Monday, March 08, 2010

An Appropriate Level Of Preparedness



# 4412




Twice since the emergence of the novel H1N1 virus (once in May and again in October) I’ve written an essay entitled An Appropriate Level Of Concern where I attempted to outline my sense of the seriousness of the pandemic, and the logical things people should be doing to prepare for it.


While the pandemic of 2009 has yet to play its final card, early on indications were that we were facing a high morbidity-low mortality event; a virus that would cause a lot of illness, but thankfully very few deaths.


And so my advice was predicated on this assumption. What I characterized as a `middle ground’ approach; one that relied on maintaining a general level of preparedness, not a reactionary response to this particular pandemic threat.

Specifically, I suggested that everyone :


  1. have a good family and business emergency plan
  2. have acquired at least a 2-week supply of emergency supplies
  3. routinely practice good flu hygiene
  4. get the appropriate vaccines when they are available
  5. have and are a flu buddy
  6. are looking out for your neighbors and greater community


In October I stated:


I see no need to hunker down at home, or to live in fear over this virus.  This is a serious situation, of course. And tragically, this virus will claim thousands of lives over the next few months.


It certainly deserves your attention, vigilance, and respect.


But not your fear.


Which pretty much echoed my level of concern from the previous May; that the pandemic was likely to be serious, but not devastating.


I, of course, didn’t adopt this cautious, middle ground approach based strictly on my own observations. This was essentially the message of the CDC, and other agencies of the HHS from the start of the outbreak.  


If you listened directly to Admiral Anne Schuchat of the CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIAID, or Dr. Bruce Gellin of the National Vaccine Program Office you got a pretty good sense of the true seriousness of the pandemic.  


If you took your cue from the tabloid press, wacky websites, or sometimes even the mainstream press . . . well your perceptions may have been skewed a bit. 


Now that the pandemic has gone – if not away, at least out of the headlines – the tendency of many will be to let down their guards. To assume the threat has passed, and to forget about preparedness.


And that would be a mistake.


Disasters, large and small, happen every day around the world.   It doesn’t take a pandemic, or an earthquake, or a hurricane to ruin your entire day.


As a paramedic I often came face-to-face with the unhappy results that occur when people are  unprepared to deal with an emergency.


I’ve seen people badly injured (and sometimes killed) because they, or someone around them, lacked the knowledge of what to do in an emergency or because they simply didn’t have a proper first aid kit.


We are entering Tornado season for southern and Midwestern states, and having lost my roof to one back in 1978, I can assure you there is nothing more abrupt (and likely to make a a lifelong impression) than being struck by one of these monsters in the middle of the night.




This map shows the areas of greatest danger, but practically all regions of the nation can see tornadoes.



The National Weather Service’s Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center said, based on anticipated snow melt and forecasts of rainfall, there’s an above average flood potential this spring.


Hurricane season along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and wildfire season in the western states, are but a few months away.

And it’s always earthquake season.



Are you ready?

Most Americans are woefully unprepared to deal with emergencies.  This despite dozens of major disasters (often weather related) that occur every year in this country.


And each and every day, thousands of people are injured in automobile, work related, and household accidents.


Everyone should have a well equipped first aid kit in their car, workplace, and home . . . and everyone should know the basics of first aid.    If you’ve never taken a first aid course, contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross.


Agencies like FEMA, READY.GOV and the HHS are constantly trying to get the preparedness message out, so that when (not `if') a disaster does occur, human losses can be minimized.


For more information on how to prepare for emergencies, up to and including a pandemic, the following sites should be of assistance.






A few of my (many) preparedness essays include:


FEMA Asks: Are You Earthquake Prepared?
Inside My Bug Out Bag
Red Cross Unveils `Do More Than Cross Your Fingers’ Campaign
The Gift Of Preparedness
Pandemic Solutions: Flu Buddies


At a bare minimum, every household should have a disaster plan, a good first aid kit (and the knowledge to use it), and emergency supplies to last a minimum of 72 hours during a disaster.  


Anything less is simply inappropriate.

I can’t tell you when the next disaster will strike, or where, or even by what means.   But I can assure you that millions of people will be affected by some type of disaster or emergency in the coming year.


And the advantage always goes to those who are prepared.