Friday, June 26, 2015

Guest blog: There’s no “I” in team: Helping prepare your community for a disaster with CERT training

Today’s guest blog is by Mighty Fine, MPH, deputy director of APHA’s Center for Professional Development, Public Health Systems and Partnerships.

Photo credit: Toby Amodeo
As a member of APHA’s Get Ready team, I’m well aware of the importance of emergency preparedness. I’m not wishing for a disaster, but if one came, I’d be ready.

However, I haven’t paid close attention to the preparedness needs of my local Washington, D.C., community. So I decided to get more involved by participating in a free Community Emergency Response Team training.

Participating in this 20-hour course was a great way for me to learn basic disaster response skills and relief. The course consisted of eight units, addressing topics such as fire safety, terrorism, preparedness and psychology.

We watched informative videos, interacted with first responders, reviewed case studies and participated in demonstrations. All of our activities were done in small teams, which highlighted the importance of working together during a disaster.

The training was truly a hands-on learning experience. I rolled up my sleeves and really got into it. We learned how to make a splint to support an injured limb, which is a critical skill during an emergency, especially if supplies are limited.

We were also taught how to extinguish a fire. We learned the acronym PASS, which stands for “Pull, Aim, Squeeze and Spray.” By remembering these steps I’ll always know the proper way to use a fire extinguisher.

After taking this course I feel better positioned to help my community respond effectively to an emergency. CERT trainings are offered in communities around the U.S.  Once you’ve completed a training, you can even join a local CERT program to assist first responders in relief efforts.

Check out a training near you so you can help your community be more prepared, too!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Census Bureau graphic shows Americans have room for improvement on preparedness

If disaster strikes tomorrow, where would you get your water? Nearly half of all Americans would be in trouble if their water supply was cut off in an emergency.

That’s a finding from the 2013 American Housing Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development. The survey results, released in March, found only 54 percent of Americans have a three-day supply of water in their home.

To raise awareness, the Census Bureau released a new infographic this month showing just how ready — or not — Americans are for emergencies.
Among the survey’s findings: Only about half of Americans have an emergency evacuation kit prepared, and just 37 percent have an emergency plan for dealing with disaster. No one likes to think it could happen to us. But the truth is that floods, tornadoes, diseases and more can affect all of our lives.

But the Census Bureau graphic shows that it’s not all bad news. When it comes to having food around, we’re doing really well. And a lot of our houses are clearly numbered. That makes it easier for emergency responders to find us when we need help.

It might look like a lot to think about, but it’s much easier to get ready now than during a disaster. With that in mind, here’s a checklist to help build your emergency stockpile!

Measuring America: How Ready Are We?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summertime fun means being summer safe

Summer officially begins next week on June 21. It’s a great time to get outside and get active. Whether you’re scoring winning goals on the beach or climbing mountains with friends, knowing how to be prepared during summer is helpful.

Photo courtesy of
It’s already heating up out there. Summer sun can bring sunburn, dehydration and more. Make sure you find a way to stay cool, whether that means sitting in the shade or taking a break in an air-conditioned building. Drink a lot of water, too.

Summer can also bring some extreme weather, like hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires. Whether you are at home or on vacation, know the risks in your area. Keep an eye on the news and know where to go in case there is an emergency.

Summertime can do more than change the weather. Ticks and mosquitoes love the higher temps. You’re outside, they’re outside. Grab some bug spray. Make sure it has at least 20 percent DEET, and do a tick check when you get inside. Ticks and mosquitoes can carry some unpleasant diseases.  Trust us, you don’t want to know what they’re like.

And don’t forget: power outages are pretty common in summer. If there is a weather disaster in your area, check with your water company to make sure your water is safe to drink after. Keep your emergency stockpile up to date. You’ve got one of those, right? If you don’t, here’s a list to get you started.

Check out all of our Summer Safe fact sheets for more info. Simply knowing what to do and what to watch for can keep you safe. Now that you’ve got all that, get outside and enjoy the summer!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Get Ready podcast: Creating healthy, safe homes

We spend a lot of time at home. So it’s important to make sure that the places we live are safe. It starts with where our houses are built and how they are made. That’s why we need to know and understand local health threats before we build. If people know the risks common to their area, it’s easier to build to help guard against them.

Still, homes that have health problems are located all over the U.S. Many put people in contact with health threats like radon, lead and more.

In our new podcast, APHA’s Get Ready campaign spoke with Dr. Warren Friedman, senior advisor to the director at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, to learn more about making safe homes.

PHIL Image 19316
CDC // Theresa Roebuck
Dr. Friedman’s office targets the roots of these problems. Instead of just cleaning up, they figure out where and how the problem starts.

Even with good preparation though, emergencies happen. Dr. Freidman noted that we learn a lot of lessons after disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. He said as we rebuild affected communities we take those lessons to reduce the consequences of future disasters.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development is using what we’ve learned to come up with better ways to prepare and respond, and to help federal and local governments work together to keep us all safer.

To hear more about resilient communities, listen to our newest Get Ready Report.  And check out our new home safety infographic for more ways to make your home safe!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Can we beat the heat?

Today's Guest Blog is from Allison Crimmins, an environmental scientist with EPA’s Climate Change Division. She focuses on the impacts and risks associated with climate change, especially on human health. Prior to joining EPA, she earned one Masters degree in oceanography by exploring past climates in ocean sediments and a second Masters’ degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. She lives, works, and judges the occasional science fair in Washington, D.C. but still cheers for the Chicago Bears.

See how recorded temperatures have risen in the
United States in since 1901 / U.S. EPA
I have an uncle in Arizona who likes to send taunting emails in the middle of winter, bragging about his region’s warm temperatures while my Midwestern family freezes. The tables would be turned in summer, and he’d get his share of emails when Arizona’s temperatures soared. Lately though, the rate of warming in the Midwest has accelerated, with temperatures rising three times as fast between 1980 and 2010 than the long-term temperature increase . With extremely hot days—the kind we’re used to seeing once in 20 years—projected to become commonplace across the U.S., there won’t be many places in the country left with bragging rights.

Heat waves have become more frequent and more intense, especially in the West, and they’re expected to become more intense across the entire U.S. Aside from making us miserable, heat waves can also make us very sick. Extreme heat is associated with increased hospital visits for cardiovascular, kidney, and respiratory disorders, and can also lead to an increased number of deaths from heat stroke and other cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

The health risks from heat are heightened in cities, where the urban heat island effect can intensify temperatures. Cities can be up to 10°F warmer than surrounding rural areas and can maintain warmer temperatures throughout the night. With more people moving to urban areas and nighttime temperatures rising faster than daytime temperatures, there’s a lot of people who can’t catch a break from the heat.

It might be easy to think this is an issue that affects “other people,” but not me. Those most vulnerable to extreme heat include children, the elderly, people who work or exercise outdoors, pregnant women, some communities of color, and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Extreme heat affects people living in cities, but also people in rural areas that haven’t needed air conditioning in the past. It affects people in Arizona, the Midwest, and everywhere in between. When you look back at that list, it’s evident that we all fit into one or more of those categories, at least at some point in our lives.

The good news is that heat related deaths and illnesses are preventable and there is a lot of great information out there to help beat the heat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has great resources on extreme heat and hot weather tips.

In addition to preparing for the heat, it’s also important to take action on climate change to help reduce these threats. EPA is taking a number of steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including cutting carbon pollution from existing power plants, setting standards to increase fuel efficiency for all new cars and trucks sold through 2025, and working closely with the private sector to promote programs like ENERGY STAR, which helps Americans save money and improves the energy-efficiency of their appliances, homes, and businesses. To learn more about what EPA is doing to address climate change, please see:

You can also take action on climate change! Since everyone uses energy, everyone can be part of the solution. To learn about simple steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint, see One of the best ways to make a difference, in my opinion, is just to share what you learn about climate change with friends and family. A good place to learn more about observed and projected climate impacts where you live is:

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Getting Ready for Floods

We’ve all seen the tragic news about the flooding in Texas and on the Plains. More than 20 people have lost their lives in the state and in Oklahoma since last weekend with others missing and many homes and businesses across the area destroyed.

Floods can happen anywhere and at times we don’t expect. We all need to know how to prepare. With a little effort, we can all be ready for floods.
Photo: Bob McMillan // FEMA Photo

Getting ready starts before the first drop of rain. Floods can happen even if they haven’t hit your area before, according to Check with your city or town to see if there is a plan in place in case of floods.

When there is a risk of a flood, it’s always important to listen to authorities. Make sure to have a battery-powered radio to listen for updates in case you lose power. Local leaders will keep you posted with the news. They’ll also let you know if you need to head to higher ground or if you should stay put.

Floods can contaminate your tap water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that flood waters can carry dangerous chemicals and bacteria, so make sure you have plenty of clean, safe bottled water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends having at least a three-day supply of food and water for your entire house.

Have an emergency stockpile for home stored somewhere it will be safe if waters rise. Keep a bag full of supplies such as flashlights, extra batteries, a first-aid kit, medications and non-perishable food, in case you have to leave quickly. If you have canned food, make sure to include a manual can opener.
Photo: Bob McMillan // FEMA Photo

After the flood, make sure your house is safe before going back in. Watch out for mosquitoes that live near standing water. Talk to your family or a friend if you feel stressed or anxious.

Floods are scary, but with the right preparation we can all stay safe. For more ways to prepare, check out our floods fact sheet on the Get Ready campaign website.