Friday, November 17, 2017

DYK? Hot water and antimicrobial soaps are not better for washing hands

We all know the drill. Before you eat, after you use the restroom, after handling garbage — and at many other times — wash your hands. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Get Ready, hand-washing is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

However, there are a lot of factors that can go into hand-washing. How long should you lather with soap? How long should you rinse? How hot should the water be? Should you use antimicrobial soaps?

According to a recent study in the Journal of Food Protection, the temperature of the water used for hand-washing doesn’t help to kill bacteria. Only boiling water — ouch! — kills bacteria. Water temperature does, however, affect how comfortable you are, and that can affect how long you wash your hands, which does have an impact.

The study found that 20 seconds of lathering was significantly better than 5 seconds of lathering. There wasn’t much difference between washing for 10 and 20 seconds. CDC recommends singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice, which lasts roughly 20 seconds, while lathering and washing. Lathering for more than 30 seconds doesn’t necessarily mean your hands will be cleaner. In fact, some studies suggest that it may spread bacteria to other surfaces.

Antimicrobial soaps are also not recommended. Normal soaps clean just as effectively while “antibacterial ingredients can do more harm than good over the long term,” according to Janet Woodcock of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Why? The use of too many antimicrobials among consumers can lead to the creation of pan-resistant bacteria, or bacteria that can’t be treated medically. If you were to ever get infected by pan-resistant bacteria, there might not yet be a cure.

For more hand-washing tips, check out Get Ready’s hand-washing page. There are great fact sheets to share with loved ones or even tape to the mirror of your employee restroom. Remember to wash your hands, use normal soap and water, and lather and rinse for 20 seconds!

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Plague is not just in the past: Disease outbreak strikes Madagascar

Just when you thought plague was a thing of the past, the disease has made a comeback in Madagascar. 

According to the World Health Organization, the number of people infected by Madagascar’s plague outbreak jumped from 197 to 684 in October. Almost 100 deaths were reported. 

Most of the cases are pneumonic plague, which can easily be passed between humans through droplets in the air. That’s different from bubonic plague, which is spread by bites from infected fleas and small animals.

Although the overall threat of disease spread within Madagascar is high, the global risk is low, according to WHO. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for a disease outbreak.

If you are in an area at risk for plague and notice fever, chills, head and body aches, and weakness, vomiting and nausea, seek medical assistance. If left untreated, plague can be deadly. Fortunately, it can be treated with the help of antibiotics if they are delivered early.

To prevent the spread of plague, avoid close contact with people who are coughing and reduce time spent in crowded areas with lots of germs. If you’re traveling to Madagascar, get advice on prevention, treatment and risks from your doctor before you go. 

For more on bubonic plague, including info on areas that are most at risk in the U.S., see our Get Ready blog post.


Friday, November 03, 2017

It’s time to set your clocks and check your stocks!

Daylight saving time is coming to an end this Sunday. When you reset your clocks — or when they reset themselves, as our gadgets tend to do these days — use it as a reminder to check your emergency stockpile. That way, when a disaster happens, you’ll have everything you need in one place.

Think about it: During an emergency, the last thing you want to find is that your batteries have corroded, or that all your flashlights have gone missing. An emergency is not the right time to be running out to the store. Our Get Ready: Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks campaign has everything you need to make sure your stockpile is good to go.

Take a few minutes to see that everything you need is in your stockpile and that nothing has gone bad or leaked, such as food and water. Everyone should have at least three days of food and water stored at all times, including one gallon of water per person per day.

Your stockpile should also have basic supplies such as flashlights, batteries, a radio and first-aid supplies. Other items, such as a battery-operated cellphone charger and lanterns, are also useful. Check out this Get Ready checklist to see what you need to add to your supplies. If you don't have time, room or money to get them all, these items are the most essential.

Friday, October 27, 2017

How to have fun and avoid Halloween hazards

The spookiest time of the year is right around the corner! Do you know what’s even more frightening than ghosts and monsters? Being unprepared for infectious diseases and natural disasters.

Since Halloween falls during hurricane season and right in the middle of flu season, staying safe this holiday is important. With 41 million trick-or-treaters in the U.S., germs can run amok whether you’re traipsing from house to house in costume or staying in to hand out candy. And beware; since this hurricane season is becoming one of the most active in history, there are other scary dangers to keep an eye out for.

Fortunately, there are lots of tips and tricks to make this Halloween a safe and healthy treat for parents and kids — learning how to get ready this holiday is one of them. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Protect yourself from disease. Vaccinations will give you superhero powers and keep you safe from evil germs. You can find a place to get your flu shot online via HealthMap and fly over to the closest clinic with your cape or witches’ broom. For more about the seasonal flu, check out our factsheet.
  • Keep bugs at bay. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or upper sleeve, or with your elbow to keep your hands clean. And before eating any yummy treats or handing them out, make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Just think about all the candy, bowls and pumpkins you may be touching!
  • Get to know your neighbors. Not only is it good to learn which houses you or your kids are going to get candy from, it is also important to know where you can safely shelter in place. This means that when danger lurks you take immediate shelter, whether it’s in your home or a trusted neighbor’s instead. 

Although ghosts, goblins and ghouls can be spooky, there is nothing scarier than a disaster. That’s why it is important you follow these tips and get ready for Halloween. Don’t forget to have fun!


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Test your emergency preparedness knowledge with Get Ready’s new quiz!

How much do you know about preparing for natural disasters? Take Get Ready’s new preparedness quiz to find out!

In the wake of recent natural disasters, APHA’s Get Ready campaign wants to make preparing for emergencies easier, more fun and engaging. With our new quiz, you can test your knowledge and challenge others! From hurricanes to earthquakes and wildfires, you are bound to learn something new. No matter your score, it’s always a good idea to check out our free factsheets for all the emergency preparedness information you could possibly need. Be informed about potential disasters in your area, how you will receive alerts and where you should go if you have to evacuate.

A natural disaster can happen at any time, so make sure you are prepared.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Get your flu shot and spread the word about vaccinations


It’s October, which means flu season is upon us! Everyone who’s 6 months and older should get a flu shot — including you. We know that needles can be scary, but they’re a whole lot less scary than a bad case of the flu.

Just last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that fewer than half of all Americans got a flu shot last season. That’s not enough! Except in rare cases, everyone should get vaccinated. If 70 percent of the population does, that’ll help protect us all from getting really sick. Last season, only children under age 2 hit that target. Come on, parents — if your toddler can handle it, you can too. 

CDC also said that some racial or ethnic groups got vaccinated more than others. This might happen because some people aren’t used to getting a shot each year.

It’s too soon to say what this year’s flu season will be like in the U.S. But if cases that occurred in Australia this year are any indication — and they often are, as flu hits the southern hemisphere sooner — we could have a lot of people sick with flu this year. 

Luckily, there are many ways we can work to increase the number of people getting vaccinated. We can make shots available at more workplaces and schools and make shots cheaper. We should also reach out to groups of people who are less likely to get vaccinated. 

And you can personally promote flu shots. Here are five things you can do to help spread the word about the importance of flu vaccinations:

1. Get vaccinated! Reduce the chance that you’ll get sick and spread the disease.

2. Make sure your family members get flu shots. Your mom would love to hear from you — call her up and tell her to get vaccinated.

3. Tell your friends you got vaccinated, and encourage them to get a shot too.

4. Post about your flu shot on social media. Use the #GetYourFluShot and #FightFlu hashtags and share our flu fighter graphic.

5. Know the facts about flu shots. Dispel myths that the flu shot can give you the flu. 

Get more facts about the flu with Get Ready’s flu fact sheet.




Wednesday, October 04, 2017

What can you do to prepare for extreme weather?

Hurricane Harvey response. Photo by Gus Holzer, courtesy
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/myfwcmedia/
36065610024/in/dateposted/
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and now Maria have destroyed homes, cost lives and hurt many people. Experts are trying to figure out what’s causing these extreme weather events.

In a new podcast episode, APHA’s newspaper, reporter Julia Haskins talks to experts about the role of climate change and how you can be ready for extreme weather events.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, global surface temperatures reached an all-time high in 2016. With rising temperatures, we’re at greater risk for all kinds of disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, droughts, extreme cold events and heat waves.

And such disasters are getting worse and occurring more often.

“We’re seeing an increase in the intensity of events and frequency of these events,” says David Kitchen, PhD, associate professor of continuing studies at the University of Richmond, in the podcast.

The new podcast is a tie-in to APHA’s Year of Climate Change and Health, which is sharing info on extreme weather this month.

Listen to the podcast now or read the transcript.

And for even more great info on climate change and health, check out APHA’s climate change resources.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Get Ready Day: A timely opportunity to spread the word about preparedness

Get Ready Day is Sept. 19! How are you using it to promote preparedness?

With hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other emergencies threatening the U.S. in recent weeks, now is the perfect time to raise awareness of preparedness in your community.

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. 19.

Whether you’re on campus, at work, at home 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, flu vaccinations and many other timely topics. Use Get Ready Day as a time to learn and share information with others on how to be prepared for any emergency.

Our Get Ready fact sheets are available in English and Spanish and you can even add your organization’s logo. You can post our fact sheets on your website, print them for the office bulletin board or hang them on the fridge at home.

Get Ready information also goes over great on social media. Link to Get Ready information on Facebook and Twitter and use the #GetReadyDay hashtag. For a lighter approach to sharing preparedness information, check out our e-cards page.

• 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. Ask your child’s school or your office HR department about their emergency plans and offer to help if they’re lacking.

• Jump into action: Find ways to make your community better prepared beyond Get Ready Day. Even if there’s no time for you to hold an event now, you can make plans for a later date.

Need ideas? 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.

And if you need cool stuff to share at your events, check out the Get Ready Store!

After all, preparedness is a year-round activity!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Are you prepared for flu season? Get vaccinated today!

With fall right around the corner, flu season is about to come into full swing! “What is the flu and how can I avoid it?” you may ask.

The flu is caused by a virus that can make you sick. It can be spread by coughing, sneezing, person-to-person contact and touching contaminated surfaces. Symptoms can include fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, fatigue and even vomiting and diarrhea. Without proper prevention and treatment, the flu can be deadly. Everyone can get sick but some are at greater risk, including seniors, young children and pregnant women.

The best way to prevent the flu is to get the seasonal flu vaccine every year. The flu virus is constantly changing. Even if you got vaccinated last year, you may not be protected from the flu this year. Since the flu is most common throughout the fall and winter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone 6 months and older get the flu shot before October. Children under 6 months are too young to be vaccinated, so it is important that caregivers receive the vaccine. Also, make sure you talk to your doctor first about getting the shot if you have certain allergies or health conditions.

Overall, the flu vaccine is safe and effective. You will not get the flu from getting the shot, and serious reactions are rare. Not only does the vaccine protect you, it also protects the health of people around you. Fewer people will get sick if more people get vaccinated. Get your flu shot today to avoid sick days in bed and multiple trips to the doctor!

Learn more about the flu with Get Ready’s seasonal flu fact sheet, and find where you can get the flu shot here.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Get Ready Mailbag: What’s the deal with Asian tiger mosquitoes?

Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an email to getready@apha.org.

Q: Mosquitoes where I live are driving me crazy this year, even during the day. Someone said the kind we have are called tiger mosquitoes. Why are they so bad!?

Asian tiger mosquito A: Ugh, we know what you mean. Mosquitoes are the worst, especially when they seem to be all over the place in the summer. And it’s not just those itchy bites you have to worry about. Mosquitoes can spread diseases, like West Nile virus, dengue and Zika.

The mosquito you are thinking of is the Asian tiger mosquito, also known as Aedes albopictus. They are dark, small bugs with white stripes and long legs. They are called “tiger” mosquitoes because of their black and white pattern, but they have nothing to do with actual tigers — other than the fact that they may make you roar in frustration.

Asian tiger mosquitoes came to the U.S. mainland in the 1980s through used tire shipments. Since then, they’ve spread across the U.S. Today, they can be found in more than half of U.S. states.

 The thing that makes Asian tiger mosquitoes so dang annoying is that they love to bite during the day. They like to hang out in the shade and bite any person or animal who comes by.  They are also super-fast biters and can pinch into your skin before you can swat them away. Yikes!

The good news is you can control and avoid them in pretty much the same way you do other mosquitoes. They breed in containers in wet places, so be sure to regularly empty outdoor water sources like flower pots, buckets, garbage cans, pet water bowls, clogged gutters, outdoor toys and birdbaths. Use screens in your doors and windows, and always wear insect repellent and clothing that covers up your skin when outside.

Photo credit

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Do you know how to stay informed and prepared for a disaster?

In our latest Get Ready Report podcast, we talk to preparedness expert Linda Landesman about preparing for the next public health emergency.

With Americans on the West Coast reeling from wildfires and people on the East and Gulf Coasts struggling with hurricanes, Landesman’s advice is especially timely.

Landesman, who teaches a course on public health emergency management at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, is co-author of “Landesman’s Public Health Management of Disasters: The Practice Guide, Fourth Edition.”

Published by APHA Press, the book shows how disasters over the past few years have shaped emergency preparation and response. It also gives guidance on how best to handle new challenges.

So basically, when it comes to preparedness, Landesman knows her stuff. The Get Ready team talked to her about lessons learned from past disasters, the next possible pandemic and the importance of resilience, a concept that is growing in popularity.

“There’s a national push for communities to develop resilience,” Landesman says. “Communities and individuals who are resilient are better prepared when they plan for the potential impacts that they can anticipate, instead of just planning to respond to whatever may happen.”

Listen to the podcast now, or read the transcript.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Celebrate Get Ready Day Sept. 19 and spread the word about the importance of preparedness

It’s almost time for Get Ready Day — and that means it’s time to celebrate preparedness!

Held each year on the third Tuesday in September, APHA's Get Ready Day is timed to coincide with National Preparedness Month. This year, the 11th annual observance is on Sept. 19. That’s just a few weeks away, so now is the perfect time to start planning.

The good news is that the Get Ready campaign has free tools to make planning easy. Our Get Ready Event Guide offers a variety of event ideas, from holding a health fair to an emergency preparedness talk, and suggests partners to team up with, such as fire departments and local schools.

The guide gives you an event checklist and even a sample donation letter and news release you could use to further promote your event. And don’t forget our dozens of fact sheets on preparedness topics! 

If you need cool giveaways for your event, check out the Get Ready Store for items you can order now and hand out.

No time to hold an event? Post a message about Get Ready Day on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and encourage others to take part and spread the word. For Twitter, use the #GetReadyDay hashtag, and follow us at @GetReady.

We’re looking forward to celebrating preparedness with you!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Protect yourself and your community this month: Get your vax!


It’s back-to-school season! Time to stock up on supplies: New notebooks, pencils, a calculator and perhaps the all-important “cootie shot.”

We kid! We know a cootie shot isn’t real. But this month is a great time to catch up on real vaccinations. It’s National Immunization Awareness Month! This month is held every August. It outlines just how important it is for everyone to stay up-to-date on vaccinations

Vaccines are safe and easy ways to help prevent the spread of some scary diseases. They protect the people who receive them, and they also protect people around them. This is called herd immunity. It helps to keep people who can’t get vaccinated from getting sick. Such people include those with weak immune systems, pregnant people and infants.

We think about getting vaccines as babies, or for students returning to school. But everyone needs certain vaccinations, no matter how old they are. National Immunization Awareness Month breaks this down by week and age. Get Ready has lots of information on how important vaccines are for everyone. Check out information for kids, teens and adults.

With flu season vaccine finder tool from HealthMap.

just around the corner, now is a great time to talk to your health care provider about which vaccines you might need. Not sure where to go for vaccines? Check out this

Hop to it! National Immunization Awareness Month is almost over, but it’s never a bad time to make a quick investment in your health that will pay off for months and years to come.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Are you ready for an earthquake? New infographic can help keep you safe

It’s a beautiful day and you’re leaving your home for the day.

Suddenly, the ground starts to shake: It’s an earthquake! Do you know what to do?

Earthquakes are more common than you think. And they don’t just happen on the West Coast. Globally, there are 500,000 detectable earthquakes every year, the U.S. Geological Survey says. Only about 100,000 of those can be felt, and 100 cause damage.

Though you may not have heard about them in the news, there were earthquakes in California, Greece, Peru, Russia and other countries in the past month. People in Oklahoma experienced seven earthquakes in 28 hours in early August, causing power outages.

With so many earthquakes, it’s important to know what to do beforehand. Which is why our new Get Ready infographic is so handy.

It tells you what to do before, during and after an earthquake. The infographic is great for hanging on your bulletin board or the fridge at home, work or school.

Learn more about preparing for earthquakes with Get Ready’s earthquake fact sheet and check out our other awesome preparedness infographics.

Remember, earthquakes can strike at any time, so be prepared to drop, cover and hold on!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Foodborne illness: Spend your summer outdoors, not in the bathroom

Summertime means fun in the sun, but it can also bring foodborne illness. (Blech!) No one wants to spend their summer with an upset stomach — or worse. So what can you do to prevent it?

In our latest podcast, the Get Ready team interviews Glenn Morris, director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida, to find out.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that about 1 in 6 Americans is affected by foodborne illness each year, adding up to roughly 48 million people. Unfortunately, warm summer weather can make it easier for germs to flourish in your food.

“When bacteria are hot, they grow,” Morris says. “And when they grow, they increase the likelihood that they are going to be able to increase illness.”

If you’re planning to have a picnic or family cookout this summer, Morris recommends that you use two separate cutting boards for food prep. You’ll want one for raw food and one for cooked foods and produce, so germs don’t spread. Also, don’t forget to wash your hands!

“This seems very basic,” Morris said. “But a lot of the pathogens that can get onto or into foods are carried by hands. So always wash your hands before you prepare food.

Other tips? Make sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. And ensure that your meats are cooked to a safe temperature. That means that all hamburger meat should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit and chicken cooked to at least 165 degrees.

Morris also shares information on the difference between a medium-rare steak and a medium-rare hamburger. Why is one OK to eat while the other is not? Listen to this episode of our Get Ready Report to find out!

The Get Ready Report can be found for free on any podcast app on your smartphone, including iTunes, so subscribe now to get updates on our latest episodes.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Get ready to go! Tips for safe international travel

Over 70 million Americans travelled internationally last year, seeing new places, making new friends and posting a bajillion gorgeous Instagram photos that made us completely jealous.

If you’re planning to head out and explore the world this year, remember that it’s not all fun and games out there. Disasters and other hazards can happen while you’re away from home, so you need to be prepared. Here’s a quick rundown:

Be proactive: Read up on the types of disasters common to the area you’re visiting and learn what to do if they happen. For example, Peru is prone to heavy rains and flooding. Japan is known for its earthquakes and Hawaii has volcanoes. Another to-do before you go is to learn about local radio and emergency alert systems so you can find safety if needed. The National Association of Radio Distress-Signaling and Info-communications (RSOE) manages and updates an Emergency and Disaster Information Service (EDIS) available for free online. Be sure to give them a look when next heading out of the country.

Be prepared: Get vaccinated. Visit your health care provider at least four weeks before you travel. Make sure you are up to date on your immunizations and find out what’s recommended for your destination. It’s also smart to pack a small preparedness kit when traveling. Include your prescription medications as well as hand sanitizer, insect repellent, sunscreen and water purification tablets. The U.S. Department of State recommends that you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and register at the U.S. embassy where you will be travelling. This allows you to get important information and safety conditions in your country of destination. Be sure to memorize or carry with you important phone numbers and addresses of places you are staying. Make sure that everyone in your group knows where to meet if communication goes down.

Be protected: If an emergency does occur, follow all instructions from local authorities. Don’t hesitate to evacuate if told to.

While it is unlikely that disasters will ruin your trip, it’s better to be safe. Prepare yourself well, and enjoy your stay!

Photo courtesy Pexels/Pixabay

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Heating things up: The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline’s popular summer questions

Today’s guest blog is by Janell Goodwin, a technical information specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, who tackles some of your summer food safety questions.

It’s summertime, and USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline agents are heating things up by answering your food safety questions! Hotline experts keep the public safe from foodborne illness by answering calls on all sorts of food safety topics.

As a technical information specialist on the hotline, the first question consumers usually ask is “Are you a real person?” The answer is “Yes!” The hotline has real, live people who single-handedly answer every one of your food safety questions. In fact, since the start of the hotline in 1985, more than 3 million calls from the public have been answered.

Summer is filled with tons of activities, festivals, concerts and most importantly, food! The hotline wants to make sure your summer is free from foodborne illness. When it comes to questions, we’ve probably heard them all. Here are a few of the most popular questions answered during summer:

I want to marinate my meat before I grill. I can just leave it on the counter while it’s marinating, right? No, marinating should be done in the refrigerator for safety.

Is it true that my hamburger is done when it turns mostly brown on the inside and the juices run clear? Your burger is only safe when it has reached an internal temperature of 160°F, as measured by a food thermometer.

I’m going to a park to grill and won’t have access to running water. What should I use to clean my hands and utensils? Bring water and soap for preparation and cleaning, or pack clean cloths and moist towelettes.

I’m going to a friend’s for a barbeque. I want to bring something to grill there. Is it safe to partially cook meat or poultry to finish grilling later? Never brown or partially cook meat or poultry to refrigerate and finish later because any bacteria present would not have been destroyed.

Is it OK to refrigerate or freeze leftover cooked hamburgers? If it’s refrigerated promptly after cooking — within two hours, or one hour if the temperature outside is above 90°F — it can be safely refrigerated or frozen.

Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time. Or email or chat at AskKaren.gov.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Beat the heat with our new summer infographic

Summer is officially in full force, and that means beaches, water fights and delicious barbeques.

But, unfortunately, summer can also mean heat, dehydration, ticks, mosquitoes and other hazards. Luckily, APHA’s Get Ready campaign is here to show you how to reduce your risks and stay summer safe.

Our new summer infographic can help make this summer one you remember for the right reasons. The infographic is perfect for sharing via social media, websites and events in your neighborhood. Get tips for staying safe in the sun and getting cool.

For even more summertime safety tips, check out our new Storify report for easy-to-read information on water safety, sunscreen, weather disasters, food safety and more!

Still can’t get enough? Visit the Get Ready Summer Safe webpage for fact sheets, podcasts and other resources that can help keep your summertime activities safe from disasters.

Now you’re ready for some awesome summertime fun!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

All hail hail! 7 facts to know when balls of ice suddenly fall from the sky

Hailstorms are kind of like that cousin who never calls or texts to check in and then randomly decides to show up to your house uninvited. You never know when they might appear and mess up your day. Even if you’ve never been in a hailstorm, it’s not a bad thing to brush up on your knowledge. So here are seven quick facts everyone should know about hail.

1. Hail isn’t frozen rain. According to the National Geographic Society, the big difference is that hail falls from the sky in solid form. Freezing rain falls as a liquid and then freezes to a solid as it nears the ground.
2. It doesn’t need to be cold outside for hail to fall. Hail forms when updrafts in thunderstorms carry raindrops up into extremely cold areas of the atmosphere. That’s where they then freeze into balls of ice, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

3. You can’t just eyeball a thunderstorm in the distance for signs of hail. NOAA says that to determine the probability of hail, meteorologists need radar to look inside the storm. Because hail gives off more energy than raindrops, it’ll appear as the color red on radar.

4. Never underestimate the effects of hailstones. The National Weather Service reports that even small hail can cause significant damage.

5. If there are hailstorm warnings, make sure you close blinds or window shades to prevent possible injuries from broken glass. And don’t run outside during a hailstorm to protect your car or other property, says the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. Stay inside and away from windows, skylights and doors.

6. Once a hailstorm is over, you can go out and check for damage. If shrubs, trees and plants are stripped of foliage, there’s a good possibility that your roof is also damaged. If that’s the case, cover the holes in your roof as well as any broken windows to prevent water from coming in.

7. Fun fact: The majority of hailstones are small in size, at about two inches in diameter. But volleyball-sized hailstones have been recorded, measuring eight inches in diameter. Picture that!

Photo courtesy FEMA/Win Henderson 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer fun means summer crowds: How to stay safe and healthy

Summer’s in full swing, and that means concerts, parades, vacations, baseball games and fireworks. Big summer events can mean big summer crowds. But have no fear — knowing a few tips about how to navigate crowds can help you stay safe in the sun.

First off, it’s important to know what type of event you’ll be going to. If it’s a big celebration like the Fourth of July, you may be outside for a long time. If you’re in the sun all day, take some advice from the American Red Cross and bring plenty of water and snacks.

Also important is to know the signs for heat stroke: red, hot skin; losing consciousness; shallow breathing; and a weak pulse. Wear sunglasses and a hat to protect your eyes and face from the sun. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and make sure to reapply throughout the day.

What if the event is a nighttime concert? Big gatherings can create a higher risk for getting sick and hurt, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Infectious disease can spread more easily in crowds. So make sure you’re up on your immunizations and use hand sanitizer. Scope out where the first-aid area is so you can quickly head there if you need to. Avoid caffeinated drinks, which can dehydrate you, and alcohol, which can affect your safety.

In general, it helps to always be prepared for emergencies and have a plan. Whatever event you’re going to, arrive early to check out the area. Find a safe place where your family and friends can meet if something happens. Also, be aware of where emergency exits are and stay near them. If there is a less crowded area to be in, move there.

Above all, listen for official instructions and take action right away if told to. For more tips, check out Get Ready’s fact sheet on crowd safety.Whatever event you end up attending this summer, make sure health and safety is part of the plan.

Photo courtesy PEXELS/Manuel Joseph 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy FEMA/Jana Baldwin

Thursday, June 15, 2017

APHA’s Get Ready Store: Our easy gift guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 02, 2017

Above-normal hurricane season on its way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fight hunger and support preparedness this Saturday via national food drive

When your postal carrier drops by this Saturday, she or he will be ready to pick up more than just mail. Saturday, May 13, is the national Stamp Out Hunger food drive, during which postal carriers pick up food donations that are set out next to U.S. mailboxes.

Held annually since 1992, the Stamp Out Hunger food drive collected more than 80 million pounds of food last year. The event is organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers, with support from the U.S. Postal Service, United Way Worldwide, AARP Foundation and other sponsors.

To take part, just leave a sturdy bag containing non-perishable foods next to your mailbox before your mail comes on Saturday. Organizers say the most-requested items are cereal, pasta, spaghetti sauce, rice, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, juice, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and canned proteins such as tuna, chicken and turkey. Healthy items such as beans, oatmeal and canola oil are also welcome. Food should be in non-breakable containers, such as boxes and cans, and should not be expired.

Statistics show that your donation will matter: In 2015, 42.2 million Americans lived in food-insecure households — meaning that they didn’t have enough food — including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children. 

“Letter carriers see many of these folks along our routes each day,” Fredric Rolando, National Association of Letter Carriers president. “Our food drive can make a positive difference in the lives of those who have been dealt difficult hands.”

Making a donation to Stamp Out Hunger can do more than fill empty bellies in your community. Food banks play an important role in community preparedness, because they are often where people turn to for assistance after a disaster or emergency. 

For more on the food drive, read the official FAQs. If you’re not sure whether your postal carrier will be taking part in the food drive Saturday, contact your local post office.

Thanks for helping your community be less hungry and more prepared!


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Be a better bystander: Know how to help in an emergency

Trauma — a disabling or life-threatening injury — is a common effect of natural disasters.
Bystanders who provide basic emergency care during disasters can help save lives. But they need to know how.

Isaac Lasko, a volunteer for Tufts University’s Emergency Medical Services and a biomedical engineering student with a pre-med focus, talked to APHA’s Get Ready campaign about actions people can take to help injured people in the time before professional help arrives.

“For natural disasters, what all of the safety really comes down to is prevention,” Lasko said.

Trauma is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 46. About 20 percent of U.S. trauma deaths in 2014 could have been prevented if there had been better care for victims when they were injured.

That’s where people like you come in. The primary way bystanders can make a difference is by assessing the situation and giving care that prevents things from getting worse, Lasko said. He recommends starting by checking a victim’s ABCs — airway, breathing and circulation.

“A two-hour class in basic CPR can give somebody the skills to really keep the A, B and C alive to the best of the ability of a bystander,” said Lasko.

Controlling bleeding is another crucial way you can help. For example, using towels or cloths to apply pressure to a wound can help stop bleeding after a serious injury, said Lasko. If bleeding doesn’t stop, tourniquets can also be used as a last resort to tie off a wound.

Often the best way to contribute to an emergency situation is to stay calm and reduce stress, Lasko said.

“Calmness, or the lack thereof, is something that people pick up from each other, so as a group you make the best decisions and you keep people feeling the safest,” he said.

Knowing the disaster risks in your community is also helpful. For example, in Massachusetts, where Tufts University is located, EMTs are often concerned with hypothermia, Lasko said. During extreme cold emergencies, people don’t have the same ability to regulate body temperature.

The American Red Cross offers classes that can teach you how to help out in an emergency. Another option is to volunteer with your local Community Emergency Response Team program, which can help you gain basic disaster response skills.

Learning the basics can help you be a better bystander.