy, low-cost steps that will leave you better prepared and will make all the difference: Have a family discussion about what you will do, where you will go and how you will communicate with each other when a storm threatens; know your evacuation route; tune into your local news or download the FEMA app to get alerts, and finally, listen to local authorities as a storm approaches.”

With months of possible hurricane threats ahead — the Atlantic season runs through Nov. 30 — you’ll also want to have lots of supplies stored. Make sure your preparedness kit includes a three- to five-day supply of water and non-perishable food, with one gallon of water stored for each person per day. Set aside enough food and water for pets, too.

Your supply kit should also include a first-aid kit, manual can opener, flashlight, batteries, a battery-operated radio, clothing and bedding, copies of important documents, hygiene supplies and hand sanitizer. And don’t forget a battery-operated or solar-powered charger for your cellphone.

For more tips, check out our Get Ready hurricanes fact sheet.

Photo: A downed palm tree in Brownsville, Texas, shows the strength of Hurricane Dolly in July 2008. Photo courtesy FEMA/Jacinta Quesad

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How ready are you? Get Ready survey shows many falling short on preparedness

Many people are not taking the necessary steps to ensure they are ready to safely make it through disasters, according to a Get Ready survey.

Conducted this spring among APHA members and the general public, the informal survey found that 85 percent of respondents don’t know their community’s evacuation plans, and almost 58 percent don’t have evacuation plans for their home.
safety first
The survey assessed preparedness by asking respondents whether they had a communication or evacuation plan; food, water or supplies set aside; or plans set in place in households, workplaces and schools. The survey was a follow-up to a similar 2006 Get Ready survey, which also found many people were not following preparedness recommendations.

The 2017 Get Ready survey found that less than 37 percent of respondents said they know about government communication and emergency plans in their area. About 41 percent of respondents don’t know whether their friends or neighbors have special needs and might require help during disasters.

People know they can do better. About 63 percent of people said  they’re aware they should take more steps toward being prepared, in fact.

The good news is that the Get Ready campaign is here to help. Our fact sheets, infographics and blog can help you improve your readiness.

They can also help give you the knowledge to be able to protect others in an emergency, an issue that concerns over half — almost 55 percent — of survey respondents.

Congratulations to Amelia Brandt and James Swinehart, who were the winners of the Get Ready survey giveaway! Amelia and James will each receive a preparedness kit.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Guest post: Nom nom nom nuptials: 7 food safety questions to ask your wedding caterer

Today’s guest blog post is by food safety education staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service, who share tips on making sure your wedding creates lasting fond memories, not a food illness outbreak.

WEDDING FLOWERSCatering is one of the largest expenses in a wedding budget. Couples can often find themselves struggling to satisfy their visions of a dream wedding and finicky guests. Since no one wants their guest to become ill, it’s essential to keep food safety in mind when choosing a caterer.

The key is to follow good food safety guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. In preparation for any big meal, it’s a good idea to review FSIS’ “Cooking for Groups” publication. The pamphlet, also available in Spanish, features guidelines for preparing large quantities of food. Other resources at Foodsafety.gov are available 24/7.

Choosing a caterer doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are seven food safety questions to ask your caterer:

1. Are the staff members certified food handlers? If they're certified, this means the staff is properly trained on safe food handling.

2. How do you transport food to the venue? You want to ensure cold foods stay cold and pre-prepared hot foods stay hot. If caterers transport unsealed food containers in the same compartment, spillage and cross-contamination may occur.

3. When and where is the food prepared?
If the food is prepared off-site, ensure the caterers safely transport the food. If the food is prepared on-site, ensure the caterers have the appropriate tools they need to prepare and serve the food. Budget conscious couples may choose a venue without a fully stocked kitchen. When this happens, communicating this information to the caterer will ensure that they prepare by bringing the necessary cookware and supplies.

4. How long after food — especially meat, poultry and eggs — is cooked is it brought out to guests? Perishable foods should not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours.

5. How long does the buffet remain open and how will the caterer avoid the food entering the “danger zone?” Ask the caterer to provide chafing dishes or warming trays to keep hot foods hot, and ice or another cold source to keep cold foods cold. Otherwise, food may enter the danger zone, the temperature range between 40 and 140 degrees where bacteria multiply rapidly. Never leave perishable foods in the danger zone for more than two hours, or one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees. After two hours, food that has been sitting out should be replaced with fresh food.

6. Are there any potential allergens used in the preparation of the food? You should certainly ask your caterer if there are any allergens in the dishes, including peanuts, soy and wheat. If there are, guests should be notified.

7. Do you use a food thermometer to check that food is properly cooked?
The answer must be yes! No one — not even a caterer — can tell if meat is properly cooked by its color. They must use a meat thermometer.

Following these tips can help you and your guests enjoy a happy, healthy wedding instead of a trip to the doctor. For more healthy nuptial tips, check out APHA’s public health wedding board on Pinterest.