Monday, December 30, 2013

Resolve to be ready in 2014!

FEMA/Jana Baldwin
Many of us like to start the New Year with a few resolutions in mind. During this time of self-reflection, APHA’s Get Ready campaign encourages you to resolve to be ready in 2014!
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready campaign reminds us about the importance of family connections prior to and during a disaster. It’s critical for parents to include their children in conversations about getting ready for emergencies. FEMA’s campaign reinforces that resolving to be ready in 2014 can be really simple — just think about three things when making your plan: who to call, where to meet and what to pack.
Social media is a great way to spread the word about preparedness. Here are some tips, courtesy of FEMA:
  • Join FEMA’s Thunderclap and share a New Year's resolution about preparedness. When you sign up, Thunderclap will sync your social media accounts and release an automatic Facebook post, tweet or both on Jan. 1 at 12:30 p.m. EST reminding your friends and followers to make a family emergency plan.
  • Use #Prepared2014 in your social media posts throughout 2014 to remind friends and followers to be prepared for emergencies all year long.
  • Update your Facebook profile and cover pictures with Resolve to be Ready graphics.
  • Follow the Ready campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
Check out APHA’s Get Ready campaign’s recent podcast on family communication for tips on creating a reliable plan.
And don’t forget that if you need more preparedness info, APHA’s Get Ready campaign has great, free fact sheets.
Have a safe, happy and healthy New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Having a family communication plan is key, especially during an emergency

Disasters can strike when you least expect them, and you may not be with your family when they happen. Having a family communication plan can help you get in contact with your loved ones during an emergency.
In our latest podcast, APHA’s Get Ready team speaks with Jeffrey Mitchell, clinical professor of emergency health services at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and co-founder of the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, about the importance of including communications in family emergency preparedness planning.
“Make sure that you don’t make the plan so complex that people are not able to follow it,” Mitchell says. “It needs to be simple; it needs to be done with some degree of speed, and it has to be very effective so it works for the family system.”
Social media tools and text messaging can be fast, effective ways to communicate during a disaster, and Mitchell encourages incorporating them into your plan. Facebook and Twitter can be especially useful tools if you can’t get to a phone or if phone lines are down or overloaded, he noted. For family members who don’t use social media, it’s important to have other communication plans.
“If you have elderly people in the family who are not on the Internet, and they rely heavily on phone communication, then that needs to be built into the process as well,” he adds.
Here are some more things to consider when developing your family’s communication plan, courtesy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency:
  • Make a contact card for each family member including children. Put it in your everyday wallet, purse, briefcase or backpack.
  • Identify an out-of-town relative or family friend who can be another contact for your family, especially in the event of an evacuation. Make sure every member of your family knows the emergency contact’s information.
  • Make sure every family member has a cellphone, money or a prepaid phone card to use for calls.
  • If you have a cellphone, program your “in case of emergency” contact into your phone.
  • Teach family members how to use text messaging, which can work around network problems that prevent a phone call from going through.
  • Subscribe to alert services. Many communities have systems that send emails or text messages in the event of an emergency.
For more information, listen to the podcast or read the transcript. For more family preparedness tips, visit the Get Ready Parents page on our website.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Are you winter ready? Tips from APHA’s Get Ready campaign can help you prepare

Winter is approaching, and with it even more things to get ready for. APHA’s Get Ready campaign has the resources you need to be prepared and stay safe during the season.
Here are some things to think about this winter:
  • Winter storms: Winter storms can be mild and relatively harmless. But they can also cause some serious damage. Now is the time to get your home, workplace and car ready. Read our Get Ready winter storm fact sheet for tips.
  • Colds and flu: It’s cold and flu season, so now’s the time to stock up on supplies you’ll need in case you get sick. You don’t want to have to run out to the store with a cold! Also, learn how you can tell if you have a flu or a cold with our tip sheet. Don’t forget: It’s not too late to get your flu shot, as flu season usually peaks in January or February.
  • Power Outages: Losing power can be frustrating. During an outage, unplug any appliances that were on when the power went out to avoid damage. Also, keep your refrigerator door closed as much as possible to keep it relatively cold. After the power has returned, make sure to get rid of any food items that might have gone bad. Read our power outage fact sheet for more info.
  • Emergency preparedness kits: It’s always a good idea to prepare kits to keep both at home and in your car. Make sure you have an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, non-perishable foods, plenty of water and a first-aid kit. Check out our full checklist to see what supplies you’ll need.
Get Ready fact sheets are also available in Spanish. Visit our Winter Ready page now to download and share our materials.
Don’t let the cold weather ruin your wintertime fun!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Flu season is here: Vaccination is your best protection

Dr. Michael Jhung,
medical officer for the influenza division,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Today’s guest blog is by Michael Jhung, MD, MPH, MS, a medical officer for the Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team in the Influenza Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show nearly all states reporting some level of flu activity. While flu activity nationally remains low, it has been increasing and is likely to continue rising in the coming weeks. If you have not already gotten a flu vaccine this season, you should do so now. The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu and any potential serious complications.

In the United States each year, on average, 5 percent to 20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Last flu season was a stark reminder of how severe influenza can be. There were high influenza hospitalization rates, especially in the elderly. CDC saw the highest proportion of persons 65 and older hospitalized for flu since tracking began during the 2005-2006 season. And sadly, the number of pediatric deaths was one of the highest since flu tracking began.

For these reasons, CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive an annual flu vaccination. It is especially important that people at high risk of flu-related complications get vaccinated. This includes pregnant women; children younger than 5, but especially those younger than 2 years; adults 65 and older; and people with chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes. Also, it’s especially important that people living with or caring for people who are at high risk of flu complications be vaccinated; this includes health care professionals and those living with children younger than 6 months of age, as they are too young to be vaccinated.

The good news this year is there are more flu vaccine options than there have ever been. CDC does not recommend one type of flu vaccine over the others; the important thing is to get vaccinated. To find vaccine near you, visit
Join @CDCFlu and @GetReady on social media to share the news of your vaccination by posting a message using #vaxwithme. In doing so, you will help remind and encourage others to get vaccinated — it’s the best protection.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

It’s National Hand-Washing Awareness Week — Do you know the right way to wash your hands?

Dec. 1-7 is National Hand-Washing Awareness Week 2013, so let’s talk about hand hygiene. What is hand hygiene? It’s a term we use to describe things you can do, such as hand-washing and using hand sanitizer, to improve the cleanliness of your hands and protect your health. Hand-washing is one of the most important ways you can prevent many infectious diseases, including colds and flu.
The World Health Organization states that “simple hand-washing could save up to 1 million lives each year” around the globe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you wash your hands:
  • Photo courtesy of CDC/Amanda Mills
    before, during and after preparing food;
  • before eating food;
  • before and after caring for someone who is sick;
  • before and after treating a cut or wound;
  • after using the toilet;
  • after changing diapers or cleaning a child who has used the toilet;
  • after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
  • after touching an animal or animal waste;
  • after handling pet food or pet treats; and
  • after touching garbage.
Also, it’s a good idea to wash your hands more often during cold and flu season. Have you thought about your hands when you take public transportation, when you go somewhere where there are a lot of people or when people at your work or school are sick?
Some people are more at risk for infections, such as seniors or people with immune system problems. It’s even more important that they wash their hands more regularly. Otherwise they can become very sick. And don’t forget kids! Children like to get close to each other when they play. Teach and remind children to wash their hands. Start teaching children hand-washing when they are young and make it fun.
The proper way to wash your hands is to wet them with clean water, then apply and spread soap over all parts of your hands. Rub your soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds (sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice in your head), rinse well and dry.
If you can’t wash your hands with water, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol. Apply and spread the sanitizer to all parts of your hands and rub your hands together until they are dry.
Be sure to visit the Get Ready campaign’s hand-washing page for great information and materials on hand-washing.