15 Things You Should Do Today to Prepare for a Pandemic Flu
For the past few years people have been telling us that it's not a matter of "if" a pandemic occurs, but a matter of "when."
Well, a pandemic may be upon us in the form of swine flu. Or it may not. Either way, it's a good time to review your emergency preparedness.
There's no reason for alarm, but having previously worked on pandemic planning, I know that you'll save time and money by preparing now, instead of waiting until there is an emergency.
Here are 15 things you should do right now to prepare yourself.
1. Get Extra Cash
I know I should have some emergency cash somewhere in my house. I used to have $200 hidden in a jar, but somehow I kept needing it for an "I don't have time to stop at the ATM" emergency.
If you don't have at least a little extra cash available, swing by the ATM today.
2. Hoard Soap
The best way to protect against the flu is to wash your hands. You can't do this without soap. Alcohol-based hand wash (like Purell) also works -- just make sure it's at least 60% alcohol.
3. Buy Water
I hate bottled water. It's terrible for the environment. But let's face it: without water we can't survive. Buy a few gallons of water to store in case of an emergency.
4. Purchase Dried Grains
If your shelves are looking scarce, go buy a few packages of pasta or rice.
5. Procure Non-Perishable Proteins
Dried beans are amazing. They keep forever, are tasty, and are immensely cheaper than canned beans. Peanut butter is another favorite protein. Unless you want to be sitting in your house eating plain rice during an emergency, now is the time to buy a few other staples.
6. Stock up on Canned Fruits and Veggies
Would storing a few cans a peaches and green beans in your cabinet be so difficult? Canned fruits and veggies may not taste the best. But, they're cheap and they keep.
7. Check Your First Aid Kit
Do you have the basics in your first aid kit? A thermometer and acetaminophen or ibuprofen are probably the two most essential items for the flu. Here's the Red Cross' First Aid Kit Checklist. Or you can buy a pre-assembled first aid kit for about $15.
8. Find Your Flashlight
Chances are you have a flashlight, but it's tucked away in the darkest cupboard in your basement. Find it and check the batteries.
9. Test Your Portable Radio
Neither your iPod nor Pandora will help you if you don't have electricity and you need to get the latest news. You will need a portable radio with working batteries.
10. Make an Emergency Contact List (on Paper)
Again, if there is no electricity your cell phone battery will only last so long. Now is the time to get your emergency contact numbers off of your phone and write them on paper.
11. Stash Away Extra Prescriptions
If you, your pet, or anyone in your family is on a prescription medication, make sure you have 1-3 months extra supplies.
12. Consider Buying N-95 Masks
About 3 years ago my dad bought me a few packages of N-95 masks. His good friend who is a doctor told him that if there was ever a pandemic these things would be gone from the shelves in a heartbeat. At the time I sort of laughed at my dad. But guess what -- I still have those masks.
This may being going a little too far, but buying a few N-95 masks is worth thinking about. They are relatively cheap considering the mental comfort they may give you.
Also note -- studies have shown they much more effective when placed on a sick person than on yourself.
13. Know Your Work/School's Emergency and/or Pandemic Plan
What is your work or school's plan in case of an emergency or pandemic? Will you be expected to work remotely? Will classes be canceled? Most large companies and schools have their emergency plans online -- take a look.
14. Understand Basic Prevention
To keep from getting sick practice prevention methods endorsed by the CDC:
- Stay away from others who are sick.
- Stay home if you're sick.
- Cover your mouth when you cough.
- Wash your hands.
- Don't touch your face, nose, eyes.
- Be healthy; that is get enough sleep, drink water, eat well, and exercise.
15. Do Further Research
Take 20 minutes today to glance through some emergency preparedness websites. Even if you don't stockpile 3 weeks worth of food like they say, it's still a good idea to know what the recommendations are. Ready.gov is a pretty solid site. And as a Minnesota resident I'm proud to say that MN's site CodeReady is another top site that's applicable for people living throughout the U.S.
Honestly, I've never been one for preparedness hype. And so far there has been no reason to panic. But the current pandemic possibility is a good reason to review your needs and your preparedness level. By doing so, you'll save yourself time, money, and anxiety in the long run.