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Division of Disease Control

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What You Can Do To Get Ready

NPM 2010

How often do you think about emergencies or disasters?

Maybe after it happens to someone else?

Emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time, so it is important for everyone to be prepared at places where they spend a lot of time, like at home, at work, and in the community. People with chronic conditions (like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or asthma) need to take extra steps to plan for disasters.

According to the Citizens Corps National Survey conducted in 2009, only 57% of Americans had emergency supplies set-aside in their homes.

Less than half—44%—had an emergency plan. 25% said they did not have the time to prepare and another 25% said they did not know what to do to prepare.

And yet, 42% of individuals said that they would need help during a disaster.

People should prepare to be on their own for at least three days. Imagine having a serious illness and not having basic supplies for three days during an emergency… no food, no water, no flashlights, no radios, and no medication. Now imagine how much easier those three days can be if you take just a few simple steps to prepare now.

Public health emergencies will happen. Take action now!

Plan now to prepare yourself and your loved ones for emergencies. Emergencies can include natural disasters, severe weather, explosions, chemical spills and disease outbreaks. Learn how to make an emergency kit and emergency plan, how to stay informed, and how to get involved.

Chronic conditions affect many people in Philadelphia. Learn how to be prepared for a public health emergency while maintaining your treatment plan for your chronic condition.

How to prepare
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has developed a number of resources that can help you protect yourself, your family and your business.


Many people agree that taking some simple steps to get ready will help when an emergency happens.

But only some of us have taken any of the steps. We suggest that all families:

  1. Get an emergency supply kit. While many stores sell "emergency preparedness kits," it is easy to build a preparedness kit yourself. These things do not have to bought all at once, but can be picked up over time for just a few dollars a week.
    • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
    • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
    • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
    • Flashlight and extra batteries
    • First aid kit
    • Whistle to signal for help
    • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air
    • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
    • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
    • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
    • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
    • Local maps
    • Cell phone with chargers
    • Important documents (copies of insurance policies, ID, or bank account records). Keep these documents in a waterproof, portable container

    Don't forget to add things for people in your family who may have special needs. Remember to include:
    • A list of all current medicines
    • Eye glasses
    • Baby formula and diapers
    • Pet food, extra water for your pet, leash and collar

  2. Make a family emergency plan.
    • Before an emergency happens, sit down together and decide how you will contact each other, where you will go and what you will do in an emergency.
    • Choose a meeting place. Pick one in your neighborhood and one outside your community, in case you have to leave your home (evacuate).
    • Choose an out-of-town emergency contact.
    • Ask about emergency plans at places where your family spends time (work, school, etc.). If no plans exist, ask how you can help make one.
    • Talk to your neighbors about what you will do during an emergency. You will be more prepared if you think ahead and plan with others before an emergency happens.

  3. Stay informed.

If you want to help your community get prepared, join Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) Volunteers Active in Disaster (VOAD) or Citizen Corps . Through SEPA VOAD, you can learn how to help your community when a disaster happens. SEPA VOAD offers free training . They will match community needs with trained volunteers after a disaster hits.

If you have a medical background, you can register to become a Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteer. The MRC is run by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and offers a number of training opportunities, as well as invitations to participate in public health emergency preparedness exercises.

Public health emergencies will also affect businesses. Lots of people getting sick at once can keep your customers from visiting and your employees from coming to work. It is important to get ready before an emergency hits so you will be prepared to deal with problems that might arise. PDPH recommends that all business take steps to prepare for an emergency by using the following tips:

Prepare Before an Emergency Strikes

All businesses should undertake business continuity planning to ensure that they can continue to function during and in the aftermath of the emergency. This involves developing agreements and plans with everyone who is essential your business, like subcontractors, suppliers and employees.

The Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management has developed a number of tools that can be useful in developing emergency preparedness planning.

Special Public Health Concerns

We further recommend that all businesses work with their human resources departments to prepare for public health emergencies. Public health emergencies are different from "normal" disasters because they don't just happen in one place, at one time. People who have become sick from the emergency can potentially spread the disease to other people, even at work.

We recommend that all sick people should stay home from school and work. If lots of people are sick, like might happen during a flu pandemic, will your employees be able to stay home if they do get sick? Can they work from home, or come into work during "off-business" hours?

Thinking about these things before an outbreak occurs will ensure that your business can continue to function during and after the emergency.

Food handlers

For businesses that deal with food, it is important to stress good hand hygiene for all employees. The Acute Communicable Disease Control Program and Office of Food Protection have developed a number of tips and fact sheets that will help keep your company from being the source of an outbreak.