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!