Friday, June 26, 2009

Prepare your car for emergencies and you’ll be ready to go when it counts

There’s always lots of talk about how to prepare your home for disasters, which is important. But what if you have to evacuate? When preparing for an emergency, don’t forget your getaway vehicle! Here are some tips to prepare your car for emergencies:

• Keep it stocked: A car that is well-prepared for emergencies should carry nourishment. Be sure and always keep a few gallons of water in your car, as well as food. Choose foods that are shelf-stable and can store well in the extreme temperatures of a car.

• Be prepared to go: For your car, jumper cables, a tow chain and flares are always good things to have on board. If there are reports of a weather disaster headed your way, check the air in your tires (including the spare!) and fill up the gas tank of your car. Keep the tank at least half-filled as long as the threat remains, as the last thing you want is to run out of gas while sitting in long lines of evacuating traffic.

• Think ahead: For survival in the vehicle, you should have a flashlight and batteries, a fire extinguisher, a whistle, cash and change, vital medications, rain gear, blankets, tarps, toilet paper and any special-needs items for infants or people with disabilities. A cell phone charger that plugs into your car’s lighter outlet will also come in handy. Also be sure to include an old-school paper map, in case you evacuate to an area you aren’t familiar with and your Tom-Tom is on the fritz-fritz. Mark out emergency evacuation routes ahead of time.

Check on your car supplies every six months to make sure nothing has leaked or spoiled. (Use daylight saving time as a reminder!)

Graphic courtesy iStockphoto

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Don’t be scared, be prepared! Book offers tips for preparedness

Don’t be scared, be prepared! That’s the mantra of Kathy Harrison, author of Just In Case: How to Be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens, a family-friendly preparedness guide.

To be prepared for anything from a flood to a pandemic, Harrison says that everyone should have at least the following basics:

* plans for communicating and reuniting with family during a crisis;
* a one-week supply of food and water (PDF) for each household member;
* a portable radio with extra batteries;
* back-up copies of all important documents stored in a safe place;
* an emergency car kit with water, light sticks, road flares, unbreakable cup or mug, wool blankets, etc.;
* a back-up heat source (for cold climates);
* emergency lighting, such as flashlights, candles and kerosene lamps; and
* an evacuation kit for each household member.
When putting together your evacuation kit — a backpack is a great way to store and tote emergency supplies — ask yourself: If I had to live out of this bag for three days, what would I need to stay safe and healthy? Here are some things that Harrison’s book recommends: flashlight, trash bags, whistle, water jug, water purification tablets, soap and washcloth, space blanket, energy bars, first aid kit, matches, a change of clothing, toilet paper, insect repellant and sunscreen.

If the idea of gathering all of these supplies sounds unrealistic, use the “OAR” system, suggests Harrison:

* Organize — Think about your risks (are hurricanes common where you live?) and plan storage spaces for all the supplies you’ll need.

* Acquire — Develop a schedule for building up your supply of all the food, water and additional items you’ll need during an emergency.

* Rotate — Occasionally rotate your stored items with your normal supply to make sure food is fresh and medications haven’t expired.

Just In Case also includes tips for improving your “skills for independence.” It teaches you how to do cool things like purify water using basic household items, dehydrate and can food, and even make your own cheese and yogurt.

The idea of preparing for an emergency can be overwhelming and scary. Books like this one provide lots of useful tips that make it easy to be prepared. You may want one on your bookshelf, just in case.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Global health officials prepare for H1N1 spread as pandemic alert level raised

"The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic."
— Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, Thursday, June 11, 2009

Needless to say, that news generally is not how you’d like to start the weekend. But there's no need to panic. While the World Health Organization raised the global pandemic alert on June 11 to phase 6 — its highest level — U.S. health officials stressed that the decision is a "reflection of the spread of the (H1N1) virus, not the severity of illness caused by the virus."

So, what does phase 6 mean? According to the World Health Organization, the designation means there is now ongoing community-level outbreaks of the H1N1 virus, sometimes referred to as swine flu, across the globe. As of June 11, CDC reported almost 18,000 confirmed and probable cases of H1N1 in every state, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The same day, WHO reported 30,000 confirmed cases in 74 countries.

But let's shed some perspective: During yesterday’s news conference, WHO's Chan noted that "no previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning. The world can now reap the benefits of investments, over the last five years, in pandemic preparedness." U.S. officials said they’re preparing for a return of H1N1 during regular flu season in the fall.

The change in the pandemic alert level "was expected and doesn't change what we have been doing here in the United States to prepare for and respond to this public health challenge," according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

And last but not least, U.S. and global health officials urge you to keep on keepin' on — that is, keep up that handwashing, stay home if you're sick and stay informed. For all the squeaky clean tips as well as regular updates, visit CDC's H1N1 page and APHA's influenza Web site.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Home, Safe Home

Ever forgotten to turn off the stove after cooking a meal? Or carelessly burned yourself with hot water? Ever get shocked when handling an electronic appliance or extension cord?

Despite the many comforts of home, the places we live can also present many hazards; some serious and potentially life threatening. In fact, injury in the home accounts for more than 21 million medical visits and 20,000 deaths each year.

To help reduce these alarming statistics, June is recognized as Home Safety Month where a special focus is placed on safety and preparedness in the home environment. As part of the observance, the Home Safety Council provides resources and information to assist families in reducing the risk from leading hazards such as falls, poisonings, fires and burns, choking and drowning. It also provides tips on how to be prepared in case of a disaster.

Take time this month to learn how to make the place you live safe from everyday hazards and ready in the event of an emergency. And then, rest easy knowing you have done what you can to make your home a safe home.

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