Friday, February 28, 2020

An Appropriate Level Of Personal Preparedness For COVID-19


Twice during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic (once in May and again in October) I wrote essays 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.
My advice was predicated on the assumption that H1N1 would be a high morbidity - low mortality pandemic event, and on general preparedness advice everyone should be following regardless of any pandemic threat. 
Specifically, I suggested that everyone :
  • have a good family and business emergency plan
  • acquire at least a 2-week supply of emergency supplies
  • routinely practice good flu hygiene
  • get the appropriate vaccines when and if they become available
  • have and be a flu buddy
  • look out for your neighbors and greater community
Pretty simple stuff.  No underground bunkers, no 10-year-supply of freeze dried foods, or an armory befitting of a small Latin American country.  
 And all things you should have and do all of the time. 
In 2014, when Ebola raged across Africa, and the first few cases showed up in the United States, I wrote  An Appropriate Level Of Concern Over Ebola In The US I wrote:
Given that I write about emergency preparedness often, I’m getting a lot of inquires - from friends and readers alike - as to what I’m doing to prepare now that Ebola has reached the United States. Rather than deal with this question a hundred times over, I’ll lay it out here.

Nothing special. That is, nothing I wouldn’t be doing anyway.

Ebola isn't airborne, it isn't transmissible until after symptoms appeared.  It was never going to spread massively in the United States, no matter how much the notion was hyped by an excitable press.

But we live in a dangerous world, where earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods . . . and even more mundane events like auto accidents, or slips and falls at home . . . can ruin your entire day.
And pandemic or not, these things are going to continue to happen.  The only difference is, dealing with an earthquake,  a hurricane, or a flood during a pandemic becomes that much harder. 
The standard advice I give in this blog several dozen times a year still applies.  We may need to add a few tweaks for a pandemic, but if you are already prepared for a natural disaster (see below), you are 90% prepared to deal with a pandemic.

Where you live, and your local threat environment, will dictate some changes, but as a general rule, the things you should have in advance to deal with any disaster or emergency include:
  • A battery operated NWS Emergency Radio to find out what was going on, and to get vital instructions from emergency officials
  • A decent first-aid kit, so that you can treat injuries
  • Enough non-perishable food and water on hand to feed and hydrate your family (including pets) for the duration
  • A way to provide light when the grid is down.
  • A way to cook safely without electricity
  • A way to purify or filter water
  • A way to stay cool (fans) or warm when the power is out.
  • A small supply of cash to use in case credit/debit machines are not working
  • An emergency plan, including meeting places, emergency out-of-state contact numbers, a disaster buddy, and in case you must evacuate, a bug-out bag
  • Spare supply of essential prescription medicines that you or your family may need
  • A way to entertain yourself, or your kids, during a prolonged blackout or shelter-in-place
While some of this is more appropriate to a hurricane or an earthquake than a pandemic, you can't know in advance what challenges you and your family might face in an emergency.  The goal is to be reasonably prepared to deal with a wide range of problems.

In last September's #NatlPrep: Personal Pandemic Preparedness, we looked at the things that individuals and families should do to prepare for a pandemic, as recommended by the CDC,, and
This advice from
Before a Pandemic
  • Store a two week supply of water and food.
  • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
  • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
  • Get copies and maintain electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other sources and store them, for personal reference. Get help accessing electronic help records.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.
To all of this, I would add (one or more) `Flu buddies (see Time To Line Up A `Flu Buddy'), a copious supply of hand sanitizer, and if you can find them, a box of surgical masks (to wear if you are symptomatic, not for `casual wear' in public). 

Admittedly, COVID-19 looks to be much more serious than the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and I expect that societal disruptions to be far greater. A modicum of personal preparedness undertaken now could go a long ways towards making those disruptions more palatable, and could even be lifesaving.
Like it or not, dealing with fallout from COVID-19 in the months ahead isn't going to optional for any of us.
The better prepared we are going into this - as individuals, families, businesses, and communities - the more likely we are to limit its impact.