National Preparedness Month is an annual campaign to encourage Americans to prepare for emergencies and disasters. This effort is led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is sponsored by the Ready Campaign in partnership with Citizen’s Corp. This September marks the thirteenth annual National Preparedness Month, and this year’s theme is “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today”. The FEMA urges people to prepare for specific threats such as a flood, wildfire, hurricane, and power outage, and to get involved in National PrepareAthon! Day (September 30th).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is actively engaged in preparedness initiatives and focuses on the following weekly theme areas: family, neighborhood, workplace and school, global, and online. Also, see the CDC Caring for Children in a Disaster Web page.
AAP Call to Action
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asks members to take specific actions to promote pediatric emergency readiness in September. Select ideas follow:
- Encourage families to participate in the Save the Children Prep Step. This dance activity teaches kids the basics of getting ready for emergencies.
- Keep current regarding public health emergencies (eg, Zika Virus). The CDC uses a Health Alert Network (HAN) messaging system to share cleared information about urgent public health incidents. Learn about HAN message types or sign up for HAN email updates.
- Leverage collaborative strategies identified during the AAP/CDC Pediatric and Public Health Tabletop Exercise to improve preparedness plans and capacity to respond to an infectious disease threat. Consider conducting joint public health/pediatric training events or establishing arrangements in advance to enable pediatric providers to prescribe medical countermeasures for children across state lines during an emergency.
- Begin conversations with families about potential disasters in their area, and identify what each child would need to safely cope with the disaster. Share the AAP Family Readiness Kit, Four Steps to Prepare Your Family for Disasters, or the Are You Ready? Preparing for Emergencies: Tips for Familieshandout.
- Encourage families to download a family communication plan for parents and kids. An Emergency Contact Card should be created for each family member. Review the Tips for Communicating during an Emergency, developed by FEMA and the Federal Communication Commission.
- Check your state AAP Chapter and Department of Health Web site to make sure that information on children’s preparedness is posted. Ask that a link be added from these sites to the AAP Children & Disasters Web site home page at www.aap.org/disasters.
- Partner with your AAP state Chapter Contact for Disaster Preparedness to write an article for your AAP Chapter newsletter. Encourage members to get involved in preparedness activities!
- Use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or a blog to send messages to your community about National Preparedness Month or how to prepare for disasters. See the CDC Public Health Matters blog.
Enhance Influenza Prevention and Control
- Get your annual flu shot and encourage others to do the same! See the AAP policy Influenza Immunization for All Health Care Personnel: Keep It Mandatory.
- Arrange to identify and talk with parents of children at highest risk of influenza complications (eg, children with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes mellitus, hemodynamically significant cardiac disease, immunosuppression, or neurologic and neurodevelopmental disorders). Make sure these children get vaccinated as soon as vaccine is available and that parents have a plan for prompt antiviral treatment when the child has symptoms of influenza-like illness. Encouraging three-way communication among the parents, primary care provider, and specialist is beneficial!
- Do not delay antiviral treatment while waiting for a definitive influenza test result. Early therapy provides the best outcomes, as the benefit of antiviral treatment is greatest when initiated within 48 hours of symptom onset.
- Some children 6 months through 8 years of age require two doses of flu vaccine, given 4 weeks apart and no later than June 30th. The appointment for a second dose is sometimes missed, so attention and follow-up is needed for this group of children.
- Encourage vaccination for pregnant women. A May 2016 article in Pediatrics, “Influenza in Infants Born to Women Vaccinated During Pregnancy“, noted that infants ages 6 months and younger were 70% less likely to get the flu if their moms got the flu vaccine during pregnancy. The article also referenced an 80% decrease in flu-related hospitalizations among infants whose mothers were vaccinated during pregnancy.
- Take steps to improve child care center preparedness for pandemic influenza. Review the May 2017 AAP Pediatrics article, “Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Among Child Care Center Directors in 2008 and 2016“.
- Promote influenza vaccine use and infection control measures. Review the recent AAP policy Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2017-2018.
- Refer families to HealthyChildren.org and share with families a series of YouTube videos that cover common questions of parents related to vaccines. For more information, see Families Fighting Flu and Prevent Childhood Influenza.
A total of 102 influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported during the 2016-2017 flu season (through May 27, 2017). Even one influenza-associated pediatric death is too many. See the CDC FluView Web page and refer to the AAP/CDC What’s the Latest with the Flu messaging series.
Improve Personal Preparedness Planning
- Use the FEMA mobile app to add emergency contact information and meeting place locations on every family member’s phone so that your family knows how to connect during a disaster. Information can be accessed without internet connectivity.
- Create your own family emergency plan.
- Organize your family’s disaster supplies kit.
- Review the Preparedness Checklist for Pediatric Practices for tips on preparing an office practice. To request complimentary print copies, e-mailDisasterReady@aap.org.
- Help families compile a disaster supplies kit and develop a disaster plan by referring them to the AAP Family Readiness Kit, AAP Emergency Information Form, FEMA Family Emergency Plan tool, or Sesame Street Let’s Get Ready materials.
- Support parents and adult caregivers in their efforts to talk to children about disasters.
Share Emergency Preparedness Stories
The AAP and the CDC collected the following stories that highlight lessons learned or ste ps that doctors or families can take to improve disaster preparedness for children.
- Mental Health and Recovery: Dennis Cooley, MD, FAAP
- Remembering Boston: Natalie Stavas, MD
- The Storm is Over, But Not Its Effects: Grant Allen, MD, FAAP
- Pediatrician for Preparedness: Karen M. Landers, MD, FAAP
- Children and Disasters (FEMA)
- Emergency Preparedness for Families with Special Needs (CDC)
- Family Readiness Kit (AAP)
- Weighing Children in Kilograms focus of New Pediatric Readiness Infographic (EMSC)
- Plan and Prepare for Disasters (DHS)
- Real Stories from Families and Doctors – Special Needs and Emergency Preparedness (CDC)