Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Better Safe than Sorry

Today’s guest blog is by Gwen Camp, director of FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division, which organizes America’s PrepareAthon!, a grassroots action campaign that works to increase community preparedness and resilience.

If a disaster happens, do you have a plan to get in touch with family members? Are you signed up for cell phone alerts so you can stay informed? Are your emergency supplies up to date? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then the time to get prepared is now!

The America’s PrepareAthon! campaign is here to remind you that getting prepared doesn’t have to be expensive, time consuming, or hard. The America’s PrepareAthon! website, has FREE planning guides, toolkits, and creative materials to help you plan a preparedness activity for your family or community. Hazard-specific materials are available for earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and winter storms. Many of these resources are available in other languages, including Spanish, Japanese, and French.

Twice a year, on April 30 and September 30, America’s PrepareAthon! promotes national days of action, called National PrepareAthon! Days, to bring focus to preparedness. The April 30 National PrepareAthon! Day may still be weeks away, but individuals and communities are starting to take action now.

So, get started with one or more of these 10 simple actions and don’t forget to register your participation on We’re over 2.5 million strong and counting!

  1. Sign up for local alerts and warnings, download apps, and/or check access for wireless emergency alerts;
  2. Develop and test emergency communications plans;
  3. Assemble or update emergency supplies;
  4. Learn about local hazards and conduct a drill to practice emergency response actions;
  5. Participate in a preparedness discussion, training, or class;
  6. Collect and safeguard critical documents;
  7. Document property and obtain appropriate insurance for relevant hazards;
  8. Make property improvements to reduce potential injury and property damage (mitigation); 
  9. Hold a scenario-based continuity of operations tabletop exercise for your organization; or 
  10. Plan with neighbors to help each other and share resources.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Have a Fun, Relaxing and Healthy Spring Break

Whether you’re traveling to sandy beaches, climbing to snow-capped mountains or having a “staycation,” spring break means one thing: time off from the daily grind. With a few steps, you can make sure your week of fun doesn’t turn into a disaster.

1. Research your travel destination

Before traveling outside the U.S., check with your doctor to make sure you are up to date on all vaccinations needed for your destination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an online tool that allows you to select your destination and type of trip so you can be aware of the health risks wherever you’re headed.

It’s also a good idea to check the U.S. Department of State website, which can tell you if there are any warnings for countries you’re headed to, as well as information about passports and international travel.
And don’t forget, weather emergencies can occur anywhere and anytime. Before traveling, set your phone to receive alerts for your destination so you are always aware of bad weather.

2. Pack smart

Carry your own stash of first-aid supplies and medications, as you never know when you’ll need them. Be sure to include insect repellent and sunscreen if you are going someplace that this is an issue. Before you go, read these tips for repelling mosquitoes from Get Ready.

3. Check out CDC’s spring break website

Think you’re ready to go? Take one last minute to read over CDC’s spring break website, which has some great spring break traveling tips. For example, CDC recommends that you buy travel health insurance, be careful what you eat in developing countries and only swim in places you know are safe.

Spring break should be a time to let your stress melt away. Enjoy your vacation with these tips to stay safe so you come home relaxed and rejuvenated.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Guest blog: The most treacherous time of the year: Dig out and drive safely

Today’s guest blog is by Geico, which offers driving and other safety information on its website. While spring is on the horizon, recent ice storms and piles of snow in the Northeast attest to the fact that there are still a few more weeks of winter left. As you head out on the road, keep these tips in mind to stay safe and prepared.
From the driveway to the highway, getting your car unstuck and back on the road can be a pain. Unless you've already traded in your car for a snowmobile, you should be prepared for whatever the season throws at you — or piles on top of you.
First, make sure your car is winterized and ready for battle. Then follow these tips to make your trek into the winter wonderland a safe one.
Protect your windshield after Mother Nature's frosting
  • The cardinal rule for de-icing your windows? Hot water is a no-no, unless you like that shattered glass look.
  • To begin, start your car and turn on the front and rear defrosters to help soften the ice and snow. It will also help warm up your car while you work.
  • When you're ready to begin scraping the ice, opt for a plastic ice scraper. Plastic scrapers are less likely to damage or scratch the surface of the glass.
  • Your wipers weren't made for heavy lifting. Use them only after you've completely cleared off the snow and ice from your windshield.
  • Make sure your car has plenty of windshield washer fluid before you get out on the slush, salt and sand covered roads.
How to take your car from snow-packed to road-worthy
  • First things want the snow off your car but you probably want to save the paint. Opt for brushes designed for auto snow removal and leave the shovel in the shed.
  • Whatever you do — don't forget the roof! In fact, failing to clean off your car can be illegal. You don't want a block of ice the size of a mattress flying off your car into traffic.  
  • Don't forget to brush off your mirrors, head and tail lights and license plates.
  • Carbon monoxide is no laughing matter, so check your tailpipe to be sure it's free of snow whenever your car is running.
  • When you are ready to hit the road, shovel around your wheels and under the front and rear bumpers to clear away any snow. And above all, please be careful out there.
On the road again: Driving tips for snow and ice
A winterized car is a great start, but it's only part of the safe winter driving equation. Follow these driving tips to keep yourself safe and secure when roads are slippery.
  • Slow down. In normal conditions, you should maintain a following distance of three seconds between you and another car. On winter roads, increase that to a full 8 to 10 seconds. Yes, that may mean slow-going, but a little patience will keep you a lot safer on the road.
  • Get unstuck the right way. Avoid the temptation to spin your wheels. You'll just dig yourself into a deeper hole. Instead, determine the path of least resistance between your car and solid ground. Then, clear the snow behind and in front of all four tires and liberally spread sand or kitty litter in front of and behind the drive wheels. Keep in mind that the sharper your front wheels are turned, the more resistance to movement in either direction you create. Consequently, try to keep the front tires as straight as possible.
  • Tackle a skid the smart way. If your car skids, keep a cool head, and follow these steps:
    1. Don't panic.
    2. Don't slam on the brakes.
    3. Take your foot off the gas.
    4. Steer your car in the direction you want to go.
    5. Wait for the car to slow down so you can regain control.
You can prepare for a skid by practicing. Go to an open parking lot and practice braking on icy or snowy surfaces. (Yes, you are allowed to think this is fun.) More importantly, you'll better know how to handle yourself when you skid in traffic.

APHA members receive a discount on Geico auto insurance. Visit the Geico website for details.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Add this reminder to your calendar and be ready for disasters!

We all have a lot to keep up with these days — pick up tomatoes for tonight’s salad, send a gift card for a relative’s birthday, schedule teeth cleaning. Staying on top of things is important, but life sometimes intrudes.

Creating a schedule for activities, appointments and special days, whether big or small, can help you relax and feel prepared for upcoming events. That’s where APHA’s Get Ready: Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks campaign comes in. The campaign advises Americans to use the twice-a-year clock change as a reminder to check your emergency stockpile.

Having an up-to-date stockpile — with nothing missing or expired — comes in handy when the lights are out during a power outage, if your tap water is undrinkable during a flood or you have to shelter-in-place during a storm.

Quick! Add these dates into your calendar right now: March 8 and November 1. Those are the 2015 dates for the clock change. You can even use the handy “Add to Calendar” button on our website to add this month’s reminder to your Outlook, Google or Yahoo calendar. Look at you, already on your way to being prepared!

To be even more ready for a disaster, visit the Get Ready site for a handy checklist of emergency supplies, a grocery list and even delicious recipes. While you’re there, check out our new infographic and share a photo of your stockpile.