Category: Family and Individual Preparedness


By: Nancy Ooki, University of Hawaii at Manoa

The recent attention to the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus serves as an excellent opportunity to remind our stakeholders of easy, simple actions that can impact their health greatly. Guidelines have been released with the goal of preventing the spread of this virus in the community that include one of the most basic best practices – hand washing. For the coronavirus, the CDC recommends citizens wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or if soap and water are not available, to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Handwashing has been critical in helping prevent the spread of illness and disease, but as an everyday activity, its importance is often forgotten. The current news headlines provide a great opening to remind community members of the process and best practices associated with handwashing.

In addition to combating the spread of disease, handwashing can help to keep food safe and reduce food-borne illness as well. Consumers should wash their hands before and after eating. Farmworkers should follow farm safety guidelines for handwashing.

In keeping with food safety issues, consumers and food preparers should also wash their produce prior to serving or consumption. A growing outbreak of Rat Lungworm disease in Hawai‘i (and found in Louisiana in addition to other countries) has prompted a renewed interest in produce washing practices. The disease can infect humans through the ingestion of raw vegetables contaminated with the rat lungworm larvae, which means that produce should be examined thoroughly prior to consumption. Consumers should wash their hands, then separate and rinse produce. It is also important to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces.

Additional resources and lesson plans on hand and produce washing are listed below. Use this opportunity to educate and remind stakeholders of the best practices. Good, safe food handling and hygiene practices are important all the time, but the occasional reminder at the right time can make a big difference.

Handwashing Reminders

Wash your hands:

  • Before and after you eat
  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • After you use the bathroom
  • After handling animals or animal waste – including pets
  • After playing or working outside
  • After changing diapers or handling a baby’s bottom
  • Anytime your hands are dirty

On the farm or in food production areas, wash:

  • Before entering and returning to the field or the packing line
  • Before touching clean produce
  • Before putting on new gloves
  • After working with soil
  • After disposing of rotten produce
  • After handling garbage
  • After smoking or doing other activities that dirty your hands
  • After touching bare human body parts
  • After handling animals and animal waste

Credit: Clean Hands Save Lives! University of Hawai‘i Cooperative Extension (2012, January) Retrieved from: https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/new/Newsletters/CleanHands.pdf

Handwashing Resources

Cornoavirus Resources

Produce Washing Reminders

Inspect produce for

  • Obvious signs of soil or damage
  • Prior to cutting, slicing, or dicing.
  • Cut away affected areas or do not use

Wash produce before serving/cutting using

  • Continuous running water
  • Chemical disinfectants

Do not

  • Soak produce or store in standing water
  • Rewash packaged produce labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed.”

Wash thoroughly with hot soapy water

  • All equipment
  • Utensils
  • Food contact surfaces

Credit: Best Practices Handling Produce in Schools United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (retrieve 2020, February) from: https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/Food_Safety_Produce_Best_practices.pdf

Produce Washing Resources

Rat Lungworm Resources


Mardi Gras parade and crowd

I was interviewed yesterday by a young lady for a class assignment. We talked about several things, all of which pivoted on this year’s theme for National Preparedness Month. “Don’t Wait, Communicate” is applicable for so many aspects of our lives, and especially when a disaster hits us.

In the context of disasters, communication can become as challenging as buying ice or gasoline after a hurricane. We forget that the ubiquitous smartphone may not be so useful when cell towers are down or when there’s no way to recharge our electronic devices. It’s frightening to think that we may not be with our loved ones when a disaster occurs and have no way of finding out their status. Are they all okay? Where are they? How can we get to them?

Here are seven things you can do before a disaster occurs.

  • Identify an out-of-state family member or friend willing to serve as your check-in person in the event of a disaster. Provide all of your family members with that person’s contact information. Why? In a disaster, it is sometimes easier to contact a person outside the disaster area than it is to contact someone in that zone.
  • Teach your family members (children and older adults who may not know) how to send a text message. Texting can be a more effective and reliable tool than voice calls when the network is overwhelmed.
  • Know your family members’ daily routines. Be familiar with school and work disaster plans. Who are the emergency contacts?
  • Designate a meeting place in case you have a home fire or cannot access your home.
  • Give each member of your household a printed list of emergency contacts. This will be useful when their cell phones are not available or phone batteries are dead.
  • Make sure young children know their full names as well as your name and home address. Their knowing this information can help responsible adults reunite you with your children in a disaster or emergency.
  • Assign emergency duties to older children and adults. For example, if authorities have issued an evacuation order, you will need to gather all of your essentials and leave as directed. Older children may be responsible for assembling all of the family’s emergency go (travel) kits, getting pets, turning off lights, or other performing specific tasks. Adults should be responsible for keeping the vehicle fueled, planning evacuation routes (always have more than one way out of your home, neighborhood, and community), gathering important papers and medicines, and making sure everyone is accounted for. At least one member of the household should include cash in a go kit or evacuation essentials. ATMs may be down or out of cash during a disaster.

Don’t wait for the disaster to figure out how you will communicate with your family. Make a plan. Your plan will not look like my plan, nor like your neighbor’s plan—that’s okay. Just make and share it with your family and friends.

Today.


traumaPost by Lynette Black, 4-H Youth Development Faculty, Oregon State University

When it comes to the effects of disasters, children are a vulnerable population. Understanding the unique needs of children and including these needs in disaster planning will help them better cope with life following the disaster. Let’s take a look at this unique population.

They Rely on Adults

Children are physically and emotionally dependent on the caring adults in their lives. During disasters they will turn to the adult to keep them safe. If the adults are unprepared, the children are left vulnerable both physically and emotionally. This means child care providers, educators, afterschool providers, coaches and other caring adults need to be prepared with disaster plans that include knowledge of how to respond to disasters, comprehensive evacuation plans, and safe and efficient family reunification plans.

They are Not Small Adults

Children are more susceptible to the hazards caused by disasters due to their underdeveloped bodies and brains. Their skin is thinner, they take more breaths per minute, they are closer to the ground, the require more fluids per pound, and they need to eat more often; leaving the child more vulnerable to physical harm from the disaster. In addition, their brains are not fully developed leading to limited understanding of what they experienced and possible prolonged mental health issues. Since children take their cures from their caring adult, the adult’s reactions and responses can either add to or minimize the child’s stress level. Preparations for disasters need to include not only survival kits including first aid supplies for the physical body, but also teaching children (and their adults) stress reducing coping skills for positive mental health.

Their Routine Equals Comfort

Children need routine to help them make sense of their world. Keeping the child’s schedule as consistent as possible following a disaster is crucial to their sense of well-being. The reopening of school, afterschool and recreational programming as soon as possible adds stability the child’s life. Helping families return to a routine known to the child (snack time, bed time, story time) is of utmost importance and helps the child find a new norm post-disaster.

They are At Risk

At particular risk for prolonged mental health and substance abuse issues is the adolescent population. Their brains are in a developmental stage where, in simple terms, the executive function is underdeveloped leaving the emotional part of the brain in charge. This causes this age group to “act without thinking” and feel emotions more intensely than other ages. Disasters increase the typical teen emotions and behaviors leading to greater risk taking, impulsivity and recklessness. They also suffer from increased anxiety and depression and can develop cognitive/concentration difficulties. The caring adults in an adolescent’s life can help recovery by being available to them; listen without judgment, stay calm, serve as a good role model, encourage involvement in community recovery work and resumption of regular social and recreational activities. Understand that with adolescents the effects of the disaster may last longer and may even reappear later in life.

Disasters and traumatic events touch all of us, but can have a particularly traumatic effect on children. The good news is most children will recover, especially if the caring adults in their lives take the steps before, during and after the event to provide basic protective factors and to restore or preserve normalcy in their lives.

See Lynette’s webinar on this topic. If you are a childcare provider, you may also be interested in this online course on disaster preparedness for childcare providers.

View Impacts of Disaster on Youth Webcast


7reasonsDo you think a disaster won’t happen to you? Or, do you think it might, but there’s nothing you can do? This article is for you and anyone else needing a reason to be prepared for disaster! Would you like to print this list? Here you go!

 

1. Save Money

Save moneyYes, you can save money by being prepared. If you understand your community’s greatest risks, you can take steps to make your home and property more resistant. For example, you may qualify for a reduced insurance rate if your home and property are resistant to damage from weather-related or other types of disasters. You may also have fewer damages to repair if disaster does strike. What risks do you face? Enter your ZIP code to find out on DisasterSafety.org (scroll down to Discover the risks you face).   Check with your county or parish Emergency Management Agency for local specifics, and then take action to save money by being prepared.


2. Recover Faster

asterThinking through what you’ll do and recording those steps in your family disaster plan (see reason # 7) make it easier for you to recover after a disaster hits. For example, does everyone in your household know what to do if a flash flood is about to affect your home and property?

3. Avoid or Reduce Damage

3Look around your home and property. What can you do to reduce potential damage from a disaster? You can strengthen your house structure to protect against a shift from flood or wind forces, develop a firewise landscape, take steps to prevent home fires, and take other actions to make your home and property more secure.

4. Keep in Touch with Family

4Be sure that each family member’s cell phone includes emergency and family phone numbers. Teach everyone to text message. During an emergency, it may be easier to contact others via text message than it is via a call. Also keep an up-to-date paper list of key phone numbers. If power is out and your cell phone is not charged, you will still be able to locate a needed phone number. It’s easier to contact relatives during a disaster if you’ve created a contact list before the disaster. They’ll want to know that you’re okay, so have a plan for notifying them. That plan may include contacting a designated out-of-state relative or friend who will let others know your status. You might also use the American Red Cross Safe and  Well website.


5. Survive on your Own

5This is where emergency kits come in handy. No matter where you are, it may be a while before emergency responders can reach you. Here’s a starting list for your household supply kit.

6. Retain Important Papers

6Financial records, property records, legal records, and family records are important to you and your family. But are they filed and stored so you can easily find the important papers after a disaster—or when you’re evacuating? These papers will make it easier for you to recover. Here are some tips on organizing, managing, and accessing your papers.

7. Avoid Panic

7Create a family disaster plan. Having a plan can help your family make it through any disaster with minimal stress. A comprehensive family disaster plan includes information about each family member, household pets, insurance and finances, and the home itself and its contents. Most important, the plan outlines what each family member should do during an emergency and identifies safe places inside and outside the home. Here’s a family disaster plan template from the University of Missouri Extension.

What are some reasons you have found for being prepared for disaster?


 

And here’s a pin for you, too.

7disaster_long


Julyderecho

July 13, 2015 derecho radar image from NOAA.

Early this week, on July 13, a possible derecho, or at least what the National Weather Service is currently calling “a Derecho-like event,” raced across the middle of the country. It began in Minnesota and swept mostly southward through Wisconsin, Illinois, parts of Indiana and into Kentucky.

The Weather Service describes a derecho as “a widespread, long-lived storm. Derechos are associated with bands of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms variously known as bow echoes, squall lines or quasi-linear convective systems.”

The “bow echo” refers to the characteristic appearance of a linear storm on weather radar when that storm bows out due to high wind. Storms represented by bow echoes are not always derechos unless they last for a long time which is rarely the case. In fact, large derechos are relatively unusual. Generally there are only one or two a year in most of the country.

The Weather Service has an extensive derecho page.

Weather Underground

Weather Underground

Derechos can be extremely damaging. By definition a derecho must travel 240 miles and include wind gusts of at least 58mph along much of its length and several gusts of over 75mph. Many are much stronger. A derecho that crossed Illinois from northwest to southeast in the late 1990’s included winds measured at over 100mph at the Clinton nuclear power plant and caused extensive damage to a marina at the associated cooling lake.

Effects can be long lasting. On July 4th and 5th in 1999 a derecho crossed the Boundary Waters Canoe area in northern Minnesota/southern Ontario. It devastated a forest there. Wildfires in more recent years have been fueled by the debris from that storm.

Because of their length and the intensity of the straight line winds, derechos can be an extremely costly event. Casualties are rare, but do occur, usually caused by falling trees or other debris and occasionally by watercraft caught by the rapidly moving storms.


NOAA Archives

NOAA Archives

The July issue of Chicago Magazine serves as the inspiration for today’s post on killer heat. It features a recap, told in the words of residents, first responders, morgue workers and politicians of the July 1995 heatwave in the City of Chicago…twenty years ago next week. I recommend it.

Heat remains consistently the deadliest natural disaster in most years in the United States. The National Weather Service estimates that about 175 people die of heat related causes during an average year. Some years are much worse. The official total of dead attributed to the 1995 event in Chicago stands at 739. Officials argued about which deaths belonged in the count at the time and continue to do so today, but in any event the extent of the disaster cannot be denied.

On Wednesday, July 12, 1995, the temperature in Chicago reached 95-degrees. Certainly not uncommon. But on Thursday the 13th, the high was 104 at O’Hare Airport and 106 at the more urban Midway Airport. To compound the stress, the dewpoint at times exceeded 80-degrees which is rare. That would make the heat index between 120 and 130-degrees.

chi-95heatbody20120706072407

Chicago Tribune

By Friday, July 14, with a high of 102, paramedics and police officers knew there was a major problem. The number of fatalities rose to the point that the system was overwhelmed. Refrigerated trucks were brought to the morgue and mortuary students worked non-stop for two days assisting the morgue staff in handling the bodies of victims.

 

chi-95heattruck20120706072404

Chicago Tribune

The urban heat island effect was in full operation. Buildings and pavement held the heat at night, especially in the humid air so there was no relief. Many of the victims were elderly, young and those with existing medical issues. The situation was especially dire in poorer neighborhoods where residents either had no fans or air conditioners or were reluctant to use them given the cost of electricity. In addition, some victims were fearful for their safety and kept windows closed and locked. One of the city’s major hospitals lacked air conditioning in most of the building even in 1995! Surgical staffs were rotated frequently.

Since the effects of extreme heat tend to be cumulative, people continued to succumb for days after the heat began to subside on Saturday when the high was “only” 98.

heat_1The Chicago Heatwave of 1995 was a well-documented event, but similar heatwaves are common. Just this past week much of Western Europe had unusually high temperatures and in June perhaps as many as 1,500 people died of the heat in Pakistan. In May of 2015, 2,500 people died in a heatwave in India.

 

The National Weather Service has a number of safety tips, including:
Avoid the Heat. Stay indoors and in air conditioning as much as possible
Check on neighbors and the elderly.
Wear loose fitting clothing. Light colors reflect heat and sun.
Drink plenty of water and natural juices. The body loses water faster than it can absorb it. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Avoid large meals. Eat smaller portions and more frequently.
NEVER leave children or pets in a vehicle even for a few minutes.

In addition, the weather service has a heatwave brochure available for download.


We’ll keep things short this week as your author needs to hit the road for visits to our Chicago-area Extension offices.

In some parts of the country, this is Lightning Safety Awareness Week.  The following passage is from the Peoria Journal Star on Monday, June 22, 2015:  … the motorcyclists were traveling side-by-side when lightning hit a taxi van and then the motorcyclists. The driver of the van was injured, but survived, after going into a ditch, but the motorcyclists, who were burnt and suffered heart attacks, died at the scene.  This freak accident occurred in Decatur, Illinois and points to just how unpredictable and dangerous lightning can be.

berryd4

–Douglas Berry via NOAA

Severe storms are forecast in a large part of the Great Lakes region and points east early in the week, so I’d like to share a National Weather Service link that tells you just about everything you need to know about lightning safety.


It’s often said in areas of drought in the southern U.S. that it takes a tropical storm to reverse the situation. This year, as we know, the Texas-Oklahoma drought was fairly well broken by a lingering storm system over Memorial Day weekend which resulted in more than 30 deaths.

BILL_qpfNow comes what is left of Tropical Storm Bill, already as of this morning, reduced to a tropical depression. Some parts of Texas into Arkansas may see 2 to 5-inches of rain in the next day. While these rain totals don’t match some from the Memorial Day storms, they are excessive and flash flooding is a possibility.

As the remnants of Bill move slowly to the northeast across the next several days the heaviest rain will eventually spread into southern Illinois and on to Indiana by late Friday night into Saturday. Here’s the latest hydrological forecast discussion.

In fact, the remnants of Bill will interact with a stalled frontal system which has caused periodic heavy rain for more than a week as it waffled up and down across Illinois and nearby states.flood map Flood warnings have been issued for several rivers in Illinois and extend into portions of the Mississippi River bordering the state. Flooding in Illinois ranges from major to minor and areas of heaviest precipitation have varied daily.

On Monday, tornado warning sirens sounded in downtown Chicago, a relatively rare occurrence. A funnel cloud was observed east of Midway Airport and another near Millenium Park which is just east of Michigan Avenue in the heart of the city. No touchdowns were reported, but some photos taken at the time show an unmistakable wall cloud.

http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/discussions/hpcdiscussions.php?disc=qpfpfd

http://videowall.accuweather.com/detail/videos/trending-now/video/4299689121001/watch:-huge-wall-cloud-moves-over-chicago?autoStart=true


From time to time on Weather Wednesday we will step away from purely meteorological topics to address preparedness. This week we’ll discuss one of the most basic preparedness items, a personal or family Go Kit.

A Go Kit should be assembled and customized according to individual needs following some general guidelines from FEMA. Be sure to look under the tabs for additional suggested items.

AP_fairdale_tornado_14_sk_150410_16x9_1600Let’s look at some of the items which should be included:

Water, one gallon per person per day for three days for drinking and sanitation. For long term storage the crystal clear containers hold up better, but water and food stocks should be rotated out regularly.

Food, a three day supply of non-perishable food. If using canned food, be sure to include a can opener. Specialty meals designed for use by campers are also a good option. Check preparation instructions to be sure you have all of the necessary equipment.

Battery powered, hand cranked and/or solar powered radio capable of receiving NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio and standard broadcast. Carry extra batteries.

Flashlight and extra batteries. Batteries will generally last considerably longer in LED flashlights.

Washington, DC, July 22, 2008 -- A Red Cross "ready to go" preparedness kit showing the bag and it's contents. Red Cross photograph

Red Cross via FEMA

First aid kit. A good basic kit will suffice unless special needs are involved.

Whistle to signal for help. A small air horn is also a good addition, but you can’t beat a whistle for convenience. It takes less volume of air to blow a whistle than to yell which can be important if one is trapped by debris. A whistle or horn also has a better chance of being heard over heavy equipment.

Dust mask.

Plastic sheet and tape if asked to shelter in place.

Local maps. Remember, familiar landmarks may be destroyed in some disasters.

Cell phone with chargers, inverters, solar power, charging packs, etc. Note, avoid using accessories such as the built in flashlight which tend to run down the battery rapidly.

Prescription medications and glasses. Setting aside medication can be problematic so work with your physician and pharmacist to see what can be done.

Cash and change. If the power is out or communications lines down, ATMs will be out of service.

Copies of insurance papers, account numbers, etc. Do keep these in a special place in the kit so you can keep track of them.

Infant formula, diapers, pet food, etc if applicable. Include a leash for your pet and count their water needs as well.

Change of clothes. Err on the side of warmth and waterproof items.

A couple of items recent experience has shown to be very valuable. Sturdy shoes or boots. Sandals and flip flops are not at all useful when walking through debris. If you have identified a shelter area in your home, you might want to keep the spare shoes/boots there.

Bicycle helmets or hard hats may also be useful if easily accessible to your shelter area.

Remember a Go kit should be able to do just that, pick up and go, should the need arise. It is important to temperate the desire to plan for all contingencies with the practical need to perhaps carry the kit for some distance. Kits are also available from retailers, but make sure to customize to your needs.