Friday, March 25, 2011

Emergencies remind us why we should keep a food stockpile

The recent emergencies in Japan devastated communities, forced many residents to flee and many others to shelter in place. Closer to home, the National Weather Service forecasts that almost half of the United States is at risk for spring flooding. These crises are stark reminders of the importance of being prepared and having an emergency food stockpile at the ready. But are some foods better to pack in your emergency kit than others?

When stocking a food supply kit for an emergency, it is easy to end up over-packing and adding just about everything but the kitchen sink. So think carefully when loading up your kit. Ask, are these foods I will eat? Will they expire soon? Am I accounting for any food allergies? Have I packed for my pets?

It’s best to choose low-sodium foods when preparing your kit. Foods high in sodium will make you thirstier and you will end up drinking more of your water supply. If you love pretzels, opt for those with no salt. They might not be as tasty, but it will save water in the long run. Many foods today offer a low-sodium version so take note of the packaging when choosing products.

Here are some foods that are low in sodium or come in a low-sodium option:

• Pudding cups
• Canned vegetables and fruits
• Crackers and pretzels
• Peanut butter
• Jelly
• Hard candy
• Granola bars
• Trail mix

FEMA has a disaster supplies checklist that you can print out and use when preparing your stockpile. APHA’s Get Ready campaign also offers a grocery shopping list along with some handy recipes.

When preparing for the unexpected, be sure you have a supply of food at the ready. And remember to plan for family members with special diets or allergies such as infants, ill or elderly loved ones, and pets. Stick to low-sodium options when possible. And before you close up your kit, don’t forget to throw in a manual can opener and utensils. When you’re hungry and in the dark, you’ll be glad you did.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Get Ready Mailbag: Can my pets make me sick?

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: I am the lucky owner of Douglas and Evie, and world’s sweetest dog and cat. They are very dear to me and I love them like crazy. But sometimes I wonder, can my pets make me sick?

A: Being a pet owner can be so rewarding, and you’re not alone in your love for them. And studies have shown that owning pets can make people happier and healthier. A National Institutes of Health study of people who’d suffered heart attacks showed that dog owners were more likely than their non-dog owner counterparts to still be alive one year later.

But kisses and happiness aren’t all your pets can give you. Cats, dogs, small mammals and even reptiles can carry bacteria and parasites that can make humans ill.

Rabies is probably the best-known disease that can be transmitted from animals to people. Dogs and cats can be infected with rabies if they’re bitten by a wild animal, such as a raccoon, and can then infect humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keeping pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations will help prevent the spread of the disease, CDC says.

Other diseases that can be transferred from animals to people include Lyme disease, which can be transmitted by a tick that a dog may carry in from outside, and several types of worms, which can be present in dog and cat feces.

Pregnant women who own cats need to be especially careful about toxoplasmosis, a disease that can affect fetuses and cause serious problems, including miscarriage. CDC advises pregnant women not to handle cat litter and, if possible, to have another person clean out the cat’s litter box just to be safe. Another tip? Keep your cat inside. Cats that go outdoors and eat mice or other small animals are more likely to catch the disease.

Finally, while dogs and cats might be among the most popular pets, they’re not the only animals we keep in our homes, nor are they the only ones that can harbor disease. Parrots and parakeets can carry a bacteria that can cause psittacosis, which can be inhaled when bird droppings enter the air. If you have a bird, keep an eye out for symptoms, which can include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a dry cough.

And small reptiles such as lizards, snakes and turtles often have salmonella bacteria on their skin. CDC advises that people wash their hands well after coming in contact with reptiles.

Pets bring great joy into our lives. By taking some basic steps to keep your animals healthy, you’ll also be helping protect yourself.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunamis a risk along coasts, beaches worldwide

APHA and the Get Ready campaign extend their sympathies to people affected by today’s earthquake and tsunami. To help, see the bottom of this blog.

This morning’s earthquake in Japan and the ensuing tsunami are a tragic reminder of the consequences of such disasters. The tsunami, which has had devastating effects in Japan, has impacted countries thousands of miles away, from the United States to Costa Rica to New Zealand.

Tsunamis are rare, especially here in the United States, but are not unheard of. In 1964, a tsunami that started after an earthquake in Alaska caused 10- to 20-foot waves along the California, Oregon and Washington coasts, killing 15 people.

That’s why its always best to be prepared. If you live on or are visiting a coastal area, be aware that you could be at risk.

Familiarize yourself with the signs of a tsunami, which commonly occur following an earthquake. If an earthquake occurs far away, coastal residents can have hours to evacuate. But if an earthquake occurs near the coast, there may not be much time for official warnings. That’s what happened in 2004, when a quake off the coast of Indonesia triggered a massive tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people.

So if you are at the beach or coast and feel the earth shake, move immediately to higher ground — do not wait for a tsunami warning. Listen to the radio, tune into the news and follow instructions given by emergency personnel. Always, always heed warnings to evacuate. In fact, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with evacuation routes long before a tsunami occurs, even if you are just visiting an area. If you live in a coastal area, check to see if your community has a tsunami plan, or is part of the federal Tsunami Ready preparedness program.

The U.S. Geological Survey is a good resource to check to see if a tsunami has been recorded or is on the way. For forecasting, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has up-to-date warnings.

Your best bet? Realize that the risk of a tsunami is real, and remember to think ahead when heading to the coast, wherever you may be.

International relief and charitable organizations are accepting donations to help people affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, including Global Giving. To donate to Red Cross quake relief, text redcross to 90999 to make a $10 donation. For information about people missing in the earthquake or tsunami, see the American Red Cross website.

Daylight saving time begins March 13: Use the reminder to check your emergency supplies

It’s just three months into the calendar year, and the federal government has already made eight major disaster declarations. From severe weather and storms to flooding and mud flows, such events show that you can never really be sure when the worst will happen.

That’s why it’s so important that you have emergency supplies ready year-round — before a disaster occurs. When you’re sitting in the dark without power or can’t wash your hands because the water is out, you’re going to be thankful for those supplies that you’ve set aside.

It’s a message that’s often repeated, especially by us here at the Get Ready campaign. But if you’re like a lot of people, you may not have gotten around to putting your stockpile together. Or even if you have, you may not have checked on it lately to make sure your batteries are still fresh, or that your food hasn’t gone bad. A friendly little reminder would help, right?

Luckily, that’s where the Get Ready campaign comes in. Twice a year, when it comes time to change the clocks for daylight saving time, the Get Ready: Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks campaign is here to remind you to pay attention to your stockpile. To help you out, we’ve created free materials that tell you why you need a stockpilewhat to include in your supplies and more.

Visit the Get Ready: Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks webpage to download the info, available in both English and Spanish, and follow these tips to get started:

• Set aside a three-day supply of food and water at home for emergencies, and don’t touch it. For water, you will need at least one gallon per person per day.

• Make sure your stockpile has all the basics, including flashlights, batteries, a radio, first aid supplies and a manual can opener. Battery-operated lanterns and cell phone chargers are a plus.

• To stockpile on a budget, pick up one or two items each time you go to the store. Or visit a bulk grocery store and split your supplies with a preparedness buddy.

• Don’t forget your pets when creating your stockpile. They will need their own food and water supplies.

And since we are doling out the reminders, one last one before we go: After you’ve reset your clocks and checked your emergency supplies — and reminded your friends and family to do so as well — don’t forget to check and change the batteries in your smoke detectors.

Read APHA's press release on the importance of replenishing emergency stockpiles when you spring forward for Daylight Savings Time

Friday, March 04, 2011

Reading with kids can help them prepare for emergencies

Stop, drop and roll! Reading and reciting those three simple words in childhood helped many of us understand what to do if our clothes caught on fire. A scary prospect indeed, especially for a kid. But it gave us a lifelong tool with which to respond during a time of emergency.

Reading with children can not only help kids perform better in school and have a healthy self-image, it can also help them understand what to do in case of an emergency and how to live healthier, safer lives.

Many communities and schools celebrated Read Across America Day this week on March 2 — the birthday of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss. It helped spread the importance of reading with children.

You see, young children and early readers can’t do it alone — they need to read with you. Consider spending time with children in your family or community to help them become stronger readers. The National Education Association offers some tips to help you engage children in reading in fun ways.

And while you’re reading, think about using some of the many child-friendly safety and preparedness resources available. There are stories on a whole range of topics such as how to use 911, hygiene and hand-washing, disaster preparedness and even how to perform CPR.

APHA’s Get Ready campaign offers even more. “Anita’s Story” is a quick and fun read about a young girl and her family preparing for a winter storm. APHA’s Get Ready Kid’s Guide helps young readers learn about flu prevention. And the Get Ready campaign offers easy-to-read fact sheets about hand-washing in English and Spanish, and one for
preschoolers, also in English and Spanish.

This is just a start. Your local library or bookstore will have many other options to consider.

There’s no doubt that reading with children can help prepare them for life. While you’re at it, take an extra step to help them learn important lessons about staying safe and healthy and the importance of preparing for emergencies.

Image courtesy of Microsoft Clipart Gallery/Corbis