Friday, April 30, 2010

Emergency preparedness kits: Buy one or make one?

When disaster strikes, you’ll need quick, easy access to the right supplies to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy. One of the best ways to make sure you’re ready for an emergency is to have a preparedness kit (PDF).

You can buy a ready-made preparedness kit off the shelf, or you can make one yourself. Both options will provide you with important supplies, but if you buy a kit, check to make sure that all of the items included meet the needs of you and your family. For example, a purchased toolkit may not come with items you need if you have pets to care for.

To cover all of your bases, start with a checklist. APHA’s Get Ready campaign offers tips for packing and creating (PDF) a preparedness kit. Use this as a guide to help you gather the items you need to make your own kit or to make sure a store-bought kit has the right contents.

The Get Ready checklist also gives you tips for storing your kit and how often to check the kit to make sure the items are still fresh. This important information isn’t included in many pre-assembled toolkits. And if you have pets, check out the fact sheet (PDF)
on including emergency supplies for pets.

Similar checklists and tips are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

So which is better, making your own preparedness kit or buying one? Both are fine, but make sure your kit contains everything you’ll need. A checklist will help. Also, make sure it has enough supplies to last at least three days. Creating your own kit will take a little extra effort, but you can be sure it includes everything on your list. And when disaster strikes, a well-stocked kit will provide a special something not on a checklist: peace of mind.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Winners of APHA’s 2010 Get Ready Scholarship announced

Six students have been chosen as the recipients of APHA’s second annual Get Ready Scholarship.

The scholarship, which is awarded in conjunction with APHA’s Get Ready campaign, encourages high school, undergraduate and graduate college students to recognize emergency preparedness as a public health issue.

The six winners are:
• Leah Wight— Golden Valley High School, Merced, Calif. (high school level)
• Courtney Farr — Robert L. Patton High School, Morganton, N.C. (high school level)
• Brittany Voorhees — Holy Names University, Oakland, Calif. (undergraduate level)
• Delaney Moore — Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Ind. (undergraduate level)
• Tazeen Dhanani — George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. (graduate level)
• Kristen Paz — Pepperdine University, Malibu, Calif. (graduate level)

This year’s scholarship recipients were chosen from 900 applicants from across the nation. They will receive a $500 scholarship for school-related costs as well as a one-year APHA membership. Winners were determined through an essay contest on the importance of emergency preparedness and infectious disease prevention.

"APHA firmly believes in encouraging today’s youth to become tomorrow’s public health leaders," said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), APHA’s executive director. "We are pleased to be able to award these talented, young students with financial assistance to help further their education."

Excerpts from the winning entries can be viewed online now.

Congratulations to our scholarship winners and our thanks to everyone who submitted an essay!

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Get Ready Mailbag: Tsunamis can be an unexpected coastal danger

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 e-mail to

Q. What exactly is a tsunami? What I can do to be prepared in case I ever experience one?

A. A tsunami is a series of huge waves that happen after an undersea disturbance, like an earthquake, volcano eruption or landslide. From the area where the tsunami begins, waves move outward in all directions. Tsunamis can move hundreds of miles per hour in the ocean and then crash into land with waves as high as 100 feet or more.

The massive earthquake in Chile in early 2010 set off tsunami warnings across the Pacific, including warnings in Hawaii. Fortunately, the waves were less destructive than feared.

A tsunami can strike almost anywhere along the U.S. coastline. And though they may not damage every coastline they strike, all tsunamis are potentially dangerous. The most destructive tsunamis in the United States have occurred along the Pacific coast. So pay particular attention if you are along the shores of Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington or Alaska.

If you are ever on the beach and notice that the water recedes from the shoreline, move away immediately. This is a sign that a tsunami is coming.

If you are in a coastal area and you experience an earthquake, turn on your radio to learn if there is a tsunami warning. If there is a warning and officials say to evacuate, do so immediately and follow your evacuation plan. Get away from the shoreline right away and move to higher ground.

Knowing how to prepare for a tsunami is the best way to stay safe in an unlikely event that you experience one.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

H1N1 fact sheet now available in 10 Asian, Pacific Islander languages

Today's guest blog entry is by Kathy Lim Ko, President and CEO for the
Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum.

One of the biggest challenges we face in working to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders is making sure that our communities receive health care services in a language they can understand. We also work to make sure that health care organizations and governments at the local, state and federal levels are aware of how culture influences how people take care of their health needs. Due to differences in nationality, ethnicity and culture, as well as immigration histories, we all have varying perspectives on health and healthy behavior.

When our nation faces a public health crisis, as it has with the H1N1 “swine flu” epidemic over the past months, it is even more important to make sure that the people in our communities receive information that they can understand to protect themselves and their families.

To prepare our communities for the H1N1 flu epidemic and other public health and national emergencies, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum has collaborated with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians and the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations to make sure information is available to our communities that is language-appropriate and takes cultural differences into account.

As part of this collaboration, we have worked to translate the APHA Get Ready campaign’s H1N1 fact sheet into 10 languages. The translated fact sheets are now available in the public health alert section of our Web site, on the Get Ready Web site, and on our partners’ Web sites. The translations are in Chinese, Chamorro, Chuukese, Japanese, Korean, Marshallese, Samoan, Thai, Tongan and Vietnamese.

We are happy to make these resources available for you to easily share with your community. We hope that they will be widely used to help people protect themselves and their loved ones from being infected with — and spreading! — H1N1 flu.

Blog editor’s note: The Get Ready H1N1 flu fact sheet is also available in English and Spanish. All 12 language versions can be downloaded from the Get Ready Web site.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

A prepared community is a healthier community: Small ways to have a big impact

During the past few days, thousands of people throughout the country have been celebrating National Public Health Week and its theme of “A Healthier America: One Community at a Time.”

Part of having a healthy community is being prepared, whether it’s for a natural disaster, disease outbreak or human-made emergency. This year, National Public Health Week organizers are urging participants to “smart small, think big,” which is also a great lesson for community preparedness. While preparing your community for anything and everything that can go wrong can be a daunting task, every one of us can take small steps that help bring us closer to that goal.

In that spirit, the Get Ready campaign is offering these reminders of small ways that you can help make your community more prepared:

• Find out where your nearest emergency shelters are located, and let your neighbors know where to go during a disaster.

• Ask your supervisor for a copy of your workplace emergency plan and become familiar with it.

• Find out where flu immunization clinics will be held in your community, and spread the word to your friends and family via e-mails, Facebook or other means.

• Sign up for a CPR or first aid class and invite others to join you.

• Set up a table with free preparedness materials at your library or community center.

• Pick up a few extra canned goods every time you go to the grocery store to donate to your community food bank.

For more small ways you can help make your community a healthier — and more prepared — place, download the National Public Health Week toolkit (PDF). And if you’ve already done something to improve the health of your community, share your story online.

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Duck, cover and hold: Advice for earthquake preparedness

Earthquakes are unpredictable and often common in many regions — even in the United States. Just this week, a quake occurred in Mexicali, Mexico. While earthquakes with the power of the one that hit the Haiti in January 2010 are fairly rare, less severe earthquakes happen regularly and can interrupt your daily life and cause injury.

The key to minimizing damage from an earthquake is to be prepared. It’s important to create disaster plans and have an emergency supply kit (PDF) on hand. According to preparedness experts, the best thing to do during an earthquake is to drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy desk or table and hold on until the shaking stops. This may protect you from falling ceiling lights or furniture such as bookshelves.

Making a plan is the best way to get ready for an earthquake:
• Identify a “meet up” spot for family members in case you are separated and can’t reach home after an earthquake.

• Learn about evacuation procedures for your town and child’s school or daycare.

• Immediately put shoes on to protect your feet from broken glass or sharp objects.

• Check for gas leaks. If you discover one, immediately shut off
the main gas valve.

For more tips on preparing for earthquakes, download this fact sheet (PDF) from the Get Ready campaign.

Have you ever been in an earthquake? Share your experience by commenting on this blog entry.
Photo: Transportation crews work to repair a road cracked by earthquakes in Hawaii in 2006. Photo by Adam Dubrowa, courtesy FEMA.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Hints for helping wildlife during a disaster

When disaster strikes, we humans can usually seek shelter in the comfort of our own homes or drive to a safer place. But for the countless wild animals that share the impact of these deadly disasters, weathering the storm sometimes means they end up crossing paths with humans.

If you see an animal in distress after a flood, hurricane or other emergency, keep a few things in mind when dealing with our furry, scaled and feathered friends:

1) Don’t touch them. As much as you may want to come to the aid of wild animals, animal aid groups advise that you do not corner or try to rescue them. Wild animals have a natural “flight” response that will encourage them to flee from anyone who comes too close. If animals feel they are being threatened, they may flee from a relatively safe position — such as atop a makeshift island during a flood — to a harmful and even life-threatening situation — such as into rapidly flowing flood water. If you find an animal in a life-threatening situation, call your local animal control, which has specially trained staff who can help.

2) Get professional help. Naturally, wildlife will search for refuge during natural disasters and your home may be an ideal place for small animals like snakes, raccoons, squirrels and rats to take shelter. If you discover that wildlife is in your home, again, the best advice is not to touch them. Instead, open a window or other escape route for the animal to leave on its own. If this doesn’t work, call your local animal control or wildlife office for assistance.

3) Be watchful. Following natural disasters, wild animals may still be recovering from the traumatic experiences they have just faced. This means that many animals will be hypersensitive and display more erratic behavior than normal. Such unpredictable behavior can be dangerous to both you and the animals themselves. To keep both us and them safe, be watchful of wild animals. If you are confronted by a traumatized animal and are bitten or harmed in any way, seek immediate medical attention.

Photo: An animal protection group rescued these baby squirrels in Texas in October 2008 following Hurricane Ike. Courtesy Leif Skoogers/FEMA

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