Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Staying fit can boost both health and preparedness

Photo: Patrick Benko
The benefits of physical activity in everyday life are well known. But physical fitness can also play a big difference in how resilient you are when faced with a disaster.

Consider what happens after a large storm, for example. Your ability to move around can be hindered by fallen trees, snow or standing water. That means slippery conditions, trip hazards and major detours.

At some point, you’ll have to start cleaning up all of that storm-related mess. Trees and debris are heavy, and there will probably be a lot of it. Heat, cold, dust or mold can make what would normally be easy a herculean task. And on top of all that, you’ll have the stress and mental exhaustion that comes with coping with a disaster.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to start thinking about how physically prepared you are for a disaster. Can you walk long distances or stand for an extended amount of time? Are you able to fill sand bags or shovel snow? What if you had to carry large items or children?

Like any other preparedness activity, the time to start is now. Begin by assessing your current physical fitness. Talk to a doctor and be honest about your starting point. Then choose an activity that you’ll want to continue.

You can even turn your physical fitness activity into a preparedness one. For example, you can:
  • garden to increase food supplies or wildfire prevention,
  • walk with neighbors to boost community ties and resiliency,
  • bicycle to have an alternative transportation option, or
  • volunteer with a local preparedness organization or Community Emergency Response Team.
No matter how you choose to physically prepare, you’ll see benefits in both your overall health and your ability to cope with disasters.

If you’re looking for a fun way to boost your fitness, APHA’s 1 Billion Steps Challenge is happening now through May 31. As you work to become healthier, you can also make a difference toward making the U.S. the healthiest nation. We’re even offering prizes! Sign up now.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Support your community’s preparedness: Donate to the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive May 14

Did you know that food banks serve an important role in community preparedness? It’s true! Food banks help community residents who need assistance year-round. But after a disaster, they’re called on to play a greater role.

When people are displaced from their homes and cut off from their jobs after disasters such as tornadoes, floods or hurricanes, there’s a greater demand on food banks. In 2005, after New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina, the city’s Second Harvest Food Bank became the largest food bank in the world’s history. During the next two years, Second Harvest gave out more than 75 million pounds of food.

Like Hurricane Katrina, most disasters happen without warning. That means it’s up to all of us to make sure our food banks are ready, all the time. That’s where you — and your local post office — come in.

When your postal carrier drops by this Saturday, she or he will be ready to pick up more than just mail. Saturday, May 14, is the national Stamp Out Hunger food drive, during which postal carriers pick up food donations that are set out next to U.S. mailboxes.

Now in its 24th year, the Stamp Out Hunger food drive collected 71 million pounds of food in 2015. The event is organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers with support from the U.S. Postal Service, United Way and other sponsors.

To take part, just leave a sturdy bag containing non-perishable, non-expired foods, such as canned vegetables, pasta, rice or cereal, next to your mailbox before your mail comes on Saturday. Carriers will bring the food to local food banks, pantries or shelters. If you’re not sure whether your postal carrier will be taking part in the food drive Saturday, contact your local post office.

Also, for the first time, the food drive is collecting online donations, which will be used to support food banks in San Francisco and New York City.

If you can’t take part in Saturday’s food drive, you can hold your own event at another time of the year. APHA’s Get Ready campaign has a free how-to toolkit for making your community food drive a success.

For more information on the food drive, visit the Stamp Out Hunger event website or follow the food drive on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Preventing fires on campus: Steps to keep your home safe

Whether you live in a dorm, fraternity or sorority house or some other dwelling, your college campus is likely your home away from home. And just like the home you shared with your parents, it’s important to take steps to keep it safe. At the top of that list is preventing fires.

Fire departments respond to more than 3,800 campus housing fires a year, says the National Fire Protection Association.

It’s not just your stuff that’s at risk. According to the Center for Campus Fire Safety, 89 fatal fires occurred on or just-near campuses over a five-year period. Many of those fires were unintentional, involving cooking, candles, smoking or other means.

So how can you get ready? The first thing to know is where the closest fire extinguisher is. If it’s not in your room, then it should be in a hallway nearby. Memorize where it’s located so you can get there easily in an emergency.

If a fire alarm went off right now, would you know where to go? You should always be aware of emergency exits, no matter where you are. A good idea is to count the number of steps between your door and the emergency exit ahead of time, so that if there’s smoke or a loss of power you’ll know where to go. (Go ahead and do this now. We’ll wait.)

Next up? Check your smoke detector. Do a quick test to see that it’s functioning and check the batteries. Set a reminder to check the detector every time the clocks change for daylight saving time.

It’s also important to follow a few everyday steps for preventing fires. Cook only where cooking is allowed. Fires are the reason why hot plates or portable grills are banned from many campuses.

Be careful with things that use electricity. Take care with space heaters and don’t overload your power strips. Electrical fires are very dangerous and unpredictable.

Many campuses ban candles, and for good reason — they’re a big fire hazard. If you do use them, keep them far away from things that can catch fire and never leave them unattended.

For more tips, visit the National Fire Protection Association.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Zika is officially linked to microcephaly, CDC says

Photo: CDC/
 Division of Vector-borne Diseases
It’s official: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika virus causes microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.

CDC scientists reviewed the evidence that’s been collected so far on Zika and this week confirmed the link to microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby is born with a small head and other possible developmental problems.

But wait, didn’t we know that already? Well, sort of. Since reports of microcephaly spiked in Brazil in 2015, scientists have strongly suspected the link to Zika. But there wasn’t enough science or review for U.S. health officials to say with 100 percent surety. And now they have.

“This study marks a turning point in the Zika outbreak,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly.”

CDC’s Zika guidance for pregnant women hasn’t changed: Pregnant women should avoid traveling to areas where Zika is being spread, among other recommendations.

To help share the facts on Zika, APHA’s Get Ready campaign has created an easy-to-understand Zika fact sheet. It’s been updated this week to share the new finding from CDC. You can download the fact sheet now to share in your community and with friends and family.

Monday, April 11, 2016

ICE: Setting up in-case-of-emergency contact on your smartphone

Locked iPhone with Medical ID
photo: Patrick Benko
Did you know that your smartphone could help save your life in an emergency?

Say you’re hurt in a tornado or flood, for instance, and you slip out of consciousness. You’re rushed to the hospital, where medical teams heroically treat your injuries. There’s no one there to share your medical information or tell people who to contact. So now what?

That’s where having ICE — or in-case-of-emergency — information on your phone comes in. ICE is contact information for a trusted person. With a little planning ahead, your phone can share medical details and contact information with emergency workers, even if you can’t.

You can add ICE information easily in your phone contacts. Just add a new contact like you normally would. Pick your emergency person and include their phone number, email and other info. Then name that listing as ICE. Voilà! Your ICE information is now on your phone for emergency workers to find, right there under the letter “I.”

But how will emergency workers get access if your phone is locked? Good question.
If you have an iPhone with iOS 8 or higher, there’s an ICE feature within your Health app. It will share information under the “Medical ID” option on your phone’s emergency screen even if the phone is locked. Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Choose the “Health” app. 
  2. On the bottom panel, select “Medical ID.”
  3. Accept the disclaimer by choosing “Create Medical ID.”
  4. Fill out all the requested information, including details on allergies and blood type.
  5. Choose “done” on the top right corner of the page to save your information.

Want to see if it works? Lock your phone and slide to unlock. Choose “Emergency.” On the bottom left-hand corner, “Medical ID” will appear. Click on it to see your saved information.

If you have an Android phone, there are apps you can download to share ICE and medical information on your locked phone as well.

Another easy idea that will work for any phone is to add an ICE phone number directly on your home screen image. That way it shows anytime someone turns on your phone. Just download an app that allows you to add text to photos, add the number and save the image as your home screen wallpaper.

Still not convinced? Luckily, you can also let emergency responders know your medical conditions and ICE info the old-fashioned way, with a paper card in your wallet.