Friday, December 31, 2010

Don’t drop the ball: Resolve to be ready in 2011

This year brought the Gulf oil spill, a pandemic flu outbreak, earthquakes, record-breaking winter storms and a halt to air travel in Europe because of volcanic ash. If anything, these events underscore that emergencies will happen. But you can help your family make a New Year’s resolution they can keep by resolving to be ready in 2011.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has tools and resources to help prepare your family, workplace, school and community for emergencies and disasters. Tools are available in both English and Spanish and include everything from online widgets and logos to printable toolkits.

The FEMA campaign focuses on three simple steps:
Get a kit. Whether it’s for your home, office or car, emergency kits are the best way to be prepared in case of emergencies or disasters. Visit FEMA’s website for an emergency supply kit checklist. APHA’s Get Ready campaign also offers a stockpile checklist in English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF).

Make a plan. Take some time this holiday season to talk with your family and loved ones about creating an emergency preparedness plan. Things to consider when creating your plan include emergency contact information, communication plan and meeting locations. Print out your own family emergency plan by visiting the Ad Council’s website.

Be informed. Learn more about the potential emergencies in your area and how to prepare for them. And remember, not all emergencies are due to weather: Protect your family and community from potential disease outbreaks by keeping up with your vaccinations.
Taking simple steps in your home, workplace and community can make a big difference in your safety in times of emergencies. Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere so this year, give the gift of preparedness and resolve to be ready!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Now’s a great time for a holiday food drive

With so many people in a generous mood at this time of year, the holidays are a popular time for food drives. So how about using some of your spare time this holiday season to hold your own drive? Not only will it help your neighbors in need, it will help your community food bank be more prepared in case of a disaster or emergency.
The free Get Ready Food Drive Toolkit (PDF)has everything you need to know to plan and hold your food drive, from picking a location to delivering the contributions. It’s also full of great ideas you can use to make your food drive a success. Among the ideas:

• Work with a grocery store: Get in touch with your local grocery store and ask if you can set up a donation site at the store. Pass out shopping lists of things your food bank needs to customers as they enter the store.

• Incentivize your food drive: Incentives can fuel your food drive. If the drive is at your place of business, talk to your human resources department to see if you can offer workers a casual dress day if they contribute to your food drive.

• Make it a competition: Competitions excite people, so make your food drive a
contest. If you’re holding the food drive at your school, make it a competition between grades or homerooms with the winner earning a pizza party or other recognition.

• Fill a bag with food: Encourage people to give more by asking them to fill a bag. Provide paper bags with instructions on what is needed and where and when to return filled bags.

• Stuff a truck: Some food drive organizers challenge givers to “stuff a truck.” Participants are encouraged to bring their donations to a specific location where a truck is parked, with the goal of providing a truckload to the food bank.

• Hold a raffle: Encourage people to give by offering them a chance at getting something in return through a raffle. The more food they donate, the more tickets they receive. Ask local businesses to donate prizes for the raffle, such as store gift cards.

• Start small: If you don’t have time to hold a community-wide food drive, do something small. If you’re having friends over for New Year’s Eve, ask them to bring a few canned goods for the food bank instead of wine. If you live in an apartment, ask the building manager if you can put a contribution box in the lobby with a sign.

Looking for more tips for a great food drive? Read our Q&A with Molly McGlinchy, food resources coordinator for the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C., or listen to the interview as a podcast.

With a little bit of creativity and help from the Get Ready Food Drive Toolkit, your event will help deliver some of that famous holiday cheer to those who may need it most.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Good hand-washing habits help lead to good health

Today’s guest blog is by Brian Crowe, executive director of the National Association of Child Care Professionals. The American Public Health Association’s Get Ready campaign and the National Association of Child Care Professionals are raising awareness of the importance of hand-washing through a collaboration sponsored by the Colgate-Palmolive Company.

Making certain children are healthy throughout the year is a vigilant task for parents and child care providers alike. Toddlers, on average, will touch 300 surfaces within 30 minutes and can typically receive six to eight colds per year. Across the United States, there are approximately 22 million school days missed per year, which impacts not only children who attend school, but working parents who subsequently must provide care at home while they are ill.

Some of the best ways to avoid getting sick and achieve better health are through a good healthy diet, drinking lots of fluids, getting plenty of rest each night and making certain children receive their required inoculations. Perhaps the most effective means of preventing the spread of sickness is through teaching children good health through good habits.

The most practical habit is washing hands with warm water and soap, cleaning the tops, bottoms, in between fingers and under fingernails for a minimum of 20 seconds. This should be done several times per day to ensure cleanliness. The American Public Health Association, along with Softsoap and the National Association of Child Care Professionals, is helping to promote this message through a unique product developed by Softsoap. The product is a small timer that is affixed to the top of a liquid soap dispenser and activated as soap is pumped. The timer then plays music for 20 seconds. Children are encouraged to thoroughly wash their hands while the music plays, and once the music stops, they have effectively washed their hands.

Good health through good habits is something we can all enjoy. Join APHA, Softsoap and NACCP in their commitment to minimize sickness this cold and flu season. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

The National Association of Child Care Professionals,, is based in Austin, Texas. For more hand-washing tips, visit the Get Ready hand-washing website.

Friday, December 10, 2010

National Influenza Vaccination Week: It’s not too late to protect yourself from flu

Everybody loves a gift exchange at the holidays, but significantly fewer of us, if we had a choice, would be interested in a germ exchange. And yet, at this time of year, when we’re hugging long-lost family, convening at the punch bowl and smooching under the mistletoe, germs are along for the party.You might not be able to stop every germ, but there’s one you can take extra precaution against: the flu.

Every year, millions of Americans get the flu. The aches, the pains, the clogged-up head and the upset stomach — and that’s if you’re lucky. The flu can be deadly, even for relatively healthy people. And yet despite the fact that the vaccine offers a pretty good chance to avoid the flu, many people don’t get their vaccinations.

That can change this year. This week — Dec. 5-11 — was National Influenza Vaccination Week. Cities and municipalities around the country are holding vaccination clinics and promotional activities. Check to see if your town is on the list.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that the number of flu cases is beginning to climb, especially in states in the South and Northeast, including Georgia and New York.

The peak of the flu season varies from year to year — it can happen any time from November to March. It’s not too late to get a flu vaccination, so just go do it.
Flu vaccinations — whether administered via shot or inhaled nasally — are available at many large pharmacy chains and at doctor’s offices and some insurance plans will pick up all or part of the cost. Medicare Part B also covers the flu shot.
Sure, nobody likes a shot. But isn’t a little poke in the arm (or sniff up the nose) worth it to know that this holiday season you’ll be protected?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Money and disasters: What to know to be ready to go

If you had to run out the door right now with only what’s in your purse or wallet to keep you going for the next few weeks or months, how would you do? Would you have enough cash to get by if your ATM card or credit cards didn’t work? Would you be able to access your financial information online without your passwords or account numbers?

In the event of a disaster or emergency, it’s important to think about not only the safety of yourself, your family and your property, but also your ability to access financial information. Chances are, though, you may not have time to look for your checkbook (if you even have one) or make copies of your records. That’s why you should organize your financial information beforehand. Some of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself for an emergency are to gather these important items in a safe, secure place:

• Forms of identification: If you have to evacuate, make sure you have your driver's license, insurance card, Social Security card, passport and birth certificate. Such documents will be crucial if you or your family need to rebuild lost records or otherwise prove to a government agency, a bank or other business that you are who you claim to be.

• Cash: In times of disaster, ATMs and banks can be affected, and many times ATMs may not be functioning, especially if there is widespread power loss. So it’s important to have some cash stored away in a safe place.

• ATM cards, debit cards and credit cards: If ATMs and electronic payment systems are working during a disaster, these cards can give you access to cash and help you pay your bills — or buy food, gas and shelter. ATM and credit cards usually require personal identification numbers, so make sure you know those numbers even in times of high stress.

• Important account numbers: Also key to bring with you are important account numbers, including bank and brokerage account numbers, credit card numbers and homeowner's or renter's insurance policy numbers. It’s also a good idea to copy the front and back of your credit cards. If you have phone numbers for customer service on your accounts, make a copy of those as well.

After you've gathered your most important financial items and documents and made backup copies, put them in a safe, secure place that you can easily access in a hurry. Consider giving copies to trusted friends or family, or at least let them know where to find your records in an emergency.

Knowing what’s in your wallet — and ensuring access to important personal and financial information — could save you a bundle of worries should disaster strike.