Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolve to be Ready in 2013

Are you fully prepared for a disaster? There is always something more to do to make sure that you and your loved ones are ready in case an emergency happens. That’s why we’re suggesting a New Year’s resolution: Resolve to be ready in 2013!

The “resolve to be ready” reminder comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready campaign, and this year the agency is focusing on getting people to include technology in their preparedness plans. For example, almost 55 percent of Americans now own smartphones, so FEMA wants to help people “turn the technology in their purses and pockets into a life-saving tool during and after an emergency or disaster.”

Among FEMA’s technology preparedness tips:
  • Store important documents such as personal and financial records online or on a flash or jump drive.
  • Buy batteries and car-charger adapters for wireless devices and make sure to keep batteries charged.
  • During a disaster, send text messages rather than voice calls, as text messages may be more likely to get through when networks are busy.
  • If you need life-saving aid, call 9-1-1. Don’t text or tweet to 9-1-1.
Get Ready can help you learn how to use technology to be prepared in the New Year, too. Check out our recent podcast about learning to be tech-ready.

Here’s to a healthy, happy and safe New Year!

What are your preparedness resolutions this year? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New report asks: Are we ready or not?

It can be hard to measure how ready we are for emergencies. A new report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation tries to answer that question. The report, “Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism” comes out every year and can tell us how prepared we are, state-by-state and as a country.

The report finds that as a country, we have made some progress in getting prepared since 2001 by improving the availability of vaccines and bettering disease monitoring, among other measures. However, budget cuts at the national and state level have stopped the U.S. from making even more progress.

The report ranked states from most to least prepared on a scale of one to 10, with 10 the most prepared. Overall, 35 states and Washington, D.C., scored a six or lower. No states scored 10 out of 10, but five states were ranked as the most prepared, at eight out of 10: Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin. Kansas and Montana were the least prepared, the report found, scoring a three out of 10. Check out this map to see where your state falls.

[Map, courtesy Ready or Not? 2012,
Trust for America's Health and
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation]

Read the report to learn more about why your state was ranked high or low.

How did your state do? What do you think of the report? Let us know in the comments below!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Get Winter Ready with us this year!

Today is the first day of winter, so what better time to start thinking about what you need to do to prepare for winter weather?

We’ve put together a Winter Ready page so that you can see all of our great resources on winter storms, power outages, cold and flu season and more — all in one place.

We’ll also be focusing on winter weather preparedness over the next few months, so check back for our Winter Ready blog posts. You can subscribe to the Get Ready Blog so you don’t miss a thing.

Stay warm, stay safe — and happy winter!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Are you tech ready? Check out our new podcast on digital disaster preparedness!

The Get Ready campaign recently spoke with Amy Donahue, a reference librarian at the Medical College of Wisconsin, about preparing for a disaster digitally.

In our new podcast episode, Donahue gives tips for using technology to help us before, during and after an emergency. She has suggestions for how to make sure technology will work for us when we need it most — things like having extra batteries and having a plan for charging your phone when the power goes out. 

Donahue also explains how librarians can help when disaster strikes.

“We can help people identify good resources for disaster information. We can help them find new sources if they don’t know where to start. And then we can also help work with community partners,” to help people share information before, during and after an emergency, she says.

In addition to preparing your tech gear, Donahue reminds us that “nothing beats having the kit, having the plan, making sure all your technology will help you and not hinder you before an emergency ever strikes.”

You can listen to the newest Get Ready podcast and read the transcript here, or subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes!

Is there a specific topic you think we should cover in our next podcast? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Give the gift of preparedness this year

Have someone on your holiday gift list who is hard to shop for? Why not give the gift of emergency preparedness? Here are some simple, inexpensive ways to show you care and help your loved ones be more prepared in the new year:

  1. Flashlight with extra batteries: When the power goes out, how many of us have gone rummaging in the dark looking for that flashlight? Or we find the flashlight, only to realize it doesn’t have fresh batteries? It might sound like a boring gift, but flashlights and batteries always come in handy. Consider a magnetic flashlight that will stick on the fridge, or a headband flashlight so that giftees can keep their hands free during an emergency.
  2. First-aid kit: First-aid kits are always great to have around, but can be especially useful during a disaster or storm, when emergency responders can be delayed. You can purchase pre-made kits at most stores, or take a look at our tips for creating a useful first-aid kit and make your own! Plus, if you decide to make your own kit, you can personalize it. For a new mom, for example, include baby-related items. 
  3. All-weather radio: Weather or emergency radios are battery- or hand crank-powered. They are specially designed to receive the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio All Hazards broadcast, which is a 24/7 broadcast from the National Weather Service with official warnings, forecasts and emergency alerts. New versions include USB ports so you can charge your mobile phone when the power goes out!
  4. Car emergency kit: For your favorite someone who loves to get behind the wheel, you can help them be safe on the road by gifting items for a car emergency kit. Items like a first-aid kit, car battery charger or jumper cables, and a flashlight are all important things to have in a vehicle. If the person lives in an area at risk for cold temperatures or winter storms, consider adding an extra blanket, a set of warm clothes and an ice scraper. 
  5. Family emergency plan: Sometimes the best gifts are ones that money can’t buy. While you gather with family and close friends over the holiday season, set aside time to create an emergency plan with your family. Think about the possible disasters that could happen near your home and discuss what your family can do to stay safe. Make a list of important phone numbers, including someone who lives out of the area in case local phone lines are busy. Take a look at a map and pick both a local and out-of-town meeting place where you can safely meet your loved ones in the event of an emergency. Once you’ve got everything planned out, be sure to write it down and give everyone a copy. has a blank family preparedness plan that you can fill out, or create your own!

That’s our short list of preparedness gift ideas. Are you helping someone get ready this year with a holiday gift? What’s on your wish list? What was the best preparedness gift you have ever received?  Let us know in the comments!  Have a happy and safe holiday season.

Monday, December 10, 2012

APHA announces winners of its Flu Near You Challenge

Over the past year, the Get Ready campaign has promoted APHA’s Flu Near You Challenge, a contest that asked Association members to recruit users into the Flu Near You tool. More than 900 APHA members and 100 affiliated state and regional public health associations pitched in to help spread the word about Flu Near You, helping to recruit thousands of people into the system.

Flu Near You's new smartphone app
makes it easy to report your symptoms
and check flu reports near you.
APHA is excited to announce that 10 members received awards for recruiting the most users into Flu Near You: Tom Engle, RN; Ted Marak; Ken Rosenberg, MD, MPH; Jeneane Moody, MPH; Farideh Kioumehr, DrPH, DVM; Kathy Johnson, MPH; Lois Uttley, MPP; Rebecca Gluskin, MS; Patricia Terstenyak, MPH; and Chelsey Matter.

Although there were not enough surveys collected for awards to be made in the group challenge category, APHA recognized the Public Health Nursing Section, Oregon Public Health Association and Rhode Island Health Association for their hard work.

Even though APHA’s Flu Near You Challenge is over, Flu Near You is still going strong! Thanks to everyone who participated in Flu Near You over the past year, organizers have made many improvements, including creating a Spanish version of the survey and launching a smartphone app.

If you’re not already using Flu Near You, now is a great time to sign up. It’s free, and it’s a great way to find out if flu is headed your way. Sign up today so you can keep track of the flu this winter!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Earliest start to the flu season in nearly a decade — It’s not too late to vaccinate!

This week, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that they are seeing increased flu activity around the country. Thomas Frieden, CDC director, said that this was “the earliest regular flu season in nearly a decade.” He also warned that “this could be a bad flu year.”

CDC made the announcement during a teleconference to kick off National Influenza Vaccination Week, which runs from Dec. 2-8. The observance was started in 2005 to remind people that it’s not too late to vaccinate if they haven’t gotten their flu shot before the holidays.

Frieden also had some good news: This year’s flu shot, which protects against different types of flu strains than last year’s shot, is almost a perfect match for the types of flu that doctors and hospitals are finding in the U.S. This means that people who have already had their flu shot this year will be well-protected.

The CDC recommends that almost everyone 6 months of age and older gets a flu shot every year. It’s especially important for people at high risk for complications from influenza — like pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with chronic diseases — to prevent getting the flu with a seasonal flu shot. (Find out more about high risk groups on CDC’s website.)

It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to fully take effect, so right now is a great time to get the flu vaccine. As Frieden reminded us this week, “When you get together with your friends and family, be sure you spread good cheer and give presents, and that you don't share infections and spread the flu.”

Here’s to healthy, happy holidays for all!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Get Ready website wins Web Health Award

Last week, APHA’s Get Ready campaign was delighted to learn that our website,, won a Web Health Award.

The Web Health Awards are announced twice a year by the Health Information Resource Center. The awards are to honor “the nation’s best digital health resources.”

The Get Ready website, which features fact sheets, podcasts, videos and other materials related to emergency preparedness, won a bronze award. Our winning entry was chosen from nearly 600 entries judged by a panel of experts in digital health media.

For a full list of winners, visit the center’s website.

Congratulations to Get Ready!  Let us know what we can do to make the Get Ready website even better.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Get Ready Mailbag: What kind of flu shots are there?

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: There are so many kinds of flu shots this year — how do I know which one is right for me?

A: We're glad you're planning on getting your flu shot. Every year there is a different combination of flu strains in the vaccine. This year’s flu shot is different than last year’s formula, so the shot you got last year will not protect you.

And you’re right about the kinds of flu shots - there are more options than ever!  But there’s no reason to be confused. Here’s a breakdown of the different kinds of flu vaccinations options that are available in the U.S. this year:
  • Injection: This is the most common type of flu vaccination. If you’ve had a flu shot before, you know what to expect: You’ll get a small amount of flu vaccine injected into your muscle (usually your deltoid, or shoulder).
  • Nasal: The flu vaccine is also available as a nasal spray,  though it should not be used by pregnant women or those with certain conditions, such as asthma.
  • Intradermal flu shot: For people afraid of needles, this is the flu shot for you! The needle is much smaller on this type of shot, and the vaccine is delivered intradermally (under your skin) instead of in your muscle like the regular flu shot. This option can cost extra, so check with your doctor or pharmacy.
  • High-dose flu shot: The high-dose flu shot is made for people 65 and older. It has a stronger dose of medication than the regular seasonal flu shot.
  • Preservative-free, single-dose flu shot: Normally the flu-shot — like many other vaccines and injections — comes in a multi-dose bottle with a small amount of preservative known as thimerosol to help the vaccine stay fresh for longer. Some people prefer preservative-free flu shots. These are more expensive, come packaged in a single dose and usually have to be ordered ahead of time.
Remember that whichever type of flu vaccine that you choose, it will protect you against three strains of flu.

The best time to get your flu shot is early in the flu season, before flu is widespread in the community, because it can take up to two weeks for the flu shot to fully protect you. And don't forget to practice good hand hygiene and cold and flu etiquette year-round!

We hope this has helped you decide what flu shot is right for you. If you need to find out where to get your flu shot, check out HealthMap's Flu Vaccine Finder.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Make sure your medicine works when you need it: Get smart about antibiotics!

Picture this: You’re coughing and sneezing. Not sure if you have a cold or the flu, you head to the bathroom and open the medicine cabinet. Checking through the bottles of pills, you find some antibiotics. Should you take them?

The answer is NO. You could be doing more harm than good! Here’s why:
  • Colds and the flu are caused by viruses. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses.
  • Taking an antibiotic when you should be taking some other kind of medication can lead to something called antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria are exposed to an antibiotic medication so much that they figure out how to survive around the medication. This means that medications that treat all kinds of infections won’t work any more. 
  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the most serious public health threats around the world, and it’s becoming more common. 
The good news is that you can help to fight antibiotic resistance. Nov. 12-18 is Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, which was created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help educate the public about antibiotics so they can make smart choices when it comes to taking medications. Here are five tips to protect your health:
  1. Do not take antibiotics for a viral infection like a cold, the flu or a runny nose. Here is a chart from CDC to help you figure out if you might have a viral infection. If you’re sick, the best thing to do is to call or make an appointment with your health care provider.
  2. Do not ask for antibiotics for you or your child if your doctor says you don’t need them.
  3. Do not take antibiotics that were prescribed for other people or for other kinds of infections. The antibiotic might not treat the illness that you have, so you could get sicker.
  4. If your health care provider prescribes an antibiotic, take it exactly as they tell you. Finish the whole dose even if you start feeling better before the medication runs out. Don’t skip doses and don’t save medication for the next time you or someone else gets sick.
  5. Wash your hands to prevent infections. (Check out our fact sheets for great handwashing information!) Make sure to wash with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel. Regular soap and water are fine, but avoid soaps and cleaners that say “antibacterial” on the label. These products usually have an antibiotic called triclosan, which may contribute to antibiotic resistance.
For more information to help you get smart about antibiotics, check out this Healthy You fact sheet from The Nation’s Health: Antibiotics: Know when they’re not needed. Feel free to share this with friends, family and coworkers too – Everyone has to get smart about antibiotics so that the medications work when we really need them!

If you use Twitter, join us on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 1 p.m. EST for a Twitter chat about antibiotics. Experts from the CDC will be there to answer your questions. Follow @CDC_eHealth and @GetReady to join in, and don’t forget to use the tag #SaveAbx.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Help us get the word out: It’s time to Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks on Nov. 4!

When daylight saving time ends this Sunday, Nov. 4, it’s a great time to check your emergency stockpile for expired items. That’s the idea behind Get Ready: Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks!

The campaign uses the twice annual clock change as a reminder for people to check that nothing in their stockpile has been misplaced, is expired (leaky batteries, anyone?) or needs replenishing.

You can help your friends, family and community be prepared for the next disaster by spreading the word. Here are just some of the ways you can get the word out:
  1.  Check out our free materials to educate people about building and updating an emergency stockpile.
  2. Share one of our free e-cards to remind people to check their stocks.
  3. Remind your Twitter followers or Facebook friends! Check out our sample tweets for some ideas.
  4. Share our Set Your Clocks, Check your Stocks video!
  5. Get logos for your blog or website as well as more resources and ideas at our clocks and stocks page.
Thanks for spreading the word and helping your community get ready!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Announcing the winners of our cat preparedness photo contest

When we announced APHA’s Get Ready Cat Preparedness Photo Contest in September, we hoped that people would have fun and think creatively about emergency preparedness messages. We didn’t know just how popular the contest would be!

The contest was featured on I Can Has Cheezburger? and written about on ScienceBlogs, where we were called “part of the new (and awesome) public health.” (Aww, shucks!)

Thanks to all of this attention, we received hundreds of great photos of your purr-fectly prepared kittens and cats. After lots of hard decisions — and many “awwwws” — we’ve picked our winners.

Twenty-three photos were selected for Get Ready 2013 Catastrophes Calendar. Check out the winning photos online and share them with your friends. Scroll to the bottom of the page to download and print your own copy of the calendar!

And because we thought every cat was cute, check out some of the other kitties who didn’t make it into the calendar.

If you are at APHA's 140th Annual Meeting in San Francisco Oct. 27–31, stop by the Get Ready expo booth, #2325, to pick up a free copy of the calendar.

Thanks to everyone who submitted photos to our contest!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More than 13 million people are getting ready for earthquakes this week

What are you doing Thursday, Oct. 18, at 10:18 a.m. local time?

Get Ready and APHA will join more than 13 million people around the world to get ready for the most unpredictable kind of disaster — earthquakes!

The event is called the Great ShakeOut, and it’s designed to help people prepare for emergencies by practicing what they will do in an earthquake. This year, millions of people in the U.S. will be joined by people in Canada and Italy to hold the world’s largest earthquake drill.

To find out if your state, region or territory is participating, visit You can also check for local events or sign up to hold your own. If you don’t live in an area where there are official events going on, you can still hold your own drill and sign up.

The best part is that the Great ShakeOut makes it really easy to plan an earthquake drill by providing instructions, posters, videos and even sound effects to help make your event simple and effective. There are free resources for schools, businesses, health care offices, houses of worship and your home.

So, what are you waiting for? Be part of something huge: Shake out with us this Thursday!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Celebrating Global Handwashing Day

Today is Global Hand-washing Day. Yes, you heard us right: Hand-washing has its own worldwide celebration.

Why make such a fuss over washing your hands? Because hand-washing is a pretty big deal! Here in the U.S., we might take soap and water for granted, but it is one of the most important things a person can do to stay healthy. In fact, a study of students in Detroit showed that people who wash their hands properly reported 24 percent fewer colds and 51 percent fewer stomach illnesses.
"Wash Your Hands" poster in 24 launguages, courtesy the Minnesota Department of Health
Image: "Wash Your Hands" poster in 24 languages,
courtesy Minnesota Department of Public Health

So how do you wash your hands the right way? Take five:
  1. Use clean, warm water.
  2. Lather up with soap.
  3. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds — long enough to say the alphabet, or sing the “happy birthday” song twice.
  4. Rinse your hands with clean water.
  5. Dry your hands.
If soap and clean water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content.

That’s it! If you start practicing healthy hand habits today, each and every time you wash your hands, you’re already on your way to a healthier you.

For more information about hand-washing, and for tips on talking to kids, teens and adults about the best way to wash their hands, check out our free fact sheets!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The biggest disaster threat in the US – and what YOU can do to prevent it!

What disaster poses the biggest threat in the U.S.?

You might be surprised to find out that it’s not earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes or other severe weather: fires are the most common home disaster in our country. In 2010, the American Red Cross responded to a home fire an average of once every 8 minutes.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that — unlike other disasters — most home fires can be prevented!

Oct. 7-13 is National Fire Prevention Week so we wanted to share some tips to help you get ready for fires at home:
  • Make sure you have a smoke detector installed on every floor, and change the batteries at least once a year. We recommend checking your smoke detectors and emergency stockpiles when you change your clocks on Nov. 4, 2012 – or as we like to call it, Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks day!
  • Make sure you think about what your family will do during a fire when you sit down to make emergency plans. FEMA recommends that you “Have Two Ways Out” of every room. And don’t forget to pick a place to meet up once everyone is out safely!
  • Check out our Home Disasters fact sheet [PDF] for more tips about preparing your home for disasters.
  • If you live in an area at risk for wildfires, you should make extra plans for your home and your family. Check out our recent blog post about wildfires, or download our fact sheet [PDF] for more info!
We hope this information helps you and your family prepare for a fire and stay safe.

Do you have any stories to share about home fires? Let us know in the comments or send us an email!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

My Get Ready Story: Being prepared, no matter where you live

As a part of National Preparedness Month, APHA’s Get Ready campaign asked people to share their preparedness stories with us. Cyndi H., of Anaheim, Calif., shared her story about moving to a new state and how it’s helped her be more prepared.

“I’m originally from Florida, so my idea of disaster preparedness was waiting until hurricane season approached and then checking my supplies and restocking. When I moved to California a year ago, I knew my threats were different, as I now faced earthquakes and wildfires. But I wasn’t concerned and delayed my preparations, assuming I’d make a plan and gather my supplies at some point.

Then one day while at work, the earth shook. It didn’t last long and it wasn’t strong, but the message was clear: I wasn’t ready. Did I have any supplies at work or home? What kind of supplies did I need? How would I get home if the roads weren’t clear? Did I have a plan to meet up with my husband?

A good kit, like this one from the Red Cross, makes all the difference!
Now, my husband and I both travel with earthquake backpacks and have stocks of supplies at home. We carry emergency food, water, lighting, radios, first aid, batteries, copies of identification and basic tools. We conducted a home evaluation to familiarize ourselves with shut-offs for gas, water and electricity, placed emergency lighting throughout and checked our smoke detectors. We’ve also made a plan to maintain communication and meet up with each other in the case we are separated when an emergency occurs.  

A few weeks ago the ground shook again. But this time I wasn’t as startled or as worried. It only took a few hours one day to get ourselves prepared. The peace of mind I’ve gained was worth the effort.” 

Have you ever moved and realized that you needed to change your emergency plans because of new threats? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Back to school? Tips for keeping your family healthy!

With kids — and adults! — heading back to school, now is a perfect time to start getting ready for flu season. Here are the top six things you can do to keep you and your family healthy this fall:

1. Get your flu shot as soon as possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a seasonal flu shot every year. This year, the flu shot covers two new strains of the flu, which means that last year’s shot won’t cover you for the types of flu that are predicted to be most common this fall. If you don’t know where to go to get your flu shot, check out HealthMap’s Vaccine Finder to find a location near you!

2. Make sure your children are up to date on their other shots. Your child’s school will provide you with a list of required vaccinations that is based on CDC immunization schedules for children and teens.

Childhood vaccinations are especially important this year because the U.S. is experiencing large outbreaks of diseases that can normally be prevented with vaccines. For example, 46 states have reported higher than average cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, in 2012. Pertussis is a serious disease that can be deadly, especially for young children.

3. Make sure you are also up to date on your shots. Did you know that adults sometimes need booster shots, too? For example, the Tdap vaccine is a common adult booster shot that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. It’s recommended that adults get one Tdap booster, especially if they will be around newborn babies or if it’s been more than 10 years since their last booster shot.

If you’re not sure if your immunizations are up to date, you should talk to your health care provider. CDC also has a vaccine quiz that can help you figure out what shots you might need to get.

4. Practice good hand hygiene — and teach your family to do the same. We have lots of great fact sheets about hand-washing for children and adults!

5. Stay home if you are sick. If you have children, make a plan for how you’d care for them if they have to stay home from school.

6. Sign up for Flu Near You. Do you know that APHA is partnering on a cool flu reporting tool that lets you detect and report symptoms of flu? All you have to do is sign up at, and once a week you’ll get an email that asks, “How are you feeling?” After you fill out a 10-second survey about your symptoms, you will see a map of your area that shows if people around you have flu-like illness. This is a great way to be a disease detective and learn about flu in your community.

What steps are you taking to keep you and your family healthy this year? Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Get Ready Day 2012 a success

Sept. 18 was the sixth annual observance of APHA’s Get Ready Day. Held during National Preparedness Month, Get Ready Day helps Americans raise awareness in their communities about emergency preparedness. Organizations and advocates around the country helped promote this year’s observance.

Here at APHA, the Get Ready team held two community outreach events in Washington, D.C.: a grocery store event and a blood drive with the American Red Cross.

For our first event, we worked with a local grocery store to plan an event where we could talk to shoppers about building an emergency stockpile and answer questions about emergency preparedness. We set up a booth at the front of the store and talked to shoppers about stocking up on water and canned goods, preparing for bad weather and talking to children about emergencies. Our team spoke with hundreds of shoppers, handed out more than 200 copies of our free fact sheets, and gave away other goodies, like a T-shirt and an emergency preparedness backpack from the American Red Cross. By all accounts, it was a success.

APHA staff share preparedness tips with Safeway shoppers

The Get Ready team also organized a blood drive with the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross holds blood drives year-round, but keeping a good supply of blood becomes really important when a natural disaster strikes. The blood drive was a great way for APHA staff and community members to help others and make a personal contribution.

APHA's Executive Director is all smiles after donating blood
Best of all, both events were relatively easy to set up, and fun to participate in. If you’re already thinking about what you can do for next year’s Get Ready Day — Sept. 17, 2013! — that’s great. We have an event guide to help you plan, and as always, lots of free fact sheets for you to share.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Get Ready Story: Knowing the importance of preparing for hurricanes

As a part of National Preparedness Month, APHA’s Get Ready campaign asked people to share their preparedness stories with us. Our first story is from Carol L., of Satellite Beach, Fla. Carol tells us how her family gets ready for hurricanes:

Image: Hurricane Andrew making landfall
on the Florida coast,
August 24, 1992 - Courtesy
NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) Collection

“Every year on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, residents prepare ahead for the hurricane season. A few years ago, a hurricane did major damage that knocked out power for a week.

Luckily, we had volunteers who helped us through the days. Different banks and insurance companies delivered bags of ice to those who needed it. EMTs and National Guard members checked to make sure everyone was healthy. Those who had battery-operated saws volunteered to clear the roads. Residents pitched in to help their neighbors.

Now, we have a list that we post in our laundry room of all the supplies we need to purchase before the season starts. All emergency gadgets are tested to make sure they are in working condition. We have purchased a butane stove. We do not purchase a large amount of food for the freezer. Instead, we leave room to store ice that will keep things cool for a while. We have a good supply of our prescriptions. We also have a plan for evacuation in case we are told to leave the barrier island. Our cars' gas tanks are kept full. The county has assigned buildings that we can use for a few days. Some of the buildings accept pets; others are for those medically impaired. We are ready but we are very happy when the storm passes out to sea.”

How do you get ready for emergencies? Share your story in the comments or send us an email!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Announcing APHA’s Get Ready Cat Preparedness Photo Contest

Do you love animals and emergency preparedness as much as we do? Then we’ve got a contest for you!

From now until Sept. 30, send us photos of your feline friends to enter APHA’s Get Ready Cat Preparedness Photo Contest. We’re looking for the best pictures of your cute kittens and trouble-making cats. We will add some funny captions and share your cat’s message about emergency preparedness with the world. The winning photos will go into our Get Ready calendar.

Check out our gallery of preparedness cat photos to get an idea of what we’re looking for. You can also read the frequently asked questions and the rules and regulations pages to find out more.

When you’re ready to send us your great pictures, you can enter the contest by following these directions.

We can’t wait to see what you and your cats come up with!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

September is National Preparedness Month

September is a big month for us here at Get Ready, because it’s also National Preparedness Month — the time of year where we work really hard to spread the word about getting yourself, your family and your community ready for disasters.

We have lots of great things in store for you this month. Our big day is Tuesday, Sept. 18 — Get Ready Day. Get Ready Day was created in 2007 to help people join together to help make their homes, communities, schools and workplaces more prepared. We have a section on our website dedicated to Get Ready Day, with information and tools to help you hold your own Get Ready Day event and event ideas. Check it out and let us know how you are planning to celebrate!

The fun doesn’t stop there. All throughout the month on this blog and our Twitter account,  we’ll be sharing information to help you prepare for anything. Stay tuned for blog posts about back-to-school preparedness and other features.

Plus, we’ve even started a cool new contest so that you can get your cats in on the emergency preparedness fun! (Yes, we said cats.)

Check back for more tips, tricks and useful information. And remember to sign up for our Get Ready Now! quarterly newsletter so you don’t miss a thing!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Tips to help you before, during and after a hurricane

Seven years ago this week, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, killing almost 1,800 people and causing billions of dollars in damage. This week, Hurricane Isaac — now downgraded to a tropical storm — hit Louisiana and other Gulf states, causing flooding and widespread power outages.

Hurricane Irene from space. Image courtesy

The storms serve as a reminder of the importance of getting ready for a hurricane and staying safe during and after the storm. Hurricane season runs through November, so there may be more U.S. storms still to come this year. Use our tips to get ready:

How to prepare for a hurricane
  1. Build an emergency kit. Start early so that you can avoid the crowds and make sure you have everything you need. The Get Ready campaign can help you put together an emergency kit.
  2. Have an emergency stockpile of food and water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that you have at least three days of supplies ready in case of an emergency. Have at least one gallon of water for each member of your family for each day.
  3. Make a plan. Do you live in an area at risk for flooding? Where are your local evacuation routes? Where will you meet up with your family if you are separated during the storm?Make a plan and be prepared.
What to do during a hurricane
  1. Listen to the weather forecast. (A battery-operated weather radio will help you stay informed if the power goes out!) If you are told to evacuate, do so as soon as possible.
  2. If you are not told to evacuate or are unable to do so, stay inside. Stay away from windows and glass doors, and if possible stay in an inside room that is on the lowest level of your house.
  3. If phone lines are busy during the storm, check in with friends and family via text messages or social networks.
Stay safe after the storm passes
  1. If you were evacuated from your home, don’t go back until officials tell you that it is safe to do so.
  2. Do not walk, swim or try to drive in floodwaters. As little as six inches of moving water can knock an adult down or cause your car to stall. Check out our fact sheet about driving and disasters for more information about staying safe.
  3. If you are walking around outside, watch out for downed power lines.
  4. Manage power outages safely. Do not run power generators inside — they produce a clear, odorless gas called carbon monoxide that can be deadly. Do not light matches or use candles in your home in case there is a gas leak. And make sure your food is safe by following these tips.
  5. Remember take photos of the damage to your home and property.
  6. Protect yourself when cleaning up after the storm, especially if your home has been flooded. Be sure to wear gloves, wash your hands often and look out for any mold that may grow after the flood. Get more tips about cleaning up after a hurricane with our flood fact sheet.

We hope everyone is staying safe during Hurricane Isaac. Did your area get hit this time? Please share your experience with us in the comments below.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Get Ready has new fact sheets for people living with disabilities

Have you ever used our cool, super helpful and totally free Get Ready fact sheets?

We’re excited to tell you that we just added five new fact sheets to our huge list of topics. These new fact sheets focus on helping people living with disabilities think about and prepare for disasters. You can check them out on our disability preparedness page.

We have a general fact sheet with preparedness tips for people with disabilities, as well as fact sheets for people with hearing, mobility, vision and cognitive disabilities. These fact sheets are available in English and in Spanish on our disabilities page. You can add your own logo with our easy-to-use instructions.

Plus, to make the fact sheets accessible to anyone who needs them, we’ve made audio and American Sign Language video recordings of the fact sheets. Once you’ve accessed the fact sheets, check out the podcasts we created on disabilities and preparedness as well.

We hope these new fact sheets help you and the people you care about get ready for any emergency. Let us know what you think in the comments!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

We want your stories about getting ready!

September is National Preparedness Month, and Get Ready wants to share your stories about emergency preparedness. What made you decide to get ready for disasters? Have you experienced a tornado or earthquake? What did you learn? Did the last power outage make you wish you’d stockpiled more batteries? During the last hurricane, did you have to evacuate? We want to know how YOU Get Ready, and why!

Send us an email at, and we might feature your story on our blog next month!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer Safe: Don’t let these three infectious diseases ruin your summer fun

Do your late summer plans include a trip to a state or county fair? How about a camping trip, or perhaps a visit to a local farm?

Reports of infectious diseases spread by animals and insects have been on the rise this summer. Here are three infectious diseases that have been in the news recently, along with tips for how you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

H3N2v, aka “swine flu,” from pigs
[Image courtesy
USDA/Scott Bauer]
In the last few weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported new cases of a type of influenza, H3N2v, that comes from pigs. Most of the people who got sick with this new type of flu had direct contact with pigs on farms or at state and county fairs. If you work around pigs or if you will be attending a fair or farm show, follow these tips to protect yourself:
  • Always wash your hands after touching animals.
  • Don’t eat or drink if you’re in an animal enclosure, and keep your hands away from your face.
  • If you have a weak immune system or are at high-risk for flu, stay away from pigs. This includes young children and adolescents, pregnant women, people who are already sick and people ages 65 and older.
  • Stay away from any animal that looks sick or acts strange. Call a veterinarian if you suspect that an animal is sick.
For more information, check out CDC’s H3N2v page.

[Image courtesy
USDA/Keith Weller]
Salmonella from baby chickens
Live baby poultry such as ducklings and chickens are adorable — what kid can’t resist picking up one of these cute, fuzzy, chirping animals? Don’t let their cuteness fool you: These animals can pose a health risk, especially to young children. Baby poultry, found in petting zoos, fairs and even in classrooms or at home, have been known to spread salmonella.

This year alone, baby chickens have been linked to salmonella cases in states around the country. Here are some tips to prevent illness from salmonella:
  • Don’t let children younger than age 5 touch or handle chicks or ducklings.
  • Don’t bring chicks, ducklings or other live poultry into your house.
  • Make sure anyone who handles baby poultry washes their hands thoroughly with soap and water. Adults should help young children wash their hands. For information about hand-washing for any age group, check out our collection of Get Ready fact sheets!
CDC has more information on salmonella and baby birds on its website.

West Nile virus from mosquitoes
[Mosquito image courtesy
CDC/ Frank Collins, PhD.]
So far this year, 42 states and the District of Columbia have reported West Nile infections in people, birds or mosquitoes. People get West Nile virus when they are bitten by mosquitoes that carry the disease. You can’t tell if a mosquito is infected just by looking at it, so the best protection is to prevent mosquito bites.
  • When you go outdoors, use insect repellent — especially at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants when possible.
  • Mosquitoes breed in still water, so remember to empty out barrels, flowerpots and buckets that are filled with water on your property or in your neighborhood. 
  • Learn more about protecting yourself from mosquitoes by checking out our fact sheet (PDF).
You can learn more about West Nile virus from CDC.

Even though these infectious diseases are on the rise, protecting yourself can be as simple as washing your hands and wearing bug spray. We hope this helps you stay safe this summer!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Get Ready Mailbag: Do ticks spread babesisos? How do I protect myself?

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: My cousin was recently diagnosed with babesiosis, which her doctor said comes from ticks. I’ve never heard of it — am I at risk, too? How can I protect myself?

A: Your cousin’s doctor is right. The main way that people get babesiosis is from a tick bite.

The disease is spread by a parasite called Babesia which lives inside of certain types of ticks. These ticks are so small — about the size of a poppy seed — that you may not even know if you’ve been bitten.
[Photo: Young form of Ixodes scapularis, 
the type of tick that spreads Babesiosis.
Photo by G. Hickling,
University of Tennessee, courtesy CDC.]

Babesiosis can cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, headaches, body aches, tiredness, nausea and loss of appetite. Health professionals may suspect this illness if you live in the Northeast or upper Midwest and if these symptoms show up during the summer months. However, some people don’t show any symptoms at all, so preventing tick bites is the key! (

To prevent tick bites:
  • Hike on well-marked trails and stay out of bushes and long grass.
  • Make sure to cover your skin with long pants and shirts.
  • Apply bug spray.
  • After walking through wooded areas or spending time outdoors, inspect your clothes and body for ticks.
The good news is that babesiosis is easy to treat once it is detected.

We hope your cousin recovers quickly and that you continue to stay safe!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Get Ready covers "Call Me Maybe"

Here at Get Ready, we're as big of fans of "Call Me Maybe" as anyone. We decided to write our own cover - about emergency preparedness, of course - and shoot a music video to go along with it.

Watch our new "Let's Get Ready!" video below. If you want to sing along, we have the full lyrics on our info page. And be sure to tell us what you think in the comments!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

USDA declares biggest natural disaster in history

Did you know we’re in the middle of the largest natural disaster in U.S. history?

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared that more than 1,000 U.S. counties are federal disaster areas. That’s more than 50 percent of U.S. territory.

The cause? A major drought that’s affecting at least 26 states. Droughts occur when an extended period of dry weather causes water shortages and sometimes damages crops.

The American Red Cross has a list of steps you can take to prepare for a drought.

During a drought, local officials may announce restrictions on water usage, such as not watering your lawn or washing your car. Check with your local government or water company to find the latest information.  

Is your area affected by the drought? Do you have any advice for coping with water restrictions? Share your stories in the comments below!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Safe: It’s Lightning Safety Awareness Week

Lightning can happen at any time of year, but did you know that summer is the peak season for deadly lightning strikes? That’s why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has declared June 24-30 Lightning Safety Awareness Week.

According to NOAA, dozens of people die and hundreds are injured every year when they are hit by lightning. But these incidents are largely preventable with just a few tips:

  1. When thunder roars, go indoors! If you can hear thunder from a storm, it means you are also in striking distance of lightning; you should go indoors immediately.
  2. Get somewhere safe. A safe shelter is a building with at roof and sides, such as a house, school, shopping mall, grocery store or office building. A hard-topped vehicle is also safe, but you’re not protected in motorcycles, open vehicles such as Jeeps or golf carts. 
  3. If someone around you is stuck by lightning: Call 911 immediately. Lightning victims will not electrocute you, so they are safe to touch. Be prepared to start CPR or use an automated external defibrillator if the person does not have a pulse.
Pretty simple, right? Preparedness doesn’t get much easier!

For more information about lightning safety, check out NOAA’s new YouTube video.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Safe: Learn how to get ready for a wildfire

Summer safe Logo
Did you catch the news this week about the wildfires that have burned thousands of acres in Colorado and New Mexico?

Unfortunately, with the hot, dry weather that often comes this time of year, wildfires are more common. Plus, this week scientists reported that because of climate change, an increase in wildfires is expected over the next 30 years. That’s why we thought now would be a good time to talk about getting ready for wildfires.

Wildfires can start from natural causes like lightning, but most are caused by humans, such as when people leave campfires unattended or don’t dispose of burning cigarettes safely. (Learn more about fire prevention here: However it starts, a wildfire can spread quickly, burning forests and buildings in its path. Aside from the dangers of the actual fire, wildfires are also a health threat because of their heavy smoke, which can cause headaches, breathing trouble and chest pain and can cause extra health complications. 

Image of wildfire burning on a hil with a residential neighboorhood at the foot of the hill.

Here are some quick steps you can take to prepare for wildfires:

  • Find out about your community’s risk for wildfires. Check to see if there is a local wildfire warning system and know the evacuation routes.
  • If you live in an area at risk for wildfires, make sure your property is safe: Clean your roof, gutters and property of dried leaves regularly. Move things that will burn, like gas tanks or stacks of firewood, away from your house. Have fire extinguishers and smoke detectors in your home, and check them regularly.
  • Have an emergency kit, ideally in a bag or container that you can grab and take with you in case of evacuation.
  • Make a plan with your loved ones, so that if you need to evacuate quickly, you’ll know where to go. Don’t forget to pick an out-of-town emergency contact who everyone can check in with, in case local phone lines are busy.
  • If you see a wildfire, call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • If you are in a car and see a wildfire, stay in the car, roll up the windows and close the vents. Drive slowly and keep your lights on. (Check out our Driving & Disasters Fact Sheet for more info ).
  • If you are home, close all doors and windows and take care not to breathe in smoke. If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately.

For more information about preparing for wildfires, check out our Get Ready Fact Sheet on Wildfires, in English and Spanish. You can also visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website for more information about what to do before, during and after a wildfire.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New tools to help you get ready for disasters – socially

Just in time for hurricane season and summer’s severe weather, we’re highlighting some new electronic tools that will help you get ready for disasters.

First, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response recently announced two free Facebook apps that help people prepare for emergencies with their social networks. The bReddi Facebook app and Project: Lifeline are designed to help you identify “lifelines” in your community who you can count on during a disaster.

“We know that people who have friends or relatives they can rely on for help are healthier and live longer than those who don’t, and that every disaster has the potential to impact health, so having people you can depend on for help is especially important during a disaster,” said Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, in an HHS news release. “That’s why we are encouraging everyone to identify their lifelines in advance.”

Project: Lifeline allows you to select people from your social network that you can count on during an emergency. bReddi will help you identify severe weather risks in your area and create a preparedness plan. The app can even alert you via Twitter, text or Facebook message when the threat level changes! These Facebook apps may be especially useful after a disaster, when phone lines are often busy.

Screen capture from the new bReddi Facebook App showing a U.S. Map with local severe weather warnings.

What if you don’t use Facebook, or if you’re on the go? A national Wireless Emergency Alerts initiative was also announced last month. The new service will send a message to your cellphone if there is an emergency or disaster near you. The messages, which will look like text messages, are free, and you won’t have to sign up to receive them — everyone with text message service will receive them.  The text service will be location-based, so if you live in Chicago but are driving through Kansas during severe weather, you will get a tornado alert for your current location.

The new alert system is based on a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission and all major cellphone providers in the U.S.

Are you excited to try these new tools? Let us know in the comments if you’ve tried one of them, or if you want to recommend another app that helps you be prepared!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Summer Safe: Tips for staying healthy in hot weather

With record-setting warm weather across the U.S. this year, we wanted to kick off our Summer Safe series with some timely information about beating the summer heat.

To get the scoop about hot weather safety, we sat down with Linda Degutis, DrPH, MSN. Degutis is the director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and she had a lot of advice about heat-related illnesses.

Though many people want to have ‘fun in the sun’ during the summer months, really hot weather can pose a dangerous threat to people’s health. As Degutis explained, “extreme heat can lead people to have very high body temperatures,” which could quickly lead to brain damage, organ failure or even death.

Degutis, a past president of APHA, warned about the two heat-related illnesses people should avoid in hot weather: heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is more serious, because your body can lose its ability to cool itself down and your body temperature can get dangerously high.

These are the symptoms you should look out for (click to view larger):

The people who are most at risk for heat-related illness are the elderly, young children and people with chronic medical conditions. Also, people who spend a lot of time out-of-doors, such as construction workers and landscapers, the homeless and those who exercise in the heat are at risk for the dangerous side effects of spending too much time in hot weather.

That’s the bad news. “The good thing about all of this is that we can prevent heat-related illnesses by taking some relatively simple precautions,” Degutis explained.
These include:

  • During very hot weather, stay inside where it’s cool. If you don’t have air-conditioning in your house, go somewhere that does: A library, a grocery store, an indoor mall. Communities may also set up cooling centers where people can escape the heat, so check with your local government. 
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Alcoholic beverages and sugary drinks like soda and juice can make you more thirsty, so stay away from those as much as possible in the heat.
  • You can still stay active and enjoy the outdoors, but consider saving your exercise or outdoor activities for the cooler parts of the day: morning and evening. Avoid being outside in the middle of the day when it’s hottest.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing, because dark clothes or heavy fabric can trap heat. Also, make sure you wear a hat and sunscreen — sunburns put you at higher risk for heat-related illnesses!
  • Sign up for free weather alerts via email or text, so that you’ll know if there is an excessive heat warning for your area.
  • Don’t forget to check on friends, older family members and elderly neighbors in very hot weather.

For more information about staying safe in hot weather, you can listen to the podcast of our interview with Degutis. We also have a full transcript of the interview, and we created a handy Healthy You tipsheet about staying safe in the heat that you can print and share.

Friday, June 01, 2012

2011-2012 flu season is officially over

Welcome to our last Flu Friday post of the season!

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the 2011-2012 flu season has officially ended. The season is usually declared over when low numbers of people go to the doctor for flu-like illnesses.

In its final FluView report, CDC stated that the “late and mild flu season” has set the record for the lightest and slowest-starting flu season since it started tracking the flu in 1997.

Officials aren’t sure why the flu season was so mild this year, but they think it might have something to do with the warm winter, the fact that many of the flu viruses circulating this year were also around last year and the fact that more people in the U.S. have gotten their annual flu shot.

This doesn’t mean that we’re totally flu-free now. As CDC wrote in its FluView report, “The late start of this season and the fact that flu viruses circulate year-round in the United States means that some flu activity will likely continue to occur in the coming weeks.”

Yes, you can still get the flu in the summer! If you’re helping us track the flu with our FluNearYou tool, we’ll still send out the weekly “How Are You Feeling?” emails.

Be sure to stay healthy this summer by practicing good hand-washing. And don’t forget to check out our new Summer Safe series, where we’ll bring you tips to stay healthy so you can have fun all summer long!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Get ready for hurricane season: It’s National Hurricane Preparedness Week!

For people living on the Atlantic side of the U.S., hurricane season starts this Friday, June 1. To help prepare, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have teamed up to bring you National Hurricane Preparedness Week, which runs May 27-June 2.

Each day of National Hurricane Preparedness Week has its own theme, including hurricane basics, dangers like winds and flooding, storm preparation and after-storm cleanup. Check out the poster below for the schedule, and click through for more information.

Poster for National Hurricane Preparedness Week listing the dates & themes for the week of observation.

NOAA has predicted that we may see one to three major hurricanes this season. Already this month, two tropical storms — Alberto and Beryl  — have popped up, causing high winds, rains and power outages. That’s why it’s important to prepare now.

Are you ready for a hurricane? Check our fact sheets in English and Spanish (PDFs).