Red Cross prepares every day so that they can – and do – provide comfort, help keep people healthy, and save lives when disaster strikes. Over the course of a year, Red Cross responds to about 70,000 disasters, gets blood donations from nearly 4 million people, and trains over 9 million people health and safety courses, such as CPR and first aid. Red Cross’s healing presence is felt throughout disasters - from the bystander who knows enough to apply pressure to the wound to the doctor who has the blood needed to treat an injured patient to the family who gets the shelter and maybe even the counseling they need to get through a tough time.
In recognition of all that Red Cross does during disasters and every day, March is Red Cross Month. As we reflect on American Red Cross Month, we thank those who serve as part of the organization that has helped so many people throughout the country and around the world during large-scale disasters and every day emergencies.
Everybody can become a part of something that helps people when they need it most. As we think about what Red Cross has done for others, we can also think about the role we’ve played in our communities. What have we done recently? Have we donated our efforts to a worthy cause? Helped a neighbor in need? Donated blood? If the answer is no, we can use this time to change some of those answers.
We are all a part of a larger community, whether that is our neighborhood, religious group, school, or workplace. What we bring to the table impacts the people in our communities. By becoming a positive example we can help those around us to become a stronger, both individually and as a community.
What can you do to help others this month? Each act of kindness is infectious. When one person commits to sharing their time and talents, the whole community benefits.
You can commit to helping out in small ways that can make a big difference. For example, donating blood doesn’t take very long and it saves lives. Committing to be a better bystander – the kind that knows how to help when people need it – is pretty simple. For example, you could start by taking a first aid and CPR class so that you can provide care when every second counts.
Or you can serve your community on an ongoing basis by volunteering. Consider volunteering with your local Medical Reserve Corporation (MRC). MRC volunteers can assist with activities to improve public health in their community by increasing health literacy, supporting prevention efforts and reducing health disparities.
Joining your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is another great way to strengthen community ties. CERT members are educated in disaster preparedness and are trained in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. These valuable skills can then be used to assist your community before a professional responder can reach an emergency.
Healthier, more resilient communities contribute to our overall national health security and we can support community health in many ways, including the ones outlined above. Earlier this year, ASPR released the National Health Security Strategy 2015-2018 to help create more prepared, protected and resilient communities. That is a very big – very important – goal and volunteering to serve our communities is one way that we can work together to help make it a reality.
Before American Red Cross month concludes, take a few minutes to consider ways that you can serve. When we take the time to serve our communities and commit to making them stronger and more resilient, we can see the benefits during disasters and every day.
In just the past decade multiple infectious diseases – SARS, H1N1, and most recently Ebola – “jumped” to humans from other animal species. Public health emergencies like these often challenge the preparedness and response of the public health and medical community in the U.S. and worldwide. As scientists are we as ready as we can be to help?
Some studies suggest that as many as 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases originated in non-human animal species, and another 17 percent originated from insects or other types of vectors. As soon as outbreaks occur, epidemiologists, public health workers, researchers, and clinicians begin research tied to the infectious disease cycle. They isolate and identify the infectious agent and perform genetic analyses. They use diagnostics to detect and track the disease. They develop or dispense lifesaving drugs or vaccines and provide guidance on the best medical treatment.
While this cycle might seem routine, each outbreak presents unique research challenges to mitigating the spread of disease, protect health and save lives. To meet these challenges, ASPR undertook a science preparedness initiative because we need the scientific community to answer timely questions during response, but also research results can enable a more educated and informed response to similar future events, maximizing recovery.
We’ve learned how critical it is to be able to perform rapid scientific research during the limited time window when the nation and the world are responding to public health emergencies, be it an emerging infectious disease outbreak, a hurricane, or an oil spill. The science preparedness effort aims to ensure that such research needs are prioritized and to support needed infrastructure for such research.
This is where scientific collections come into play.
Knowing the tools and resources available at any given point during a response and making them accessible to researchers are essential to science preparedness. Scientific collections contain a cornucopia of objects from lunar rocks to bacteria and span scientific study and disciplines.
Today, collections form a significant base of support for scientific study that informs regulatory, management, and policy decisions yet many collections are distributed across federal, state and local agencies. The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy created an Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections to support policy development, identify a systematic approach to safeguarding these valuable scientific resources and make them more readily available and accessible to the research community.
Building on this working group’s findings and recommendations, a new organization called Scientific Collections International (SciColl ) seeks to improve the rapid access to science collections globally across disciplines, government agencies and ministries, and private research institutions. Through a joint partnership, SciColl offered a novel opportunity for ASPR to explore the value of scientific research collections under the science preparedness initiative and integrate it as an important research resource at each stage in the emergence of infectious diseases cycle. We were impressed.
We also jumped at the opportunity last fall to participate in a workshop led by SciColl’s executive secretariat at the Smithsonian Institute. The workshop drew together multiple federal and international partners to explore the intersections of the infectious disease cycle and the role scientific collections could play in mitigating the disease risks.
We covered how specific collections of mammals and parasites provide evidence and understanding of disease emergence in human populations; the needs and possible ways to capitalize on the use of collections; practical research applications; policy issues surrounding use of collections in outbreaks, and more. The workshop report offers specific recommendations for data management, innovative approaches to cross-disciplinary research, communication and sample sharing.
At ASPR, we’ll continue to work toward greater collaboration and integration of scientific collections to mitigate, prevent, respond to, and prepare for emerging infectious diseases. By emphasizing the importance of scientific research and strengthening initiatives like science preparedness, we can develop policies and systems that fully realize the practical application of scientific collections.
Join us in this growing moment. Encourage your private and public research institution to get involved with SciColl and be part of the global effort toward a more systematic approach for sharing, managing, and using scientific collections. Every institution, agency, and scientific discipline is vested in the improvement and development of this vast network.
We look forward to our continued collaboration with SciColl to strengthen engagement with the stewards of scientific collections at home and abroad. From our perspective, health and safety, even our nation’s health security, depend on it.
Simulation has long been recognized as an important tool for promoting safety in high-risk industries. Our aerospace, transportation, and power-generation industries have become steadily safer over the years, in part by training workers through simulation.
As the Ebola virus disease is amply demonstrating, health care is also a high-risk industry. As part of preparedness efforts in responding to Ebola, simulation can detect threats to safety and establish high levels of individual and team performance.
Two imported cases, including one resulting in death, and two locally acquired cases in health care workers were reported in the United States in 2014 according to the CDC. In March 2015, a U.S. health care worker infected with the virus was admitted to the National Institutes of Health for treatment. The dedicated health providers who treat Ebola patients should not be expected to risk their lives when caring for the sickest patients.
A recently released AHRQ issue brief Health Care Simulation to Advance Safety: Responding to Ebola and Other Threats, underscores the potential of simulation to help prepare for Ebola and other emergent epidemics. The brief addresses simulation's essential features and benefits, approaches and uses, the concept of mastery learning, and AHRQ’s programmatic focus on simulation.
Several simulation centers have already initiated simulation-based preparations to improve readiness for Ebola patients. AHRQ’s new brief highlights progress at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, where a team has demonstrated the value of using simulation-based preparations in addition to valid, detailed protocols.
Jeffrey H. Barsuk, M.D., M.S., associate professor of medicine at Northwestern, said using simulation to identify gaps in Ebola safety protocols found breaches in sterile technique when providers were fully donned in personal protective equipment, transporting Ebola patients, drawing blood from a peripheral intravenous catheter, and placing a central venous access line. Realistic drills and honest feedback allowed clinicians to address gaps and improve aspects of their preparedness to respond to real patients.
AHRQ’s new issue brief also includes key lessons that demonstrate the value of simulation in today’s complex health care settings. They include—
- Recognizing that simulation is not just for residents and nursing students— Educating and training health providers is a lifelong process, especially as new technologies, less invasive procedures, and new protocols make their way into clinical practice. Veteran clinicians might not fully appreciate the perils of climbing the learning curve with respect to patient safety as new and different skill sets are learned.
- Managing the unexpected—It is not possible to develop step-by-step protocols for every possible event related to rapidly emerging conditions. But simulation offers the chance to operationalize and test resiliency concepts, as well as learn about their anticipation and mitigation, before events worsen and create harm.
- Ensuring the effectiveness of simulations— Just as it takes considerable practice to acquire new skills, AHRQ-funded simulation investigators are learning that it takes practice and trial-by-error development for patient safety investigators to maximize the effectiveness of their simulations.
While the lessons learned are yet to be fully recorded and digested, the relevance of simulation extends not only to the immediate Ebola response but to other serious viral outbreaks and influenza threats. Although the number of patients with the Ebola virus to be admitted to U.S. hospitals is expected to be very low, the recent admission of the Ebola-infected health worker reminds us that this threat remains.
When disaster strikes, we want one basic question answered: Is everybody okay? As a husband and father, I want to know that my family is safe and healthy. I also want to know that my neighbors and friends are okay. Because I work for an agency dedicated to health security, I have a broader focus, too; I want to know that residents in every community across the country can continue to receive the care they need and that the community’s health care and public health systems can recover quickly.
Others may frame their worries a little differently. Hospitals and healthcare facilities know that more people will need care and they want to be sure they can handle a flood of new patients who may come in for help. People with health chronic conditions who rely on durable medical equipment or dialysis want to know if they will be able to continue receiving the care they need to stay out of the hospital. State, local, tribal and territorial officials want to know if they have all the information they need to make sound decisions when every second counts.
These are all aspects of health security, a term which means that healthy individuals, families, and communities have access to health care and the knowledge and resources to know what to do to care for themselves and others in routine and emergency situations. Communities help build resilience by implementing policies and practices to ensure the conditions under which people can be healthy, by assuring access to medical care, building social cohesion, supporting healthy behaviors, and creating a culture of preparedness in which bystander response to emergencies is not the exception but the norm.
Many of the things that health departments and hospitals across the country do every day enhance health security. They plan how to handle a surge in the patients and how staff special media needs shelters after disasters. They pull all the health related groups in their community together as healthcare coalitions and run emergency drills together. They are forever on alert for outbreaks or clusters of infectious diseases, like measles, so they can educate residents on how to protect health. They sponsor annual flu vaccination clinics, and much more.
Yet, it’s not just health care facilities and health departments that contribute to our nation’s health security. Every business, every place of worship, every neighborhood association, every civic organization, and every resident can make a difference. Everyone can take steps that protect health – their own, their neighbor’s, their community’s health – in an emergency. For example, individuals can get trained in CPR and be ready to be an active bystander who can assist when an emergency strikes.
Hundreds of organizations and people participated in identifying actions they could take to enhance health security. These actions roll up into an entire strategy, a national health security strategy. Ultimately, the strategy is a roadmap that leads to health that’s secure no matter what comes our way.
What do people need to know to make solid decisions about health after a disaster? What would help people recover fast from a disaster? What information would help healthcare systems recover? A few weeks after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New York these burning questions and others became the focus of intense discussion among a group of scientists and subject matter experts who gathered at the New York Academy of Medicine.
They developed a set of research priorities. Many of the priorities identified by the group - including questions about the health outcomes of evacuated patients, the morbidity and mortality among at-risk populations, and the health system response to the storm - are most effectively answered by examining large sets of data - big data - about health services.
Past studies that use administrative claims data make assumptions about a patient’s exposure to the storm, often using county-level damage assessments. While such studies can yield valuable public health information, their findings are imprecise because not everyone in a given county or other geographic region is impacted equally by a disaster.
For Hurricane Sandy recovery researchers, ASPR found a way to improve the research process: linking the data available through multiple federal agencies so that the outcomes for individual (but unidentified) patients can be followed using various non-medical criteria. These datasets are compiled from patient data and medical and housing claims data in a way that protects patient privacy. As such, they do not include fields for such information as patient name, but can include de-identified data on the amount of damage sustained by a patient’s home, or the length of time a patient was without electricity.
This ASPR Sandy dataset promotes research efficiencies by coordinating researcher access to the data and reducing duplicative requests for data. The Hurricane Sandy researchers will have access to a single, consolidated data source that can be used by multiple investigators, now and in the future.
This Sandy dataset represents the first time ASPR has compiled and linked this type of data for researchers. The lessons learned from this process will pave the way for similar research projects to be initiated more swiftly after future disasters. It’s an important step toward ensuring that health services researchers can gain prompt access to important sources of data to answer pressing – potentially lifesaving – questions about response, recovery, and preparedness.
ASPR recently funded four new projects, collaborative grants that utilize the ASPR Sandy Dataset to build upon, augment, or enhance the original ASPR, CDC, and NIEHS Sandy recovery studies.
In the first one, a New York State Department of Health researcher is using big data to assess the health impacts of Hurricane Sandy on elderly residents in affected areas of New York State, evaluate the infrastructure and surge capacity of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and develop a predictive model and risk assessment tools to predict and mitigate the impact of future storms on the elderly.
The second is being conducted by a researcher from Rowan University in collaboration with another researcher from Virginia Polytechnic and State University. These scientists are using big data to determine how environmental changes impact older adults’ health care utilization in the months following a disaster, and inform healthcare providers and policy makers of the unintended downstream health consequences of disaster-related disruptions in housing and community-based healthcare facilities.
A researcher from the Feinstein Institute of Medical Research is using administrative claims data to investigate the differential health effects of Hurricane Sandy between Medicare/Medicaid and non-Medicare/Medicaid populations. This study is called “Post Hurricane Sandy Implementation of a Regional Public Health Surveillance System in Long Island.”
In the last study, a New York University School of Medicine researcher is using the dataset to determine whether early, real-time data from prehospital, emergency department, and overall healthcare utilization can predict the geographic regions and vulnerable populations most affected by natural disasters.
Even if you’re outside the Hurricane Sandy impact zone, the results from these studies may have important implications so watch for their findings. The studies could help your community plan and respond to disasters in ways that help everyone recover faster. And when that happens, your community become more resilient and our nation’s health becomes more secure.
It’s true. Making sure the nation has the drugs, vaccines, and medical devices needed to protect health in an emergency requires more money, authority, and technical expertise than any one federal agency has alone. But by collaborating, federal agencies are making it happen. Take the Ebola outbreak as a recent example.
As the Ebola outbreak spread to multiple countries in West Africa and became a public health emergency of international concern, federal agencies in the United States pulled together to review quickly, the vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics the agencies were supporting. Collectively known as medical countermeasures, these products were in various states of early development; none had reached clinical trials.
The agency representatives made fast decisions about how to use the authority, funding, and technical expertise from each agency to move as many products, as rapidly as possible, into clinical trials and get them into the hands of doctors and patients to prevent or treat this deadly infection.
That collaboration, speed and empowerment is the beauty of the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasure Enterprise, or PHEMCE. In one way or another, all of the agencies involved in the PHEMCE, support the development of medical countermeasures for military or civilian use or both.
This group plans together to be sure that development takes place as fast as possible without funding redundant efforts, and that there aren’t gaps in addressing health threats from chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents. That’s where the PHEMCE Strategy and Implementation Plan come into play.
Like all strategies, the PHEMCE Strategy and Implementation Plan published this month identifies goals and objectives. This one also describes the activities and programs these agencies will undertake to have the medical products our nation will need when confronted with health threats from chemical, biological or rad/nuc incidents, whether from bioterrorism or naturally occurring incidents like this current Ebola epidemic.
The Strategy and Implementation Plan becomes a business plan that these agencies follow in the near-term and long-term to make the best use of available resources to enhance national health security.
Through the PHEMCE, HHS was able to estimate the funding requirements for NIH, ASPR, FDA, and CDC to pursue medical countermeasure development and purchase in fiscal years 2014-2018, and provided this information to Congress. Agency-specific spending in these years is estimated to be: NIH/NIAID - $9.2 billion; ASPR/BARDA - $5.0 billion; CDC/SNS - $3.1 billion; and FDA - $13.7 million. The out-year funding estimates (FY 2017 & 2018) included in the report were developed without regard to the competing priorities that are considered in the annual development of the President’s Budget and must be considered as budget submissions to Congress are developed in these out-years. So these estimates are subject to change in the future.
The Strategy and Implementation Plan also evaluates progress against the group’s previous priorities, describes progress in developing products to meet the medical needs of at-risk populations, summarizes the development that’s underway, and outlines what’s been purchased by the agencies and now available to local communities in a public health emergency.
The drugs, vaccines, and medical devices doctors prescribe or use every day require years, often decades, to develop, and private industry spends billions of dollars bringing these products to market. For each product that reaches the market, eight others failed because the science just didn’t work. Developing products needed for public health emergencies can be even more difficult.
Yet, by collaborating through the PHEMCE, federal agencies have made tremendous progress. More than 160 products have reached advanced development stages; a dozen types of products have been added the Strategic National Stockpile in just eight years, and since 2012, FDA has approved eight new products from our pipeline. These products will help combat pandemic influenza viruses and other emerging infectious diseases, anthrax, smallpox, botulism, radiological and nuclear events, and chemical nerve agents.
To ensure the safest and most effective use of limited medical countermeasures following an attack, PHEMCE partners developed up-to-date clinical guidance for using anthrax countermeasures in children, pregnant women, and the general population under mass casualty conditions. They did the same for products that would be used in a mass casualty incident involving botulism or to treat blood-related injuries after a radiological or nuclear incident.
That’s just a snapshot. Learn more about what’s being done under the 2014 PHEMCE Strategy and Implementation Plan.
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) today took an exciting next step in implementing a three-prong strategy to develop, manufacture, test, and make available Ebola monoclonal antibody therapeutic candidates as part of the U.S. Ebola response. BARDA now is partnering with Medicago and Fraunhofer to produce Ebola monoclonal antibodies similar to ZMapp from Mapp BioPharmaceuticals to study efficacy in nonhuman primates and then potentially for clinical studies in humans.
These studies will help to determine whether Ebola monoclonal antibodies produced by other tobacco biopharmaceutical companies are as effective as ZMapp. ZMapp is now entering clinical trials in West Africa. If they are as effective, the U.S. could increase the overall manufacturing capacity for ZMapp and similar products.
Medicago is a Canadian company that develops and produces plant-based vaccines and therapeutics; Fraunhofer is a non-profit research and development organization. They will utilize their own proprietary tobacco expression systems in producing the antibodies, which will be compared to ZMapp. BARDA is collaborating with the Department of Defense using existing DoD contracts with Medicago and Fraunhofer to expedite the manufacturing of the product for use in studies and to conduct the animal studies.
BARDA has taken other steps to implement the three-prong strategy:
- Supporting Mapp BioPharmaceuticals in developing and manufacturing ZMapp for clinical trials.
- Partnering with Regeneron and Genentech to develop and manufacture new Ebola monoclonal antibodies using specialized CHO mammalian (Chinese hamster ovary) cell lines for nonhuman primate studies and potentially clinical studies.
Together these three prongs will help make safe, effective therapeutics – known as monoclonal antibody therapeutics – available as quickly as possible in the ongoing fight against Ebola. Since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, BARDA has been working with our private industry partners to explore all possible means to speed development and production of therapeutics and vaccines. We are leaving no stone unturned.
BARDA and its partners are coming closer to bringing new drugs to market to help in the fight against antibiotic resistance. Four of BARDA’s partners have met major milestones in the development of new antibiotics, and with increased funding, BARDA is poised to further strengthen the antibiotic pipeline.
Two of these drugs could be coming to market soon and both of them may be able to overcome antibiotic resistance that is threatening existing classes of drugs. The first new product is eravacycline, which was developed by Tetraphase Pharmaceutical to treat complicated intra-abdominal infections (cIAI). The second is solithromycin, an experimental antibiotic by Cempra Inc. that would be used the treatment of patients with community acquired bacterial pneumonia (CABP). Both of companies are working toward filing a new drug application (NDA) with the FDA in late-2015. If their applications are approved, they would become available for sale in the commercial market.
Two more BARDA-sponsored antibiotics to fight Gram negative infections also have met major milestones. BARDA is working with Rempex Pharmaceuticals on two global Phase 3 studies of Carbavace. One set of Phase 3 trials centers around its use in combatting complicated urinary tract infections and acute pyelonephritis, a common but serious kidney infection.
In addition, BARDA has been working with Achaogen Inc. since 2010 on the development of a novel aminoglycoside, plazomicin. Aminoglycosides are a group of bactericidal antibiotics that inhibit bacterial protein synthesis. Achaogen has successfully moved this program into Phase 3 clinical development and has enrolled its first patient in clinical trials.
The President’s FY16 budget included a request for $1.2B in increased funding to address antimicrobial resistance. Several government agencies would be recipients of that increased funding, including BARDA. If approved, BARDA would use this funding to support new antibacterial therapeutics and diagnostics to combat bacteria that pose a threat to national security and public health - especially multi-drug resistant bacteria.
By working together, BARDA and its partners are poised to give hospitals and healthcare providers new options that can help them address a wide range of bacterial infections that are serious every day, but that can be particularly dangerous during an emergency when hospitals and healthcare systems are stressed. We are very proud of our partnerships with these companies and excited by the milestones that they are meeting that could play an important role in protecting health. By continuing to work with our partners, we can fight antibiotic resistance with next-generation drugs during disasters and every day.
The recent nationwide shortage of injectable solutions, such as normal saline and Lactated Ringer's (given intravenously to a patient to replace fluids and electrolytes lost from illness or injury), illustrates how a resource shortage can lead to a need to ethically allocate available resources.
At the local level, the decision is usually made on a case-by-case basis. For example, if a hospital has two patients, both of whom need the same resource – like saline or a ventilator – and only one resource is available, a medical provider or small group of providers (often with input from the patient’s family) determines which patient should receive the needed care, medicine or equipment.
They also determine what alternative treatment can be used for the other patient until the ideal treatment is available. It may be a matter of minutes or hours, or could be a matter of days, depending on the nature of the resource and what caused the shortage. It can be very difficult to make an allocation decision on a day to day basis, but it’s even more difficult in a catastrophic disaster. In a catastrophic situation healthcare providers won’t have time to consult with each other and ask the family; no one else may be available to ask.
Hospitals, healthcare facilities and state and local planners need to start engaging their community members now so that they can work together to decide how these difficult decisions will be made. So if (or when) the time comes, members of the community understand how medical resources and other emergency management resources (fire, rescue, law enforcement, etc.) will be used. By engaging community members before an event occurs, they may be more likely to see the process as a legitimate one and they may better understand how actions that they take in an emergency can impact their health or the health of their loved ones.
The federal government can provide additional personnel and medical supplies in catastrophic situations yet like all other resources, ours are finite, too. And like every community, we too need a protocol – a way of making decisions about where to send the resources we have available and help communities save as many lives as possible.
ASPR coordinates the public health and medical resources available through the federal government to support states and communities in emergencies. A participant in the 2011 drill noted that ASPR has no protocol to make allocation decisions when the demand for federal support exceeds the supply of resources.
A lot of factors are involved in figuring out how to allocate resources. In planning for it, all levels of government have to think about the effects of a catastrophic event on transportation because this affects how and where resources can be transported into the area and set up, and on how those resources can be supported (the responders need a place to stay, food, and water, and they will need medical resupply). It will matter where those resources are located: have any been affected by the disaster? Are any cut off from getting to the affected area?
Other considerations include whether there are active response operations going on, or if it's a time of year when we know disasters such as tornados or hurricanes are likely to occur which could create additional requests for those same resources.
Unlike the decisions commonly made in an emergency room, decisions about how to respond in a catastrophic situation go beyond the needs of one or two patients. In deciding how to respond to such a catastrophic disaster, medical providers, emergency managers and leaders at all levels of government cannot use the same model of medical ethics that a doctor would turn to when deciding which patient should get the ventilator. The decisions have to consider the public health needs of a significant portion of the country's population.
So ASPR's Office of Emergency Management developed a framework for the type of ethical decision-making required in catastrophic situations when resources are scare nationwide or possibly even worldwide. The framework is only for federal public health and medical resources. It could be a model for your state or your community.
This blog is the first in a series on the allocation of scarce resources in a disaster. We'll discuss the framework and processes in future blogs. To learn about new posts to the ASPR Blog and other topics related to public health emergency preparedness, response and recovery, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.
Has your community already started one of these crucial conversations? If so, share your community’s story in a comment to this blog post. Let us know what worked, what didn’t, and how this discussion impacted your community.
Many parts of the country get snow and ice from time to time, so winter weather can seem like it is no big deal. And that is part of what makes winter storms so dangerous. But downed power lines, icy roads, power failures, and exposure to cold weather can all have serious health consequences.
If you know what to look for and plan in advance, you have a better chance of staying healthy and helping those around you weather the storm. Here are a few things that you can do:
- Plan with family, friends and neighbors before the storm strikes: Knowing who you can count on – and who is counting on you – can help protect everybody’s health. Before a storm, start a conversation on how you will help each other. You can plan to stay in touch during and after the storm through social networking sites, by texting or by knocking on your neighbor’s door. When disaster strikes, phone lines may be jammed, but texts may get through. Remember to charge your phone before a storm and have a backup power supply charged and ready.
- Stock up on food, water, medicine and supplies for your car: Power and water outages are common in a winter storm and roads may be unsafe. So make sure that you have the food, water, medicines, and first aid supplies to help you get through the storm. Also make sure that you have the basic safety equipment for your car, including a full gas tank, shovel, windshield scraper, and emergency kit for the car. For a detailed checklist of supplies, see CDC’s Winter Weather Checklists.
- Stay tuned to your local news and listen to state and local officials: When winter storms strike, your local news station and your state and local officials will be able to provide you with the information you need to stay safe and healthy.
- Stay safe in a power outage: During a power outage, never use generators, grills, or other gasoline-, propane-, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, garage, or carport or outside near doors, windows, or vents. They produce carbon monoxide and fumes can kill. Be sure that you know how to use generators safely and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before starting them up. Food safety is also a common issue in power outages. If you are trying to figure out what to keep and what to toss, don’t guess. Use these charts to learn when to toss refrigerated and frozen foods.
- Plan for chronic conditions: When disaster strikes, many people with chronic conditions end up in hospitals because they need care and don’t have anywhere else to go. If you suffer from a chronic condition, talk to your doctor about preparedness. If you rely on refrigerated drugs, make sure you know what you would do if the power goes out. If you rely on dialysis, try scheduling dialysis early, be sure that you know where to find an alternate facility, and that you have taken other steps to prepare for emergencies. If you rely on electrically powered medical equipment, like an oxygen concentrator, make sure you know how to find the spare battery and charge it in case of a power outage.
- Be a bystander who doesn’t stand by: Winter storms can put people at risk for everything from hypothermia to injuries, causing hospitals may be overcrowded and EMS may be unable to reach people quickly given road conditions. So learn the signs of frostbite and hypothermia and what to do when someone is exhibiting those signs. Injuries are also very common during winter storms, and learning first aid and CPR could save a life.
When winter weather comes, we hope everyone stays safe and healthy. Taking the time to prepare before an emergency strikes could help keep you, your family and even your community bounce back faster.