Friday, September 24, 2010

Will you be my preparedness buddy? When two heads are better than one

For a lot of people, coming up with an emergency preparedness plan can be overwhelming. (What do I need? What should I prepare for? Where would I go?) That’s why, when it comes to preparedness, two heads are often better than one.

With disasters ranging from floods to thunderstorms to fires, it can help to have a preparedness buddy. If you find a friend, family member or neighbor to join forces to prepare, it can make it easier to buy supplies, develop an emergency plan and come up with a communication plan. If you are disabled, elderly or have other special needs, having a preparedness buddy is vital.

Here are some ideas on how you and your preparedness buddy can work together:

1) Shop together and share: When shopping for emergency supplies, save money by buying in bulk, then share the supplies with your buddy. Split up the shopping list so no one person has to buy everything. Then assemble your disaster supply kits together. Your kits should include first aid supplies, non-perishable food, water, batteries, flashlights and other emergency items.

2) Lighten the research load: Ask your buddy to make a list of evacuation routes and hotels while you look up emergency shelters and emergency contact numbers. Make a checklist of other necessary emergency information you’ll need and split the research load with your buddy. Print and share your results.

3) Share your contacts: Give your personal contact information and that of your emergency contacts (such as extended family or out-of-town friends) to your buddy — and vice versa — so that you can check up on each other before, during or after a disaster.

4) Find a responsible adult: Parents should designate a trusted preparedness buddy that their kids can contact if they’re unreachable. That way, if your children need help during a disaster and you’re stuck trying to get home or your cell phone signal won’t get through, your buddy can serve as a back-up.

Knowing you have someone else on your side can make preparing easier! (Have any other ideas on how a preparedness buddy can help? Share them in our comments.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Celebrate Get Ready Day today!

Hooray! Today is Get Ready Day, APHA’s fourth annual observance designed to remind Americans about the importance of emergency preparedness — which is a critical component to building stronger, healthier, more resilient communities.

Health disasters can pose a real and present danger to not only a community but an entire nation. Last year’s H1N1 flu outbreak should be a wake-up call to all of us to take basic steps toward protecting ourselves, family and friends from a health emergency.

In recognition of Get Ready Day, we encourage everyone to reflect on how truly prepared they and their family are if a hurricane, tornado or even flu pandemic were to strike. Then, take action toward becoming safeguarded from a disaster by getting a flu shot, establishing an emergency evacuation plan and building a stockpile.

You can also help spread the preparedness message by sharing Get Ready fact sheets with your local community. Ask if you can post the materials in the lobby of your local library, community health center or doctor’s office. And be sure to watch our first-ever Get Ready Video and then share it with family and friends.

How are you celebrating Get Ready Day? Tell us!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why do kids pick up so many infectious diseases?

Doesn’t it always seem like when there is one sick kid, within a week or so, every other child around has come down with the same sickness? Or that when there is something going around, kids are the ones who are most likely to get sick?

It’s not just in your head. Kids are most likely to get infections because they have not had the chance to build up a strong immunity yet. Also, bacteria and viruses are everywhere. When children are crawling, running and exploring the world around them (and sticking icky things in their mouths), there’s a greater chance they’ll pick up germs.

Kids usually pick up infections in three ways:

• 3-2-1 contact! As all parents know, kids are little bundles of energy. Their hands tend to pick up germs while they are moving around and touching things and each other. This can lead to infections like diarrhea, pink eye and hand, foot and mouth disease.

• Drip, drop, dribble: A lot of times, kids don’t cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, shooting spittle and other droplets out into the air and onto surfaces. Infections like flu, pneumonia and the common cold are sometimes spread this way.

• Oops! It’s poop: Children are very curious, which means they get their hands into a whole lot of things they shouldn’t be touching, including some things that (a-hem) are best left in the bathroom. Infected poop that’s spread around can find its way onto someone’s mouth or face. Some illnesses spread this way are pinworms and hepatitis A.

To protect kids from infections, teach them how and when to wash their hands. It’s important for children to learn how to wash their hands when they’re young, as it’s a lesson that will stick with them as they get older. Parents and caretakers can help prevent infections by regularly cleaning toys and other things kids put in their mouths.

Children are always going to explore, touch and taste the world around them. But with a few steps, we can help make sure childhood is a time for learning and fun, not sickness.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Staying safe on campus: Protect yourself from infectious disease

For a young adult, college can be one of the most exciting times in your life: living on your own, making new friends, learning new things. But this newfound independence also comes with responsibility. (Yes, your parents were right!)

It’s important to stay healthy while away at school and to protect yourself from infectious disease, not only for you but for your fellow classmates. It’s particularly important on campus where students live close together in dorms and share study space, classrooms and meals.

And it’s not just the common cold we’re talking about. In the last few years, there have been reports of outbreaks of mumps on some Midwest college campuses, meningitis at New York schools and H1N1 flu at Washington State University and at many other colleges. And these are just a few examples. The threat is real, and students should know how to protect themselves.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, illnesses like colds and flu are mainly spread from person to person in cough and sneeze droplets. Some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs and desks. In college, everyone shares computers and other workspaces, so keep this in mind when in large common areas.

Follow these tips to help protect yourself from infectious diseases:

Wash your hands.
• Carry hand sanitizer in your backpack for when soap and water are not available.
Cover your cough. Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. Cover your cough or sneeze into your elbow if you don’t have a tissue.
• Make a daily effort to sanitize your room and workspaces, especially if you have a roommate.
• Keep your distance from other students if they’re sick or if you feel sick.
• If you don’t feel well, stay in. Don’t go to class or spend time in large common areas. Most colleges have exceptions for those who are sick. Check to see what your school says about making up class work if you’re absent due to illness.
• Wash your clothes and sheets regularly to remove germs or bacteria.
Get vaccinated. Vaccinations help prevent diseases and save lives. Most college campuses offer free vaccines for the flu or other viruses.

Since last year’s flu pandemic, many colleges came up with preparedness plans and tips on how to stay healthy during flu season. Check with your campus officials or health center to see what suggestions they offer for preventing the spread of disease.
So before you get sick and call mom and dad for some chicken noodle soup, follow these tips to help you stay healthy.

Photo is courtesy iStockphoto

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Friday, September 03, 2010

It’s hurricane season. Are you ready?

Batten down the hatches! The Atlantic hurricane season is in full churn. As of this writing, Hurricane Earl threatens the East Coast. And Tropical Storm Fiona and Tropical Depression Gaston are on its heels.

If your community was under a hurricane watch, would you know what to do? How about your neighbors? Now you can make sure you’re ready and help those around you prepare, thanks to AARP’s Operation Hurricane Prepare. The program offers tips on helping you and others get ready. (You’ll need to register to get full access, but it’s free and easy.)

You can use the Operation Hurricane Prepare program to focus on your own hurricane preparedness, or help a whole group prepare. The program has tips on spreading the word, leading a preparedness get-together and assembling emergency kits. It even provides checklists and a basic tips sheet for handy reference.

AARP calls for three main ways to prepare for a hurricane:
• make an emergency supply kit with a three-day supply of essentials;
• map an evacuation plan; and
• create copies of your vital documents and store them so that they can endure the winds, rains and floods of a hurricane.

For more advice, consult the National Hurricane Center. It suggests that a disaster prevention plan include the following steps:
make a family plan;

create a disaster supply kit;

have a place to go;

secure your home; and

have a plan for your pets.

Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina took many lives and destroyed numerous homes. Before a storm threatens your community, make sure you’re prepared and help neighbors get ready as well.

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