Friday, February 23, 2018

It’s time to bee ready for disasters!

Natural disasters and other threats to our well-being can be daunting to prepare for. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to get ready. Luckily, there are some amazing animals and insects that can inspire us!

• Black bears: It’s no secret that bears hibernate during the winter, but how do they prepare for the long, cold months? According to the North American Bear Center, one reason is because bears consume as much food and drink as possible before they settle in for the season — just like an extended Thanksgiving!

While we humans don’t spend our lives in bed during the winter, we can still take a page from the black bear book by keeping a supply of emergency food and water in our homes at all times.

Never made a stockpile before? No worry, Get Ready is here to help! Check out our campaign for free materials to help you create an emergency preparedness stockpile.

• Birds: Birds are everywhere — flying in the sky, waddling on the ground, bathing in the water — and often we don’t take a second look. Birds are fascinating creatures, and they’re excellent at preparing for natural disasters. They’re able to sense when the barometric pressure changes, and their impressive sense of direction helps them to know where to fly to escape bad weather.

Though nature didn’t give us wings, we can still approach disaster preparedness like birds. It’s important to pay attention to our surroundings and adjust our routes accordingly. Learn more about disaster preparedness while on the road.

By Michele Late
• Bees: Bzzzzzz. Compared to birds, bees are fragile. They can’t fly for hours in dangerous weather to escape storms and other threats. However, bees are excellent at building sturdy hives that are protected from the elements. When bad weather hits, bees can rely on their hive to keep them safe.

We should learn from bees and make sure our houses are both equipped with supplies and built to withstand the elements. Regular home maintenance is important when getting ready for natural disasters. Get tips on how to prepare your home for a disaster with our fact sheet.

Bears, birds and bees are just a few of the many amazing creatures we can learn a lot about preparedness from. Don’t let more time buzz by while unprepared. Get ready now!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Norovirus, an unexpected 2018 Olympic competitor

Athletic stars are not the only ones making an appearance at the Olympic Games in South Korea.

Norovirus has sickened nearly 200 volunteers and staff at the games.  

Health officials are working hard to figure out where the infections came from. Early reports have linked the outbreak to contaminated water that was used to prepare food at a training center. 

Norovirus, which can be spread through your poop, wins a gold medal for sprinting, as it quickly spreads from person to person. It’s especially common in crowded settings, which is why we hear about it on cruise ships so much. 

When you have norovirus, your stomach or intestines get upset, in a super yucky way. And it can last for days. Common symptoms include nausea, throwing up, stomach pain and diarrhea. But you can also have fevers, headaches and body aches.

By BrianAJackson courtesy iStockphoto
To avoid norovirus infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to: 

  • Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands a lot and wash them well. Remember, it doesn’t take a lot for this virus to spread. Our Get Ready hand-washing pages have great tips you can share
  • Wash your fruits and veggies. Norovirus is most commonly transmitted through food, so it’s important to be careful.
  • If you’re sick, keep your distance. Don’t prepare food for others or care for people around you if you have norovirus or its symptoms.
  • Clean and disinfect everything. Norovirus can survive outside the body for several days. If your hand touches your counter, door handle, remote or anything else, it makes it easy for people around you to catch it. Wash your soiled clothing, towels and other linens right away.

Unfortunately, if you do come down with norovirus, there is no specific medication to treat it. CDC says to rest and drink lots and lots of water. If you get really dehydrated, call your doctor, as you may need to receive IV fluids at a hospital.

But what about the Olympic Games? Two Swiss skiers have contracted the highly contagious virus but the International Olympic Committee reports that there is hope for them to get better in time to compete. As for now, the athletes have been working hard to show off their strength and skill. So let the games continue!

Friday, February 09, 2018

When’s the last time you replaced your smoke alarms?

Photo by esp_imaging, courtesy iStockphoto
With many of us spending time cozied up indoors this month, now is a perfect time to check and replace smoke alarms.

That’s right. We said “replace.” Like your car, your computer and — gasp! — your phone, your smoke alarms don’t last forever.

In fact, the U.S. Fire Administration says to replace your smoke alarms every 10 years. Like other electronics, smoke alarms can fail over time, and could be less likely to detect smoke or issue a lifesaving warning. So if you can’t remember the last time you replaced yours, now may be a good time.

One way to tell the age of your smoke detector is by checking the date it was made. For this, you’ll need to remove the alarm from the ceiling or wall. Look on the back for the manufacture date. If it’s more than 10 years old, time to shop for a new one.

During fires at home, 3 out of every 5 deaths happen in buildings without working smoke alarms.  The good news is that your risk of dying in a home fire is halved when they are working.
Regardless of the age of your smoke alarms, it’s a good idea to test them regularly. In fact, USFA says to do it monthly. You can make it easy to remember by putting a recurring reminder on your calendar.

And don’t forget about checking your smoke alarm batteries. A good way to remember is to check them with the twice-a-year clock change for daylight saving time. (Or now. Now works, too.)
Smoke alarms are already on many people’s mind after watching “This Is Us” so let’s put those thoughts into action!

For more tips on home safety, check out this graphic from Get Ready.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Don’t let the end zone become the danger zone: How to host a penalty-free Super Bowl party

Today’s guest post is by Meredith Carothers, food safety education intern with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

It’s almost time for the big game, which means it’s time to get ready to host your friends for your annual Super Bowl party! And where there’s a Super Bowl viewing party, there’s also plenty of food.

By following these food safety rules from our game-winning playbook, you’ll provide the best defense to avoid letting your teammates get sacked by foodborne illness this Super Bowl. You may also get voted as MVP for best Super Bowl party host!

1. Cook: Avoid a false start — Use a food thermometer to ensure that all meats, poultry and other cooked food items have been cooked to a safe internal temperature before serving. Any previously cooked foods must be reheated to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees F, or steaming hot, before serving.

Making sure food items are properly heated and cooked will kill bacteria that may try to tackle your guests. Here are the recommended internal temperatures for some Super Bowl party favorites:
  • Chicken wings: 165 degrees F
  • Burgers and sliders: 160 degrees F
  • Chili and other reheated foods: 165 degrees F
2. Chill: Watch the clock — Once kickoff happens, partygoers and hosts are focused on the game, or patiently waiting until the halftime show). However, don’t let the play clock expire on those party foods, and consider putting foods out in batches to ensure they aren’t staying out longer than the two-hour time limit.

Before halftime, take a timeout. Check your food with a food thermometer to make sure hot foods are still hot and cold foods are still cold. Ensure that you’re keeping slow cookers with your buffalo chicken dip or spinach and artichoke dip on the “warm” or “low” setting. Always use a cold source, such as a bowl of ice, below cold foods and check throughout the party to make sure dips and cheeses are still cold.

3. Stop the clock — After foods have been sitting at room temperature for two hours, either place them in the refrigerator, change the cold sources or throw out foods you know have been sitting since pre-game coverage.

Bacteria love temperatures between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F, and will grow rapidly if they are in this temperature environment for more than two hours. Read more about this “danger zone.”

4. Scoring the game-winning touchdown — The game is over, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose your food or your health! By following these tips at your Super Bowl party or gathering, you may be celebrating more than just a team victory.

Overall, remember to keep an eye on party foods and their temperatures, even when you’re celebrating touchdowns.

Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time. Or email or chat at