Preparing for a pandemic

Pandemics and large-scale outbreaks can claim millions of lives, disrupt societies and devastate economies. 

Whether it’s COVID-19 (Coronavirus) or some variation of Influenza, it is worth being prepared so that you can be comfortable staying home if you or someone in your family does get sick and needs to remain in isolation, or if you’re unable to easily purchase supplies at short notice.

According to Lincoln City Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Murphy, preparing for a pandemic is much like peeping for any other natural disaster. His goal is to make sure citizens are always 2-weeks ready for disaster, and that includes a pandemic.

“Disasters can happen anytime, anyplace and generally without warning,” Murphy said. “Think of all the things we’ve done to get ready for COVID-19. How ready would you be if we had an earthquake and we didn’t have weeks to prepare?”

On a national level, different countries will usually have their own policies and public health programs to contain pandemics and protect their citizens from infection, either targeting specific threats or by issuing general advice. But here are a few things you can do to help prepare specifically for a pandemic.

Make a plan of what you’ll do if you or someone in your family becomes sick. Will you keep kids at home with you? Who will look after you? Your pets?

Prepare for disruption to the kinds of services that are most vulnerable in your community - stocking up on two weeks of drinking water and preserved food is a good start. The rule of thumb is around 3.7 liters (1 gallon) of clean drinking water per person per day for cleaning, cooking, and drinking. Canned foods and a manual can opener could be helpful. Buy things you know you’ll eat, including snacks, protein, carbs, fruits, and vegetables. Don’t forget pet food if you have animals to take care of. There’s no need to be excessive or hoard supplies, you can simply buy a few extra items each time you go to the supermarket.

Have ready access to necessary medical records and details on your personal health needs, if possible in a hard copy.

Ensure essential prescription drugs are topped up.

While you’re at it, check your first aid kit and make sure you’ve got a good supply of non-prescription medications - ibuprofen and paracetamol could make you feel a lot less sick if you do become unwell.

Stock up on cleaning supplies, as well as sanitizers and tissues.

If a suitable vaccine is publicly available and recommended by local health authorities, get it.

When disease breaks out, you should already be practicing proper hygiene. It shouldn’t take a pandemic to prevent a pandemic. But here are some tips to stop the spread of infections disease.

Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough, preferably with a tissue you can then discard hygienically, or with your elbow.

If you choose to wear a face covering, keep in mind its effect depends on the type of material, and is probably not as effective at protecting you (or others) as you might think.

Wash your hands properly and frequently, preferably with an alcohol-based sanitizer.

If you get sick, do everything you can to avoid passing it on to work colleagues, community members, and loved ones. Isolate yourself if possible, and if you need to be out, do your best to keep your hands to yourself, and stay at least 6 feet away from other bodies. This is when wearing a mask can be useful - if you do need to go out in public, wearing a mask can stop droplets reaching others. 

“When properly pursued, preparedness is a way of life, it is not a sudden spectacular program,” says Murphy.

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