Thursday, July 28, 2016

Don’t get sick while taking a dip: Protect yourself from swimming-related germs

During a day at the pool, you wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, but what do you do to prevent an infectious disease? The public water we swim in, from hot tubs to water playgrounds, can contain germs that can make you sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently looked at inspection information for public aquatic venues in five states. In 1 in 8 of the inspections, swimming was shut down immediately because of health and safety concerns. Kiddie and wading pools were the highest offenders.

But, wait, you may say. Aren’t these pools being treated? Although chlorine is widely used to kill dangerous germs, some bacteria have developed strong tolerance and can live for hours or even days in chlorinated waters. They can cause diarrhea and infections of the eyes, ears, chest and lungs.

So how can you protect yourself? Before you head out to your public pool, look up inspection results online. Once you’re at the pool, give the water a good once-over. Make sure you’re swimming in good quality water and that there are no foul odors. Pool water should be clear, with the main drain at the bottom visible. If something doesn’t look right, let someone in charge know, and don’t enter the water.

But it’s not all about the pool. You should never leave the water dirtier than you found it. CDC has steps for swimmers to take to prevent spreading germs:
  • If you have diarrhea, skip the pool until you’re better.
  • Keep your mouth closed underwater and never swallow pool water.
  • Shower with soap before you swim and wash your hands after bathroom breaks.

If you’re a parent, CDC recommends a few more steps:
  • Check diapers and take young kids to the toilet often.
  • Change all diapers away from the pool in the bathroom or changing room.
  • Wash your children with soap, especially around their bottoms, before they swim.

For more tips, check out CDC’s steps for healthy swimming

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer camps mean summer fun — and disaster preparedness

Have you ever tried to tell a child it’s time to stop playing outside?  As tough as it may be to tell one child to make the next cannonball in the pool their last because it’s dinnertime, imagine gathering a group of dozens of kids who are having fun at summer camp.

These campers are disaster prepared. Image: FEMA
As regular Get Ready Blog readers know, disasters and emergencies can occur anywhere. And that means they can occur when kids are away from home, as well. Luckily, at summer camps, there are grown-ups in charge who are working hard to keep kids safe while they’re having fun.

But that doesn’t mean that they can’t use a little help getting ready. In fact, a recent survey found that many U.S. summer camps aren’t completely prepared to handle situations like prolonged power outages or evacuations.

So what can you,as a parent do? For one, ask your summer camp for a copy of its disaster plan. Provide resources owners and counselors can use to prepare for emergencies. Connect them with local partners and officials who can help them make plans.

You can also help your child get ready for any disasters that may occur while away at camp. For example, you can:

  • Pack a camp preparedness kit. Your child will need a flashlight and batteries to get around camp at night. But it makes sense to have other emergency items as well, like first-aid supplies, a whistle, snacks and an emergency information card.
  • Make a communications plan. How will you and your child communicate during an emergency? Make sure your children have a list of emergency contacts in their phones and on paper. Identify a third-party contact, like a friend or family member out of town, who can be reached if you can’t.
  • Be prepared for the heat. Summer camps mean summer weather, which usually means heat. Make sure your child knows how to be prepared for hot weather and to recognize the signs of heat illness.
  • Watch out for mosquitoes and ticks. They can carry diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Pack plenty of bug repellent. And know how to check for and remove ticks.
  • Watch out for rodents. Cabins and campgrounds can be home to mice and other rodents, which can spread diseases. Tell your kids not to touch rodents, dead or alive, and to tightly pack up food so rodents aren’t tempted to come inside. 

For even more summer safety tips for kids, check out this page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Tips for staying water-wise, during a drought or not

Droughts can be devastating and affect millions of people at once. Any area can be affected by a drought — including yours.
Image: FEMA/Max Whittaker

Droughts aren’t just about a lack of water. They can cause wildfires, landslides and falling debris. And once it does finally rain, the drought conditions can cause flash floods.

During a drought, you’ll be asked to conserve water. Restrictions may be put in place, such as when — or if — you can water your lawn, fill your pool or wash your car.

The truth is, you should really be conserving water all the time. Here are some tips you can follow, during a drought or not:

  • Look for leaks. If your toilet or sink floods, chances are you’ll notice. But what about a drip or tiny trickle? Check that none of your appliances, faucets or pipes are leaking, and fix them if so.
  • If you’re allowed to water your lawn, do it in the early morning or late evening, not during the full heat of the day. Pay attention to weather conditions, too. If it’s rained recently, you probably won’t need to run your sprinklers. You can also water less in the winter.
  • Take shorter showers. Turn on the water to get wet. Turn off to lather up and let your shampoo sink in and do its work. Then turn the water back on to rinse. Replace your shower head with a low-flow version.
  • Don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth, wash your face or while shaving. 
  • Got a dishwasher? Use it when it’s full and select the “light wash” feature.
  • When doing laundry, use the washer only when you have a full load and set the water level to the size of your load. 

Get more water conservation tips from the Environmental Protection Agency and

Friday, July 08, 2016

Calling all animal lovers! Show us your baby animal photos

Everyone loves baby animals. They are totally adorable! We love them so much here at Get Ready that we made them the focus of this year's photo contest.

Image: Mike Whitmore
The contest is using baby animals — of all kinds — to promote emergency preparedness.
Whether it’s a kitten, puppy, chick or other baby animal, Get Ready wants to see them all. We’ll choose the best and most adorable photos and include them in our 2017 Get Ready calendar with fun captions and facts about preparing for emergencies.

Need some pet-spiration? Take a look at our past Get Ready Photo Contests, which have focused on cats, dogs and animals of all ages.

Contest entries will be accepted beginning July 11 via email and Instagram.

Have more questions? Check out our FAQs and official rules and regulations.

The deadline for entries is Aug. 15, so get snapping and submit your photos!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Wildfires: Staying safe when fire and smoke threaten

Last year, a record 10.1 million acres were burned by wildfires in the United States. In California alone, more than 2,500 structures were destroyed.
Image: FEMA

But wildfires don’t just threaten property. They also threaten lives. The smoke alone can cause trouble breathing, wheezing, chest pain or an asthma attack. That’s why it’s important to learn about wildfires in your area and have an emergency plan.

So how can you protect yourself from wildfires this year? First off, make an emergency plan. Identify at least two evacuation routes out of your neighborhood and agree on a meeting place for your family. You should also create an emergency kit, including food, water, a flashlight, radio, batteries and medications.

You can also prepare your home by making a 30-foot safety zone. This means clearing vegetation within 30 feet of your house, and removing debris from your roof. If wildfires are reported near your area, be ready to evacuate. Listen to local news reports, and close your windows and doors. After a wildfire, do not return to your home until officials say it’s safe.

Apps and alert systems can also keep you in the know. Download the American Red Cross’ free wildfire app and bookmark its online shelter finder map. Staying up on what’s happening locally is critically important, so be sure and download preparedness apps created just for your area and subscribe to electronic alerts.

For more tips, read and share our wildfire fact sheet.