Friday, December 30, 2011

Resolve to be Ready in 2012

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has declared over 100 federal disasters in 2011 alone. This year we have seen the impact of tropical storms Maria and Lee, Hurricane Irene, wildfires in Texas, flooding, tornadoes, and even an earthquake that hit the nation’s capital. Even the media has put the threat of pandemics in the headlines with Warner Bros. Picture’s Contagion.

FEMA has outlined ways to keep your family, home, and workplace prepared for any type of disaster. Emergency preparedness is a new year’s resolution that will be easy to maintain with three easy steps:

             Make a family emergency plan
The holidays are the perfect time to discuss a family emergency plan. Having an outline of what to do during a chaotic time such as an emergency is the best tool you can be equipped with. You may want to include emergency contact information and places to go during a time of emergency. Don’t know where to start? Visit the Ad council to create your own family plan.  

Emergency supply kits are useful for both the home and the workplace. Making sure all the necessary items are in place PRIOR to a time of disaster puts you in the best position to combat the emergency. APHA’s Get Ready campaign offers a stockpile checklist in English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF).

Location is a factor that determines the risk for disaster and emergency. It is important to know what disasters and emergencies threaten your area and community specifically. Not only is the environment a threat, but disease and sickness are too. Keeping up with vaccines is another preparedness strategy for the unknown. You can also call the closest chapter of the American Red Cross for emergency information that applies to your community. Knowledge is power: know what you’re up against and prepare yourself and your family for the best chance of survival during an emergency.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Give the gift of blood and improve preparedness

Give a gift this holiday season that’s free, easy and saves lives: Donate blood.

In 2012, 4.5 million Americans will need blood, and for many recipients, it’s a matter of life and death. Blood shortages can make the need worse. Such shortages could be avoided if just 1 percent more Americans donated. One donation can help save the lives of up to three people.

After disasters such as hurricanes or other wide scale emergencies, health and emergency groups often put out calls for blood donors because of the sudden increase in need. Giving blood before a disaster strikes helps your community be more prepared.

Here are some tips for how you can help:

• Make an appointment with an organization such as the American Red Cross or find a blood center. They are often found at schools, companies, places of worship or community organizations.

• Before you arrive, drink extra water. You need to have fluid in your body or you might not feel well after giving blood. A couple of glasses of water will do the trick. Bring a list of medications you’re taking and a form of personal identification.

• Bring a friend. Going with someone will make the process more enjoyable, and if they donate, that’s potentially more lives saved.

• Make giving blood a new holiday tradition. With friends and family gathered together over the holidays, it’s an ideal time to encourage others to give blood.

Overall, just remember to relax. Donating blood is safe and healthy. Donating blood is one of the most important things you can do to help ensure the health and safety of your community. And it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don’t let your holiday celebrations turn to disaster: Preventing fires

For most people, the holidays are a time of family, celebrations and fun. But nothing puts an end to holiday merriment quicker than a house fire.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, almost 129,000 fires occur in December that require the fire department to come, with 72 percent of structure fires occurring in residential buildings. Oftentimes, holiday decorations play a role, as does home heating and cooking fires from holiday meals. And because some seasonal observances, like the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah or Kwanzaa kinara, involve candles, open flames add to risks.

Surprisingly, cooking fires top the list for holiday-related fires, causing 41 percent of them, says the U.S. Fire Administration. Cooking fires increase around Thanksgiving and peak in December. On any day in December, the percent of cooking fires is at about 3 percent. But such fires increase to 4.7 percent on Christmas Eve and 5.3 percent on Christmas Day.

New Year’s Eve and Day are also a risky time for fires. About 6,400 fires occur on an average New Year’s holiday, with 28 percent caused by fireworks. Cooking, heating and open flames are other common causes — and not a great way to start the new year.

Another holiday fire risk is a common decoration: The Christmas tree. As the saying goes, “A wet tree is a safe tree.” It may not be the most festive of holiday clichés, but it’s an important one.

A dry Christmas tree will fully ignite in a matter of seconds, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology,  and within 40 seconds, “flashover” will occur. Flashover is when an entire room becomes covered in flames, depleting oxygen and engulfing a room in deadly, toxic smoke.

Here are some quick tips for preventing holiday fires:

• When cooking, never leave food or equipment unattended. Keep combustible items like cookbooks, oven mitts or wooden spoons away from heat sources.

• Keep children away from holiday candles, fires and fireworks. The proportion of deaths caused by children playing with fire jumps to 26 percent in December.

• Never use candles to decorate a Christmas tree. Keep candles inside a one-foot circle away from anything combustible.

• Keep your live tree watered. Don’t place it close to a fireplace or lamps. Make sure your wiring is safe, and turn off tree decorations at night or when you’re not home.

• Keep space heaters and electrical wires away from combustible items.

• Double-check that all of your fire alarms are working and have batteries, and keep a fire extinguisher at home.

For more holiday fire safety tips, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Congratulations to the winners of APHA's 2011 Get Ready Video Contest!

APHA's Get Ready campaign announced the winners of its 2011 video contest in December. Three winners were named in the contest, which challenged students to raise awareness of emergency preparedness.

The video contest was open to U.S. students in sixth through 12th grades. Students were asked to produce a short original video that highlights an aspect of preparedness, such as creating an emergency kit or having an emergency plan. Entries were judged on creativity, originality, quality, overall appeal and success in conveying the importance of preparing for an emergency. The three winners took home cash prizes for their entries, with the top video earning $500.

“The goal of this year’s contest was to equip our next generation of public health advocates with the tools and knowledge they need to prepare their community for disaster,” said Alan Baker, MA, APHA’s interim executive director.

The winners were:

• First place: Lena Rutherford, a ninth-grader from Golden, Colo. Rutherford’s video highlighted three steps in being prepared: having an emergency supply kit, having an emergency plan and knowing the risks in your community.

• Second place: Bethany Wallach, an eighth-grader from Fort Mill, S.C. Wallach’s video highlighted common natural disasters to be ready for, such as hurricanes, tornados and power outages

• Third place: McKay Olson, a 10th-grader from Burlington, Wy. Olson’s video focused on being ready for natural disasters such as flooding and blizzards by having first aid kits and accessible drinking water.

Congratulations to our winners and to all of the students who entered the contest! Watch the videos now via the Get Ready website.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Get Ready Mailbag: Can I get sick from germs on my cellphone?

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 email to

Q: I know that dirty keyboards and doorknobs can pass along germs, but what about things like cellphones and iPods? Should I clean them, too? How often?

A: Dirty keyboards and doorknobs are just two of the sneaky culprits that can pass germs on to others. When a sick person coughs or sneezes and then touches objects, they can transmit their germs when others touch those same surfaces. Viruses such as flu germs can live on a surface for two to eight hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bacteria can present problems, too. While many are beneficial — think human digestion and soil decomposition — some can cause disease. They live most everywhere, including on your skin and in your body. In fact, more than 300 types of bacteria typically exist in a human mouth — a healthy one!

We are constantly coming into contact with germs, and usually they do not make us sick. But sometimes, if we’ve not been vaccinated against or exposed to a virus, or are not used to a certain type of bacteria — or if its population has grown too large — our immune systems are unable to fight off infection, and we end up feeling lousy.

Now think about all the places your cellphone, portable MP3 player or other mobile device goes: from the bottom of your gym bag and the cup holder in the car to a park bench and a table in a fast food restaurant. Ever text or take a call in the bathroom? That’s a lot of icky places. Mixed with the sweat and oil from your skin, and maybe a little spit, that thing is going to be dirty! And on top of that, things we carry on our person, like cellphones and iPods, tend to stay warm from our body heat. Bacteria love warmth and moisture. Given those conditions, they could grow and multiply more readily.

So to answer your question, yes! Cellphones and portable MP3 players can get germy. Keep yours clean and safe by wiping it down with rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer or an antibacterial wipe every few days. And think twice about where you use it, where you place it and who you share it with.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday travels: Don’t get sick when you travel overseas

With the holiday season now upon us, it’s important to reflect on your health and safety when traveling. Thanksgiving is typically the heaviest-traveled U.S. holiday, and kicks off the holiday travel season. While taking trips can be fun, it can also come with increased risk for diseases and illnesses, especially when visiting other countries.

Each year, thousands of Americans travel abroad to visit relatives or simply to get away. With this in mind, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  ecommends that people taking trips plan ahead and check for government recommendations on international travel immunizations well before leaving the country.

Having at least a basic understanding of what to look for and what to do if illness occurs is an important part of planning for trips. No one wants to get sick on a trip, but it’s important to be proactive. General symptoms to keep in mind include headache, fever, diarrhea and extreme fatigue.

If you feel sick while overseas and have access to the Internet, the Department of State’s Doctors and Hospitals Abroad website can help you find health care resources in the country you’re visiting. Remember to follow up with your primary doctor once back in the states.

Many illnesses can be avoided by following these simple tips:

• Wash your hands before eating, after using the restroom or petting animals and after handling food.

• Wear insect repellant for mosquito and tick protection.

• Only eat and drink water that has been properly handled or treated.

When traveling, remember to be proactive, be prepared and be protected — the three “Ps” of safe and healthy travel. Safe journeys!

Photo courtesy iStockphoto

Friday, November 18, 2011

Antibiotics save lives, but only when used properly

It’s Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, a week dedicated to promoting appropriate antibiotic use. Antibiotics save lives and help fight illness. But in recent years, we’ve seen growing biological resistance to antibiotics due to their overuse and misuse. This is a major problem.

An antibiotic is a medicine that kills bacteria or stops it from spreading. It treats bacterial infections, not viral infections. So if you have a cold or flu symptoms, antibiotics won’t work. Plus, taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists treatment.

If you are prescribed antibiotics, talk with your health provider about antibiotic resistance. Take it exactly as your doctor tells you, and complete the course even if you begin feeling better. If you don’t take all the pills and you stop treatment too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you.

Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, Nov. 14-20, aims to educate people, raise awareness about this growing health problem and provide tips for ensuring their safe use. Many organizations are participating in this effort, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work campaign, along with partners such as the American Public Health Association.

APHA’s Get Ready campaign offers a range of resources to help you stay safe and prevent the spread of disease. Simple things like washing your hands and knowing what materials to have on hand when dealing with emergencies can help you avoid getting sick.

Knowing the facts and staying healthy are the greatest weapons against bacterial infections. Get Smart About Antibiotics Week is a important way to help make sure you, your family and friends play it safe.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Do you have it in you? Enter the APHA Flu Near You Challenge today!

Today’s guest blog is co-authored by John Brownstein, PhD, and Mark Smolinski, MD, MPH. Brownstein is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of HealthMap, an online disease tracking tool. Smolinski is director for global health threats at the Skoll Global Threats Fund.

On Oct. 30, attendees at APHA’s 139th Annual Meeting were given a special treat after a screening of clips from the movie “Contagion.” The APHA Flu Near You Challenge was announced to a capacity crowd at a session featuring distinguished panelists Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of APHA, and Larry Brilliant, MD, MPH, president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund.

The Flu Near You Challenge, online at, invites APHA members to leverage their social networks to recruit dedicated users to help track the flu on Flu Near You, the nation’s first online, crowdsourced, open flu symptom surveillance system. A total of $150,000 in cash and other awards will be available during the challenge. The more people you recruit and the more weekly surveys they submit, the better your chances of winning a cash prize or award!

During the Annual Meeting, more than 200 APHA members stopped by the HealthMap booth in the Expo Hall and registered for the challenge. By the end of the meeting, more than 550 APHA members had registered, either in person or online. One lucky challenge registrant was the winner of an iPad at the meeting’s closing session on Nov. 2.

Recruiting Flu Near You users is easy. For tracking and recruiting purposes, each entrant receives a unique personalized link and a widget that can be pasted into emails and posted to social media platforms. Entrants can recruit anyone who resides in the U.S. and is at least 13 years of age to become a Flu Near You user. Users simply have to complete a weekly survey that takes just 10 seconds to fill out. Participating in Flu Near You is voluntary and all displayed data will be anonymous.

To see how you’re stacking up against other APHA members taking part in the challenge, watch the online challenge leaderboard. Remember that you can count your own Flu Near You surveys toward your individual and group prize total, so don’t forget to fill out your first survey ASAP.

Stay tuned for more tips and tools as well as updates on additional prizes. Do you have it in you? Don’t wait to join the APHA Flu Near You Challenge today!

Visit the APHA Flu Near You Challenge website for full details, including rules and regulations and frequently asked questions. APHA is also now accepting applicants for its Flu Near You Fellowship.

Photo: From left, Smolinski and Brownstein at the launch of APHA’s Flu Near You Challenge at the Annual Meeting

Friday, November 04, 2011

APHA’s Get Ready campaign says Set Your Clocks: Check Your Stocks with the time change on Nov. 6

Think back to the last emergency you experienced: It might have been one of this year’s many earthquakes, or a storm, hurricane or wildfire. You may have lost power, or have been forced to evacuate. When you pulled out your emergency supplies, were they all there and ready to be used?

For many people, the answer to that question is “no.” With the busyness of everyday life, it’s easy to forget about those things you only need once in awhile.

But when an emergency or disaster strikes, the last thing you want to find is that your stockpile of batteries has corroded, or that all your flashlights have gone missing. An emergency is not the right time to be running out to the store, and which in some cases, may put you in danger.

That’s why you should use this weekend’s clock change as a reminder to refresh your emergency supplies. When daylight saving time ends this Sunday and you go to change your clocks, take some time to check your emergency supplies as well. That’s the message of the Get Ready: Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks campaign.

Set aside a few minutes to see that everything you need is in your stockpile and that nothing has gone bad or leaked, such as food and water. Every American should have at least three days of food and water stored at all times, including one gallon of water per person per day. Your stockpile should also have basic supplies such as flashlights, batteries, a radio and first aid supplies. Other items, such as a battery-operated cellphone charger and lanterns, are also useful. Check out this Get Ready checklist (PDF) to see what you need to add to your supplies.

The Set Your Clocks: Check Your Stocks website is full of information you can use to build your emergency stockpile, or to encourage others to do so. Resources include PDF fact sheets on why it’s important to have emergency suppliesbudget stockpilingstockpiling for pets and water stockpiling.

You can even add your organization’s logo to the fact sheets and share them at community events.

Taking a few minutes this weekend to set your clocks and check your stocks can save you a headache or even worse later and keep you and your family safe. (And don’t forget to check your smoke alarm batteries!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Trick or treat: Remember to wash your hands

Trick-or-treating is a tradition for millions of Americans, but ghosts and goblins aren’t the only things you should prepare for. Have you ever thought about the number of people you come in contact with in just a few hours on Halloween?

Parents may be spooked about allowing their children to receive candy from strangers, but the dangers lurking from germs should be considered as well. Hand-washing is an important step to ensure a happy Halloween, especially now that flu season has arrived.

Children and adults should wash their hands both before and after trick-or-treating. Washing your hands is the best way to protect yourself and your family from scary germs, especially as winter and the holiday seasons approach. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tips on when and how to wash your hands properly for the best results. You can also learn more about soaping-up by visiting the Get Ready campaign’s hand-washing Web page to read frequently asked questions on hand-washing or to download one of our many hand-washing fact sheets in English or Spanish. You can even pass them out to trick-or-treaters.

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind this Halloween:

• Carry and use hand sanitizer while trick-or-treating for added protection.
• Remember to cover your mouth when sneezing, preferably by sneezing into your elbow.
• Wash your hands before opening and eating your treats.

These simple steps can help you and your family enjoy a happy, healthy Halloween.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tips for using social media in times of emergency

Facebook. Twitter. Texting. Social media has increasingly become a part of everyday life for many. But these tools can also be important during emergencies, from natural disasters to emergencies at home.

During a crisis, you can reach a lot of contacts and emergency providers by tweeting or posting on Facebook. You can keep them updated about how you’re doing and what you need. This is especially important if you can’t get to a phone, or if your phone lines are down or overloaded, but wireless still works as can happen during a disaster. Or maybe you are by a computer but can’t physically get to the phone, as happened to one man with muscular dystrophy during a house fire. He asked a fellow online gamer to call 9-1-1 on his behalf.

The communication can also go both ways. Relief workers can use social media to provide real-time updates on their work and local conditions or to provide advice, like how to care for your pets during a crisis or whether you should shelter in place.

Here are a few other ways to consider using social media to get help in an emergency:

• You can get emergency updates such as text messages if you “like” FEMA or your local emergency management agency on Facebook.
• If you text FOLLOW FEMA, or your local agency, to Twitter at 40404, you can get text message updates from anyone you’re following without a Twitter account.

• You can use GoogleMaps to create and share an evacuation route and meeting place with family and loved ones.
By uploading photos or videos of the emergency, you can affect the response. As Macon Phillips, director of new media at the White House and volunteer during Hurricane Katrina, said during a meeting of the America Red Cross, “One person can take a photo. One person can post a message…and it changes all our understanding of a situation immediately.”

And, of course, you should subscribe to the Get Ready Blog, Twitter and podcasts for ongoing preparedness tips.

Friday, October 14, 2011

¿Esta usted preparado para enfrentar desastres?

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month today's blog entry is an article by María-Belén Moran a Public Affaires Specialist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She is also a Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Trainer. To read the article in English, you can use an online translator

Imagínense que acaba de perder la electricidad en su vivienda, ya sea por un temblor, un tornado,la explosión de una fábrica, o una bomba. ¿Ahora que va a hacer? ¿Va a salir de su vivienda o quedarse en ella? ¿Tiene una linterna? ¿Velas? ¿Fósforos? ¿Una radio que funcione con baterías? ¿Tiene baterías? ¿Ud. o alguien en su familia toma medicamentos que necesitan refrigeración? ¿Si usa lentes, los tiene a la mano? ¿Tiene mascotas?

Toco madera, pero si un desastre ocurre sé que mi familia va a querer estar informada. En caso que la tecnología falle tenemos una radio a baterías en nuestro kit de emergencias. También tenemos linternas y baterías extras. Durante el verano hubieron lluvias muy fuertes en el estado de Georgia, donde vivimos, y pasamos muchas noches en el sótano. Tomamos agua, cenamos galletas con atún y mayonesa y verduras de lata. Lo que si nos faltó fue algo dulce de postre, así que desde entonces quiero poner chocolates en el kit, pero parece que la necesidad de chocolate es siempre una emergencia en casa. Otra cosa que debo añadir son juegos para distraernos así como una tarjeta para llamar al extranjero.

El tener un plan para emergencias nos ayuda en esas primeras horas en el que no sabemos muy bien que pasa, que pasará y por cuanto tiempo. Vivimos en una zona enla que pueden ocurrir tornados y sabemos que cuando escuchamos las sirenas tenemos que ir al sótano. Igual la incertidumbre no desaparece, pero como tenemos un plan, no hay órdenes conflictivas sobre que es lo que tenemos que hacer en ese momento.

Existen muchos recursos para ayudarlos a planear para las emergencias que puedan ocurrir en la región donde vive, como la de la Asociación Americana de Salud Pública (APHA) y su campaña de Get Ready. Es recommendable que también se familiarize con los planes de su ciudad. Acuérdese que los rescatistas van a enfocar sus esfuerzos en las zonas más afectadas y en los pobladores más perjudicados. Usted puede ayudarles a cumplir su heroica misión evitando que su familia se convierta en víctima.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Taking steps to protect your child’s health

Earlier this week, Child Health Day was marked around the nation. The celebration is a good reminder that we can all help kids live a lifetime of good health by promoting things like safety and disease prevention.

One way to help kids live a healthy life is through preparedness, including getting ready for infectious diseases such as the flu. Flu season is just around the corner, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children ages 6 months and older be vaccinated annually. The Get Ready campaign offers free fact sheets on why it’s important for your children and teens to receive their vaccinations.

Many drugstore and grocery stores now offer flu shots in their pharmacies, or you can use’s free online locator to find a flu clinic near you. Kids can also stay disease-free through regular and thorough hand-washing.

It’s also important to help kids be prepared for disasters and emergencies. Disasters can be scary for children, so it’s key to prepare them in advance for things that might happen. Check out the Get Ready campaign’s free child-level fact sheet for preparing kids for disasters or download our fact sheet aimed at parents.

Let’s help our kids get a safe and healthy start to life.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Get Ready mailbag: How can I stay healthy at high school?

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 email to

Q: I’m in high school. Everyone seems sick right now and I don’t want to catch it. What should I do?

A: When you share a campus with the same people for eight or more hours a day, it seems inevitable that you’ll end up sharing their germs, too. It’s easy to assume that if everyone around you in class is sneezing that it’s only a matter of time before you will be also. In fact, almost 22 million school days were lost last year because of colds. But, luckily, there are a few “dos and don’ts” you can follow to stay healthy at school.

On the “do” list:
• Wash your hands. The surfaces in a school — desks, doorknobs, keyboards, lunch tables, gym lockers — are touched by hundreds of hands each day, making them perfect places to pick up germs.

• Get your flu shot. If 22 million seemed like a big number, consider the fact that 38 million school days were lost last year because of the flu. Getting your yearly seasonal vaccine is a simple way to stay healthy during flu season.

• Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth — they’re the places where germs most often enter your body.

On the “don’t” list:
• Use someone else’s makeup. It’s an easy way to land a case of pinkeye, also known as conjunctivitis.

• Share drinks — or food, or lip balm, or anything else that goes in or around another person’s mouth. And on that note, be careful who you kiss!

Use common sense. That, along with good hygiene, should help protect against any sickness that’s infected your classmates. And finally, remember the golden rule and help others out if you do become sick by covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze, throwing away used tissues and staying home from school.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Text messages, feeds and podcasts to help keep you safe during an emergency

“There’s an app for that.” Sound familiar? With all that can be added to a cell phone or mobile device — from games and news updates to social networking and shopping apps — many of us can have a hard time taking a break from the screen.

But here’s some good news for those of you who are just a little too attached to your device: Your cell phone habit may be what keeps you safe during a disaster. 

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched its new emergency text messaging service to cut down on the time it takes for health and safety information to reach you and your family. The service features a list of 14 pre-written messages for situations ranging from storms to prescription drug problems to post-emergency cleanup. Each message comes with a short set of instructions, followed by a number to call and a link to more information. In the case of a power outage, for example, you can expect to see this:

“Keep generators 25 ft outside door/window. Don't grill inside. Fumes can kill. More info from CDC 800-232-4636.”

The text messages are available for download by state and local health agencies, which then send them out through their existing emergency message systems. In order to receive these messages, check with your state or local health authority to see if the service is available in your community, and make sure to register your phone number to receive updates.

For those of you who aren’t quite so attached to your cell phones, don’t worry. The messages are also available as podcasts and YouTube videos.

You can also subscribe directly to CDC’s emergency response and preparedness Twitter feed and the Get Ready campaign’s Twitter feed to get timely tips sent to your phone.

Your mobile device isn’t just for checking sports scores and connecting with friends. It may also be what helps keep you safe when disaster strikes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

School-based health centers help students, communities be prepared

Does your child’s school have a school-based health center? With more than 1,900 centers located on school grounds nationwide, chances are pretty good it does. School-based health centers are a great community resource, providing easy access to health services and information. More than 2 million kids and teens visit such centers each year.

School-based health centers are also a resource during health emergencies such as disease outbreaks. In 2009, when there was an outbreak of H1N1 flu that was making many Americans sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccines be provided on school campuses as a way to reach more kids quickly. The recommendation worked! Many school-based health centers that already provided routine flu vaccinations were easily able to give federally subsidized vaccines to students. In states like Maryland and Alabama, school-based health centers helped distribute vaccines to area schools. With their link to kids and teens, school-based health centers were able to help students stay healthy and not miss classes.

School-based health centers can also play a role in preparing for natural disasters. The U.S. Department of Education recommends that schools develop plans that spell out what to do in the case of a natural disaster or other emergency. Having a school-based health center work hand-in-hand with school staff to design and help launch an emergency plan can benefit students, schools and the community.

This year on Get Ready Day, Sept. 20, APHA’s Get Ready campaign encourag school-based health centers to hold Get Ready events. In fact, the school-based health center that has the best activity can win $500 from Get Ready. Now’s the time to start planning your event!
To learn more about school-based health centers, check out APHA’s Center for School, Health and Education or the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Mark your calendars for Get Ready Day, Sept. 20, 2011

It is that time of year again — when you, your family and your community have an opportunity to get ready for public health threats and emergencies. As we all know, disasters can strike at any time so here are some tools to help you prepare and make Get Ready Day on Sept. 20, 2011, a success.

There are many ways to get involved. Hold an event such as a preparedness fair, set up a booth on campus or distribute fliers in your community. No time for an event? Add a link to your website, sign our pledge or enter our Get Ready video contest. We have plenty of planning tips to help you get started. And we have lots of fact sheets, handouts and other resources to support your efforts, including a Get Ready Event Guide.

Not only is learning about how to prepare for emergencies important, but it can be fun too. Check out our Get Ready Games Guide made especially for kids. Educate yourself, loved ones and your community about emergency preparedness while figuring out brain teasers, connecting the dots, solving a crossword puzzle, competing in a memory game and more. Try them out and tell us which one is your favorite by commenting below.

Tell us about your activities via the Get Ready Calendar. Then after your event, share what you learned. Take pictures of your Get Ready Day activities or of you and your friends playing your favorite Get Ready games, and share the photos on APHA’s Flickr pool.

Preparing for emergencies may not be all fun and games, but keeping it enjoyable sure can help.

Good luck, have fun and prepare well!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Get Ready campaign offers tips to help seniors prepare for emergencies

Having preparations in place to get through disasters is important for everyone — but it becomes especially critical when you are older and may need special assistance because of impaired mobility or health.

The Get Ready campaign asked Jim Judge, a member of the American Red Cross’ Scientific Advisory Council and chair of its Disaster Health Subcommittee, for insights on how older Americans can stay safe and healthy during an emergency. Here are a few of his tips:

• Decide your shelter plan: Depending on the type of emergency, you may decide to “shelter in place,” staying put in your home until the situation passes. For seniors, however, a safer bet might be a special needs shelter, which is a community-operated facility with medical staff and equipment on hand. Some of these facilities may have services to transport people with wheelchairs or other mobility issues.

• Personalize your emergency kit: Make sure that you have extra glasses, hearing aids and batteries or other items that you may need to see yourself through the emergency.

• Get informed: Check out your local American Red Cross chapter and look up the emergency management services your community offers.

• Communicate with your senior living facility: All assisted-living communities and nursing homes are required by law to have an emergency plan. If you live in such a facility, ask to look over their plan to learn about their evacuation procedures and their preparations for food, water and medicine in case of disaster.

For more tips on senior preparedness, download a PDF of the free Get Ready fact sheet on the topic, which is available in English or Spanish.

Read the interview with Judge on the Get Ready website, or listen to it as podcast.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Double threats of earthquakes and hurricane mean it’s time to get ready

If you live on the East Coast this week, then you’ve become acquainted firsthand with Mother Nature’s bad side. With an earthquake on Tuesday and a hurricane threatening East Coast states in recent days, millions of Americans are taking a closer look at their emergency plans and wondering what they need to do. Here’s a quick rundown.
First off: Hurricane Irene. The National Weather Service issued hurricane warnings and watches yesterday for East Coast states stretching from North Carolina to New Jersey. Some areas have started to evacuate.

If you are threatened by a hurricane:
• Evacuate. Don’t put your life or your family in danger. Fill your car with gas at the first report of a possible storm or hurricane. Look up evacuation routes and shelter locations beforehand and be ready to go.
• If you don’t already, have an emergency supply kit ready with flashlights, medications, batteries, a radio, hand sanitizer, toiletries, cell phone charger, among other needs. (PDF)
• Don’t forget food and supplies for your pets. (PDF)
• If you have time, cover your home’s windows and doors with boards or heavy tape.
• Reach out to elderly neighbors to see if they are okay and have a way to evacuate.
• Watch out for flooding. Bring a map in case you have to take an alternate evacuation route.

While the attention now is on Hurricane Irene, earthquakes were the topic of conversation earlier this week, following the 5.8-magnitude earthquake in Virginia on Aug. 23. But it’s not just the East Coast that’s been rumbling. California, Colorado and Peru have had their share of earthquakes as well this week.

For those of you who aren’t used to all this ground shaking, here are a few quick tips:
• If you are near windows, glass or anything that might fall, move away when the shaking starts. If you are in bed when an earthquake occurs, stay there. If you are outside, move away from buildings and streetlights.
• That old advice to take shelter in a doorway is out of date. Emergency officials now advise that you should “duck, cover and hold” during an earthquake. Find something sturdy to hide under, crawl underneath and stay put until the earthquake is over.
• After an earthquake, check for gas leaks and shut off the main valve if you find one.
• Be ready for aftershocks, which often occur in the days after a quake.

For more information, download one of these preparedness fact sheets from APHA’s Get Ready campaign. And remember, you don’t have to wait for an emergency to get ready.

• Hurricanes: English PDF Spanish PDF
• Earthquakes: English PDF Spanish PDF
• Power outages: English PDF Spanish PDF
• Food and water safety during a disaster: English PDF Spanish PDF

Friday, August 19, 2011

Get Ready campaign holding contest for school-based health centers

For many people, back-to-school brings to mind images of new textbooks, supplies and a last-minute dash to finish up summer reading homework.

But here at the Get Ready campaign, we like to think that back-to-school preparedness means a whole lot more, such as being ready for emergencies and disasters. As such, we’re calling on school-based health centers to raise awareness of emergency preparedness among students via our new Get Ready contest.

For this year’s Get Ready Day, which takes place on Sept. 20, we’re inviting all school-based health centers to hold a preparedness event and then tell us what they did. We’ll choose the top three centers with the best events and award prizes of $500, $250 and $100.

Co-sponsored by the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care, the contest is open to all U.S. school-based health centers.

Just as there are many ways to get ready for emergencies, there are just as many ways to create a Get Ready Day event at your school-based health center. Here are a few ideas:
• Hang fliers on preparedness inside the health center or around the halls.
• Encourage students to take part in APHA’s Get Ready Day video contest.
• Hold a preparedness information fair and give away fact sheets and other materials from the Get Ready campaign.

For more ideas, check out the contest website, or come up with your own! Events can take place on Get Ready Day or any time during September, which is also National Preparedness Month.

After your event is over, write up a description of what you did, including the goal of the event, who organized it, how many people it reached, what it accomplished and your contact information. Photos and artwork are encouraged! Send us ( your submission by Oct. 10.

And remember: While Get Ready Day is just 24 hours, emergency preparedness is important 365 days of the year!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Students: Get Ready for APHA’s Video Contest.

How would you motivate your family, friends and classmates to get ready for an emergency? APHA’s Get Ready campaign wants students to turn their answers to that question into a short public service video on emergency preparedness. APHA will be awarding $850 in prizes for the best entries in its first Get Ready Video Contest.

The contest, which is open to students in grades six through 12, encourages budding filmmakers to create a video on any of the topics covered by APHA’s Get Ready campaign. For example, videos may address preparing for tornados, earthquakes or other natural disasters. Additional ideas include getting ready for flu or a disease outbreak, assembling an emergency preparedness kit or preparing for an emergency at school.

Video contest submissions will be accepted starting Sept. 1 and end Oct. 14. Videos can be up to a minute long and creativity is encouraged. Make sure to read the complete rules and regulations before you send in your video. All participants must sign a release form.

Even if you aren’t a future Sofia Coppola or Steven Spielberg, you can get involved emergency preparedness in other ways. Consider holding a Get Ready Day event at your school on Sept. 20 as part of National Preparedness Month. Ideas and tips for holding an event are available online now!

Friday, August 05, 2011

National Immunization Awareness Month: No time like the present to get up to date on your vaccinations

Almost no one likes getting a shot, but no one enjoys getting sick either. So as you prepare for school, work or another daily activity, take the time to make sure your day will be a healthy one. There’s no better time than the present.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, the perfect opportunity to make sure that you and your loved ones are protected. To get started, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website to get schedules for when infants, children, adolescents and adults should get recommended immunizations. Then verify if any other vaccines are required by employers, schools or other officials in your state.

CDC has many resources to answer parents’ questions about vaccines and address common immunization myths. If you’re planning any travel abroad, find out which vaccines you’ll need before visiting other countries

Certain vaccines are not for everyone. If you have a health condition, allergy or illness, check to see if a particular shot is right for you. Of course, you should consult your doctor as well. 

If you do not have health insurance or cannot afford a vaccination, look for a federally funded health center in your area. Additionally, certain children may be eligible for free vaccinations through CDC’s Vaccines for Children Program. Learn if your child qualifies, where to get the immunizations and what vaccines are covered.

The spread of disease can depend on how many people are immunized. Getting your immunizations is important to ensure that you and your whole community stay healthy!         

Friday, July 29, 2011

New fact sheets from Get Ready just in time for National Preparedness Month

With both Get Ready Day and National Preparedness Month just weeks away, now is the time to start gathering materials to use at your preparedness events.
Luckily, APHA’s Get Ready campaign has you covered. The campaign offers more than 50 fact sheets on everything from natural disasters to hand-washing — and almost all of them are also in Spanish.

Even better, the Get Ready campaign debuted more than two dozen new free fact sheets in recent weeks on timely preparedness topics. The PDF materials are perfect to hand out at community events, on campus or at work — or to share with those you care about.

Fact sheets from the Get Ready campaign also offer a perk you won’t find many other places: Personalization with your logo. The campaign provides easy-to-follow instructions on how to add your logo using Word or Acrobat.

The new fact sheets focus on topics such as:

• Natural disasters: Disasters such as volcanoes, landslides, tornadoes, hurricanes and tsunamis are hard to predict. So these new fact sheets tell you how to get ready in advance. They’re a great addition to the other Get Ready fact sheets on disasters, such as heat waves, floods and winter storms.

• Personal preparedness: Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own safety. That means avoiding infectious diseases spread by mosquitoesstaying safe at large events and knowing what to do if there is a nuclear or radiological disaster. Two of the new fact sheets are aimed just at seniors and schools.

• Indoor preparedness: Disasters and emergencies often happen while you’re inside, so several of the new fact sheets address that setting. Check out the fact sheets on home disasterssafe buildingssheltering in place and food and water safety for tips.

Get Ready Day is Sept. 20 and National Preparedness Month will be observed throughout September. Head to the Get Ready fact sheet page now and make plans to raise awareness in your community!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Only you can prepare for wildfires

In the wise words of Smokey Bear, “only you can prevent wildfires.” Smokey and his catchphrase have helped teach generations of Americans about fire safety, still an important task as every year more than four out of five wildfires are caused by people. Knowing how to prevent and be prepared for a wildfire can help keep you safe.

Wildfires can occur anywhere, and often at a moment’s notice, so it’s important to be prepared. At the same time, it is helpful to know if your area is prone to wildfires or at high risk, such as living in an area with a lot of plant life or somewhere that has severe droughts. 

At home, you can take steps to reduce your risk of wildfires by clearing plants from around your house; cleaning your gutters, roof and chimney; and using flame-resistant materials on your roof. There are also steps you can take if you know a fire is approaching, such as moving materials away from the house that may burn and shutting off the gas.

Firefighters battle a wildfire in Florida in
1998. (Photo by Liz Roll, courtesy FEMA)
Because wildfires are so unpredictable, it’s important to plan ahead. At home, you should install smoke detectors on every floor and regularly change the batteries to make sure that they are working. In addition, place emergency phone numbers by every phone in your home and program them into your cellphone.

It’s also important to discuss an evacuation plan with members of your household about where and how you will meet if there is a fire outbreak. Have an emergency preparedness kit on hand with essential supplies such as a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food, a flashlight and a battery-operated radio. This way, if there is an emergency, you will be ready to leave right away. Never ignore an advisory to evacuate if local authorities issue one.

If you are trapped inside your home during a wildfire, stay inside and away from outside walls. Close doors, but leave them unlocked. If you are in a car near a wildfire, it’s best to stay in your car. Roll up your windows, close the vents and drive slowly.

For more information on how to prevent wildfires and how to handle them if they occur, check out the American Red Cross or websites.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Prescription drugs during a disaster

When it comes to getting through a disaster, there are a few basic things that everybody needs — food supplies, water, a place to stay.

But for many people, those three things aren’t enough to safely weather an emergency. Another lifesaving basic, medicine, is often hard to come by during a disaster, turning an already bad situation into something more dangerous.

Luckily, a new program called Rx Response is working to solve that problem, acting as a central point of communication for governments, response teams, pharmacies and patients to make sure that prescription medication stays available and accessible in times of emergency.

Rx Response doesn’t deliver medicines to patients or write prescriptions, instead, the program helps “minimize barriers hindering the supply of medicines.” It also offers tools to help you get your medicine during a disaster.

For example, in the event of a disaster, the Rx Response site activates its pharmacy status reporting tool, which includes a searchable map of pharmacies in your area, color-coded to show which are reporting problems and which ones remain open. Live reports during a disaster show how medical supplies in your area are affected.

The program’s website also includes a form that you can use to print your own wallet-size card that lists your prescriptions. Keep this in a place that’s easy to reach for when you might suddenly need it, and consider sending a copy to a friend or relative as well.

There are other steps you can take to keep yourself and your family supplied with disaster essentials. Stock up on over-the-counter medicines and first aid supplies for your emergency kit and include extra doses of prescription medicines as well.

Remember, one of the biggest parts of staying safe is staying healthy — in any situation!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Lyme disease: What everyone should know

Today’s guest blog is by Monica Gaidhane, MD, MPH, who is associate editor of the International Journal of Collaborative Research on Internal Medicine & Public Health and a member of the Virginia Public Health Association.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted to humans by the bite of blacklegged, or deer, ticks. About 20,000 cases are reported annually in the United States. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania reported some of the highest number of cases in 2008.

People infected with Lyme disease often complain of several symptoms, although not everyone will have them all. One of the first signs of infection is a circular rash called erythema migrans, commonly known as the bulls-eye rash. It appears in about 70 percent to 80 percent of infected people and begins at the site of a tick bite. Infected people may also complain of fever, fatigue, headache and pain in the muscles and joints. If left untreated, an infected person may show severe symptoms, including loss of muscle tone on the face — known as Bell’s Palsy, severe headache, neck stiffness, dizziness and shooting pains.

Lyme disease can be successfully cured with antibiotics if treatment is given early in the course of illness. However, a small number of infected people can have some symptoms that can last from months to a few years. Hence, it’s important to avoid getting bitten by infected ticks and preventing infection.

Some prevention tips include:
Avoid traveling or extensive exposure to known tick habitats, such as wooded, brushy or grassy areas. 
• Take extra precautions in May, June and July, when infected ticks are most active.
• Call your local health department about tick-infested areas to avoid.
• Wear appropriate clothing and check your skin and clothes for ticks every day.
• If bitten by a tick, remove them by grasping them firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and lifting gently. Ideally, ticks should be removed within 24 hours.
• Apply pesticides to control ticks around your home.
• Although deer are not infected when adult ticks feed on them, they are important in transporting ticks and maintaining tick populations. Construct fences to discourage deer from entering your property.

So whether you are hiking, camping or just strolling in the park, remember to protect yourself from tick bites to remain Lyme disease-free.

Photo credit: Public Health Image Library

Friday, July 01, 2011

Bring on the heat! How to stay safe this summer

Picnics, swimming and barbecues are a few of the activities summer brings. But it also brings heat. While a hot, sunny day may be welcome (with enough sunscreen, of course) extreme heat can be uncomfortable and sometimes deadly.

In fact, heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer, causing about 350 U.S. fatalities a year. Even though summer has just started, some parts of the country have already experienced record-setting hot days.

When temperatures hit their peak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests:

• taking care of seniors, infants and children, and people with chronic medical conditions who are more likely to get heat stress;

• staying in air-conditioned places as much as possible, such as shopping malls, public libraries and heat-relief shelters sponsored by your local public health agencies; and

• drinking cool, non-alcoholic beverages and increasing your fluid intake.

Before heading outside, always check the forecast. The National Weather Service issues advisories about excessive heat, including a heat outlook that warns of the potential for an excessive heat event in the next three to seven days. In fact, the forecast for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend is that many parts of the East and Midwest U.S. will have temperatures in the 90s.

APHA’s Get Ready campaign has a free fact sheet with even more tips on getting ready for heat waves in English or Spanish that you can read and share in your community.

Staying informed and using common sense can help you make the most of your summer. Better yet, take the time now to know the dangers of extreme heat and get ready for a heat emergency before the sizzle starts.

Graphic courtesy iStockphoto

Friday, June 24, 2011

Take time to create a household emergency preparedness plan

Nature has taught us that we never know when to expect the next hurricane, earthquake or tornado. Recent disasters serve as a reminder of how important it is to have a household emergency preparedness plan.

If you haven’t created a household plan, now is the time to put one together. Make sure you are aware of the potential disasters that could occur where you live and how they can affect your household.

Your household emergency preparedness plan should include:
• Contact numbers, including an out-of-town contact, in case phone service is unavailable in your area.

• A designated meeting location in case you and your household are separated.

• An emergency stockpile, including food, water, batteries, flashlights and other supplies. If you have already prepared an emergency stockpile, take time to replace any items that have expired.

• Evacuation routes and maps.

To make things easier, you can create and print a Comprehensive Family Emergency Plan, compliments of the federal Ready campaign and Ad Council.

Do you have a stockpile in place in case of a public health emergency? Let us know via the Get Ready Poll, on our blog now!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Help dad stay safe this Father’s Day

Father’s Day is right around the corner, on Sunday, June 19. Instead of the usual shirt and tie, why not try a new gift idea? You can help dad and the rest of the family stay safe from emergencies by creating or purchasing a disaster preparedness kit.

Emergency preparedness kits are perfect for the home, car or office and can be uniquely tailored to the threats in your community. Emergency preparedness kits can be purchased from local retailers, from the American Red Cross or online, and can cost from $20 to $60 or more, although individual items in the kits may cost as little as $1.

If you want to show dad how much you love him by making your own kit, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency or websites for a list of items to include, or download a stockpile checklist from APHA’s Get Ready campaign (PDF). Basic emergency preparedness kits include a flashlight, radio, batteries, personal hygiene items, nonperishable food, a can opener and water. It is a good idea to include blankets and gloves too. The general rule of thumb is to have enough food and water to last at least three days.

Training materials, books, DVDs, radios and first aid kits also make great gifts that can be purchased from the American Red Cross and others. Or dad may enjoy receiving a T-shirt or hat from APHA’s Get Ready campaign.

A national holiday since 1972, Father’s Day is slated as a time to honor dads and to recognize the importance of fathers. Show him how much you care by helping him and your family stay safe.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Preventing disasters and emergencies at home

Whether you live in a sprawling mansion or a one-room studio, Dorothy said it best, “there’s no place like home.”
Homes are places of security, but sometimes danger is lurking around the corner. June is Home Safety Month, which makes it the perfect time to assess your home and prepare your family for a disaster. It’s also a time to reflect on ways to make your home a safer environment. With the right equipment and planning, many of the disasters and emergencies that happen at home can be prevented.

Home safety is a serious issue. According to the National Fire Protection Association, four out of five U.S. fire deaths in 2008 occurred in the home. But taking small steps has a huge impact. Having a working smoke alarm cuts the risk of death from a house fire by 50 percent. Being prepared is important to keep your family safe at home.

Planning ahead may seem like a long, hard task. But, fear not, the Get Ready campaign has created a free home safety fact sheet in both English and Spanish to help you. Download the fact sheet for useful tips on how to make your home a safe haven and learn about the dangers of fires, radon and carbon monoxide. Share these preparedness pointers with those in your community and encourage them to assess their homes for safety.

For even more great information, the Home Safety Council and National Safety Council have additional useful tips on keeping your home safe.

Remember: June is a kickoff to home safety, but it’s vital to practice safety all year long!

Photo Courtesy: iStockphoto

Friday, June 03, 2011

Preparing for a zombie invasion, and attracting interest in preparedness

We all know it’s important to be prepared for emergencies like tornadoes, winter storms and earthquakes. But what about a zombie apocalypse? Turns out there is quite a lot of interest in the subject.

On May 16, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted a blog entry on preparing for a zombie invasion, attracting more than a million page views in just a few days. The Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Guide, originally posted on the Public Health Matters Blog, was so popular that the server crashed and the post was relocated. Major news outlets such as CNN picked up the story, sending even more people to the guide.

Posted by U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Ali Khan, the zombie guide uses a light approach to emergency preparedness, noting that readers might scoff at the likelihood of a zombie invasion “but when it happens, you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.”

Public health workers will be happy to know that if hordes of reanimated corpses do begin lurching through the streets, “CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak” and “provide technical assistance to cities, states or international partners dealing with a zombie infestation,” according to the blog post.

Amidst the references to classic zombie movies and possible zombification causes, the post provides honest-to-goodness real-world emergency preparedness advice, such as the need to plan an evacuation route, identify emergency contacts and pick a meeting place for your family. Sound advice, whether you’re dealing with the advance of the brain-eating undead or with an approaching hurricane.

“People who read the blog actually are going out to get an emergency kit and make an emergency plan,” Khan was quoted as saying in an article published by the Wall Street Journal. “This has been off the charts.”

The zombie guide has inspired widgets, badges and other Web tools that fans can use. It even spawned a video contest, details of which will be posted on the CDC website.

It just goes to show that couching emergency preparedness advice in a fun way can attract more attention than the standard staid format. (But as a regular Get Ready Blog reader, you knew that already, right?) And when a high-profile government agency uses such an approach, it can reach a much broader audience.