Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Get ready for cuteness overload! Our new Get Ready Calendar is here

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Time for your new Get Ready Calendar! The latest edition of our annual preparedness calendar is available and it’s loaded with cuteness.

From wagging puppy tails and sleeping kittens to fuzzy goats and furry squirrels, “Awwwwwpocalypse! APHA’s 2017 Get Ready Calendar” is full of squee. This year’s calendar may be our most adorable yet, as the theme is baby animals. That’s right: 12 months of fluffy, big-eyed, sweet-faced baby animals. Awwww.

Photographers submitted hundreds of photos of baby animals in our annual contest. And though we wanted to share them all, we had to narrow it down to just 20 cutetastic pics for the calendar.

But it’s not all fluff: Every image is accompanied by preparedness tips. So you and your family, friends and colleagues can learn how to get ready for disasters each month. Print a copy for your refrigerator, your bulletin board and your cubicle. They even make great stocking stuffers or Hanukkah gifts!

Once you’ve printed your copies, be sure to share the link on social media and on your website, so that others can enjoy yearlong adorableness and get prepared.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Potluck food safety: Don’t bring uninvited germs to your party

Potlucks are great places to hang out with friends and family and eat some great food. But if you don’t follow food safety, they can also be places for trouble. 

Cooking for potlucks or large groups means you need to take extra steps to keep food safe. The large numbers of people, crowded space and buffet-style food set-up can spell a recipe for disaster.

You can get sick when germs are present on the food you eat. This is called food poisoning and can make you feel really sick. Germs can get on food at any point during food handling, cooking or storage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 48 million Americans get food poisoning every year. The risk is highest for young children, seniors and pregnant women.

But there are many ways to keep your next potluck event more yum than yuck.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says food safety begins at the sink. Make sure to wash your hands before making food and always wash fruits and vegetables before use. Use clean counter space, utensils and storage containers for your food. Never re-use cutting boards or knives that have been used with raw meat before washing.

Some dishes make better party guests than others. The Food and Drug Administration says egg-containing dishes like mayonnaise, homemade Caesar salad dressing, chocolate mousse and deviled eggs need extra care. Make sure to keep these dishes in the fridge right until party time. It’s best if you can put out small portions of these foods. That way, you can replace the plate with fresh food from the fridge or cooler throughout the party.

When transporting and serving — avoid the danger zone! Bacteria can quickly multiply in temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees. So keep food above or below these temperatures. To keep foods hot, use warming plates or slow cookers and to keep it cold, use ice. Have small spoons ready for dips or sauces to keep people from dipping food directly in these shared bowls.

Stick to the two-hour rule: Food should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours, according to USDA. After two hours, food should be thrown away. If the event is outside and the temperature is over 90 degrees, throw out after one hour. If in doubt, throw it out.

To keep your next event safe, spread the word and dish out this advice to others bringing food to the party!

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Spending time with friends and family this season? Get your flu vaccination now

The holidays are almost upon us! That means good times, good cheer and lots of time with friends and family.

While you’re hugging grandma or holding your cousin’s new baby, you don’t want to give them the flu, right? (And you certainly don’t want to catch it from your always-snot-covered nephew.)

The best way to protect yourself and others is to get your flu shot and get it now. It takes about two weeks after your shot for all that awesome flu vaccine protectiveness to kick in, so this is great timing.

In fact, it’s National Influenza Vaccination Week, meaning there’s probably a flu clinic nearby you right now. Or drop by your local pharmacy or walk-in clinic.

This way, you’ll only be spreading joy to the people you care about this season — and not whatever is on your plane tray or door handle. (Speaking of which, don’t forget to wash your hands. A lot.)

Help spread the word about holiday flu preparedness with our super-cute new Get Ready graphic and check out our other holiday images.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Plague: It’s not just in the history books

Are you at risk for plague? Just hearing that question may make you do a double-take: Isn’t plague the disease that killed a lot of people that we learned about in school? Sadly, plague isn’t in the past with those awkward school memories. But just like bowl haircuts, it doesn’t have to be in your future.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria, Yersinia pestis. It’s transmitted by fleas and occurs among animals and humans, including their pets. It usually affects seven people each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worldwide, as many as 2,000 cases are reported annually.

The bubonic plague is the most common form and most commonly comes from the bite of an infected flea. You can also get plague from infected animals or from inhaling droplets from someone who has the disease.

Most Americans who get plague are in western states. People who live in Colorado, north-central New Mexico and southwestern and northeastern California are especially at risk, according to a recent study.

The main symptoms to look for with plague are swollen, painful bumps in your armpit, neck or inner thigh. Other warning signs are getting really hot or cold, headaches, feeling exhausted or having a bad cough. It usually takes one to six days after being infected for symptoms to start.

It’s easy to ignore symptoms and just hope they will go away, like some of us do with overeating on Thanksgiving, but ignoring the plague will lead to much worse problems than a food baby. If you think you have plague, CDC recommends that you see a doctor, who can give you antibiotics to treat the disease. While plague-related death rates are nowhere near what they were in historical times, people do still die from the disease.

So, how do you prevent plague? Just in case you haven’t had your coffee or been rattled awake by your commute today, here are three easy-to-remember tips from CDC:

  • Get rid of places rodents might want to live around your house.
  • Use insect repellent on yourself and your pets.
  • Avoid picking up or touching sick or dead animals, and when you do, wear gloves.

You can also let your local health department know about sick or dead animals in the area and not let your animals sleep in your bed.

Knowing this, we can hopefully keep plague outbreaks in the past.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving food tips from USDA: When it comes to the bird, safety’s the word

Today’s guest blog on turkey safety is by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

USDA Thanksgiving Food Safety Infographic
Whether you’re a Thanksgiving cooking pro or newbie, preparing one of the largest meals of the year can be stressful. To avoid making mistakes that could cause foodborne illness, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service wants you to be aware of these common Thanksgiving myths:

  • Myth: You should wash your raw turkey
    Food safety experts — including us at USDA — don’t recommend washing raw meat and poultry before cooking. Many bacteria are quite loosely attached, and when you rinse these foods the bacteria will be spread around your kitchen. In fact, research shows that washing meat or poultry in water spreads bacteria throughout the kitchen — onto countertops, other food, towels and you. Water can splash bacteria up to three feet surrounding your sink, which can lead to illnesses.

    Researchers at Drexel University have shown that it’s best to move meat and poultry straight from package to pan, as the heat required for cooking will kill any bacteria that may be present.
  • Myth: You can’t cook a frozen turkey
    If your turkey is still icy on Thanksgiving morning, don’t panic! It’s perfectly safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state. It’ll just take longer to cook. A solidly frozen turkey will take at least 50 percent longer to cook than a thawed turkey. If you cannot separate the giblet package from the turkey at the start, just remember to remove it carefully with tongs or a fork a few hours into the cooking process.
  • Myth: The bird is done when juices run clear
    Do you check if your Thanksgiving turkey is done by poking the turkey to see if the juices run clear? Do you also keep repeating this process until everyone is hungry and you are left with a dry turkey?

    The only way to determine if a turkey is safely cooked and ready to serve is to take the temperature of the turkey with a food thermometer in three locations: the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast. The thermometer should read 165°F.

    The juices rarely run clear at this temperature, and when they do the bird is often overcooked. Using the food thermometer is the best way to ensure your turkey is cooked to a safe internal temperature, but not overcooked. 

If you have any Thanksgiving myths you want to check out, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline — 1-888-674-6854 — where you can talk to a food safety specialist in English or Spanish between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST, or chat live at AskKaren.gov. The Meat and Poultry Hotline will even be open on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST to take last-minute calls.

Download and share USDA’s turkey safety infographic in English or Spanish.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Happy birthday to us! APHA’s Get Ready Campaign turns 10

This year is the anniversary of APHA’s Get Ready campaign and we’re celebrating 10 years of helping Americans become more prepared for disasters. Hooray!

When we launched in 2006, our goal was to make it easy for Americans to find, understand and share preparedness information and to help them become more prepared. Since then, the nation has faced storms — from Hurricane Sandy to Hurricane Matthew —earthquakes, disease outbreaks and numerous other disasters. And the Get Ready campaign has been there to help people prepare for them.

From fact sheets and Q&As to photo calendars and even a song contest, the Get Ready campaign has shared a ton of educational tools that have helped people ready themselves, their families and their communities for emergencies. Check out some of the fantastic resources we’ve shared:

  • 500 posts on our Get Ready Blog, which continues to provide regular news, features and other information on timely preparedness topics.
  • 70 fact sheets, covering everything from stockpiling to hurricanes to vaccinations. Our lineup has changed as current events have, with fact sheets on MERS, Ebola, dengue and Zika released as the topics made headlines.
  • 50 creative, humorous e-cards that allow people to share preparedness messages on Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Mother’s Day and other occasions.
  • Almost 50 podcasts, featuring interviews with health and preparedness leaders on a range of topics.
  • 30 high school and college scholarship winners, who wrote essays on preparedness and received funding from Get Ready for their education.
  • 15 Q&As with disaster experts, who’ve provided practical tips on getting ready for disasters.
  • 5 years of photo contests with hundreds of entries, which were turned into adorable preparedness calendars featuring cats, dogs, toddlers and more!

And we haven’t even mentioned our videos, infographics, cookbook, tools for kids, quizzes, hand-washing materials, coloring book and preparedness events, like Get Ready Day. There’s so much great information it’s hard to mention it all!

Swing by the Get Ready website today to see all the wonderful tools we’ve created for you. Then share them on your campus or in your community.

Thanks for celebrating 10 years of becoming more prepared with us!

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

South Carolina flooding becomes case study in community resiliency

Note: This post was republished from APHA's Annual Meeting Blog

When Hurricane Joaquin hovered over South Carolina in the fall of 2015 causing historic flooding, state residents — particularly in the Midlands region — had to quickly discover what they were made of.

In the midst of disaster, researchers from the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health saw an opportunity to see how residents acted and adapted to a life-changing event. They presented on their work during Monday’s Annual Meeting session “Response, Recovery and Resiliency: Understanding Public Health in Practice During and After the Flood of October 2015.”

Over 11 trillion gallons of water were dumped into the Midlands region of the state, said Heather Brandt, associate professor of health promotion, education and behavior at the Arnold School of Public Health.

“This is not something that’s becoming a 1,000-year flood,” Brandt said. “It’s becoming something far more routine and certainly climate change is playing a role in this.”

Social media played a large role in communicating the threat of floods, particularly from residents and media outlets, Brandt said. She and researchers examined tweets with the hashtag #SCFlood over four time periods, including 72 hours before Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, when residents were urged to leave areas at risk for flooding as well as the six months following the flooding from Oct. 15 through April 15. The most popular themes in tweets across all periods were about the natural environment, built environment and devastation.

Those connected on social media could glean information from Twitter about accessing FEMA assistance, resource donation, road closures and shelter availability. Access to this information contributed to the resiliency of affected residents.

“I had never seen so much bottled water in my life,” Brandt said. “We saw a lot of community resiliency coming forward and demonstrating support. People relying on each other, people visiting to play games with kids at the shelters, having shelters where people could bring family pets, not just dogs and cats.”

Communication was critical for response and recovery and crucial to residents building resiliency during and after the crisis, said Sayward Harrison, who studied community resilience during the flooding for the University of South Carolina’s SmartState Center for Healthcare Quality.

Harrison defined community resiliency as the “capability of a community to draw upon its individual, collective and institutional resources and competencies to cope with, adapt to and develop from the demands, challenges and changes encountered before, during and after disaster.”

In interviews of nearly 40 residents affected by the floods, Harrison brought up examples of that definition in action. Those included identifying a Spanish-speaking TV reporter in the Midlands region who could translate emergency messages to Hispanic residents, such as boil water advisories and stories of residents in affected neighborhoods who knew where vulnerable residents, such as seniors, lived so resources could be directed to them.

Another part of resiliency is post-traumatic growth — the change that comes as a result of trauma that involves developing a “new normal,” Harrison said.

“We’re thinking of ways we can build a stronger community,” Harrison told attendees. “People are used to the way things were but it’s good to have change.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Global One Health Day launched by three international health groups

Cheryl Stroud, DVM, PhD
Today’s guest post is by Cheryl Stroud, DVM, PhD, executive director of the One Health Commission.

This year, individuals and groups from around the world — from academic, corporate and nonprofit to students and established professionals — have the opportunity to implement One Health projects and special events under the auspices of One Health Day. While the official date is Nov. 3, One Health Day activities can and are happening throughout the year. Over 100 events are known to be planned, with more registrations coming in daily. And many more events that have not been registered on the website are being posted on the One Health Day Facebook page.

One Health is a movement to create collaborations between human and veterinary medical health care providers, social scientists, dentists, nurses, agriculturalists and food producers, wildlife and environmental health specialists and many other related disciplines. In today’s systems, this does not happen spontaneously. It requires that we create opportunities for direct interactions and relationships to form across the many disciplines needed to address today’s critical public-global-planetary health issues.

One Health Day gives scientists and advocates a powerful voice for moving beyond current usual approaches to emerging infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance, climate change, environmental pollution and many other problems to a holistic default way of doing business. It was officially launched March 31 by three leading international One Health groups:
One Health is increasingly accepted by numerous major international organizations such as the World Health Organization, the World Medical Association, the World Veterinary Association, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the World Organization for Animal Health and many others. An outstanding group of One Health textbooks and international professional One Health journals has emerged.

The incredible number of events planned for the inaugural One Health Day by scientists, health practitioners and students demonstrates a tremendous global interest, need and call for health professionals to work together across disciplines. And the world is already looking forward to One Health Day 2017. Check out the 2016 global One Health Day events descriptions and map and prepare to be amazed.

Monday, October 24, 2016

This flu vaccine season, stick with the needle for best protection

Getting vaccinated is your best bet for staying safe from the flu. But this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has even more specific advice: Stick with the needle when getting your flu vaccine.

Since 2003, the nasal flu spray vaccine has been an option for children and adults. It has become a popular choice for those who don’t like needles but still want to be protected.

Recent studies, however, have shown that the spray didn’t do a good enough job guarding against the flu. There were no safety concerns with the nose spray. It just didn’t protect as well during the past three flu seasons.

Everyone ages 6 months and older should get a flu shot each year. You need a shot every year because there are different types and strains of flu virus going around so the vaccine changes each year. Cases of the flu are highest between October and May but you can get the flu at any time during the year.

The flu is a virus that can make you feel tired, hot and sick to your stomach. Getting a flu shot helps keep you from getting the flu and it also helps stop the spread of the flu to others. This is important because the flu can be really dangerous, especially for very young children, seniors and those with compromised immune systems.

For the best protection, follow CDC’s advice and get your flu shot. Find out where today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fall is here and so is tailgating. Are you ready to grill like a pro?

Fall is one of the most exciting times of the year. School is back in session, leaves change colors and swimsuits and popsicles are traded in for sweaters and pumpkin-flavored everything.

But there’s another thing that gets some Americans jumping for joy in the fall: Football season! And with football season comes another fall favorite, tailgating.

When you’re building up that team spirit and grilling up some tasty football treats, you’ll want to make sure not to sicken your friends and family. Nothing puts a kibosh on fun like a nasty outbreak of food poisoning.

To keep your team healthy, plan ahead when tailgating and grilling in general:

  • Make sure any raw meat, or other perishable food, is stored properly and packaged securely to keep it fresh and prevent contamination. 
  • Bring enough plates and utensils. You can’t use the same ones for both raw and cooked meat.
  • Come prepared with all the supplies you need, including cleaning supplies, water and, most importantly, your trusty food thermometer.
By using your food thermometer when grilling meat, U.S. Department of Agriculture says you’ll be grilling like a “PRO.”

Here’s how, compliments of the Get Ready cheerleading squad:
  • Give me a P! Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, or approach from the side if grilling thinner cuts of meat, once you think it’s fully cooked.
  • Give me an R! Read the internal temperature off the thermometer after about 15 seconds. If you’re cooking steaks, roasts or chops made from beef, pork, lamb or veal, you’ll want to cook them to 145 degrees with a three-minute rest time. Ground meats should be cooked to at least 160 degrees, and whole poultry, poultry breasts and ground poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees.
  • Give me an O! Off the grill and into your mouth. Make sure you don’t reuse the plates and utensils that came into contact with the raw meat. Also, be sure to clean your food thermometer thoroughly after use.
Now you’re tailgating like a P-R-O! Goooooooo, team! 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Catch this public health Pokemon to help prepare for disasters

Chansey ecard
Chanseys are rare...but disasters aren't
If you’re a “Pokemon Go” player, you know that there are more than 100 Pokemon, each whom have their own fantastic abilities.

Here at Get Ready, we’re particularly fond of Chansey, a pink, egg-clutching Pokemon who sometimes sports a hat with a red cross. Chansey’s abilities include “natural cure, serene grace and healer,” which makes her a great fit for public health. She even shares her eggs with people who are injured.

As Chanseys are very rare in the wild, we’ve captured one for you to enjoy on our latest Get Ready e-card. Keep a copy close by, and share one with your friends and family who love “Pokemon Go.”

Even if you have been lucky enough to catch a Chansey, you have to be prepared on your own to face disasters and other potential public health emergencies. Find tips on preparedness on our Get Ready website, including fact sheets and infographics.

And while you’re out there playing “Pokemon Go,” remember to keep safety in mind. This awesome Storify from The Nation’s Health gives you fun and helpful info to keep you in the know while you’re catching them all.

And check out our Get Ready e-cards page for even more fun designs to share.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

CDC shares tips to protect Americans from the Zika virus

What do you need to know about Zika? That depends on who you are, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

APHA’s Get Ready Report podcast recently spoke with Ben Beard, PhD, branch chief for the Bacterial Diseases Branch in the Division of Vector-Borne Disease at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, to find out how to protect ourselves from the disease.

Since 2015, more than 8,500 people in U.S. states, territories and Washington, D.C., have been diagnosed with Zika, according to CDC. Most of those cases have occurred in Puerto Rico, where a public health emergency was declared last week.

Beard shared information that can benefit all Americans, especially pregnant women, travelers, outdoor workers and people living in areas where Zika might be spreading. Zika can be spread by mosquito bites, through sexual contact or from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or delivery.

Beard recommended that Americans protect themselves from Zika by:
  • using mosquito repellent and wearing clothing to cover their arms and legs,
  • avoiding travel to places where Zika is being actively transmitted, and
  • protecting themselves during sex by using condoms or other barrier methods.

Beard said that public health professionals have an important role to play, especially as parents and kids begin back to school plans.

“There is a really unique opportunity for public health authorities, as school seasons start, to work with schools to make sure that risk of Zika transmission can be minimized,” Beard said. “Public health authorities in school districts can proactively and collaboratively establish direct communication channels and clearly define each partner’s roles and responsibilities.”

Listen to our podcast with Beard now.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Vaccines are awesome! Spread the word during National Immunization Awareness Month

You don’t have to be superhuman to have the power to protect yourself and your community from infectious diseases. You just have to be immunized!

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to learn about vaccinations for both you and your family.

Getting vaccinated doesn’t only protect yourself, it also helps protect your whole community. Ever heard of herd immunity? If most of your community is immunized against a disease, then that disease won’t have the chance to break out and spread. That means that people who are unable to get certain vaccinations, like very young babies or people with immune system problems, can still be protected.

To achieve community immunity, it’s key that every person who can be vaccinated gets their shots. Make sure the members of your “herd” get the memo with our National Immunization Awareness Month e-card.

Vaccines are important for all ages of people, that’s why each week of National Immunization Awareness Month has a different theme: adults, pregnant women, babies and young children, and preteens and teens.

  • Adults: Vaccinations don’t end once you grow up. Find out what vaccines adults need with this helpful quiz.
  • Pregnant women: Vaccines can transfer immunity to fetuses, so that babies are protected once they’re born. See what’s recommended for pregnant women.
  • Kids and teens: For schoolchildren, getting updated shots should be right next to buying new pencils and paper on the to-do list. Parents can find out what vaccines their kids need via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. 

For even more tips and tools to share, check out the National Public Health Information Coalition site.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympics 2016: Crowd preparedness is no game

Image: CDC/Dr. Edwin P. Ewing, Jr.
The 2016 Summer Olympics, now underway in Brazil, is sure to bring new records, joyful victories and lots of shiny metals. It’ll also bring something else: crowds. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend at least some of the games.

Whether you’re lucky enough to be in Rio watching the competition or just tuning in from home, the Olympic games are a good reminder that we all should be prepared for crowds.

Use these tips to go for the gold in crowd preparedness and safety this summer:

  • Know before you go. Whether you’re gathering for a sporting event, parade or fireworks show, be aware of your surroundings, and get familiar with what’s happening in the neighborhood you’re headed to. Print out maps beforehand and know your transportation options in case you have to leave the area quickly.
  • Look out for friends and family. Have an emergency plan and meeting place, and make sure the people you’re traveling with are prepared for emergencies, too. 
  • Be a good sport. Stay aware before, during and after your trip. Pay attention to weather forecasts, local news and emergency alerts so you know you’re ready for any situations that may come up.
  • Ready, get set, spray. Summertime means mosquitoes. Protect yourself and the people close to you.

Follow these tips and stay in the know to protect yourself in crowds this summer. For more tips, check out our crowd safety fact sheet. If you’re prepared, you’ll have more time and energy to root for Team USA!

Friday, August 05, 2016

Food banks and disasters: New Orleans’ Second Harvest shows the vital role community food banks play during emergencies

Do you know the connection between food banks and disasters? It’s an important one, but it’s not something everyone is aware of.

Image: Win Henderson/FEMA
We wanted to learn about the topic from an expert, so the Get Ready campaign spoke with Natalie Jayroe, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana.

Jayroe told us about the work of the food bank, which is the largest hunger-fighting organization in Louisiana and helps 210,000 people a year.

She also told us about the role it plays during disasters, such as the vital services it provided after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, when Second Harvest became the “largest food bank in the world’s history.” The food bank even has an agreement with state health officials to help out in the event of a pandemic.

“We are very comfortable with the fact that we are a disaster response organization,” Jayroe told us.
Find out more about the important emergency role food banks play and get tips on how you can help out. Read our Q&A with Jayroe online now.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Don’t get sick while taking a dip: Protect yourself from swimming-related germs

During a day at the pool, you wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, but what do you do to prevent an infectious disease? The public water we swim in, from hot tubs to water playgrounds, can contain germs that can make you sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently looked at inspection information for public aquatic venues in five states. In 1 in 8 of the inspections, swimming was shut down immediately because of health and safety concerns. Kiddie and wading pools were the highest offenders.

But, wait, you may say. Aren’t these pools being treated? Although chlorine is widely used to kill dangerous germs, some bacteria have developed strong tolerance and can live for hours or even days in chlorinated waters. They can cause diarrhea and infections of the eyes, ears, chest and lungs.

So how can you protect yourself? Before you head out to your public pool, look up inspection results online. Once you’re at the pool, give the water a good once-over. Make sure you’re swimming in good quality water and that there are no foul odors. Pool water should be clear, with the main drain at the bottom visible. If something doesn’t look right, let someone in charge know, and don’t enter the water.

But it’s not all about the pool. You should never leave the water dirtier than you found it. CDC has steps for swimmers to take to prevent spreading germs:
  • If you have diarrhea, skip the pool until you’re better.
  • Keep your mouth closed underwater and never swallow pool water.
  • Shower with soap before you swim and wash your hands after bathroom breaks.

If you’re a parent, CDC recommends a few more steps:
  • Check diapers and take young kids to the toilet often.
  • Change all diapers away from the pool in the bathroom or changing room.
  • Wash your children with soap, especially around their bottoms, before they swim.

For more tips, check out CDC’s steps for healthy swimming

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer camps mean summer fun — and disaster preparedness

Have you ever tried to tell a child it’s time to stop playing outside?  As tough as it may be to tell one child to make the next cannonball in the pool their last because it’s dinnertime, imagine gathering a group of dozens of kids who are having fun at summer camp.

These campers are disaster prepared. Image: FEMA
As regular Get Ready Blog readers know, disasters and emergencies can occur anywhere. And that means they can occur when kids are away from home, as well. Luckily, at summer camps, there are grown-ups in charge who are working hard to keep kids safe while they’re having fun.

But that doesn’t mean that they can’t use a little help getting ready. In fact, a recent survey found that many U.S. summer camps aren’t completely prepared to handle situations like prolonged power outages or evacuations.

So what can you,as a parent do? For one, ask your summer camp for a copy of its disaster plan. Provide resources owners and counselors can use to prepare for emergencies. Connect them with local partners and officials who can help them make plans.

You can also help your child get ready for any disasters that may occur while away at camp. For example, you can:

  • Pack a camp preparedness kit. Your child will need a flashlight and batteries to get around camp at night. But it makes sense to have other emergency items as well, like first-aid supplies, a whistle, snacks and an emergency information card.
  • Make a communications plan. How will you and your child communicate during an emergency? Make sure your children have a list of emergency contacts in their phones and on paper. Identify a third-party contact, like a friend or family member out of town, who can be reached if you can’t.
  • Be prepared for the heat. Summer camps mean summer weather, which usually means heat. Make sure your child knows how to be prepared for hot weather and to recognize the signs of heat illness.
  • Watch out for mosquitoes and ticks. They can carry diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Pack plenty of bug repellent. And know how to check for and remove ticks.
  • Watch out for rodents. Cabins and campgrounds can be home to mice and other rodents, which can spread diseases. Tell your kids not to touch rodents, dead or alive, and to tightly pack up food so rodents aren’t tempted to come inside. 

For even more summer safety tips for kids, check out this page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Tips for staying water-wise, during a drought or not

Droughts can be devastating and affect millions of people at once. Any area can be affected by a drought — including yours.
Image: FEMA/Max Whittaker

Droughts aren’t just about a lack of water. They can cause wildfires, landslides and falling debris. And once it does finally rain, the drought conditions can cause flash floods.

During a drought, you’ll be asked to conserve water. Restrictions may be put in place, such as when — or if — you can water your lawn, fill your pool or wash your car.

The truth is, you should really be conserving water all the time. Here are some tips you can follow, during a drought or not:

  • Look for leaks. If your toilet or sink floods, chances are you’ll notice. But what about a drip or tiny trickle? Check that none of your appliances, faucets or pipes are leaking, and fix them if so.
  • If you’re allowed to water your lawn, do it in the early morning or late evening, not during the full heat of the day. Pay attention to weather conditions, too. If it’s rained recently, you probably won’t need to run your sprinklers. You can also water less in the winter.
  • Take shorter showers. Turn on the water to get wet. Turn off to lather up and let your shampoo sink in and do its work. Then turn the water back on to rinse. Replace your shower head with a low-flow version.
  • Don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth, wash your face or while shaving. 
  • Got a dishwasher? Use it when it’s full and select the “light wash” feature.
  • When doing laundry, use the washer only when you have a full load and set the water level to the size of your load. 

Get more water conservation tips from the Environmental Protection Agency and Ready.gov.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Calling all animal lovers! Show us your baby animal photos

Everyone loves baby animals. They are totally adorable! We love them so much here at Get Ready that we made them the focus of this year's photo contest.

Image: Mike Whitmore
The contest is using baby animals — of all kinds — to promote emergency preparedness.
Whether it’s a kitten, puppy, chick or other baby animal, Get Ready wants to see them all. We’ll choose the best and most adorable photos and include them in our 2017 Get Ready calendar with fun captions and facts about preparing for emergencies.

Need some pet-spiration? Take a look at our past Get Ready Photo Contests, which have focused on cats, dogs and animals of all ages.

Contest entries will be accepted beginning July 11 via email and Instagram.

Have more questions? Check out our FAQs and official rules and regulations.

The deadline for entries is Aug. 15, so get snapping and submit your photos!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Wildfires: Staying safe when fire and smoke threaten

Last year, a record 10.1 million acres were burned by wildfires in the United States. In California alone, more than 2,500 structures were destroyed.
Image: FEMA

But wildfires don’t just threaten property. They also threaten lives. The smoke alone can cause trouble breathing, wheezing, chest pain or an asthma attack. That’s why it’s important to learn about wildfires in your area and have an emergency plan.

So how can you protect yourself from wildfires this year? First off, make an emergency plan. Identify at least two evacuation routes out of your neighborhood and agree on a meeting place for your family. You should also create an emergency kit, including food, water, a flashlight, radio, batteries and medications.

You can also prepare your home by making a 30-foot safety zone. This means clearing vegetation within 30 feet of your house, and removing debris from your roof. If wildfires are reported near your area, be ready to evacuate. Listen to local news reports, and close your windows and doors. After a wildfire, do not return to your home until officials say it’s safe.

Apps and alert systems can also keep you in the know. Download the American Red Cross’ free wildfire app and bookmark its online shelter finder map. Staying up on what’s happening locally is critically important, so be sure and download preparedness apps created just for your area and subscribe to electronic alerts.

For more tips, read and share our wildfire fact sheet.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Disasters and kids: APHA shares tips for well-being

Image: FEMA/Patsy Lynch
Children find comfort in daily routines. They wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, play with friends. When emergencies or disasters disrupt their routine, kids can become confused or frightened.

So how can we help kids be more resilient before, during and after emergencies? Four of APHA’s member groups set out to answer that question during a May webinar.

Organized by the Injury Control and Emergency Services Section, Public Health Education Health Promotion Section, Maternal and Child Health Section and Mental Health Section, the webinar brought together real-world experts in community preparedness, emergency medicine and children’s mental health to weigh in.

A recording of the webinar, “Fostering Resilience in Children” is online now.

Parents can also get tips for preparing kids for disasters via our Get Ready fact sheet. Our advice? Talk with your children about the kind of emergencies that can happen and encourage them to share their fears. Reassure your children that while an emergency may be unlikely, getting prepared will help keep them and their family safe.

You can also share our kids’ preparedness fact sheet, written at their reading level, and print out our Get Ready preparedness games and puzzles.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Heading out for vacation? Know your risks for hurricanes

In many parts of the country, summer is the ideal season to travel or relax on the shore. However, summer is not all fun. It’s also hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30.

Hurricanes and tropical storms cause heavy rains, winds and floods in many areas of the U.S. during the season, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Areas along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts are among those affected, as well as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii and even parts of the Southwest and Pacific coast.

Before you make vacation plans, research your destination. This FEMA map shows areas impacted by hurricanes and tropical storms over the past 160 years.

If your vacation location is at risk, you should make an emergency supply kit. Your kit should contain all the tools you need if a hurricane hits. For example, it should include food, water, maps, batteries and a flashlight. It should also include first-aid supplies like bandages, a thermometer and prescription medications.

You should also learn about local alert systems in the area you’re visiting. Sign up for alerts from the National Weather Service and download the American Red Cross’ hurricane app. If you’re staying at a hotel or resort, ask staff how you’ll be informed if a hurricane is coming and what the plans are for shelter or evacuation.

Follow the recommendations of officials if a hurricane is on its way. If you’re told to leave the area, don’t hesitate.

For more tips on hurricane preparedness, check out our Get Ready hurricane fact sheet.

Written by: Sophia Goswami

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Share the facts on Zika in English and Spanish

Photo: CDC/ Cynthia Goldsmith
How much do you know about Zika virus? If you’re reading this, chances are you have some knowledge of the virus, which is spread by mosquitoes and is of growing concern to public health.

However, many Americans are confused about Zika, recent polls have shown. For example, an April survey found 40 percent of people didn’t know the virus could be spread by sex. While Zika virus has not been transmitted by mosquitoes to humans in U.S. states yet, there’s a good chance it will be soon. So now’s the time to bone up on the facts.

You can help share information on Zika with your family, friends and community with APHA’s Get Ready fact sheet. Available now in English and Spanish, the fact sheet explains how Zika is spread, how it can be prevented and who’s most at risk. Organizations can even add their logo to the fact sheet.

Read the fact sheet, share it on social media and download the PDF. And while you’re at it, tell Congress to fund Zika prevention and research so public health can be prepared, too.

Friday, May 27, 2016

What is an Emerging Infectious Disease?

When an infectious disease emerges, how do public health laboratory scientists respond to contain the threat?

Enjoy this great video from the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL):

What is an Emerging Infectious Disease? from APHL on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Staying fit can boost both health and preparedness

Photo: Patrick Benko
The benefits of physical activity in everyday life are well known. But physical fitness can also play a big difference in how resilient you are when faced with a disaster.

Consider what happens after a large storm, for example. Your ability to move around can be hindered by fallen trees, snow or standing water. That means slippery conditions, trip hazards and major detours.

At some point, you’ll have to start cleaning up all of that storm-related mess. Trees and debris are heavy, and there will probably be a lot of it. Heat, cold, dust or mold can make what would normally be easy a herculean task. And on top of all that, you’ll have the stress and mental exhaustion that comes with coping with a disaster.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to start thinking about how physically prepared you are for a disaster. Can you walk long distances or stand for an extended amount of time? Are you able to fill sand bags or shovel snow? What if you had to carry large items or children?

Like any other preparedness activity, the time to start is now. Begin by assessing your current physical fitness. Talk to a doctor and be honest about your starting point. Then choose an activity that you’ll want to continue.

You can even turn your physical fitness activity into a preparedness one. For example, you can:
  • garden to increase food supplies or wildfire prevention,
  • walk with neighbors to boost community ties and resiliency,
  • bicycle to have an alternative transportation option, or
  • volunteer with a local preparedness organization or Community Emergency Response Team.
No matter how you choose to physically prepare, you’ll see benefits in both your overall health and your ability to cope with disasters.

If you’re looking for a fun way to boost your fitness, APHA’s 1 Billion Steps Challenge is happening now through May 31. As you work to become healthier, you can also make a difference toward making the U.S. the healthiest nation. We’re even offering prizes! Sign up now.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Support your community’s preparedness: Donate to the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive May 14

Did you know that food banks serve an important role in community preparedness? It’s true! Food banks help community residents who need assistance year-round. But after a disaster, they’re called on to play a greater role.

When people are displaced from their homes and cut off from their jobs after disasters such as tornadoes, floods or hurricanes, there’s a greater demand on food banks. In 2005, after New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina, the city’s Second Harvest Food Bank became the largest food bank in the world’s history. During the next two years, Second Harvest gave out more than 75 million pounds of food.

Like Hurricane Katrina, most disasters happen without warning. That means it’s up to all of us to make sure our food banks are ready, all the time. That’s where you — and your local post office — come in.

When your postal carrier drops by this Saturday, she or he will be ready to pick up more than just mail. Saturday, May 14, is the national Stamp Out Hunger food drive, during which postal carriers pick up food donations that are set out next to U.S. mailboxes.

Now in its 24th year, the Stamp Out Hunger food drive collected 71 million pounds of food in 2015. The event is organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers with support from the U.S. Postal Service, United Way and other sponsors.

To take part, just leave a sturdy bag containing non-perishable, non-expired foods, such as canned vegetables, pasta, rice or cereal, next to your mailbox before your mail comes on Saturday. Carriers will bring the food to local food banks, pantries or shelters. If you’re not sure whether your postal carrier will be taking part in the food drive Saturday, contact your local post office.

Also, for the first time, the food drive is collecting online donations, which will be used to support food banks in San Francisco and New York City.

If you can’t take part in Saturday’s food drive, you can hold your own event at another time of the year. APHA’s Get Ready campaign has a free how-to toolkit for making your community food drive a success.

For more information on the food drive, visit the Stamp Out Hunger event website or follow the food drive on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Preventing fires on campus: Steps to keep your home safe

Whether you live in a dorm, fraternity or sorority house or some other dwelling, your college campus is likely your home away from home. And just like the home you shared with your parents, it’s important to take steps to keep it safe. At the top of that list is preventing fires.

Fire departments respond to more than 3,800 campus housing fires a year, says the National Fire Protection Association.

It’s not just your stuff that’s at risk. According to the Center for Campus Fire Safety, 89 fatal fires occurred on or just-near campuses over a five-year period. Many of those fires were unintentional, involving cooking, candles, smoking or other means.

So how can you get ready? The first thing to know is where the closest fire extinguisher is. If it’s not in your room, then it should be in a hallway nearby. Memorize where it’s located so you can get there easily in an emergency.

If a fire alarm went off right now, would you know where to go? You should always be aware of emergency exits, no matter where you are. A good idea is to count the number of steps between your door and the emergency exit ahead of time, so that if there’s smoke or a loss of power you’ll know where to go. (Go ahead and do this now. We’ll wait.)

Next up? Check your smoke detector. Do a quick test to see that it’s functioning and check the batteries. Set a reminder to check the detector every time the clocks change for daylight saving time.

It’s also important to follow a few everyday steps for preventing fires. Cook only where cooking is allowed. Fires are the reason why hot plates or portable grills are banned from many campuses.

Be careful with things that use electricity. Take care with space heaters and don’t overload your power strips. Electrical fires are very dangerous and unpredictable.

Many campuses ban candles, and for good reason — they’re a big fire hazard. If you do use them, keep them far away from things that can catch fire and never leave them unattended.

For more tips, visit the National Fire Protection Association.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Zika is officially linked to microcephaly, CDC says

Photo: CDC/
 Division of Vector-borne Diseases
It’s official: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika virus causes microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.

CDC scientists reviewed the evidence that’s been collected so far on Zika and this week confirmed the link to microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby is born with a small head and other possible developmental problems.

But wait, didn’t we know that already? Well, sort of. Since reports of microcephaly spiked in Brazil in 2015, scientists have strongly suspected the link to Zika. But there wasn’t enough science or review for U.S. health officials to say with 100 percent surety. And now they have.

“This study marks a turning point in the Zika outbreak,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly.”

CDC’s Zika guidance for pregnant women hasn’t changed: Pregnant women should avoid traveling to areas where Zika is being spread, among other recommendations.

To help share the facts on Zika, APHA’s Get Ready campaign has created an easy-to-understand Zika fact sheet. It’s been updated this week to share the new finding from CDC. You can download the fact sheet now to share in your community and with friends and family.

Monday, April 11, 2016

ICE: Setting up in-case-of-emergency contact on your smartphone

Locked iPhone with Medical ID
photo: Patrick Benko
Did you know that your smartphone could help save your life in an emergency?

Say you’re hurt in a tornado or flood, for instance, and you slip out of consciousness. You’re rushed to the hospital, where medical teams heroically treat your injuries. There’s no one there to share your medical information or tell people who to contact. So now what?

That’s where having ICE — or in-case-of-emergency — information on your phone comes in. ICE is contact information for a trusted person. With a little planning ahead, your phone can share medical details and contact information with emergency workers, even if you can’t.

You can add ICE information easily in your phone contacts. Just add a new contact like you normally would. Pick your emergency person and include their phone number, email and other info. Then name that listing as ICE. Voilà! Your ICE information is now on your phone for emergency workers to find, right there under the letter “I.”

But how will emergency workers get access if your phone is locked? Good question.
If you have an iPhone with iOS 8 or higher, there’s an ICE feature within your Health app. It will share information under the “Medical ID” option on your phone’s emergency screen even if the phone is locked. Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Choose the “Health” app. 
  2. On the bottom panel, select “Medical ID.”
  3. Accept the disclaimer by choosing “Create Medical ID.”
  4. Fill out all the requested information, including details on allergies and blood type.
  5. Choose “done” on the top right corner of the page to save your information.

Want to see if it works? Lock your phone and slide to unlock. Choose “Emergency.” On the bottom left-hand corner, “Medical ID” will appear. Click on it to see your saved information.

If you have an Android phone, there are apps you can download to share ICE and medical information on your locked phone as well.

Another easy idea that will work for any phone is to add an ICE phone number directly on your home screen image. That way it shows anytime someone turns on your phone. Just download an app that allows you to add text to photos, add the number and save the image as your home screen wallpaper.

Still not convinced? Luckily, you can also let emergency responders know your medical conditions and ICE info the old-fashioned way, with a paper card in your wallet.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

It’s National Public Health Week! Show your commitment to preparedness and celebrate public health

National Public Health Week is here, and health advocates around the nation are celebrating.

NPHW is a week filled with fun, informative events to help you and your community get healthy. From providing access to healthy food to strengthening access to health services to helping your community prepare for disasters, there are many ways you can support health this week.

Organized annually by APHA, NPHW is being held April 4-10 around the theme of “Healthiest Nation 2030.” The goal is to help Americans and the nation become healthier by 2030, and you can be part of that change.

Hundreds of events are being held nationwide. It’s not too late to plan your own. NPHW is a great opportunity to share health and preparedness information on campus, at health fairs, in your workplace, at schools and in health facilities. Get Ready makes planning easy with free fact sheets on flu, vaccinations, Zika, weather preparedness and more. And check out our NPHW fact sheets, too.

Join us online for our annual NPHW Twitter chat on April 6 at 2 p.m. EDT. People across the country will be tweeting together about how America can become the healthiest nation. Use the hashtag #NPHWchat to join the conversation.

And for all the students out there, you definitely don’t want to miss our virtual town hall on Friday, April 8, aka Public Health Student Day. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions about the future of health in America with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

For more ideas on how you can get involved, check out the NPHW website. Thanks for joining with us to create a healthier nation!

Friday, April 01, 2016

Climate change, droughts and health: NPHW emphasizes preparedness

This National Public Health Week — which is going on right now! — we’re focusing on making the U.S. the healthiest nation. Getting there means we need to address a number of issues, including climate change. Climate change and extreme weather are threatening U.S. health, and if we don’t do something about them there’ll be increases in disease, injury and death.

One of the big effects of climate change that scientists are worried about are droughts, which could make water supplies scarce. Droughts can even cause more cases of West Nile virus, research shows.
Both before and during droughts, there are steps we can all take to conserve water:
  • Reduce shower times and use high-efficiency showerheads to use less water and conserve energy.
  • Use energy-efficient washing machines and make sure to wash full loads of laundry instead of more frequent small loads.
  • Turn off your sprinklers when it’s raining. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends checking your lawn by stepping on the grass and seeing if it springs back as an indicator of whether it needs more water. Pay attention to local restrictions on water use during droughts.
  • Educate your community about the importance of water conservation and why everyone needs to do their part.
Learn more about climate change and health on the NPHW website, and check out NPHW events being held in your area this week.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spring is here! Use USDA’s new food preparedness graphic to clean out your fridge

Spring cleaning is about more than just cleaning out your closets. It’s also a good time to clean out your refrigerator, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Get Ready team spoke with USDA public affairs specialist Kristina Beaugh, MPH, on how you can make sure the food in your fridge is safe. Beaugh is part of USDA’s food safety education staff.

USDA has a new refrigerator food safety infographic. What does it say about the importance of an organized refrigerator?
With the start of spring, many people will be looking to clean and organize the house from top to bottom. It’s important to remember your refrigerator during your spring cleaning regimen. Keeping your refrigerator clean and organized helps to reduce your risk of foodborne illness and can also minimize the amount of food that spoils. USDA’s “Your Fridge + Food Safety” infographic is a great tool to keep handy while you’re cleaning. It goes over everything from temperature and storage to how to keep your fridge clean and fresh.

Step-by-step, take us through the process of turning an unsafe, messy fridge to an organized, safe, risk-free one.
The first step is to make sure your refrigerator is set to the right temperature. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth on your food, so it’s important to keep your fridge and freezer at a temperature that will keep your food safe and help it to stay fresher longer. Your refrigerator should be set to 40° F or below, and your freezer should be set to 0° F or below. You can measure your fridge’s internal temperature with an appliance thermometer.

Next, it’s time to store the food. Did you know that where you store certain foods could have an effect on their safety and freshness? It’s true! Here are some helpful guidelines:

  • Raw meat and poultry should be stored in a sealed container or securely wrapped on a plate to prevent juices from contaminating other foods.
  • Sealed crisper drawers provide an ideal storage environment for fruits and vegetables. Some refrigerators may allow you to customize each drawer’s humidity level. If so, vegetables require higher humidity, while fruits require lower humidity.
  • Never store perishable foods in the door. The temperature of doors changes frequently. Instead, use the doors to store things like juice, water and condiments.
  • Perishable foods like eggs, dairy and raw meat and poultry should be stored on shelves in the main compartment where the temperature is more stable.
  • Food stored in the freezer is safe indefinitely. Although quality may suffer with lengthy storage, frozen food is safe forever.
If you’re ever left wondering how long different foods last in the fridge and freezer, don’t worry — you’re not alone. A general rule of thumb for refrigerator storage is three to four days for cooked foods, one to two days for poultry and ground meat and up to five days for whole cuts of meat. For storage information on more than 400 foods and beverages, download the FoodKeeper app. It’s free and it’s available for Apple and Android products.

And finally, keeping your refrigerator clean isn’t necessarily the last step, but rather a step you should remember all year long. Wipe up spills immediately, and clean surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Sanitize your refrigerator with a diluted bleach solution — one tablespoon unscented bleach to one gallon of water. To keep your refrigerator smelling fresh and to help eliminate odors, place an opened box of baking soda on a shelf.

Where can readers find out more?
If you have additional questions about food safety or organizing your fridge, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. Or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

USDA’s “Your Fridge + Food Safety” infographic

Friday, March 18, 2016

Space heater safety: How to warm those toes without starting a fire

This space heater is in the wrong place.
Photo: Patrick Benko
While spring just days away it’s still chilly out there, which means lots of folks are using space heaters to keep warm.

The National Fire Protection Association says space heaters lead to about one-third of all home-heating fires. Sadly, they’re also involved in 79 percent of home-heating fire deaths.

Here are some tips on staying safe with space heaters:

  • Use your space heater on a flat, solid surface and never plug it into an extension cord.
  • Create a gap of at least three feet between your space heater and items that can burn, such as furniture, bedding, paper and clothing.
  • Keep an eye on children and pets when using a space heater. Choose a space heater that will automatically shut off if tipped over.
  • Always turn off your space heater when you leave the room or go to bed.

It’s also a good idea to install smoke alarms in each bedroom, hallway and level of your home. Remember to test your alarms and replace the batteries regularly.

Don’t wait until a fire happens to create an escape plan. Fire experts suggest you may need to escape a house fire in less than two minutes to stay safe. Getting everyone out of the house that quickly takes planning.

Practice your escape plan with your family. Identify multiple ways to exit each room in case doorways or hallways are blocked by fire. Also, decide where to meet once you get outside. Practice your escape plan until everyone in the household feels prepared and can get out in two minutes. Don’t return to a burning home for any reason. As the American Red Cross says, “Get out, stay out and call for help.”

Learn more about home fire prevention and preparedness from the National Fire Protection Association and the American Red Cross.

For more home safety preparedness tips, check out Get Ready’s infographic.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Zika: What you should know now

Every day, we’re learning more about Zika.

Zika is a virus mainly spread by mosquitoes. More than two dozen countries in the Americas have reported active cases and the World Health Organization has issued a public health emergency.

Most of the time, Zika is a mild illness that goes away in a week.
Common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and pink eye. It’s rare to die from Zika. So if it’s so mild, why is everyone talking about Zika right now? Good question.

The main concern is the virus’ link to birth defects. While not proven for sure, health officials think Zika may be linked to microcephaly, in which a baby is born with a small head and may have potential developmental issues. Another concern is Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare condition that causes nerve damage and paralysis, though the link to Zika hasn’t been proven on that either.

No Zika cases have been reported from mosquitoes in the continental United States, though Puerto Rico is struggling with the virus. There are some cases of Zika in the U.S. from travelers who caught it elsewhere. And some people in the U.S. have acquired it by having sex with partners who were infected during their travels

Health officials are predicting there’s a good chance that Zika will be spread by mosquitoes here eventually, as the type of mosquito that spreads the disease lives in the U.S.

So right now, you’re probably wondering, “How do I keep mosquitoes away from me?” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has this advice:

  • Wear long sleeve shirts and pants. 
  • Stay and sleep in places with air conditioning or window and door screens.
  • Use insect repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and use as directed.

For more tips on Zika that you can share with your family, friends and community, download our new fact sheet. And check out our latest Get Ready Report podcast for more insights.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Black History Month preparedness profile: Julius Becton, first African-American FEMA director

From the White House to the Department of Transportation to Congress, black Americans hold prominent leadership positions throughout U.S. government. They’ve also played important roles in our nation’s preparedness.

As a tribute to Black History Month, which was observed in February, Get Ready is highlighting an African-American who held a key position in U.S. disaster readiness. From 1985-1989, Julius Becton Jr. served as the third director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, becoming the first African-American director of the agency.

Nearly 100 disasters were declared in the U.S. during Becton’s years in office, from hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons to flooding, mudslides and fires. But Becton was dealing with more than just weather emergencies as FEMA director.

Becton assumed office during troubled times for FEMA. The agency had come under investigation for misuse of funds, leading to the resignation of his predecessor. During his term, Becton was known for his dedication to restoring integrity to the agency. He also stressed the importance of preparing Americans for disasters and alerting them if there was a threat.

That readiness went beyond weather disasters. In testimony before Congress in 1988 on FEMA’s civil defense budget, Becton spoke about the role of government to assist and support Americans in the event of a nuclear attack. Becton’s testimony came just two years after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in the Ukraine, which raised concerns about radiological threats.

“Governments must be able to remain in operation to warn their people, broadcast lifesaving information to them, direct operations such as rescue, firefighting and debris removal and communicate to higher levels to request help,” he said, stressing the importance of disaster warning systems.

Four major emergency management documents were signed during Becton’s term at FEMA, addressing emergency coordination, national security and nuclear power plant safety.

Becton has also been lauded for his work beyond FEMA. After his term at FEMA, he worked in education, including serving as superintendent of the Washington, D.C., public school system. For his almost 40 years of service in the U.S. Army, where he reached the rank of lieutenant general, he received the George C. Marshall Medal, the Association of the U.S. Army’s highest award. Ebony Magazine listed him as “One of the Most Influential Blacks in America” on several occasions.

Now retired, Becton’s work as a leader in U.S. preparedness and service to the nation are still remembered.