Friday, December 25, 2009
According to a 2008 community preparedness guide (pdf) from the Western New York Public Health Alliance Inc., volunteers should have a range of skills, including pharmacists; people who can communicate in different languages, including sign language; custodians; faith leaders; and county, school and government officials. Chances are your community can use someone with your skills as well.
Organizers should train volunteers in handling population surges, understanding how to respond to quarantine or hazardous materials situations, and calming people down. Volunteers also need to be informed of their legal rights and have emergency management training such as that offered through the Community Emergency Response Team program. Such training is often held one evening per week for seven weeks and is offered in many states, so if you want to help, check if it’s in your area.
In addition to training, volunteers need to also have the right attitude. According to the Louisiana 4-H Council volunteers need to be accepting, aware, attentive and have a positive attitude when dealing with disaster victims. If that sounds like you, then step up and make yourself known.
It’s also essential for planners to over-recruit volunteers in case some don’t show up when duty calls. Volunteers should know their town’s emergency preparedness plan and have copies of each other’s contact information.
If volunteers are properly trained and willing to help during an emergency, it can make all the difference when a crisis hits.
Friday, December 18, 2009
“Warning! Seek shelter!” If you heard this message right now, would you be ready?
While emergencies such as fires or hurricanes may call for you to evacuate, others require that you stay put — or “shelter in place” — to keep safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sheltering in place means to stay where you are and make the building as safe as possible to protect yourself.
Taking shelter can either be a short-term measure, such as going to a safe room for a brief time during a tornado warning, or long term, where you need to stay in your home for several days. In both instances, it’s important to follow a general set of procedures. If you are recommended by officials to shelter in place, get inside as quickly as possible and tune into any radio or television that may have emergency updates. You may be advised to close and lock all exterior doors and windows, and to turn off air conditioning systems. In the event of a toxic chemical release, make sure to also close all vents, fireplace dampers and as many interior doors as possible.
When preparing for a disaster that requires sheltering in place, it’s important to select a room that will keep you the safest. While the room you choose may change depending on the specific type of disaster, most shelter rooms should be a large room with as few windows and doors as possible. Having access to a clean water source, like a bathroom or kitchen with a sink, is also a plus.
Once you’ve picked your shelter room, keep it stocked with a flashlight, battery-powered radio (with extra batteries for both), emergency food, bottled water, a first aid kit and a telephone or charged cell phone. Setting aside some games or books that will help you while away the time is also a good idea.
Also, don’t assume that emergencies will only happen when you are at home. Check with your office, workplace or school to find out where sheltering locations are, and offer to help if they don’t have one designated yet. You’ll be helping yourself, but also your community, be more prepared when it counts.
Friday, December 11, 2009
If you are hearing impaired, it’s important to take a few extra steps to be prepared for an emergency. If you use hearing aids, it’s a good idea to store extra hearing aids and implants — and extra batteries — in your emergency kit or close at hand, according to preparedness advocates. If you use pagers, captioned telephones or other communication equipment designed for those who are hard of hearing, it’s important to keep these devices charged at all times. Also, consider installing both audio and visual fire alarms in your home.
Notifying others such as family, neighbors and emergency personnel of your needs can help ensure that they’re able to help you during emergency situations if you need them.
Good communication during a disaster can make for a smoother experience. Have paper and pens on hand so that you can convey messages to others and consider carrying with you a copy of important messages such as: "I use American Sign Language and need an ASL interpreter," or "If you make announcements, I will need to have them written or signed."
On the community level, encourage emergency response organizations like the American Red Cross to recruit volunteers with ASL interpreting skills to ensure that safety procedures are understood by all. Remind TV stations to show ASL interpreters on camera during emergencies or to broadcast all news and emergency information in open caption formats. And, if you don’t already know ASL, try to learn it and encourage others to as well.
For the more than 70 million deaf people worldwide, dealing with disaster emergencies poses its own unique challenges. While it is nearly impossible to change the course of a natural disaster, by planning, communicating and advocating ahead of time, it can make dealing with these events much easier for everyone.
Friday, December 04, 2009
So what can you do to prepare yourself for these unexpected situations? Prepare yourself both physically and mentally.
Whether you are a regular mass transit commuter, a tourist or someone who is taking a trip, it’s a good idea to pack a small safety kit that includes things like a small first aid kit, flashlight, moist towelettes or hand sanitizer, medication, paper, a pen or pencil, and maps of the area. In addition, water, snacks and a charged cell phone can be useful items to have while waiting out an emergency.
Mentally, it is important to be composed, focused and alert for any dangers that may arise when you are on mass transit. It’s okay to have a book, newspaper or charged iPod to pass the time. But remember to be on alert for any emergency updates or instructions that may come up. If you are listening to music, don’t put the volume on too loud. Not only is it impolite to other passengers, but you may miss hearing crucial information for keeping yourself safe.
If an emergency does arise, you’ll want to make contact with your family. Make a family emergency plan (pdf)with your loved ones to prepare for these events. If you are unable to get a hold of other family members in your area, a pre-identified out-of-town contact may be your only form of notifying your family of your safety. Make sure that everyone in your family has a cell phone or access to a phone and knows the out-of-town contact’s phone number. If you have a cell phone, put down this person as "ICE," or "in case of emergency," in your contacts list. If you are involved in an accident, it will give emergency personnel an easy way to get hold of someone you know.
Teaching your family members how to use text messaging can also be a plus during a disaster. Text messages can sometimes get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
While the vast majority of trips on mass transit are uneventful (and sometimes even pleasant), it helps to take extra steps to be prepared.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Don’t travel if you are feeling under the weather or have a fever. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
If you can, avoid contact with sick people. That can be hard, especially on airplanes. So if you get stuck next to Sneezy Sam or Coughing Carol on the way home, ask the flight attendant if you can move to another part of the plane. You can cruise through security with handy travel-sized containers of hand sanitizer (3 ounces or less!), perfect for your plastic baggie.
More than 70 countries have reported cases of H1N1 flu. Are you jetting off to one of those destinations? If you are traveling internationally, stay up-to-date on the latest outbreak information. The best protection is to follow the simple tips on traveling safely and being prepared.
While you are out shopping for Black Friday bargains, remember germs are everywhere and tough to avoid in the bustle of big public places. You can help prevent sickness by washing your hands often. This may, of course, make your hands feel dry. But before being tempted by sample lotions at the stores, beware: Pushing the pumps on lotions or perfumes can add germs to a clean hand. Ask a sales associate to apply samples for you, and be mindful of other ways you and fellow holiday shoppers can stay healthy.
Taking a few extra steps can help ensure you have happy, healthy holidays.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Why isn’t more vaccine available? Why have some people received the vaccine while many at greater risk of complications from the flu been unable to get it? Could we have done better?
While there’s always room for improvement, Dr. Georges Benjamin of the American Public Health Association points out many extraordinary achievements during the U.S. pandemic response. These include open communication, rapid identification of the virus and development of not just one, but two vaccines — one for H1N1 flu and one for seasonal flu.
See what Dr. Benjamin has to say, and then tell us what you think (or take this MSNBC poll). Has the response to the pandemic been a success?
Friday, November 13, 2009
Hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters can halt classes, disrupt campus life, damage buildings and leave students stranded with nowhere to go. Luckily, this is where planning and preparation come in. So grab your pencil and paper (or laptop and iPhone) and settle in for a lesson in campus disaster preparedness.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the first step in creating a disaster-resistant university is for college administrators to identify specific hazards that could affect their school and students. Among the possibilities outlined in a recent FEMA preparedness guide (PDF) that schools of higher learning should prepare for are earthquakes, fires, floods, winds and tornadoes. Officials should evaluate how ready they are for each type of disaster and take action to be prepared. For example, schools that are vulnerable to earthquakes should think about strengthening floors and walls, while those at risk for hurricanes should reinforce window glass and frames.
All schools — no matter where they are — should create campus-wide emergency procedures, inform personnel of risks and policies, and install backup systems such as computer databases and electric generators.
It’s also a good idea to form an advisory committee at your school made up of students, faculty and staff. Create a plan of action for preparing the school for disasters, such as efficient emergency routes and meeting points during a crisis and campus-wide notification alerts. Set up an emergency notification plan using tools such as text messaging or Twitter that can be used to notify students and staff of disaster threats.
Coordinating planning efforts with local emergency and medical response teams such as the fire department, police department and local hospitals is a good step in ensuring that measures are put in place. Local government, city councils, state representatives and nonprofit organizations can help create your disaster plan.
Keep in mind that universities and colleges are not only places of learning, they are a home for many, and our homes are worth protecting.
Monday, November 09, 2009
But for public health workers around the nation, preparing for H1N1 flu has been an intense, coordinated effort designed to keep people safe and informed, according to presenters who spoke at a session at APHA’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia this week.
The behind-the-scenes work on H1N1, also known as swine flu, by health officials began as soon as the virus was identified this spring and is still continuing in states and communities throughout the nation.
Public health officials are continuously trying to improve communication between health care providers and health departments. For example, at a November 9th Annual Meeting session on H1N1 presented by Mary Davis of the North Carolina Institute for Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that North Carolina public health agencies are working closely with local health departments to make sure that health providers are receiving the best information possible about H1N1 so they, in turn, can pass their knowledge on to the public.
With new research being done regarding H1N1, it’s important for everyone to remember to stay flexible during a time when we may be receiving all kinds of new information. As Tamar Klaiman of the O’Neil Center for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University recommended during her presentation, with a new disease outbreak on the horizon, people should expect uncertainty because scientists and health officials are constantly collecting new data and may change guidelines to ensure that we have the most up to date information available. With new information, improvements can be made to better future responses in preventing spread of H1N1.
With more information out there on H1N1, more people are becoming aware of the availability of the vaccine: According to a study done in North Carolina in mid-September, more people said they planned to get an H1N1 vaccine than months ago.
As H1N1 flu cases continue, health workers will continue to plan and adapt, focusing on issues such as school closures, vaccination clinics and communicating with the public, according to session presenters.
Friday, November 06, 2009
“Infect Me Not” contains lots of activities to help you learn how to prevent the spread of germs and infectious disease. For starters, check out the eight things you can do to keep yourself healthy, a list of easy habits you can adopt from preparing your food safely to getting vaccinated that can help keep you disease-free.
It also features three fun 30-second videos — one about coughing and sneezing, one about hand-washing and one about staying home when you’re sick — that drive home important points about preventing the spread of disease with a healthy dose of humor.
Our favorite part of the Web site is the song competition. It’s a great idea (in fact, APHA did something similar a few years ago) and a fun way for the public to be involved, strive for a prize and ultimately teach others about being healthy.
And with all this talk about disease, what are germs anyway and how do they make us sick? You can find out on the Web site’s germ facts page. There’s also information on getting vaccinated, from the seasonal flu shot to the shots needed when you travel to other countries, and answers to questions about pandemic flu. There are brochures, posters, ads and videos, too, that anyone can download and use to spread the word — with washed hands — about being healthy.
The moral of the story? Being sick is no fun for anyone. Take the small steps to stay healthy to keep you and those around you happy and well.
Friday, October 30, 2009
In conjunction with its Get Ready campaign, APHA is reminding you to “Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks” this Sunday, Nov. 1. That means in addition to checking the batteries in your smoke alarm, it’s also time to make sure you and your household are ready for emergencies.
APHA has these tips on how you can use that bonus hour to become prepared:
* Check your stockpile and make sure that your emergency supplies, such as food, water and batteries, are still good. If you don’t have a stockpile, take some time to create one.
* Re-familiarize yourself and your family with your community’s emergency preparedness plan, including evacuation routes, emergency shelters and the location of food banks.
* Update your family communication plan, which will spell out how you will get in touch with one another during an emergency.
* Gather extra supplies for your pets, which need their own stockpile of food and water.
* Collect your medications together in one place, and make sure you have enough supplies in case you or your family have to stay home with the flu for a few days.
The Get Ready: Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks Web site has a wealth of free information that can help you with your emergency supplies, including easy-to-understand fact sheets on what to put in your stockpile (PDF), budget stockpiling (PDF), stockpiling for pets (PDF), a stockpiling checklist (PDF) and the supplies you need to have on hand for a cold or the flu (PDF).
Still not convinced? Read what the University of Minnesota had to say about Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks on its Promising Practices: Pandemic Preparedness Tools Web site and see what the buzz is about.
Friday, October 23, 2009
In mid-October, I went to a local government health facility here in Montgomery County, Md., to get the H1N1 flu vaccine. I thought it would be a 20-minute trip. Was I wrong! When I got there, I could have sworn a sports event or concert was going on. It was the first day the H1N1 vaccine was offered in the county, and police were everywhere telling people where to park. Cars were on the grass, all along the main road and on side streets. The line was intimidating too, wrapping around the building and extending all the way out to the main road. I didn’t want to mess with parking there, so I parked in a neighborhood a few blocks away and walked to the building.
It was about 9:45 in the morning when I got there, and already at least 200 people were in front of me. There were families with small kids, a good amount of pregnant women and some elderly people. Children were running and playing and rolling down the hill. I was surprised to see news cameras there too.
Most of the people in line waited patiently, but one middle-aged man behind me got fed up and rudely cut in line closer to the front. Everyone in line was worried that the vaccine would run out, but health workers were walking through the line reassuring us that there was plenty of vaccine to go around. They handed out fliers with information about who should or shouldn’t get the needle injection or the spray mist. The recommendations are based on age and lots of different health conditions. The intranasal vaccine, or mist — which is sprayed into both nostrils — is only recommended for certain groups. I was considered to be in a “priority group” because I’m younger than 25.
I wore my hooded sweatshirt that morning, thinking it would keep me warm, but boy was I wrong. After two hours, I was happy to get inside the building. It still took another 40 minutes to get to the front of the line, where a health worker administered the mist to me. It had a strange taste, both bitter and sweet, which hit me about five minutes later.
For the next two days, I had a minor headache and felt a little tired and achy, but they told us to expect some minor side effects if we got the intranasal vaccine. I also read in the paper to the next day that about 1,000 people went through the line that day.
I feel so much better now that I’ve been vaccinated against both H1N1 flu and the seasonal flu, which I had done a week earlier. I was worried about catching both. I’m a college student at the University of Maryland, and there are always illnesses being passed around. I can finally go to class worry free. And another good thing: The vaccine was free.
Friday, October 16, 2009
To keep businesses up and running during emergencies, such as when a lot of workers are out sick with the flu, employers need to create a business plan. As luck would have it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Flu.gov have created materials to help you, the employer, prepare.
So where to start? CDC recommends you take a look at how many staff are out sick normally and watch for an increase in the number of workers who are taking sick days in the fall and winter. Have a back-up plan to keep things running in case a lot of employees are home sick. And be prepared if schools close because of an outbreak, as that means parents may need to leave early to pick kids up from school, stay home with sick children or take them to the doctor. The best plan? Think ahead and stay flexible, says CDC.
And even though running your business is vital, it’s important that sick employees stay home, say the helpful folks at CDC, especially if they have a fever. CDC recommends that people with H1N1 flu stay home until they are fever-free for 24 hours without medication. It’s up to you, the employer, to let staff know it’s okay to stay home and that they won’t get in trouble if they do so. Otherwise, your whole office, store or restaurant staff could end up out sick. And then who would run the place?
Businesses can also do their part by stopping the spread of the flu in the workplace. Providing a clean environment is a good step, as is offering alcohol-based hand sanitizers in public areas such as lobbies, kitchens, cashier lines and restrooms. A lot of sick employees? Consider having some of them work from home for awhile, if possible.
Another tip from CDC: Stay in touch with state and local public health partners so you can receive timely and accurate information about the flu. Consider offering free flu vaccinations at your workplace. Your employees will think you are the best boss ever. And who knows? The next case of flu you could prevent could even be your own. Has your employer developed a plan to deal with an outbreak of H1N1 flu? Tell us about it by offering a comment.
Friday, October 09, 2009
In a new survey released last week by the Harvard School of Public Health, just 40 percent of adults said they were “absolutely certain” they’ll get the H1N1 flu vaccine, and only 51 percent of parents were “absolutely certain” they’ll get their children immunized against H1N1, commonly known as swine flu. Among the top reasons for not getting vaccinated? Safety concerns. In fact, only a third of those surveyed thought the new vaccine was very safe “generally for most people to take.”
But people have no more reason to be concerned than they do for the regular seasonal flu vaccine, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to CDC, the H1N1 vaccine is being made the same way as seasonal flu vaccine — with the same methods, in the same production facilities and by the same companies. And it’s been tested on a wide range of people, from children to seniors, just like the seasonal flu vaccine is.
This week, CDC reported that H1N1 vaccinations have begun — starting with those most at risk, such as health workers and children — and that every U.S. state had ordered vaccine supplies. Such supplies are becoming available as soon as they come “off the production line,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden.
“My children will get it,” Frieden said during an Oct. 6 press briefing. “Other public health and societal leaders and experts will get it. It’s something that we have a high degree of confidence in.”
So, what about you? Ready to roll up your sleeve and get protected against H1N1 flu? Take the Get Ready poll on the front page of our blog and let us know. And while you are at it, leave us a comment or two.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Q. If I am sick with flu symptoms — such as sore throat, fever, runny nose, cough, etc. — how long should I stay home? I don’t want to spread the flu to others.Good question, and kudos to you for thinking about the health of those around you! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with the flu or flu-like symptoms stay at home and away from others until they’re fever-free — sans medication — for at least 24 hours. That holds true whether you’ve got seasonal flu or H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu, so curl up with a good book, a cozy blanket and settle in for some get-well time.
Staying home when you’re sick helps reduce the chance of others becoming infected, whether they’re your co-workers, fellow gym-goers and public transportation riders or friends at your book club. If you have a high temperature, it means you’re “shedding” the influenza virus and you’re highly contagious. Even if you are using an antiviral medication from your doctor, you should still stay home. There are virus strains that are resistant to antiviral medications, so the flu can still be contagious.
Remember to cover your cough and wash your hands both while you are sick and once you are back on your feet, and avoid contact with others who are at high-risk for getting the flu. If you need some tips on taking care of yourself when you’ve got the flu or caring for others who are sick in your home, check out CDC’s Web site for recommendations.
For more on staying healthy and flu-free, visit CDC’s seasonal flu Web site, H1N1 flu site, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Flu.gov site.
Friday, September 25, 2009
That’s why the H1N1 flu virus, also known as swine flu, is such a concern for child care facilities. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children under 5 are more vulnerable to the virus.
If you’re a parent, guardian or day care provider, don’t despair. There are steps you can take to reduce the spread of H1N1 and keep kids healthy and happy.
• After kids have left child care, they often leave their germs behind. Staff should disinfect as they normally would, according to CDC guidelines , paying special attention to things kids touch or put in their mouths, such as toys and play areas.
• The H1N1 virus is likely to spread more quickly at child care facilities because kids share toys and eat meals together. However, before young children even enter a child care center, teachers can do a very quick health check, which helps identify sick children and prevent any infected young ones from spreading the virus.
• Very young children have not yet acquired good handwashing skills. Child care workers should monitor children carefully while they wash their hands and distribute hand sanitizer often.
• On the home front, parents should not send their children to day care if they have symptoms of flu, which include sore throat, fever, runny nose, and cough. If sick, CDC recommends kids and staff stay at home until they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medicine.
Follow the tips for keeping your tot and child care facilities flu-free and staying healthy this season will be as easy as learning your ABCs.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Heading back to college means more this fall than sorority rush, new roommates and visits to the campus bookstore. The threat of H1N1 flu — also called swine flu — has added a new concern for students, administrators and parents alike — and it’s one that’s potentially worse than a final exam.
For college students, protecting yourself starts with good hygiene and prevention. Wash your hands often (PDF), cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and avoid people who are sick. A new vaccine will also soon be available to help protect against H1N1 flu. Be sure to get your shot when the vaccine is available. (But CDC and other public health professionals remind you to make sure to get your seasonal flu vaccine too.)
If the virus does begin to infect people on campus, students and faculty should stick to a policy of “self-isolation.” That means students who show symptoms of H1N1 flu should stay out of contact with others and remain in their rooms until they are free of fever for 24 hours without use of medication. While this may be difficult for the overly social bunch on campus, it will help prevent the virus from spreading. Isolated students won’t be attending class, so CDC has encouraged colleges to adopt new absentee policies to enable students to remain in their rooms when they are sick.
CDC also recommends students adopt a “flu buddy” system, which essentially means people who have symptoms should help care for and check in with each other throughout the day. University staff should call, text or e-mail isolated students to check on them each day.
If handwashing and self-isolation are not enough and the spread of flu worsens, schools may take more drastic measures such as cutting down on campus-run social events and using online education as an alternative to class time.
Protect yourself on campus this fall. Follow the tips to stay healthy and you’ll be receiving that diploma before you can say “ah-choo!”
Friday, September 11, 2009
Through its WHACK the Flu program, a community education effort sponsored by the City of Berkeley Public Health Division, officials are driving home the message that good hand hygiene habits are important for preventing the flu. The “WHACK” part of the program’s name is an acronym for a series of flu prevention tips for kids: Wash your hands; Home is for where you stay; Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; Cover your coughs and sneezes; and Keep your distance from people who are coughing or sneezing.
The program trains volunteers to perform a skit on the dangers of “Fred the Flu Germ” and explain all of the many places germs can be found, from noses, to hands and schools. Between giggles from the young ones, the skit shows how to cover mouths when coughing or sneezing and even includes a handwashing song that helps kids learn how long to wash.
The program, which is being used by the Berkeley school district as a preventive measure against H1N1, aka swine flu, leaves kids excited about washing their hands, singing the handwashing song and tickled by the notion that they can avoid the Fred the Flu Germ by whacking the flu.
Because it can be performed anywhere, WHACK the Flu has been used by health workers around the country. Free materials from the program — including the skit, teacher evaluation form and posters — are available online in both English and Spanish. Take a look and help school kids prevent flu in your community today.
Friday, September 04, 2009
Held annually on the third Tuesday in September, Get Ready Day is timed to coincide with National Preparedness Month, which urges all Americans to prepare, plan and stay informed. Get Ready Day is part of APHA’s Get Ready campaign, which is helping Americans prepare themselves, their families and their communities for all hazards they may face, including pandemic flu, infectious diseases, disasters and other public health threats.
So how can you get involved in Get Ready Day? Set up a booth on campus, pass out materials at a health department, sponsor a preparedness talk at a community center or work with a local grocery store to promote preparedness and stockpiling to shoppers. Our new Get Ready Event Guide has even more ideas, an event checklist and a sample news release. Also available online from APHA is the Get Ready Games Guide, with do-it-yourself preparedness games that can be used at a Get Ready Day event for kids. No time to hold an event? Add the Get Ready logo and link to your Web site or blog.
You can help spread the word about your Get Ready Day event by posting your activity to our free online Get Ready Calendar of Events. We’d love to hear about how you celebrate Get Ready Day, so drop us a line or send us a photo of your activities. Thanks for helping spread the preparedness message!
Friday, August 28, 2009
If you have any interest in finding the answers to any of these questions (and you definitely should), then check out the seven new fact sheets from APHA’s Get Ready campaign. These educational tools cover how to prepare for:
* H1N1 flu, often referred to as swine flu (PDF)
* earthquakes (PDF)
* floods (PDF)
* heat waves (PDF)
* power outages (PDF)
* winter storms (PDF)
* emergencies at work (PDF)
The new fact sheets are available in both English and Spanish. Use the information to educate yourself and your family, pass them out at a health fair, post them on campus or share them in the community. You can even add your group’s logo to the fact sheets on our Get Ready customization page.
Each of the fact sheets teaches you how to prepare for disasters, what to do during the actual emergency itself and how to respond after the crisis has passed. Help spread the word on how to deal with each of these ever-present public health hazards. Get ready and educate!
Friday, August 21, 2009
To help equip teachers for the start of the school year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has added a new feature to its Ready campaign that provides tips and materials for including disaster preparedness in the classroom. Created in partnership with Discovery Education and the Ad Council, Ready Classroom focuses on three steps for emergency preparedness: (1) preparing an emergency supply kit; (2) making an emergency plan; and (3) learning about types of emergencies specific to an area.
Ready Classroom provides teachers with a variety of grade- and age-specific tools such as games, puzzles, bulletin board ideas and videos , ranging from learning how to call 9-1-1 to discovering how an earthquake works. Another great resource is an interactive map where selecting a state reveals the natural disasters most likely to occur in a region along with links to information on preparing for those types of disaster.
Thanks to this new resource, teaching students about emergency preparedness and protecting them from emergencies just got easier.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Confused? Let’s try to clear things up.
The real swine flu is a respiratory illness caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes flu outbreaks in pigs. The important thing to note is that swine flu viruses don’t normally infect humans. Every once in a while a person that is in close contact with pigs will get infected, but these cases are very rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , there were only 12 cases of that kind of flu in the United States between December 2005 and February 2009.
This spring, when people first began getting sick with a new flu virus, scientists called it “swine flu” because tests showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to swine flu viruses. But after they did more research, they found out that actually this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs. It has swine flu genes, bird (avian) genes and human genes. So to signify that it was a new virus, the official name became “novel H1N1 virus” and this is the pandemic we’re currently facing around the world.
But don’t worry if you still think “swine flu” rolls off the tongue easier than “H1N1” – even some health officials still have a hard time remembering what to call it. But it’s good to know the difference!
Friday, August 07, 2009
The kids may not be too excited about it, but parents and school staff will probably be glad to know that schools might not need to shut down if there is an outbreak of H1N1 flu, formerly known as swine flu. Updated federal guidelines released today offer a range of options for dealing with H1N1 flu in schools, depending on how bad the flu is in the community.
The new guidance says “officials should balance the risk of flu in their communities with the disruption that school dismissals will cause in education and the wider community.” That means closing schools doesn’t have to be the first response if kids start getting sick. If H1N1 stays at the same level of severity we’ve seen, some of the other recommendations are:
*Stay home when sick: Students or staff members showing symptoms of flu should stay home at least 24 hours after fever symptoms have ended.
*Separate ill students and staff: Students or staff who appear to have flu symptoms should be sent to a room separate from others until they can be sent home.
*Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette: Schools should emphasize the importance of the basics of flu prevention: Stay home when sick, wash those hands frequently, and cover noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or a shirt sleeve or elbow if no tissue is available).
*Routine cleaning: School staff should routinely clean areas that students and staff touch. (Watch those door handles, gym equipment and keyboards! Yuk!)
If H1N1 gets worse this fall — with more cases of severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths — the guidelines say that schools should take additional actions.
The new guidelines are part of a national plan to deal with H1N1 flu, which includes encouraging people to get vaccinated and to take other actions to stay healthy. All of these steps are important because flu typically spreads more easily in the fall and winter. However, if we all do our part, we can minimize the spread of H1N1 in our communities.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Oh wait, there is a way!
Check out APHA’s new Get Ready Calendar of Events. Hosted on the Get Ready Web site, the free public calendar lets you publicize your community’s public health events.
Use it to promote your preparedness-related events, like Get Ready Day on Sept. 15 or Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks in November.
Posting your own event on the public calendar is really easy and painless (we promise!). Just click “submit your event,” enter in your event information and contact information, and you’re set!
Once more people begin to use the calendar, you will be able to see what preparedness events are going on in your state and nationwide and get ideas. Plan your own activity using our free fact sheets and ready-to-use materials.
So what are you waiting for? Go on and give the Get Ready Calendar a try!
Friday, July 31, 2009
Nearly 60,000 Americans contracted paralytic polio in 1952. Today, polio has been eradicated in the United States, thanks to a vaccine. Preventing polio and other serious or life-threatening infections is one of the greatest public health achievements of all time. The persistent use of vaccines also led to the eradication of smallpox, and has significantly reduced the presence of other life-threatening diseases such as measles and German measles. But vaccinations only work when we get them, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named August National Immunization Awareness Month — to educate people about the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases and the importance of keeping up-to-date on recommended vaccinations throughout life.
Vaccine-preventable diseases claim the lives of approximately 50,000 Americans each year — more than HIV/AIDS, breast cancer or traffic accidents. Seasonal influenza is currently the leading cause of vaccine-preventable death in the United States, claiming the lives of about 36,000 people each year and putting around 200,000 people in the hospital. Most of these deaths are in the elderly, but the hospitalization rate in children age 2 years or younger is the same as in the elderly. Influenza also causes nearly 100 deaths each year in American children younger than 5 years of age. Most of these children were previously healthy. It is tragic when any child dies, especially when that death is preventable.
With influenza season approaching, now is the time to start planning to protect yourself and your family by getting everyone in your household immunized. A number of resources are available for information about influenza and other vaccine-preventable diseases. The Web site of the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition offers a Flu Risk Calculator to help people of all ages determine whether or not they should be vaccinated against influenza. To learn more about other vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, visit CDC’s vaccination page. For information on infectious diseases and prevention specific to adults, visit the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases’ Adult Vaccination Web site.
Decide today to protect yourself against infectious diseases — after all, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure, and even one life lost because prevention was ignored is a tragedy.
The experts who advise the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended this week who should be the first to receive the new H1N1 flu vaccine when it becomes available. At the top of the list are:
* pregnant women,
* people living with or caring for babies younger than 6 months old,
* health care and emergency services workers,
* children and young adults ages 6 months to 24 years, and
* 25- to 64-year-olds with serious health problems.
Those five groups were chosen because they have a higher risk of being infected by H1N1, developing complications from the virus and passing it onto others.
Although CDC does not expect to run out of the vaccine, the potential spread of the H1N1 virus is hard to predict and the demand may be more than the supply. If there’s a vaccine shortage, priority should be given to pregnant women, infants younger than 6 months, some health care workers, children 6 months to 4 years old and children ages 5 to 18 with certain medical conditions, the advisors recommended.
Studies show that seniors ages 65 and up are less likely than younger age groups to be infected by H1N1, but the CDC advisors recommended that this group receive the H1N1 vaccine once it’s given to the higher-risk groups.
So the H1N1 vaccine means no seasonal flu shot, right? Wrong! The H1N1 vaccine won’t replace the seasonal flu vaccine. It will still be important for you to get your yearly flu shot. But both vaccinations can be given on the same day, so once the H1N1 vaccine is ready and it’s your turn, you may not even have to make two trips.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Even with the best of preparations, there’s a chance for life-threatening injuries, illness or even death during a public health threat. (Yikes.) Although it’s a scary subject that many of us avoid thinking about, it’s an important part of your emergency preparations.
Our advice? The best way to prepare for a life-threatening situation is to create what’s known as an “advance directive.” In case you’ve been bonked on the head or otherwise incapacitated and can’t speak up for yourself, an advance directive spells out the way your medical decisions should be handled. Everyone 18 and older should have an advance directive — which includes you, our beloved uber-prepared Get Ready blog readers.
So what should be in your advance directive? Experts recommend that you have a living will that specifies whether you’d want life-prolonging measures such as feeding tubes and ventilators if incapacitated. It’s also good to have “medical power of attorney,” which is a fancy way of naming a person who can make medical decisions for you if you are out of it. Your wishes on resuscitation and organ donation should also be in your advance directive. (Make sure your donation registration is up-to-date!)
Other tips? Check your state laws to make sure your advance directive complies with regs, keep your directive current as your life changes, and share your directive with your doctors, attorney and family. Look online for forms that you can use for creating your directive and getting started.
After all, there is an end in sight for each and every one of us one day. Creating an advance directive now means that you can go out on your own terms: Think of it as the ultimate in preparedness.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Maybe not, according to a recent Mason-Dixon poll. The survey of residents of Atlantic and Gulf Coast states found that 66 percent do not have a hurricane survival kit. That’s surprising, especially considering that taking even small steps, such as throwing an emergency kit together, could make an enormous difference in time of need.
The poll also found that 83 percent of residents have not taken steps to make their homes stronger since last year’s active hurricane season, and 55 percent said they did not have a family disaster plan. Besides being unprepared, the poll found that many people are misinformed, as 62 percent said they do not feel vulnerable to a hurricane, related tornado or flooding — all of which are high risks for coastal residents.
These scary statistics show we have a ways to go to get people to become prepared for an emergency. As a Get Ready blog reader, you probably aren’t one of the unprepared. But for the rest of you out there who live in coastal areas, take our friendly advice: Put together an emergency kit and be ready to evacuate if needed.
Let’s hope we learn our lesson before another Katrina hits.
Monday, July 13, 2009
“We ask the American people to become actively engaged with their own preparation and prevention,” said Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. secretary of health and human services, said during the summit. “It’s a responsibility we all share.”
Federal, state and local officials will be doing their part to get ready for a possible increase of H1N1 flu cases in the fall, and as individuals, we can all respond to this call in many ways:
* Wash your hands frequently — it really does help! Don’t touch your hands to your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are squeaky clean.
* Keep your immune system strong by exercising and eating healthy foods.
* Cover your coughs and sneezes so that you don’t spread illness to others. Stay home from work, school or camp and avoid crowds when you’re feeling under the weather. If you’re feeling really sick, go to a doctor!
* Don’t get caught up in the media hype. Stick to trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Flu.gov for your information.
It’s also important that when a vaccine comes out that at-risk groups make sure and get vaccinated. A vaccine may be available by mid-October, and children, pregnant women, the elderly and health care workers will be among the first targets for the vaccine.
The flu summit also launched a new video contest on preventing H1N1 flu. Create a short public service announcement that encourages people to take steps to prevent the spread of the flu and you can win $2,500. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 17, so sharpen up those scripts and schedule your actors now to help fight the flu and get America prepared!
Friday, July 10, 2009
In parts of the western United States, July brings dry conditions and summer storms that provide perfect environments for dangerous fires that can rumble through forests, hillsides and homes. Whether you are camping in the woods or barbequing in your backyard you should build fires away from nearby trees or bushes and have a way to put out the fire quickly and completely if it looks as though it may be getting out of control. Also, try to avoid open burning and never leave a fire unattended.
Prepare your home as well. Install smoke alarms and test them once a month. Replace the batteries when needed and replace your smoke alarms at least every 10 years. Additional safety measures include creating a 30-foot safety zone in which you limit dry vegetation around your house. You can also use fire-resistant siding, remove flammable debris from under decks and porches and avoid flammable roofing materials like wood, shake and shingle.
Even with these preparations in place, it is still vital to prepare for the worst. If a fire does reach your home, having an escape plan could be the difference between life and death. Establish at least two ways to escape from every room of your home and select a location outside your house where everyone in your family will meet. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
Fire can ruin homes and devastate lives. However, with smart fire safety practices and good preparation, you can help reduce the chance these disasters will affect your loved one and property. After all, better to prepare for and prevent fire than having to stop, drop and roll.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
The sound of fireworks means Fourth of July and summer celebrations are upon us again with parades, festivals and other large outdoor events. That means lots of fun…and also lots of people.
For many, taking part in busy activities during summer heat can bring out anxieties about safety and health. If so, have no worries. You can still safely wade through the crowds and celebrate Independence Day. Just be prepared and be aware.
For large warm weather events, like Fourth of July parades and fireworks, learn about the event you will be attending and plan ahead. What items can you bring? Where is the event located? How long will it last? Answering these questions can help you prepare and guide how to act at such events.
It is also important to prepare for your day with summer weather in mind. Check the forecast. Pack umbrellas, fans, bottled water or any other items based on weather conditions. Be sure to drink plenty of water, and avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine, which can increase the risk of dehydration in the summer heat. Apply sunscreen and wear light breathable clothing to help stop harmful UV rays from reaching your skin.
At events, it’s also important to be aware of your surroundings. In case of an emergency, know where the closest exits are. If you feel you are in any sort of danger or unsafe environment, make sure to leave the location as quickly, yet calmly as possible.
Being aware of your own limitations is just as important as being aware of your surroundings. If you start to feel dehydrated, tired or overheated, stop and take time to care for yourself, even if it means cutting your celebrations short.
The Fourth of July is a day for fun, and with these tips, you can be sure your celebrations remain enjoyable.
Graphic courtesy Microsoft Clipart Gallery
Friday, June 26, 2009
• Keep it stocked: A car that is well-prepared for emergencies should carry nourishment. Be sure and always keep a few gallons of water in your car, as well as food. Choose foods that are shelf-stable and can store well in the extreme temperatures of a car.
• Be prepared to go: For your car, jumper cables, a tow chain and flares are always good things to have on board. If there are reports of a weather disaster headed your way, check the air in your tires (including the spare!) and fill up the gas tank of your car. Keep the tank at least half-filled as long as the threat remains, as the last thing you want is to run out of gas while sitting in long lines of evacuating traffic.
• Think ahead: For survival in the vehicle, you should have a flashlight and batteries, a fire extinguisher, a whistle, cash and change, vital medications, rain gear, blankets, tarps, toilet paper and any special-needs items for infants or people with disabilities. A cell phone charger that plugs into your car’s lighter outlet will also come in handy. Also be sure to include an old-school paper map, in case you evacuate to an area you aren’t familiar with and your Tom-Tom is on the fritz-fritz. Mark out emergency evacuation routes ahead of time.
Check on your car supplies every six months to make sure nothing has leaked or spoiled. (Use daylight saving time as a reminder!)
Graphic courtesy iStockphoto
Friday, June 19, 2009
To be prepared for anything from a flood to a pandemic, Harrison says that everyone should have at least the following basics:
* plans for communicating and reuniting with family during a crisis;
* a one-week supply of food and water (PDF) for each household member;
* a portable radio with extra batteries;
* back-up copies of all important documents stored in a safe place;
* an emergency car kit with water, light sticks, road flares, unbreakable cup or mug, wool blankets, etc.;
* a back-up heat source (for cold climates);
* emergency lighting, such as flashlights, candles and kerosene lamps; and
* an evacuation kit for each household member.
When putting together your evacuation kit — a backpack is a great way to store and tote emergency supplies — ask yourself: If I had to live out of this bag for three days, what would I need to stay safe and healthy? Here are some things that Harrison’s book recommends: flashlight, trash bags, whistle, water jug, water purification tablets, soap and washcloth, space blanket, energy bars, first aid kit, matches, a change of clothing, toilet paper, insect repellant and sunscreen.
If the idea of gathering all of these supplies sounds unrealistic, use the “OAR” system, suggests Harrison:
* Organize — Think about your risks (are hurricanes common where you live?) and plan storage spaces for all the supplies you’ll need.
* Acquire — Develop a schedule for building up your supply of all the food, water and additional items you’ll need during an emergency.
* Rotate — Occasionally rotate your stored items with your normal supply to make sure food is fresh and medications haven’t expired.
Just In Case also includes tips for improving your “skills for independence.” It teaches you how to do cool things like purify water using basic household items, dehydrate and can food, and even make your own cheese and yogurt.
The idea of preparing for an emergency can be overwhelming and scary. Books like this one provide lots of useful tips that make it easy to be prepared. You may want one on your bookshelf, just in case.
Friday, June 12, 2009
— Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, Thursday, June 11, 2009
Needless to say, that news generally is not how you’d like to start the weekend. But there's no need to panic. While the World Health Organization raised the global pandemic alert on June 11 to phase 6 — its highest level — U.S. health officials stressed that the decision is a "reflection of the spread of the (H1N1) virus, not the severity of illness caused by the virus."
So, what does phase 6 mean? According to the World Health Organization, the designation means there is now ongoing community-level outbreaks of the H1N1 virus, sometimes referred to as swine flu, across the globe. As of June 11, CDC reported almost 18,000 confirmed and probable cases of H1N1 in every state, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The same day, WHO reported 30,000 confirmed cases in 74 countries.
But let's shed some perspective: During yesterday’s news conference, WHO's Chan noted that "no previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning. The world can now reap the benefits of investments, over the last five years, in pandemic preparedness." U.S. officials said they’re preparing for a return of H1N1 during regular flu season in the fall.
The change in the pandemic alert level "was expected and doesn't change what we have been doing here in the United States to prepare for and respond to this public health challenge," according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
And last but not least, U.S. and global health officials urge you to keep on keepin' on — that is, keep up that handwashing, stay home if you're sick and stay informed. For all the squeaky clean tips as well as regular updates, visit CDC's H1N1 page and APHA's influenza Web site.
Friday, June 05, 2009
Ever forgotten to turn off the stove after cooking a meal? Or carelessly burned yourself with hot water? Ever get shocked when handling an electronic appliance or extension cord?
Despite the many comforts of home, the places we live can also present many hazards; some serious and potentially life threatening. In fact, injury in the home accounts for more than 21 million medical visits and 20,000 deaths each year.
To help reduce these alarming statistics, June is recognized as Home Safety Month where a special focus is placed on safety and preparedness in the home environment. As part of the observance, the Home Safety Council provides resources and information to assist families in reducing the risk from leading hazards such as falls, poisonings, fires and burns, choking and drowning. It also provides tips on how to be prepared in case of a disaster.
Take time this month to learn how to make the place you live safe from everyday hazards and ready in the event of an emergency. And then, rest easy knowing you have done what you can to make your home a safe home.