Monday, December 30, 2013

Resolve to be ready in 2014!

FEMA/Jana Baldwin
Many of us like to start the New Year with a few resolutions in mind. During this time of self-reflection, APHA’s Get Ready campaign encourages you to resolve to be ready in 2014!
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready campaign reminds us about the importance of family connections prior to and during a disaster. It’s critical for parents to include their children in conversations about getting ready for emergencies. FEMA’s campaign reinforces that resolving to be ready in 2014 can be really simple — just think about three things when making your plan: who to call, where to meet and what to pack.
Social media is a great way to spread the word about preparedness. Here are some tips, courtesy of FEMA:
  • Join FEMA’s Thunderclap and share a New Year's resolution about preparedness. When you sign up, Thunderclap will sync your social media accounts and release an automatic Facebook post, tweet or both on Jan. 1 at 12:30 p.m. EST reminding your friends and followers to make a family emergency plan.
  • Use #Prepared2014 in your social media posts throughout 2014 to remind friends and followers to be prepared for emergencies all year long.
  • Update your Facebook profile and cover pictures with Resolve to be Ready graphics.
  • Follow the Ready campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
Check out APHA’s Get Ready campaign’s recent podcast on family communication for tips on creating a reliable plan.
And don’t forget that if you need more preparedness info, APHA’s Get Ready campaign has great, free fact sheets.
Have a safe, happy and healthy New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Having a family communication plan is key, especially during an emergency

Disasters can strike when you least expect them, and you may not be with your family when they happen. Having a family communication plan can help you get in contact with your loved ones during an emergency.
In our latest podcast, APHA’s Get Ready team speaks with Jeffrey Mitchell, clinical professor of emergency health services at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and co-founder of the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, about the importance of including communications in family emergency preparedness planning.
“Make sure that you don’t make the plan so complex that people are not able to follow it,” Mitchell says. “It needs to be simple; it needs to be done with some degree of speed, and it has to be very effective so it works for the family system.”
Social media tools and text messaging can be fast, effective ways to communicate during a disaster, and Mitchell encourages incorporating them into your plan. Facebook and Twitter can be especially useful tools if you can’t get to a phone or if phone lines are down or overloaded, he noted. For family members who don’t use social media, it’s important to have other communication plans.
“If you have elderly people in the family who are not on the Internet, and they rely heavily on phone communication, then that needs to be built into the process as well,” he adds.
Here are some more things to consider when developing your family’s communication plan, courtesy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency:
  • Make a contact card for each family member including children. Put it in your everyday wallet, purse, briefcase or backpack.
  • Identify an out-of-town relative or family friend who can be another contact for your family, especially in the event of an evacuation. Make sure every member of your family knows the emergency contact’s information.
  • Make sure every family member has a cellphone, money or a prepaid phone card to use for calls.
  • If you have a cellphone, program your “in case of emergency” contact into your phone.
  • Teach family members how to use text messaging, which can work around network problems that prevent a phone call from going through.
  • Subscribe to alert services. Many communities have systems that send emails or text messages in the event of an emergency.
For more information, listen to the podcast or read the transcript. For more family preparedness tips, visit the Get Ready Parents page on our website.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Are you winter ready? Tips from APHA’s Get Ready campaign can help you prepare

Winter is approaching, and with it even more things to get ready for. APHA’s Get Ready campaign has the resources you need to be prepared and stay safe during the season.
Here are some things to think about this winter:
  • Winter storms: Winter storms can be mild and relatively harmless. But they can also cause some serious damage. Now is the time to get your home, workplace and car ready. Read our Get Ready winter storm fact sheet for tips.
  • Colds and flu: It’s cold and flu season, so now’s the time to stock up on supplies you’ll need in case you get sick. You don’t want to have to run out to the store with a cold! Also, learn how you can tell if you have a flu or a cold with our tip sheet. Don’t forget: It’s not too late to get your flu shot, as flu season usually peaks in January or February.
  • Power Outages: Losing power can be frustrating. During an outage, unplug any appliances that were on when the power went out to avoid damage. Also, keep your refrigerator door closed as much as possible to keep it relatively cold. After the power has returned, make sure to get rid of any food items that might have gone bad. Read our power outage fact sheet for more info.
  • Emergency preparedness kits: It’s always a good idea to prepare kits to keep both at home and in your car. Make sure you have an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, non-perishable foods, plenty of water and a first-aid kit. Check out our full checklist to see what supplies you’ll need.
Get Ready fact sheets are also available in Spanish. Visit our Winter Ready page now to download and share our materials.
Don’t let the cold weather ruin your wintertime fun!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Flu season is here: Vaccination is your best protection

Dr. Michael Jhung,
medical officer for the influenza division,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Today’s guest blog is by Michael Jhung, MD, MPH, MS, a medical officer for the Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team in the Influenza Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show nearly all states reporting some level of flu activity. While flu activity nationally remains low, it has been increasing and is likely to continue rising in the coming weeks. If you have not already gotten a flu vaccine this season, you should do so now. The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu and any potential serious complications.

In the United States each year, on average, 5 percent to 20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Last flu season was a stark reminder of how severe influenza can be. There were high influenza hospitalization rates, especially in the elderly. CDC saw the highest proportion of persons 65 and older hospitalized for flu since tracking began during the 2005-2006 season. And sadly, the number of pediatric deaths was one of the highest since flu tracking began.

For these reasons, CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive an annual flu vaccination. It is especially important that people at high risk of flu-related complications get vaccinated. This includes pregnant women; children younger than 5, but especially those younger than 2 years; adults 65 and older; and people with chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes. Also, it’s especially important that people living with or caring for people who are at high risk of flu complications be vaccinated; this includes health care professionals and those living with children younger than 6 months of age, as they are too young to be vaccinated.

The good news this year is there are more flu vaccine options than there have ever been. CDC does not recommend one type of flu vaccine over the others; the important thing is to get vaccinated. To find vaccine near you, visit
Join @CDCFlu and @GetReady on social media to share the news of your vaccination by posting a message using #vaxwithme. In doing so, you will help remind and encourage others to get vaccinated — it’s the best protection.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

It’s National Hand-Washing Awareness Week — Do you know the right way to wash your hands?

Dec. 1-7 is National Hand-Washing Awareness Week 2013, so let’s talk about hand hygiene. What is hand hygiene? It’s a term we use to describe things you can do, such as hand-washing and using hand sanitizer, to improve the cleanliness of your hands and protect your health. Hand-washing is one of the most important ways you can prevent many infectious diseases, including colds and flu.
The World Health Organization states that “simple hand-washing could save up to 1 million lives each year” around the globe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you wash your hands:
  • Photo courtesy of CDC/Amanda Mills
    before, during and after preparing food;
  • before eating food;
  • before and after caring for someone who is sick;
  • before and after treating a cut or wound;
  • after using the toilet;
  • after changing diapers or cleaning a child who has used the toilet;
  • after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
  • after touching an animal or animal waste;
  • after handling pet food or pet treats; and
  • after touching garbage.
Also, it’s a good idea to wash your hands more often during cold and flu season. Have you thought about your hands when you take public transportation, when you go somewhere where there are a lot of people or when people at your work or school are sick?
Some people are more at risk for infections, such as seniors or people with immune system problems. It’s even more important that they wash their hands more regularly. Otherwise they can become very sick. And don’t forget kids! Children like to get close to each other when they play. Teach and remind children to wash their hands. Start teaching children hand-washing when they are young and make it fun.
The proper way to wash your hands is to wet them with clean water, then apply and spread soap over all parts of your hands. Rub your soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds (sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice in your head), rinse well and dry.
If you can’t wash your hands with water, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol. Apply and spread the sanitizer to all parts of your hands and rub your hands together until they are dry.
Be sure to visit the Get Ready campaign’s hand-washing page for great information and materials on hand-washing.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Public Health Thank You Day is Nov. 25

Before settling down to enjoy Thanksgiving, take a few minutes to thank some of those people who make it possible for us to celebrate.
Sometimes it can be easy to take things for granted, such as the fact that community flu clinics are held every year, or that shelters are available after a storm. But without public health professionals on the job, these things wouldn’t come so easily. Public Health Thank You Day, observed Nov. 25, is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the people who make things safe for us.
Public health professionals work hard every day to protect and improve the health of others, including promoting preparedness. From encouraging people to get vaccinated for the flu to educating communities about how to prepare for a natural disaster, public health professionals make it happen. Without their efforts, Americans would be much less likely to be prepared for emergencies, so the Get Ready campaign is showing them our thanks.
Research!America, along with APHA and other public health organizations, recognize these public health professionals every year on the Monday before Thanksgiving. They are asking you to give special thanks to your local public health heroes today. Thank these individuals for what they do, and honor their work by being prepared to further improve the health of your community.
Check out the work these public health professionals are doing across the country and visit Research!America’s Public Health Thank You Day Toolkit for ways to be involved.
Thank you, public health workers!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

‘Tis the season to get ready!

Flat Stella and Flat Stanley visit Queens, NY.
FEMA/Andre R Aragon
As you’re preparing for the holiday season, the Get Ready campaign reminds you to be safe while traveling. Whether you plan to visit the grandparents or take a winter ski trip, it’s important to be prepared for emergencies, disasters and infectious diseases.
Through all of the holiday hustle and bustle, let’s not forget how important it is to stay safe from infections and bacteria. The holiday season coincides with flu season, so it’s important to get your flu vaccine before you travel to see family and friends. The last thing you want to do is spread germs while at the Thanksgiving dinner table or unwrapping gifts. Whether you travel by train, airplane or car, you’re sure to come in contact with many people, some of whom may already be sick. Remember to wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and make sure to clean surfaces that could have germs on them.
While you may be prepared at home and have an emergency kit stowed away, emergency preparedness doesn’t end simply because you leave home. Make sure to pack a kit to keep in your car if you are taking a road trip, or to take along with you on that family ski trip. Also, know the risks of the places you are visiting. Is grandma’s house in an area at risk of earthquakes? Could a blizzard strike while you are on your ski trip? Update your communication plan before you leave home so that everyone knows what to do and who to contact in case of an emergency.
The Get Ready team wants your holiday season to be full of joy and cheer, and safe. Enjoy time with family and friends and update your emergency preparedness plans for your upcoming travels!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Knowing when antibiotics work — and when they don’t
From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
It’s Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, an annual event promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The week teaches people how to use antibiotics the right way and draws attention to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics are crucial for treating and curing bacterial infections, and it’s very important to use them exactly as your doctor advises. This means that you should only take the prescribed dose and complete the full course of an antibiotic, even if you feel better before you run out of medication. Otherwise, you may get re-infected by bacteria that’s still inside you.

We tend to think that antibiotics work for every illness, when actually they don’t. Antibiotics only work against infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics don’t work against infections caused by viruses. The flu and common colds are caused by viruses, so those sniffles and aches aren’t going to be cured by an antibiotic.

Using antibiotics when they aren’t needed can be harmful. If they aren’t used correctly, antibiotics can stop working. In fact, some diseases that were treatable with antibiotics have already become resistant to them, meaning they don’t work as well as they should, or worse, don’t work at all. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed or misusing them also increases the risk that an infection you get later will resist antibiotic treatment.

CDC has more tips for using antibiotics wisely:
  • Get smart about what kinds of upper respiratory infections are usually caused by viruses and can’t be cured with an antibiotic.
  • Take antibiotics only if they’re prescribed to you. Don’t share and or use leftover antibiotics.
  • Don’t save your antibiotics for the next time you get sick. Properly dispose of any leftover medication once your prescribed dose is complete.
  • Prevent infections by practicing good hygiene, such as frequent hand-washing, and getting recommended vaccines.
  • Don’t ask for antibiotics when your doctor doesn’t think you need them. Antibiotics have side effects, and taking them when they’re not essential may do you more harm than good.
Now that you know how to be smart about antibiotics, spread the word! Send a CDC e-card, add a logo to your website and read this helpful tip sheet from APHA.

Friday, November 15, 2013

What to do when disaster strikes somewhere else

When disaster happens, whether it’s close to home or in a faraway country, it can spark many emotions. Pictures of the devastation can be heartbreaking while news reports of the event can cause fear for one’s own safety. On the other hand, a crisis can also bring out the best in people and nations as they rush to help those in need.

Here are some tips and tools for coping and helping with a disaster that happens somewhere else.

Address your emotions
According to the American Psychological Association, shock and denial are normal reactions to an event the size of Typhoon Haiyan that recently struck the Philippines. Pay close attention to the level of intensity of your feelings, interpersonal relationships and any physical symptoms that may arise. Be sure to also read how these responses can change over time in Managing Traumatic Stress: Tips for Recovering from Disasters and Other Traumatic Events.

Get ready
Reading about a disaster can make you worry about such an event happening in your town. Take this opportunity to learn what types of disasters could occur in your region and what steps you should take to prepare. While you may never experience flooding from a typhoon, your area could be at a high risk for wildfires or other emergency. Before disaster strikes:

Send help
The best way to help immediately after a disaster is to donate to a relief organization. USA Today has compiled a list of agencies responding in the Philippines who need your help, including UNICEF, American Red Cross, Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders.

Material donations can actually harm relief efforts by clogging supply chains, taking away space needed to stage life-saving relief supplies and diverting relief workers’ time. If you already have these items collected, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Center for International Disaster Information has compiled a list of 55 Ways to Repurpose a Material Donation. They also offer several tools and guides to help you help those in need.

A disaster can be a scary and disturbing event no matter where it occurs. Be sure to take care of your emotional healthget prepared and send appropriate help to those in need.

Friday, November 08, 2013

You’ve changed your clocks, now check your stocks

Daylight saving time is over, which means that we’ve all changed our clocks back (except for Arizona and Hawaii, which don’t take part in the practice).

But there’s one more step you may still need to take: checking your emergency preparedness supplies.

It’s easy to forget about your emergency stockpile, particularly if you have it tucked away into a closet or basement. But if an emergency occurs, you want it to have everything you need — and that means checking up on it every once in awhile.

APHA’s Get Ready: Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks campaign recommends using the twice-annual time change as a reminder to check your stockpile.

You should make sure nothing’s been removed from your emergency stockpile, that batteries or water haven’t leaked and that food hasn’t expired. Use our supplies list to double-check that you have everything you need in your stockpile, and add items as needed. If your life has changed since you assembled the stockpile, such as the addition of a new family member or a change in medical condition, you should add supplies to account for that as well.

If you haven’t created a stockpile yet, now is the time to put one together. (And if you haven’t tested your smoke alarm and changed its batteries, you should do that as well.) All Americans should have at least a three-day supply of food and water stored in their homes, with at least one gallon of water per person per day. If you have the space, experts recommend a week’s supply of food and water. Choose foods that don’t require refrigeration and are not high in salt. Your stockpile should also contain flashlights, a manual can opener, a radio and batteries, among other items.

Visit our Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks page for tools and tips for creating the perfect stockpile. If you are on a budget we have you covered. See our fact sheet for compiling an emergency stockpile without spending a fortune.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Infections are scarier than any Halloween costume, but not if you’re prepared

We don’t want you to be frightened on Halloween — except for the costumes. The Get Ready campaign can’t prevent Michael Myers or Hannibal Lector from showing up on your doorstep, but we can help prevent you from catching infectious diseases.
If you’re not careful, you might be at greater risk of catching infectious diseases such as the flu on Halloween. But fear not — you can help keep those scary viruses and bacteria away if you follow three easy steps:
  • Get your flu shot: Halloween falls right in the middle of flu season, which can make you really sick. Flu viruses can spread when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes —and with 41 million trick-or-treaters in the U.S., there’s a lot of people who could infect you.

    If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccination yet, you can find a place nearby to get your flu shot online via HealthMap. Just plug in your location and find a place that can give you the immunization you need.

    Getting vaccinated against infectious diseases is really important, no matter how old you are. Check out our Get Ready fact sheets for kids (English or Spanish), teens (English or Spanish) and adults (English or Spanish) for more info.
  • Wash your hands, cover your cough: Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your upper sleeve or elbow if you don’t have one. And before you eat any of your treats, make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

    You might be touching candy bowls, pumpkins or even your best friend’s costumes. Make sure you’re not spreading germs when you do.
  • Be careful with candy: Those wrappers are on your favorite treats to keep you safe! If you see a piece of candy that isn’t wrapped, stay away from it. Who knows where it’s been? Someone may have gotten some dangerous germs onto it.

    Also, if your friend is eating something that looks really delicious, don’t ask for a bite. Get your own! Your trick-or-treat buddy might not be as safe as you are, so avoid sharing food.
Dress up in your meanest, creepiest costumes — but infectious diseases are not only scary; they can be deadly. A few safety precautions can keep them away so you can have a night of spooky fun.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Do you know how to prevent infections?

Last week was International Infection Prevention Week, sponsored by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

Observed annually around the word, the event highlights the importance of preventing infections in patients. According to the association, one in 20 hospitalized patients will get a health care-associated infection as a result of care received in the hospital. To safeguard yourself and people you care about, the association recommends that patients clean their hands, cover their coughs, ask their health care providers to clean their hands and to speak up if they have any questions about their care.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology has launched a new campaign for consumers, called Infection Prevention and You, to remind them to do their part in preventing infections. The campaign includes a new infographic that consumers and health care providers can share.

Preventing infections is also important beyond the hospital. Whether it’s at home, at work, at school or in your community, there are things that you can do to stay healthy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccines as an important way to ward off infections, particularly during flu season. It’s always better to prevent a disease than treat it, and staying up to date on your vaccines is one of the best ways to do so. Not only will this keep you healthy, it will prevent the spread of disease to those around you. Check out the Get Ready campaign’s fact sheet about why vaccines are important.

CDC also recommends disinfecting frequently touched surfaces often. This should be done on a regular basis, but if someone at home is sick, you should clean more often.

Be a part of International Infection Prevention Week by sharing resources for children, consumers and health professionals.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Global Hand-Washing Day works to prevent spread of disease: Events planned for Oct. 15

Today marks Global Hand-Washing Day and more than 200 million people will be involved in events around the world. The observance spreads the message that regularly washing your hands with clean, running water and soap is an important step in keeping yourself from getting sick and spreading germs to others.

Hand-washing with soap is one of the easiest ways to prevent diarrhea, a leading cause of death for children worldwide, as well as acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

In our newest podcast, APHA’s Get Ready Report team speaks with Alfonso Contreras, regional advisor for health promotion at the Pan American Health Organization, about the importance of proper hand-washing.

“We are talking about one of the most cost-effective procedures in public health,” Contreras says. “We don’t realize sometimes that some of the classic measures are still some of the best resources that we have in public health.”

Global Hand-Washing Day organizers are hoping to break a Guinness World Record of people demonstrating hand-washing at the same time on Oct. 15. The region of the Americas already holds the record, with more than 740,000 people taking part in 2011, but the goal this year is to have more than 1 million participants, Contreras said. Public health advocates are encouraged to take part, and planning tools are available from PAHO.

Remember, just because your hands don’t have any visible dirt on them doesn’t mean that they are clean. Here are some tips when it comes to hand-washing, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  • Wash your hands several times a day, particularly before eating and after using the bathroom.
  • After wetting your hands with water and applying soap, rub your hands together. Make sure to clean the back of your hands, under your nails and between your fingers, and continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • When water and soap are unavailable, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Remember that hand sanitizers do not kill all types of germs, and should not replace routine hand-washing with soap.
Listen to our podcast with Contreras or read the transcript for more information. And make plans to celebrate Global Hand-Washing Day on Oct. 15!

For tips and tools to use at your events, check out our Get Ready hand-washing fact sheets, which are available in both English and Spanish.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Guest blog: Cold and flu symptoms? Double-check, don’t double up

With flu season underway, the Know Your Dose campaign educates people about the safe and effective use of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in many over-the-counter flu medicines. Today’s guest blog comes from Kathleen Wilson, PhD, ARNP-C, who is active with the campaign, and reminds people to take care when taking flu medicines.
Wilson is a board-certified family and pediatric nurse practitioner with 28 years of experience in providing care for patients of all ages. She has held positions in education, practice, research, administration and consultancies with extensive experience in adolescent health, behavioral health, management of children and youth with special needs and community program development. She practices in Tallahassee, Fla.
APHA is an organizational partner of the Know Your Dose campaign.

Each year, the most common question my patients ask about cold and flu season is how to avoid getting a cold or flu. Everyone has their favorite remedies and techniques for keeping germs at bay, and frequent hand-washing and use of sanitizer do help. Of course, getting your flu vaccination is important as well. But despite taking precautions to ward off the sniffles, it’s hard to avoid catching a cold or flu. Americans catch an estimated 1 billion colds every year, and roughly 20 percent get the flu.
In the coming months, the majority of people will find themselves at the local pharmacy searching for an over-the-counter medicine to relieve their symptoms. One trip down the cold and flu aisle will show you that there are countless medicines available, and what people often don’t realize is how many of their trusted cold and flu medicines contain the most common drug ingredient in America: acetaminophen. It is found in more than 600 over-the-counter and prescription medicines, including pain relievers, fever reducers and sleep aids, as well as many cough and cold medicines.
Acetaminophen is safe and effective when used as directed, but taking more than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage. So, I remind my patients that it is always important to read and follow the labels to know the ingredients in the medicines they take, particularly if they are taking both an over-the-counter medicine in addition to a prescription medicine containing acetaminophen.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners is a founding member of the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition, which formed the Know Your Dose campaign to educate patients about the safe use of acetaminophen. I advise my patients who will be using cold and flu medicines to double-check their medicine labels so they don’t double up on acetaminophen, and follow these four simple safety steps:
  1. Know if medicines contain acetaminophen, which is in bold type or highlighted in the “active ingredients” section of over-the-counter medicine labels and sometimes listed as “APAP” or “acetam” on prescription labels.
  2. Never take two medicines that contain acetaminophen at the same time.
  3. Always read and follow the medicine label.
  4. Ask your health care provider or a pharmacist if you have questions about dosing instructions or medicines that contain acetaminophen.
As a nurse practitioner, it is important that I stress these medicine safety tips when discussing cold or flu symptoms with my patients. I spend time with them to both prevent and treat illness, and when medicine is required, I also want to help ensure patients know the proper dosage.

Friday, October 04, 2013

How to be prepared for a volcanic eruption

Volcanoes can slumber quietly for centuries, only to awaken suddenly and erupt, spewing out lava and ash. Within minutes, a volcanic eruption can destroy an area and kill all life. In 1980, Mount St. Helens in Washington erupted after an earthquake, destroying about 150 square miles of forest.

The U.S. has more than 160 volcanoes, including Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, which is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth.

In the U.S., people who don’t live on the West Coast or Hawaii may not see volcanoes as everyday threats. But even if you don’t live near a volcano, you may encounter one during your travels within the US or abroad. Whether you live near or volcano or are just visiting, it helps to be prepared. According to, you should:
  • Familiarize yourself with community warning systems, evacuation routes and shelter locations ahead of time. Create a household evacuation plan as well as a plan for sheltering in place.
  • Avoid river valleys and low-lying areas during an eruption. Be alert for mudflows, danger from which increases near stream channels and with prolonged heavy rains.
  • Listen for advice and instructions. If instructed to evacuate, do so immediately, says the American Red Cross.
  • If you can’t evacuate, stay indoors with doors, windows and ventilation closed to protect yourself from falling ash.

For more information, download our Get Ready volcano preparedness fact sheet.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

CDC superdog teaches kids how to be prepared for disasters

Ready Wrigley
Dogs have always been a human’s best friend, but who knew they could also help kids prepare for emergencies? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response would like you to meet Ready Wrigley, a caped cartoon superdog who helps children and families learn how to prepare for the unexpected.

Ready Wrigley is the star of two free activity books — perfect for families, friends and classrooms — that kids can enjoy as they learn how to keep safe. The books come with fun puzzles, games and tips that are written at a child’s level.

In her debut activity book, Ready Wrigley focuses on teaching kids about hurricanes, such as what a hurricane is and how to spot one. Along with helpful checklists to create a hurricane emergency kit, the book tells kids what to do in case of an evacuation.

This year, a second Ready Wrigley activity book debuted that focuses on earthquakes. The book, which was released just in time for National Preparedness Month in September, explains how earthquakes happen and what to do when one occurs. Directions teach kids how to “drop, cover and hold on,” and tell them what they can expect after an earthquake.

Involving kids in your family’s preparedness activities can be key to staying safe. And teaching kids about disasters and emergencies before they occur can help them be less afraid when something does occur.

Want even more preparedness info for kids? APHA’s Get Ready campaign features free preparedness games and materials for children. Visit our kids page to download them, and check out our parents page for information on talking to your kids about preparedness.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Now’s the time to update your vaccinations

Fall is here, and that means the school year is well underway. One of the most important ways to prepare your kids for school is to keep up with their immunizations.
In observance of National Immunization Awareness Month in August, the Get Ready Report podcast team spoke with Bruce Gellin, director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Vaccine Program Office, about the important role immunization plays in protectingfamiliesfrom disease.
Keep these facts about immunization from Gellin in mind:
“Vaccines aren’t only for kids,” Gellin told APHA’s Get Ready campaign. “In fact, now they are now used across the lifespan - not just for kids, but adults, pregnant women, adolescents.”
Remember: the sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner you are protected from infectious diseases. Listen to our new podcast or read the transcript.

For more information on vaccinations, check out our fact sheet series, with information on vaccines for kids, teens and adults.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Congratulations to our photo contest winners!

Thank you to everyone who submitted photos for APHA’s 2013 Get Ready Pup-Preparedness Photo Contest! We received so many fantastic, adorable photos that it was hard to choose the winners.

Congratulations go out to our 16 winning photographers and their furry companions:
  • Ashell Alston, photo of Brown
  • Patricia Baltasar, photo of Buddy
  • Patrick Benko and Jackie Benko, photo of Sadie
  • Charlene Bright, photo of Kennedy
  • Christopher Chadwick, photo of Gizmo
  • Asher Grady, photo of Lucas
  • Ann Hueber, photo of Calvin
  • Katy Krings, photo of Trinity and Neo
  • Dan and Vivian Liberti, photo of Ansel Wolfgang
  • Christopher Mangal, photo of Argo
  • Raed Mansour, photo of Chance
  • Sarah Marikos, photo of Giacoma
  • Lili McDonald, photo of Schwanson
  • Nolan Patal, photo of Rani
  • Susan Polan, photo of Tally
  • Michelle Sanborn, photo of Cooper
  • Christine Yamazaki, photo of Julian

We're working now to create a 2014 calendar featuring the winning photos, which we'll post on the Get Ready site in November. We’ll also pass out free hard copies at the Get Ready booth at APHA's 141st Annual Meeting and Exposition in Boston in November.

We'll showcase the winning photos and some of the other submissions on the Get Ready site in November, so check back then!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

APHA, communities nationwide get ready for emergencies

APHA invited neighboring offices in Washington, D.C., and communities around the country today to celebrate Get Ready Day and the importance of emergency preparedness. Through fact sheets, food and fun, communities were reminded to get ready — at APHA headquarters and beyond.

Throughout the day, more than 150 visitors from nearby offices and the surrounding community received resources and played games at APHA’s mini information fair, while the American Red Cross administered a second annual blood drive where APHA reached a goal of collecting 20 pints of blood.

Continue reading this story on APHA’s Public Health Newswire to learn what other communities did on Get Ready Day.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Get Ready Day is tomorrow!

Do you know what you’re doing for Get Ready Day this year?
Held each year on the third Tuesday in September, APHA's Get Ready Day is timed to coincide with National Preparedness Month. This year’s observance is Sept. 17.
Whether you’re on a campus, at home, at school or anywhere else, there are many ways to be part of Get Ready Day. Here are a few ideas:
  • Share information: The Get Ready campaign offers free fact sheets, including emergency preparedness information on hurricanes, heat waves, vaccines and many other topics. Use Get Ready Day as a time to learn and share with others about how to be prepared for any emergency.
  • Take the pledge: Show that you care about your community by signing the Get Ready preparedness pledge. The pledge is a promise to friends, family and community members to help make them better prepared.
  • Create a plan: What better time to create a plan for emergencies than Get Ready Day? Work with your family, friends and coworkers to find the best way to be prepared for emergencies.
  • Jump into action: Find ways to make your community better prepared: Set up a booth on campus to share materials. Host an after-school community preparedness fair. Work with a local grocery store to promote preparedness and stockpiling to shoppers through displays or fliers. Sponsor a preparedness talk at your local senior center or hold a town hall.
Here at APHA headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Get Ready campaign will be hosting a blood drive, information table and community food drive. So what are you doing?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Get ready! It’s National Preparedness Month

It can be impossible to prevent disasters, particularly when it comes to something like tornadoes or earthquakes. But you can be better prepared for them. As September is National Preparedness Month, now’s a great time to get ready!
Here are a few quick steps to put you on the road to readiness this month:
  • Build an emergency supply kit. Make sure to include the basics, such as at least a three-day supply of food and water. Choose foods that don’t require refrigeration and are not high in salt. Other items to include are batteries, flashlights, a manual can opener, a radio, a battery-operated cellphone charger and copies of important documents.
  • Create a family communication plan so everyone knows what needs to be done before and during an emergency or in an evacuation. Review and practice the plan with all family members. If you need to evacuate, know where the nearest shelter is and how to get there safely.
  • Stay informed! Keep up to date on all the information your local emergency management officials send out during an emergency. Make sure to heed all advice from local emergency officials, such as evacuation notices.

Your organization or business can become a part of National Preparedness Month by joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Preparedness Community. Members — who include APHA’s Get Ready campaign! — pledge to promote preparedness and have access to free resources and a planning toolkit.

For more preparedness tips and tools, check out our Get Ready fact sheets, perfect to hand out at community events, on campus or at work and to share with those you care about.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Back-to-school preparedness tips

School’s back in session, so now’s a good time to brush up on ways to keep kids safe from disasters and other emergencies.

• Practice good hand hygiene: Teach your children to wash their hands after group activities and most importantly after using the restroom and before eating. The Get Ready campaign has great fact sheets about hand-washing that you and your kids can read together.

• Get a flu shot! Everyone ages 6 months and older should get a seasonal flu shot every year, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Remember to stay home when you are sick to prevent spreading flu. While you’re at it, make sure that your children are up to date on all of their other shots. Be sure you’re immunized, too, so you don’t pass along diseases to young children. Adults should especially be sure to stay immunized against pertussis, also known as whooping cough, as they can transmit it to infants.

• Prepare for an emergency: Disasters can happen suddenly, meaning there is a chance you can get separated from your child during an emergency. As parents, it’s a good idea to learn about the emergency preparedness plans at your children’s schools and get involved in the planning process. Make sure your child knows his or her address, your emergency meeting place, the full names of parents or guardians and important phone numbers.

• Make getting prepared fun: The Get Ready campaign has free games and puzzles kids can play to learn about preparedness, as well as fact sheets written at their level. Great for use in classrooms as well!

For more information, check out and share our Get Ready parent’s page.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

The back-to-school rush is well underway. In fact, for some students, summer vacation is already over. With August observed as National Immunization Awareness Month, it’s a perfect time to think about vaccinations and remind family, friends and co-workers to catch up on their shots.

Immunizations save lives and protect communities. Thanks to vaccinations, many disease threats have been eliminated or greatly reduced in the United States.

Immunizations aren’t just for babies. In fact, they can help everyone protect themselves from serious diseases and illnesses. For example, young kids need shots to protect them against diseases such as polio and hepatitis, while older kids need immunizations for meningitis and HPV.

Access the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s immunization schedules to see which immunizations are right for you and your family.

For more information on immunizations, check out our Get Ready vaccination fact sheet. Also, download and share our vaccination fact sheets with information on kids, teens and adults.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Most don’t wash their hands long enough

Do you spend enough time washing your hands? If you’re like most people, probably not, a recent study finds.

The study, conducted in a U.S. college town, found that only about 5 percent of people wash their hands for as long as is recommended. That means that about 95 percent of us aren’t washing our hands long enough!

Researchers discovered that about 67 percent of people use soap when washing their hands, 23 percent wet their hands but skip the soap and another 10 percent of participants don’t wash their hands at all after using the bathroom. (Yuck!)

So why do these findings matter?

Many people don’t understand how important hand-washing is for preventing the spread of diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that poor hand-washing practices contribute to half of all foodborne illness outbreaks. Visitors to Yellowstone National Park this summer are being urged to practice good hand hygiene among other steps to protect against a spike in gastrointestinal illness that has struck in and around the park. 

Washing your hands is also one of the best ways to prevent spread of the flu.

By frequently washing your hands, you wash away germs that you have picked up from other people and surfaces or from animals and their waste. Washing your hands properly not only protects you from getting sick, but also protects other people, too.
Now that you understand how important hand-washing is, here are a few tips on how to do it right:
  • Wet your hands using warm water.
  • Wash with soap for at least 20 seconds. (A good guide is to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.)
  • Rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all skin surfaces.
  • Be sure to rinse all of the soap off your hands.
  • When soap and water aren’t available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can tide you over until you reach a sink.
For more tips and our fact sheet series, visit the Get Ready hand-washing page.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Take care with pigs while at the fair: Swine flu a risk

Are you heading to your state or county fair this summer? If so, take precautions when interacting with the pigs. Babe and Wilbur may be cute, but pigs can pose a risk to your health because of a virus they can carry, known as swine flu.

In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that swine flu infections — known as H3N2v — had been detected in four people who had visited a fair in Indiana. This isn’t the first time such cases have occurred — swine flu cases in people were linked to fair pigs last year as well.

Symptoms of swine flu infection are similar to seasonal flu, and can include fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose. Other symptoms can include body aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Because agricultural fairs bring many pigs into close contact with each other, the risk of spreading the swine flu virus is higher between pigs and people. Swine flu is thought to spread from pigs to people when sick pigs cough and sneeze, but pigs that don’t look sick may also be able to spread the virus.

Take extra caution near pigs if you have young children, are pregnant, older than 65 or have underlying health issues. CDC recommends that people at high risk for flu complications avoid pigs at fairs altogether.

Here are some recommendations to protect yourself against the virus:
• Avoid close contact with pigs. If you must come in close contact with them, wear protective clothing such as gloves and masks that cover your mouth and nose.
• Wash your hands often with soap and warm water before and after exposure to pigs.
• Don’t take food or drinks near pigs. Do not eat, drink or put anything in your mouth when in pig areas.
• Do not take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers or other children’s items into pig areas.

For more information about swine flu, visit CDC’s website.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Tips for staying safe from disasters while you travel

Summer is one of the most popular times to travel. Whether you are traveling on your own or with family and friends, it’s important to stay safe by preparing for potential emergency situations. In our latest podcast, APHA’s Get Ready campaign shares advice for travelers from Michael MacNair, president and CEO of MacNair Travel Management.

Travelers need to consider a range of issues before they set off on their journey, including potential security issues at their destination, unexpected delays and disease risks.

“The biggest thing that is affecting travelers right now is weather,” MacNair told the Get Ready campaign.

To ensure that you and your family are prepared for an emergency before you travel, MacNair advises that you keep the following in mind:

  • Make an emergency travel kit that includes a flashlight, extra batteries, non-perishable snacks, a water purification kit and extra cash, including the currency of your destination country.
  • Make two copies of your passport, one to take with you and one to keep with a contact at home. 
  • Research your destination for the weather forecast, regional customs, required immunizations and political climate
  • Keep track of updates and changes from your travel agency or provider.

Listen to the new podcast or read the transcript for more tips from MacNair.

Remember: It’s important to be prepared for anything, especially when you are away from home. Safe travels!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Breast is best, even during emergencies

Every mother knows that breastfeeding is the healthy choice when it comes to feeding her baby. In fact, experts recommend that all babies be breastfed exclusively for at least the first six months of life.

But did you know that breastfeeding is especially important during disasters?

Breastfeeding is the safest option for feeding your baby during emergencies, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, as clean drinking water and sterilization may not be readily available for formula. Using unclean water for feeding can expose your baby to water-borne diseases such as cholera as well as diarrhea.

Plus, nursing comforts your baby. Breastfeeding increases skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby. During disasters, a mom’s warmth can help soothe a baby in distress. While stress may lesson a mother’s milk supply, breastfeeding helps to reduce her stress, too, says the March of Dimes.

According to the World Health Organization, breast milk contains antibodies that strengthen a baby’s immune system, which can be at risk during severe weather. Even better, breast milk is just the right temperature for babies and can help prevent hypothermia, when body temperatures drop too low. And best of all, breast milk is readily available.

If you must use formula during a disaster, the March of Dimes advises that you use ready-to-feed options that don’t need mixing or water.

For more information, check out the March of Dimes website and download our Get Ready fact sheet for pregnant women and new moms.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Keeping food safe during flooding and power outages

Disasters can strike when you least expect them. Knowing how to properly store food ahead of time can help keep you and your family safe from foodborne illnesses.

Two of the most common emergencies that can happen in the summer are flood and power outages, both of which can affect your food and make it unsafe to eat.

Keeping food safe during power outages:

It’s important to keep meat, poultry, fish, eggs and other perishable food at or below 40 degrees and frozen food at or below 0 degrees. But how can you tell what the temperature is if the power is out? The answer is with an appliance thermometer. You should have one for both your refrigerator and freezer.

To keep your foods cooler for longer during a power outage, the U.S. Department of Agriculture advises you to keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours and a full freezer will stay cold for about 48 hours, or 24 hours if it is half full. (It’s a good idea to print this information out and save it somewhere you can find it when the power goes out.)

If your refrigerator has been without power for more than four hours, discard any perishable food, USDA says. Never taste the food to test its safety!

Keeping food safe during and after floods:

After a flood, drink only bottled water, as public water supplies may be contaminated. If bottled water is not available, boil tap water for safety. Before using dishes, metal pans or utensils that have touched floodwater, wash them with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water.

Losing food to flooding can be devastating, particularly if you have a lot of it. It’s normal to want to save it. But it’s just not worth risking your health or the health of your loved ones.

After a flood, make sure to throw away any of the following if there is any chance it came in contact with floodwater:
  • food in cardboard boxes, paper, foil or cloth;
  • spices, seasonings, flour, sugar, grain, coffee and other staples;
  • unopened jars with wax cardboard seals, such as mayonnaise and salad dressings;
  • all canned foods; and
  • wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.
Remember: When in doubt, throw it out!

For more information, check out our Get Ready food and water safety fact sheet and get more tips on food safety from USDA.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

How to prepare for wildfires

Although people living in wilderness areas enjoy the beauty of the environment, they face a real danger from wildfires. As recent emergencies in California, Arizona and elsewhere have shown, wildfires can spread extremely fast, consuming homes and endangering lives. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, you can reduce your risk by preparing before a wildfire strikes.

Here are some steps you can take to help protect your home, family and property from wildfires.
    • Practice wildfire safety: Make sure the roads leading to your home are visible, wide enough to accommodate firefighting equipment and are clearly marked. Immediately report any hazardous conditions that could lead to a wildfire.
    • Follow good design: Landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Avoid using materials and plants that have the potential to fuel the fire such as pine, evergreen, eucalyptus, junipers and fir trees.
    • Have a kit: Put together an evacuation kit that includes a battery-operated radio, flashlight, bottled water, a first-aid kit, cellphones and chargers, important documents and needed medications. 
    • Be ready to leave: Post emergency assistance phone numbers next to all the phones in your home. Plan several escape routes from your home, both by car and by foot. Practice your evacuation plan, and if advised to leave the area, do so immediately.
     For more information, check out our Get Ready fact sheet on wildfires.

    Thursday, July 04, 2013

    Five tips to travel safely this summer

    Vacations are as much a part of summertime as cookouts, fireworks and celebrating the red, white and blue. If your summer plans include travel — whether near or far — here are some tips to help you have a safe and fun trip.

    Know your destination: Some areas are prone to earthquakes. Others may experience hurricanes or tornadoes. Know what threats you may face, and then find out how to prepare for them with fact sheets from the Get Ready campaign.

    Pack smart: Place a copy of your driver’s license, passport or other travel documents in your suitcase in case you lose the original. Don’t forget to leave a copy with a friend or relative at home.

    Put together a portable health kit: Include prescribed medications and first aid supplies. Don’t forget sunscreen and insect repellent.

    Keep germs at bay: Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to cut down on germs and prevent disease. Learn hand-washing basics from APHA’s Get Ready campaign. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

    Watch what you eat: Pay attention to your health while on vacation. Be careful about food and water to reduce your risks from infectious diseases.

    Protect yourself from insects: Stay safe from summertime pests like mosquitoes and ticks. Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, dresses or skirts, boots and hats. Tucking in shirts, tucking pants into socks and wearing shoes instead of sandals may reduce risk. Repellents applied to clothing and gear can provide extra protection. Learn how to use repellents safely with these tips from EPA.

    Planning ahead and following basic safety tips can help make sure your summer travel doesn't include a trip to the emergency room.

    For more tips on having a healthy summer, visit the Get Ready Summer Safe page.

    Thursday, June 27, 2013

    Steps to safe structures: Celebrating building safety year-round

    In a disaster, structures are often the first place we go for safety. But how do we make sure those buildings are safe? One way is through enforcement of strong building codes, as President Barack Obama noted during his Building Safety Month proclamation this spring.

    “Time and again, devastating natural disasters have tested the strength of our communities and the resilience of our people,” Obama said. “Our capacity to withstand these threats depends on what we do to prepare today, from reinforcing critical infrastructure to making sure our buildings adhere to local codes and standards.”

    It’s not just during national observances that we should think about building safety, however. Year-round, all types of conditions and weather can cause damage to buildings that could make them unsafe. Summer can bring high winds from thunderstorms and tornadoes, and winter can produce damaging ice and snow.

    So what can you do to make sure a building is safe? While some steps take place before a building is constructed and others occur after a disaster, there are many ways to make buildings safer and protected.

    Build it for safety: Building codes are rules that builders follow to make sure that a structure is safe and prepared for possible emergencies. Builders use information like where a building is located and common weather risks to decide how to build a safe and protected building.

    In fact, this year’s Building Safety Month theme was “Code Officials Keep You Safe.” Each week, the International Code Council, founder of the observance, shared information about how codes protect us, looking at topics ranging from fires to dangerous weather.

    Prepare it for safety: Even after a building has been built, there are sometimes more ways to keep it safe. For example, a house in an area where hurricanes are common could have shutters added to prevent damage to windows.

    Evaluate its safety: If a disaster does damage a structure, officials will need to make sure the building is safe for people to enter again. High winds could damage parts of a home or spread debris around. In addition, earthquakes could damage a building’s foundation and flooding could leave behind mold conditions. All of these things could cause health problems or injuries.

    It’s always a good time to consider the safety of your home, workplace or other buildings. For more details on ensuring buildings are safe for disasters, download our Get Ready fact sheet in English  or Spanish.

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    Lightning safety: Take precautions to stay safe

    Lightning can be very dangerous, killing dozens of people in the U.S. every year. The National Weather Service says there is a 1-in-3,000 chance that you will be hit by lightning in your lifetime. By following simple safety rules, you can avoid the danger of nature's light show and enjoy its beauty instead.

    If you’re outdoors: Avoid water. Avoid the high ground. Avoid open spaces. Keep an eye at the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of lightning or increasing winds. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or if you have an umbrella; if you’re outdoors and thunder roars, it’s time to go indoors. Avoid all metal objects, including electric wires, fences, machinery, motors and power tools. If you’re playing an outdoor activity, wait at least 30 minutes after the last observed lightning strike or thunder. Don’t take shelter underneath canopies or small picnic or rain shelters or in areas near trees.

    If you’re indoors : Avoid water. Stay away from doors and windows. Take off headsets. Water is a great conductor of electricity, so do not take a shower, wash your hands, wash dishes or do laundry. Do not use a corded or landline telephone because lightning may strike outside phone lines. Turn off, unplug and stay away from appliances, computers, power tools and TV sets. Lightning may strike exterior electric and phone lines, inducing shocks to inside equipment.

    If someone is struck by lightning : People who are struck by lightning don’t carry an electrical charge and can be handled safely. Call 911 or send for help immediately. Apply first aid if you are qualified to do so. People who have been hit by lightning can have damage to their nervous systems, so it’s important to seek medical care if struck.

    For more on how to stay safe from lightning, visit

    Thursday, June 20, 2013

    Staying cool during a heat wave

    Heat waves can come on suddenly and without warning. Extreme heat can be a danger, especially for seniors and people with certain medical conditions. In fact, extreme heat caused more U.S. deaths in the past 30-plus years than hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and lightning combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Stay cool

    Air conditioning is the best way to protect yourself from heat-related illness and death. When it’s really hot out, stay inside in locations with air conditioning. If you lack AC at home, check out shopping malls, libraries or heat-relief shelters in your area. Going to a local museum is also a good way to beat the heat.

    Stay hydrated

    Drink plenty of water, even if you aren’t thirsty. Avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, as these can cause you to lose more body fluid and become dehydrated.

    Who is at risk?

    Anyone can get sick from hot weather. People at higher risk of heat-related illnesses include seniors, infants, young children and those who are overweight. People with chronic heart or lung problems or disabilities are also at greater risk.

    Symptoms of heat-related illnesses

    If you feel faint, dizzy or nauseous or have heavy sweating or exhaustion when it’s hot, ask a family member, friend or neighbor to sit with you until you feel better.  If you don’t feel better soon, call a doctor immediately or go to the nearest hospital. 

    For more tips, download the Get Ready campaign’s heat waves fact sheet in English or Spanish.

    Tips for summer safety from Get Ready

    Summer is usually a time for fun vacations, family outings, barbecues and splashing in the pool. And because we want to make sure that you stay safe and healthy while having fun this summer, we’re once again hosting our Summer Safe series on the Get Ready Blog.

    What kind of topics will we cover in Summer Safe? Staying safe in hot weather and while traveling, and food safety during disasters, to name a few.

    Check out the Summer Safe page on the Get Ready website for free fact sheets that you can print and share with your family or in your community.

    Do you have any other ideas or questions about summer safety and preparedness? Let us know in the comments, or send us a tweet @GetReady!

    Friday, June 14, 2013

    Donate blood today, save a life tomorrow: June 14 is World Blood Donor Day

    Blood is always in demand. But after a disaster, that demand increases. Recent natural and human-made emergencies in the U.S. — from the Oklahoma City-area tornadoes to the Boston bombings — have shown the importance of a strong blood supply.

    In fact, the American Red Cross must collect at least 17,000 pints of blood per day to assist patients at more than 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. Health providers must be prepared to respond to emergencies with blood products 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood, so it’s important we do our part. Donating blood is a vital part of preparedness.

    June 14 is World Blood Donor Day, an annual observance that reminds people around the globe to give the gift of blood. Globally, about 92 million blood donations are collected annually, but more are needed.

    No matter where you live, donating blood is important. Find out how you can donate blood or host a blood drive via the American Red Cross. For a list of World Blood Donor Day events, visit the World Health Organization website.

    Thursday, June 13, 2013

    Be on alert for summer storms

    If you live on the East Coast, you may have been caught up in some severe thunderstorms this week. In fact, much of the country has been experiencing storms lately.

    Thunderstorms can happen at any time, but are particularly frequent in the summer. Severe storms can bring heavy rain, high winds, hail, lightning and flooding. advises that you be prepared for storms and stay safe by following these tips:
    • Begin preparing ahead of time by putting together an emergency kit and making a family communications plan.
    • Secure outdoor objects that can be blown away or can cause any injury or damage.
    • Shut all windows and secure outside doors.
    • Limit outdoor activities.
    • Unplug electronic equipment before the storm.

    During the storm, following these tips can help you keep safe:
    • Listen to local news or the radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, such as darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing winds.
    • Keep away from electrical equipment, wiring and water pipes.
    • Stay away from water sources.
    • Stay indoors, says the American Red Cross. If outside, seek protection and get low — don’t be the tallest object in the area! Also, stay away from trees.

    There’s also a good chance that the power will go out during a severe storm. To be prepared for a power outage, download and print our fact sheet now and save it with your emergency supplies.

    Tuesday, June 11, 2013

    Preparing for hurricane season: New podcast features tips from National Hurricane Center

    The 2013 hurricane season is now officially underway. To help Americans be prepared, the Get Ready Report Podcast team spoke with staff at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center.

    According to NOAA, there’s a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms this season, well above the seasonal average of 12. The agency says as many as 11 of those storms could become hurricanes.

    Hurricanes can cause three major hazards: strong winds, storm surges and inland flooding, according to James Franklin, branch chief at the National Hurricane Center.

    “People need to know what those hazards can do, and then know which of those hazards you’re particularly vulnerable to, depending on where you live,” Franklin says in the new podcast.

    Anyone who lives along the East Coast from Texas to Maine is at potential risk. But Franklin notes that hurricanes are not just coastal threats, citing 2012’s Hurricane Sandy as an example of when wind gusts were produced as far as Wisconsin.

    Here are some tips to use this hurricane season:
    • Become familiar with information and alerts from both the National Hurricane Center and your local weather center. 
    • Understand the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning. During a watch, prepare your home, review your plan for evacuation and listen closely for instructions from local officials. During a warning, finish preparations and immediately leave the threatened area if directed by officials.
    • Develop a plan that includes an evacuation strategy and an emergency supply kit, including enough water and nonperishable food to last at least three days, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, a battery-operated radio, extra batteries and medical supplies. 
     For more tips on how to prepare for hurricanes, check out our Get Ready hurricane fact sheet.

    Friday, May 24, 2013

    Tips for staying safe this tornado season

    As this week’s devastation in Oklahoma shows, tornadoes are among the most violent storms. The tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla., on May 20 left many residents injured and without homes and cost numerous lives.
    Unfortunately, tornadoes can strike with little or no warning, destroying entire neighborhoods in just a few minutes. But there are some things you can do to improve your safety.
    • Know the signs. Tornadoes often happen during thunderstorms. You should look out for dark, greenish skies; large hail; a large, dark, low-lying cloud; a visible, rotating funnel; or a loud roar. Get to know your local warning system and keep a battery run radio ready to go. If there’s a tornado watch, listen for weather updates and be prepared to shelter. If there’s a tornado warning, it means a tornado has been sighted and you should act now to find shelter.
    • Prepare your home. Pick a safe room in your house that is most secure for your family and pets. Ideally, it should be underground or in the basement. If that’s not an option, then you should pick somewhere with no windows. Put together an emergency stockpile kit and store it somewhere easy to access in an emergency. And be sure to practice your drill.
    • Know where to go. If you're in a car, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If there is flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park. As a last resort, you can stay in your car with your seat belt on, lowering your head down below the windows and covering it with your hands and a blanket, if available. Another last resort option is to get out of your car, find a place that is noticeably lower than the level of the road and lie in it, covering your head with your hands. Your choice should be decided based on circumstances.
    Check out our Get Ready tornado fact sheet for more information and get tips for preparing a safe room from

    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    ‘Hey, where is everyone?’ Communicating with your family during disasters

    Family making an emergency plan / FEMA
    Have you ever planned an event with your friends or family? You decide where to meet and how to reach one another if someone is late or gets lost. You also pick someone to be in charge of transportation. Having plans in place ahead of time helps create a successful gathering.

    Getting your family ready for an emergency is kind of like organizing a family activity. There are many similar things to think about: Do you have a plan if something goes wrong? Do you have supplies? Do you know where to meet or how to contact one another?

    Chances are not all family members will be together when a disaster strikes, so it’s important to plan ahead. Talk to your family about what to do in advance of a disaster. This will help reduce fear and anxiety when things are tough.

    Here are a few key tips for communicating with your family before and during disasters:
    1. Meet with your family about why you need to prepare for disasters.
    2. Talk about the types of disasters that are most likely to occur in your area.
    3. Pick three places to meet based on each situation.
    4. Develop a communications plan in case family members are separated from one another. Complete a contact card for each family member and place it in their wallet, purse, book bag or backpack.
    5. Communicate with text messages during a disaster, as cell phone service may be out. Text messages often go through when a phone call might not.
    6. Program your cell phone with your “ICE” contact, short for “in case of emergency.” Emergency workers will check for ICE contacts if something bad happens.  If you have put a lock on your phone, you might want to think about putting a sticker with your ICE contact on the back of your phone.

    Everybody’s needs are different, but we can each take important steps to prepare our families for disasters. And communication is key.

    For more information on preparing families for disasters, check out  American Red Cross’s Get a Kit. Make a Plan. Be Informed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Develop a Family Disaster Plan and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Family Emergency Plan Template.

    APHA’s Get Ready campaign also offers a fact sheet for parents in English and Spanish to help your family make a plan.