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  • Pandemics Aplenty: 5 Tips to Staying Healthy

    Look what’s been in the news the last month:

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found possible mistakes in handling and shipping of diseases like plague and encephalitis in military facilities. (Including one where I used to work.)

    An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease sickened at least 45 and killed 9 at a Quincy, Ill., nursing home.

    Two cases of plague were found in Yosemite National Park.

    The first Ebola case in two weeks popped up in Sierra Leone.

    New Delhi, India, is struggling with its worst outbreak of dengue fever in five years, with 1,900 cases reported and at least 11 dead.

    Here’s the scoop, though: all of these illnesses put together don’t infect as many people or cause as much economic damage as regular, old, seasonal influenza.

    H1N1 Masks - PandemicNow, imagine that during the regular, old, influenza season, a new strain pops up that’s unexpected and particularly contagious. It spreads rapidly, with cases popping up in many countries within weeks. There’s no vaccine. Some schools and businesses close. Oh, wait, you don’t have to imagine. That happened in 2009-2010, with a strain of H1N1 influenza.

    Here are five steps to prepare for an influenza, or other, pandemic.


    Get supplies

    A pandemic can last for months. The 2009 influenza pandemic began in April. During the next year, numbers of new cases looked like a wave: rising and falling, with a peak in October 2009.

    Ready.gov recommends storing food and water for two weeks, in case you can’t get to a store because of illness or if stores run out of supplies. And, hey, you’ll be prepared for other types of emergencies too.


    Get medicines

    Pharmacy - PandemicSome of my kids take medicine for illness-induced asthma. But they only take when they’re ill. The last time my son needed it, I couldn’t find any, because we hadn’t used it for a few months.

    Check all prescriptions regularly, whether you use them regularly or not, to ensure a continuous supply during an emergency, encourages the CDC.

    Get copies of your hospital, pharmaceutical and other medical records. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an online tool, Blue Button, to help you find them.

    Also, keep nonprescription drugs and other health supplies stocked. These can include pain relievers, fluids with electrolytes, cough and cold medicines and face masks.


    Get communicating

    Ready.gov suggests you talk to family members and other loved ones about how you’ll care for each other in case of illness. Also, talk to neighbors, employers and schools about plans for staying home if family members are ill.


    Get vaccinated

    The CDC prefers you get the seasonal flu vaccine yearlyVaccine - Pandemic, before October, though you can get it any time during flu season. It takes about two weeks for a vaccine to be effective.

    Influenza vaccines last about a year and vary in effectiveness depending on a lot of factors like flu strains and age. The CDC still recommends them, though, because even if the vaccine doesn’t match well with one strain, like the 2009 H1N1, it will match well with others. Also, even a poor match may reduce flu symptoms.


    Get healthy habits

    This is the hard one. It’s not as easy to remember to get plenty of exercise and sleep, to eat healthy and drink plenty of healthy fluids when you’re feeling OK.

    It’s easier when you or a family member is ill to remember to wash your hands often and cover your mouth and nose when you cough. All these techniques might keep you from getting ill during a pandemic.

    H1N1 is still around. It’s now considered a regular seasonal virus and is included in the vaccine.

    But others are out there. And it’s time to start preparing. Peak flu season usually runs between October and May.


    - Melissa


    Disaster_Blog_Banner Pandemic

  • 6 Ways You Are Not Prepared For Disaster

    In regards to a May 7 story from the Weather Channel web site (weather.com) described “10 Things You’re Not Doing to Prepare for Natural Disasters,” I conducted a non-random, tiny sample size survey of 11 friends and relatives to see what they were and weren’t doing. Some of them said they felt pretty prepared for an emergency.

    I asked 11 questions based on the story from weather.com. The questions and results are at the bottom of this post.

    Let’s look at the top six things people weren’t doing.


    Do you have a disaster plan for your family?

    Not Prepared? Be Prepared!Only two people surveyed said they have a disaster plan.

    “I have a plan if there’s a [house] fire,” one said.

    A disaster plan covers what you might face in your area: wildfire, hurricane, or winter storm for example. Where do you meet if some of you are away? Do you shelter at home or evacuate? What are your escape routes? It should answer all those questions.

    FEMA has multiple templates for disaster planning including a “Family Communication Plan" and “Emergency Financial First Aid Kit.”


    Have you set aside a few hundred dollars in small bills?

    Not Prepared - Dolla billzSeven survey participants had not.

    “But we do have an emergency fund in a bank,” one said.

    You need cash for about a week, suggested Ann House, coordinator of the Personal Money Management Center at the University of Utah.

    “In three days, usually the electricity is back on, the heat is back on and stores are up and going, so if you want to be on the safe side, [keep cash for] a week. The rest can go in the bank,” House said.

    Another respondent had cash in larger denominations.

    House said that might not work.

    “If you were out of water and somebody came by with a water selling wagon, you might be giving the person a $100 bill for water. It’s $1 bills that are going to come in handy for emergencies,” she said.


    Have you got a full first aid kit including prescriptions?

    Not Prepared - First Aid KitOnly three participants kept a first aid kit ready with prescriptions.

    FEMA’s pamphlet “Preparing Makes Sense for People with Disabilities and Special Needs” recommends keeping enough daily medication for at least a week along with copies of prescriptions and dosage information.

    Many insurance providers won’t allow you to get more than a month’s supply of prescription medicines. One survey participant said his family keeps their prescriptions where they can grab them as they’re going out the door. That way they don’t have to get around insurance to obtain extra medicines.


    Have you practiced for a disaster?

    Not Prepared - PracticeFive said they had.

    One survey respondent said her church congregation hosted a community disaster event a couple of years ago. She didn’t say if she’d practiced since then. FEMA recommends practicing at least twice per year.


    Is your car ready for a disaster, including a gas tank at least half full?

    Not prepared - gasSeven said no.

    Start by getting a car kit together. It should include emergency supplies, tools, and a change of clothes, according to ready.gov.

    Next, make sure the vehicle is in good condition. Then plan where to go and how to get there. Ready.gov provides a commuter emergency plan where you can fill out alternate routes and modes of transportation.

    Most importantly, keep your gas tank at least half-full, Gwen Camp, director of individual and community preparedness for FEMA told weather.com. If you hit gridlock during an emergency and your tank is empty you might not make it to a gas station.


    Have you stored at least three gallons of water per person in your family?

    Not prepared - with waterCamp told weather.com you should store at least one gallon per person per day for drinking, cooking and sanitation.

    FEMA offers information about how to prepare and store water including bottle types to avoid and how much bleach to sanitize water.



    How are you doing in your emergency preparations? In what ways are you not prepared? You can take the survey and see my results below.





    How many of the following things have you done to prepare for an emergency?


    Y             N             1. Do you have enough food for your family for three days?


    Y             N             2. Have you set aside a few hundred dollars in small bills?


    Y             N             3. Do you have all your important records stored somewhere safe and easy to obtain?


    Y             N             4. Do you have an out-of-area emergency contact?


    Y             N             5. Have you stored at least three gallons of water per person in your family?


    Y             N             6. Do you have a disaster plan for your family?


    Y             N             7. Do you have a place to stay in an emergency, especially if you have pets? (many places won’t allow them)


    Y             N             8. Are you trained in CPR and/or first aid?


    Y             N             9. Have you practiced for a disaster?


    Y             N             10. Is your car ready for a disaster, including a gas tank at least half full?


    Y             N             11. Have you got a full first aid kit including prescriptions?






    Table 1:

    Yes No Maybe/No answer
    1. Food for 3 days 11 0
    2. Savings in small bills 4 7
    3. Records easily accessible 8 3
    4. Out-of-area emergency contact 8 3
    5. Three gallons of water per person 7 4
    6. Disaster plan 2 7 2
    7. Emergency shelter 10 1 "our car"
    8. First aid trained 6 3 2 "not certified"
    9. Practiced for a disaster 5 5 1 "somewhat"
    10. Car prepared for disaster 6 5
    11. First aid kit with prescriptions 3 7 1



    Graph 1:

    Survey Graph

  • First Aid

    Accidents can happen.

    Wait...let me rephrase that...Accidents will happen! But we can never plan when or where. After all, that's why they're called "accidents." But you can always be prepared for those moments by having a first aid kid handy, and in more than one location.

    Of course, it's important to have a first aid kit in your home. But accidents aren't always going to wait until you're at home. That's why having a first aid kit in your car is a good idea. If something were to happen while out shopping or traveling, you would still have your kit readily available. You should even have one at your workplace. If for some reason your work doesn't have one handy, bring your own! It never hurts to be prepared.

    As you get your first-aid prep going, you might also consider different types of kits depending on your activities. For example, if you spend time on your boat in the summers, consider creating a boat-specific first aid kit. Or, if you're a hiker, put together a kit that can fit easily in your hiking pack.. Being prepared for all scenarios involves some preemptive thought.

    bandageNow that you have your kits, the time will come when you put them to use. For the small ones, all you'll need is a kiss and a bandage. There. All better! For others, however, a little bit more know-how will be required. Make sure you know how - and when - to use the tools in your first aid kit.

    And then there are those accidents that are more life threatening.

    Some basic knowledge of first aid can be the difference between life and death. Among other places, the Red Cross offers classes on first aid and CPR. If somebody's hurt, and you're a first responder, you'll be glad you know the skills that come with first aid and CPR training. And you never know, you could be using those life-saving skills to help one of your own children.

    Like all important points of preparedness, keeping and maintaining first aid kits and knowing the proper steps and techniques brings peace of mind today and confidence when dealing with the unexpected.

    Do yourself and your loved ones a favor...plan to be prepared with first aid.

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