Friday, October 29, 2010

Creating an emergency plan: Knowing in advance what to do, where to go is key

In the event of an emergency, where would you go? Who would you call to let your family know you’re okay?

Thinking about these things in advance and developing an emergency action plan can help you and your family stay safe in the event of a natural disaster, a fire or a nationwide state of emergency. With a little bit of advance work, you can develop a plan you’re comfortable with and that you can execute quickly and efficiently.

Your emergency action plan should include:

Escape routes: Draw a floor plan of your home. Mark two escape routes from each room, and make sure everyone in your house understands the drawing. Establish a place outside the home to meet in the event of an emergency such as a fire.

• Family communications: In the event of an emergency – especially one that interrupts cell phones – would you know how to reach your family members? Complete a contact card for each family member and have family members keep them handy. Choose a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for household members to notify they are safe.

• Utility shut-off and safety: It’s important to know where the utility shut-off switches are located and how to shut off your electricity, gas, water, etc. in the event of an emergency. Make sure you are familiar with these utilities and how to handle them safely.

Caring for animals: Humans are the most visible victims of disasters, but pets are often affected, too. To plan for Fido and Fluffy, identify shelters in your area, gather pet supplies, ensure your pet has proper ID and up-to-date veterinary records, and keep a pet carrier or leash accessible.

This works as a general outline of an emergency plan, but it’s also important to cater your plan to your family’s needs. Many government agencies and websites have action plan kits you can print out and complete. Check out the FEMA and CDC websites.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Get Ready Day, Preparedness Month help people prepare for emergencies

A video launch, a preparedness pledge campaign, and games and giveaways at local events were hallmarks of a busy month for APHA’s Get Ready campaign, all to help people better prepare for emergencies.

APHA kicked off its participation in September’s National Preparedness Month by promoting the Get Ready Preparedness Pledge. The effort amassed thousands of pledges from people promising to get a flu shot, build a stockpile, create an evacuation plan or take other simple steps to be more prepared for a public health disaster. Pledge signers also shared Get Ready resources with others by posting information at their recreational center, doctor’s office or library.

APHA’s fourth annual Get Ready Day provided communities around the country an opportunity to spread the word about the importance of preparing for emergencies.
APHA promoted the Get Ready Event Guide (PDF) to help those interested in hosting their own Get Ready Day event, and released a new Get Ready viral video to help spread the preparedness word by giving a classic tale a new twist. Watch and share. Are you an ant or a grasshopper?
Closer to home, APHA's Get Ready team hosted a booth featuring games and giveaways at a preparedness festival for kids organized by the District of Columbia. The event drew 150 elementary and middle school students to learn about emergency planning and featured local emergency responders, including the departments of health and homeland security, police and fire units and the National Guard. APHA staff also took to the streets and set up a table in the plaza near the Association’s headquarters. During lunch hours, staff passed out information and freebies to remind local businesses and employees that emergency preparedness isn’t just for individuals and families; it’s also important to plan and practice for emergences in the workplace.
Visit our Flickr page to see some photos from the events. And mark your calendars because Sept. 19, 2011 — next year’s Get Ready Day — is right about the corner. Start planning today so you’re prepared for tomorrow!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Time to roll up your sleeves and soap up: It’s Global Hand-Washing Day!

Join hands — clean hands, that is — with people from around the world today and celebrate Global Hand-Washing Day.

Who knew that something as simple as washing your hands with water and soap can help prevent hundreds of diseases in your community? In fact, the United Nations says hand-washing is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and respiratory infections that take the lives of millions of children around the world every year.

Yet despite that fact, far too few people wash their hands with soap and water regularly. But you can help.

This year’s global campaign focuses on the importance of hand-washing among children and the role schools play in teaching about hand-washing. It highlights five key facts everyone should know:

• Washing hands with water alone is not enough. Using soap works to break down grease and dirt that carry most germs.

• Hand-washing with soap can prevent diseases that kill millions of children every year.

• The critical moments for hand-washing with soap are after using the toilet or cleaning a child and before handling food.

• Hand-washing with soap is the single most cost-effective health intervention.

• Children can be agents of change.

Get involved and check out the many games, lesson plans (PDF), videos and resources available on the Global Hand-Washing Day website.

And don’t forget to check out APHA’s Get Ready hand-washing handouts, available in English and Spanish, and our new frequently asked questions about hand-washing.

Roll up your sleeves, break out the soap and help spread the word about proper hygiene. Happy hand-washing!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Sheltering in place: Know when to stay put and what to do

During an emergency or a disaster, officials may advise you and your family to "shelter in place." But if you were given that instruction, would you know what to do?

A recent Q&A and podcast from APHA’s Get Ready campaign has the info you need to safely shelter in place during emergencies.

Darryl J. Madden, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready Campaign, spoke to the Get Ready staff and has the inside scoop. According to Madden, sheltering in place means "finding a very safe place to basically be in a stable environment while a particular emergency or event takes place." So it’s a good idea to have a location at home, work and school picked out ahead of time.

You may need to shelter in place for awhile, so Madden recommends you have a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water for each person and pet. If you are in a car and near home when the call to shelter in place is made, go home, Madden says. If that’s not an option, go to a public building or a store.

Other great shelter-in-place tips from Madden?
• Always stay informed. Pay attention to alerts from emergency officials and take action as advised.
• Be prepared early. Start assembling your basic emergency supply kit now.
• Find safe place. The best room for sheltering in place would generally be one that has no windows and is in the center of the building.
• Don’t forget to turn off the air handler and associated AC or heating units that use outside air, because they can bring contaminated air inside.

Want to know more? Read the full Q&A with Madden online or listen to the interview as a podcast.

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Friday, October 01, 2010

Whooping cough outbreak reminds us about importance of getting vaccinated, keeping up with boosters

In California this year, an outbreak of pertussis — also known as whooping cough — has led to the deaths of nine infants. More than 4,000 cases have been reported so far. Officials say it’s the worst outbreak in the state in 55 years.

The disease is characterized by coughing spells that end with a ‘whooping’ sound when someone who is sick breathes in. It’s easily spread, can be very serious and sounds like this.

The good news is that whooping cough is preventable. A simple vaccine — called DTap for children and Tdap for adults — can prevent it, and it’s the best defense. In fact, you can get protected against pertussis when getting your next tetanus and diphtheria booster shot. The Tdap vaccine will protect you from all three diseases. Consult your health care provider to learn what’s best for you.

And remember, even though you may have received your childhood vaccination against whooping cough, it doesn’t mean you are off the hook. Protection can fade over time, so check out the immunization schedule for children, teens and adults and make sure you and loved ones are safe. Booster shots are especially important for parents and caregivers, as they can unknowingly spread the infection to infants and children.

In addition to getting the vaccine, there are other steps to help protect yourself from whooping cough: wash your hands with soap and water — or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if hand-washing is not possible — and cover your nose and mouth when sneezing. These are tips that we should all practice daily to not only help prevent the spread of whooping cough, but to stay safe from other illnesses as well.