Resolve to Get Ready

A calendar showing January 2022.

The New Year is the time many of us make resolutions for the coming year. Sometimes resolutions feel too big and long-drawn-out to accomplish. As a result, our motivation to see them through can peter out before the end of the year.

This year, instead of making one resolution for the year, make 12 micro-resolutions. Focusing on one thing each month can make it easier for you to reach your goal, whether it’s to quit smoking or prepare your health for emergencies.

Here are some example micro-resolutions you can make this year to improve your personal health preparedness.


January is Get Organized Month. Get organized by creating a checklist of your personal needs. Being organized can help you stay calm during an emergency. Ways to get organized include using checklists to help you collect emergency supplies and scanning important paperwork.


Just 35% of respondents to a recent Healthcare Ready survey said they could list all their prescription details if they had to evacuate their homes without their medicines or medical supplies.(1)

You don’t have to memorize the details of your prescriptions. Instead, make a list of your medicines, including information about your diagnosis, dosage, frequency, and medical supply needs. Make an annual appointment with your doctor to discuss your prescriptions and how you can create an emergency supply of them.


National Proofreading Day is observed in March. Organize, check, correct, and protect your important paperwork, such as medical records, insurance (e.g., flood and earthquake) documents, action plans, etc. Examples of common errors found in medical records include

  • Missing or outdated personal information.
  • Missing information about a new medication or allergy.
  • Missing or incorrect information about your health history or the date of your visit.
  • Mischarges for a test you didn’t have.(2)


Practice your emergency action plan with your entire family, including pets. Take the 10-minute evacuation challenge. Set a timer for 10 minutes. In those 10 minutes, see if everyone can:

  1. Put on long pants, a long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt, shoes, and a hat.
  2. Take emergency supplies and other important things to the car.
  3. Find your pets, put them in carriers if they have them, and take them to the car.
  4. Pack the car.
  5. Get in the car and buckle your seatbelt.


May is National Wildfire Awareness Month. Create defensible space if you live in an area prone to wildfires. Defensible space is a buffer you create between your home or another structure on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area around it.


The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends on November 30. Be prepared to evacuate in case you find yourself in the path of a storm:

Learn more ways to prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms.


Emergency supplies expire. Check your supplies regularly so you can be sure they’re safe to use when you need them. Remove, throw away or use, and replace any food and water, prescription medications, and supplies every six (6) months.


August 15 is National Check the Chip Day. Microchipping your pet(s) is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your pet are reunited if separated during an emergency. Remember to register the microchip with the manufacturer and to keep your contact information up to date.(3)

Also, keep a photo of your pet with your important paperwork to help with identification and as proof of ownership.


Get a flu shot. It’s best to be vaccinated before flu begins spreading in your community. September and October are generally good times to be vaccinated against flu. Ideally, everyone should be vaccinated by the end of October. Even if you are not able to get vaccinated until November or later, vaccination is still recommended because flu most commonly peaks in February and significant activity can continue into May.(4)


Participate in emergency drills and exercises like the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill for practice and the peace of mind of knowing how to respond to an earthquake. The Great ShakeOut is held annually on October 21. The drill is an opportunity for you to practice how to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” during an earthquake or aftershock.


Take action to protect yourself and others from carbon monoxide poisoning and house fires. Change the batteries in your carbon monoxide (CO) detectors and smoke alarms at the beginning and end of Daylight-Saving Time. If you own a generator, know how to operate it safely during a power outage.


There are ways to prepare for emergencies that have nothing to do with collecting supplies. Learning practical skills, like CPR and seizure first aid, is also important to your health preparedness. Many practical skills don’t require special certification or formal training to perform, but you do need education. Seek out local volunteer organizations that can help you learn these types of skills.

There are many ways you can improve your emergency preparedness without being overwhelmed. Doing one thing each month can help you be prepared for an emergency that can happen anytime. Make sure how you prepare aligns with your needs and those of your family.




Stay Informed of Your Family Health History

dinner settingThanksgiving Day is National Family Health History Day

Family health history is a record of the diseases and health conditions in your family. Most people have family history of at least one chronic disease that makes them more likely to get that disease.(1)

Staying informed of your family’s health history can help you and your doctor prepare for and prevent diseases you are more likely to get and that can affect you later in life.

Do your research

Be informed of your family health and medical histories before your next doctor’s appointment. Even if you don’t know all your health history information, share what you do know.

Collect family health history information through conversations with blood relatives. The most important relatives to talk to are your parents, siblings, and your children. Next, you may want to talk to grandparents, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, and half-brothers and half-sisters. Ask them questions like:

  • Do you have any medical conditions, including chronic diseases, such as diabetes, or health conditions, such as high blood pressure?
  • Have you had any other serious diseases, such as cancer or stroke?
  • How old were you when each of these diseases and health conditions was diagnosed?
  • What is our family’s ancestry – from what countries did our ancestors come to the United States?
  • For relatives who have died, be sure to ask about the cause and their age of death.(2)

Try to gather the following information for each person:

  • Sex assigned at birth
  • Date of birth
  • Ethnicity/Ancestry
  • Medical conditions
  • Mental health conditions, including alcoholism or other substance abuse
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Age when each condition was diagnosed
  • Lifestyle habits, including diet, exercise, and tobacco use
  • For relatives who have died, age at death and cause of death(3)

You might find it useful to look at important family paperwork and vital records. Birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates are usually available through state and county government offices. Electronic personal health records are a good resource, too.

Use whatever information you collect to create a family health history.

Paint a portrait

The Surgeon General’s “My Family Health Portrait” is a free online tool to help you organize and share your family health history information with your doctor and other family members.

Save copies of family health history records, including your family health portrait, to a flash or external hard drive or a secure cloud service. This can help you keep track of the information and ensure it is easily accessible in an emergency.

Update the information in your family health portrait regularly and as the health and medical histories of family members change.

Keep a personal health record

Chronic diseases can be passed down through generations. If you live with a chronic disease(4), keeping a personal health record (PHR) can help future generations better understand their health history. Remember, you’re not doing this to just protect your health, but also to help others.

A PHR is an electronic application that patients can use to maintain and manage their health information. A PHR can also help caregivers, such as those caring for young children, elderly parents, or spouses, manage their patients’ care.(5)

There are many benefits to keeping a PHR. For example, PHRs are protected from the effects of emergencies (e.g., floodwater, fire, and smoke) and accessible when traveling, such as during an evacuation.(5)

The types of information you could put in a personal health record include:

  • Your name, birth date, blood type, and emergency contact information.
  • The date of your last physical exam.
  • The dates and results of tests and screenings.
  • The dates of major illnesses and surgeries.
  • A list of your medicines and supplements, the dosages, and how long you’ve taken them.
  • A list of allergies.
  • A list of chronic diseases, including the date of diagnosis.
  • A history of medical conditions in your family.(6)

Knowing and acting on the information is an important way to prepare and protect your health.





Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO ( offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Burn Institute Teaches Kids Burn Prevention, Fire Safety

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

A cast of green and purple puppets breaks into song. The audience of 3-year-olds responds as you’d expect, by dancing in their seats.

Puppets, song, and dance are how the performers of “Let’s Stay Safe from Fires & Burns” introduce preschoolers to the topics of fire safety and burn prevention. Puppets named Greg and Jen teach children about the dangers of matches. “Mr. Match” emphasizes the importance of stop-drop-and-roll.

After the show, students receive bags of educational materials, including coloring books, stickers, and a safety checklist to share with their families.

“Burns Don’t Discriminate”

The Burn Institute in San Diego leads the effort to reduce burn injuries and empower people with burn injuries in the area. They place particular focus on children.

Susan Day is the Burn Institute’s executive director. “Burns affect people of all ages,” she said. “Burn and fire prevention education can never start too early.”

Children age 5 and under have more than double the risk of dying in a fire than any other age group. The rate of child deaths from burns is seven times higher in low to middle-income countries, as compared to high-income, per the World Health Organization.(1)

Tessa Haviland is the institute’s director of marketing and events. “Burns don’t discriminate based on any age, demographic, socioeconomic status, or anything like that,” she said. “So, it’s really important that we reach all communities.”

Fire-Safe Kids

In 2009, the Burn Institute developed the Fire-Safe Kids program in collaboration with the local fire department and the University of California San Diego Burn Center. The goal is to teach kindergarteners through third graders about fire safety.

The Burn Institute’s team of staff, interns, and volunteers tailor programs to the needs of different age groups and communities. Puppets and songs are used with young children. Presenters rely on active storytelling and games to teach older kids. These presentations tell the story of three friends and their dog as they learn about best fire practices, escape plans, and burn management.

The program was expanded in 2015 to include fourth through sixth graders and incorporate topics like kitchen safety, the risks of electricity, and the consequences of fire-play. Maria Leushina is a former intern at the Burn Institute who now leads Fire-Safe Kids as the prevention education coordinator.

“We keep the presentations interactive,” Leushina said. “We ask the kids questions as we go. We have them demonstrate stop-drop-and-roll, crawling to a door, and checking it with the back of their hand. We also have some videos as well.”

A Family Approach

Tessa Haviland underscores the importance of taking a family approach to fire prevention and emergency preparedness.

“When an emergency happens, there’s not always time to sit down and make sure that everyone knows [the plan],” Haviland said. “If everyone’s part of the [planning] process, they’ll know what to do, where to go, and how to get out of the house.”

For more information on how to make a home fire escape plan, visit the Ready Campaign website.

Inclusion Creates Community

In its outreach efforts, the Burn Institute also strives to bring down societal and language barriers. The Institute recently added Spanish captions to all the Fire-Safe Kids slides. Pre-recorded presentations are available in multiple languages. And the puppet show is performed in English and Spanish.

The Burn Institute also leads outreach efforts to help people with burn injuries and survivors of fires cope with trauma. The institute hosts support groups, holds retreats, and offers specialized programming to help people care for each other and heal.

“The trauma of a burn doesn’t end when you leave the hospital; some of that emotional and long-term scarring can last throughout a lifetime,” Haviland said. “The commitment of the Burn Institute to form communities for these burn survivors [so they] have a safe space where they’re able to connect and mentor each other about the struggles, but also [share] the successes that they have––it’s something truly motivational.”





Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO ( offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Project Firstline Reaches Frontline Healthcare Workforce with Infection Control Training

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-standing gaps in infection control knowledge and understanding among the frontline healthcare workforce. Since the onset of the pandemic, healthcare-associated infections and antibiotic-resistant infections have increased, reversing national progress made before 2020.

Infectious disease threats like Ebola, COVID-19, and antibiotic resistance will continue to emerge. It’s more important than ever that we equip our nation’s healthcare workforce with the infection control knowledge they need to protect themselves, their patients, and their communities.

One year ago, this month, CDC launched Project Firstline. Project Firstline provides engaging, innovative, and effective infection control education and training for U.S. frontline healthcare workers.

Meeting the Needs of the Diverse Healthcare Workforce

Project Firstline’s innovative content is designed for all healthcare workers, regardless of their previous training or educational background. The program’s training and educational materials provide critical infection control information in a format that best meets healthcare workers’ needs.

During its first year, Project Firstline and its partners hosted more than 300 educational events on infection control and developed more than 130 educational products. The products are accessible on a variety of digital platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and CDC and partner websites. Products currently available on the CDC Project Firstline site include:

Maximizing Impact through Partnerships

Project Firstline brings together academic, public health, and healthcare partners plus 64 state, local, and territorial health departments to provide infection control educational resources to healthcare workers nationwide.

Our partners have used a diverse range of products and activities to reach healthcare workers with tailored infection control information during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these activities include Twitter chats, podcasts, videos,  and virtual training events simulcast and translated into multiple languages.

Additionally, Project Firstline launched the Community College Collaborative in partnership with the American Hospital Association and the League of Innovation in the Community College. The program is integrating enhanced infection control content into the health programs of community college classrooms. The program was piloted this summer with faculty cohorts from 16 participating colleges across a range of community college settings. Faculty came together to tailor the infection control curriculum for each professional area, with a plan to phase it into their coursework. Professional areas included:

  • emergency medical services
  • respiratory care
  • nursing
  • practical nursing and nursing assistants
  • medical assisting

This effort will help ensure that the future healthcare workforce starts their careers with key infection control knowledge to protect themselves and their patients.

The Future of Project Firstline

Project Firstline aims to become the go-to resource for infection control among healthcare workers. It will focus on building a strong culture of infection control within all healthcare facilities.

Using insights learned during its first year, the program will create a new suite of readily available and easy-to-consume education materials. The new materials will be designed to help strengthen infection prevention and control capacities beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.


Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO ( offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Rx Prep: National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is October 23

Many of us have a medicine cabinet in our homes. It may contain first-aid supplies, personal hygiene items, prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and other personal needs.

Keep tabs on your medicines to help you keep them out of the wrong hands. Each year in the United States, more than 1 million people visit emergency departments for an adverse drug event. An adverse drug events (ADE) is when someone is harmed by a medicine.(1)

Blood thinners, antibiotics, diabetes drugs, and opioid analgesics are the leading cause of emergency department visits for ADEs.(2)

Practicing safe storage and proper disposal of prescription medicines can help keep your family safe and healthy.

Up and Away

Toddlers can be harmed if they get into medicines when no adult is watching. Approximately 50,000 children younger than 5 years old go to emergency departments each year for an ADE.(3)

Emergency visits for kids and pets, too, are preventable if people put medicines up and away after every use. Here are some safe medicine storage practices:

  • Put medicine and vitamins up and away and out of children’s reach and sight.
  • Put medicine and vitamins away every time.
  • At home or away, keep medicines in their original, child-resistant containers.
  • Never leave loose pills or liquid medicine out on a counter, table, or child’s bedside.
  • Lock the safety cap.
  • Teach your children about medicine safety.
  • Ask guests to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicine in them out of children’s reach and sight when they are in your home.
  • Prepare for an emergency. Create an Emergency Action Plan that includes important contact information, such as phone numbers for your physician, pharmacist, veterinarian, and the Poison Control Center: 800-222-1222.(4)

Learn more about safe medicine storage.

Drug disposal

It’s important that you safely dispose of expired, unwanted, or unused prescription medicines. There are several ways to do that.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a semiannual event held in October and April. The campaign teaches people how to dispose of medicines and provides safe and secure locations where they can dispose of their medicines.(5)

The best way to dispose of most types of medicines is to drop them off at a drug take back location.(6) This may be your local pharmacy or police station.

There are other drug disposal options if you cannot get to a Take Back Day location. Flush medicines on the FDA flush list down the toilet. If a child, adult, or pet in your home ingests, touches, misuses, or abuses a medicine on the flush list, they could suffer serious consequences or die.(7)

Dispose of medicines that are not on the flush list in your home trash.

  1. Mix medicines (liquid or pills; do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unappealing substance such as dirt, cat litter, or coffee grounds.
  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
  3. Throw away the container in your trash at home.
  4. Remove personal information from the label of empty medicine bottles and packaging. Throw away or recycle the bottle or packaging.(8)

Learn more about the safe disposal of medicines.




Healthcare Workers “Pop Up” to Help Vaccinate in IL Communities

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

The sound of live music and the smell of fried food filled the air on a warm July evening in Moline, Illinois’ Hispanic Floreciente neighborhood. Peggy Newkirk, 73, a retired nurse practitioner, stands behind a folding table in the shade with other volunteers.

Most people crowd to Mercado on Fifth—a weekly open-air cultural fest and market—in the summer to shop, eat, and dance. But Newkirk and her fellow volunteers were there with other plans—to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. “We make it as convenient as possible so that if somebody is even considering it, you’re right there before they have a chance to change their mind,” Newkirk said.

“Pop Ups” Put Shots in Arms

The Rock Island County Health Department has held pop-up vaccine clinics at Mercado on Fifth and at community gathering places in other minority neighborhoods across Rock Island and Moline. The health department also held clinics at the Islamic Center of Quad Cities in Moline and the Second Baptist Church in Rock Island.

About 42% of the population of Rock Island County was fully vaccinated as of August 31, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.(1) About 52% of people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated.(2)

Nationally, vaccination rates are lower on average among people from racial and ethnic minority groups, according to CDC.(3) The goal of the pop-up vaccine clinics in Rock Island County is to reach disproportionately affected communities and remove barriers to vaccination access.

The clinics were run by health department staff and Rock Island County Medical Reserve Corps volunteers. Most volunteers are retired healthcare workers like Newkirk. They’re trained to fill the gap of first responder and medical staff shortages in emergencies.

“We’re just trying to reach anyone and everyone we can,” said Kate Meyer, manager of emergency planning and response for the health department. “And we couldn’t have done all of our response without the Medical Reserve Corps.”

“Like Giving People Hope.”

Deborah Freiburg, 70, is another Medical Reserve Corps member. She retired in Rock Island after 40 years as a nurse at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “Going from working such a heavy job and just all of a sudden retiring, you can’t just sit at home,” she said.

When Freiburg’s planned trip to the Galapagos fell through due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she called the health department and offered to help, first as a contract tracer, then later at the vaccine clinics.

Things were hectic at first. Freiburg remembers standing for six hours at a time in an ice-covered parking lot outside the Tax Slayer Center, the site of Rock Island County’s first mass vaccination clinics. Her job was to monitor vaccine recipients for adverse reactions.

People poured into the clinics. They came by car, bus, and on foot. The health department partnered with public transit company that serves Rock Island and Moline, to provide free bus rides to vaccine appointments. Once dropped off at a clinic parking lot, volunteers would pick up people with mobility issues in golf carts. Peggy Newkirk remembers a family of three generations that came together to get their vaccines.

One man told Freiburg he had waited in his car overnight for his shot. “It was the most exciting thing,” Freiburg said. “Because, you know, it was like giving hope to people. No matter how cold it was outside, or how long you were on your feet, everybody was just excited to be part of this part of history.”

Volunteers and staff were giving out 800 or more vaccine doses each day earlier this year, but the numbers have dropped. Still, regular clinics are set to continue indefinitely.

Hurdles of Hearts and Minds

Many factors influence vaccine decision-making, including cultural, social, and political factors; individual and group factors; and vaccine-specific factors.(3) Newkirk said some of her family members won’t get the shot, despite her best efforts to build COVID-19 vaccine confidence.

Newkirk is undeterred. Confidence in the vaccines leads to more people getting vaccinated, which leads to fewer COVID-19 illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. “Everybody wants to get society back to normal and the best way to do that is to get the people who aren’t vaccinated, vaccinated,” she said.





Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO ( offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Summer Camp Inspires, Prepares Students for Medical Careers

This student-authored post is published by CPR in partnership with Medill News Service and the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies, or positions of CPR or CDC.

Students in Dr. Abdullah Hasan Pratt’s emergency preparedness program have seen friends and family die. They’ve been in positions to help others during health emergencies but didn’t know how.

Pratt is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Chicago. He started the Medical Careers Exposure and Emergency Preparedness program in 2018. His purpose is to address health disparities in some of Chicago’s most underserved communities.

The South Side communities that neighbor the University of Chicago campus rank among the highest in the city for heart disease, strokes, and incidents of gun violence.(1) Pratt said the program teaches teens who live in those areas the practical skills they need to stay calm and respond in a medical emergency.

Inspiring Leaders

“Emergency preparedness skills help empower them to do something, to act, to be a leader when these situations happen,” Pratt said. The seven-week summer program comes at no cost to the students. Each session includes a lecture, followed by a practical component that puts the students’ new skills to the test. Weekly topics vary and include first aid, clinical skills, doctor-patient interaction, and medical career advice.

Samantha Morris is a rising second-year medical student from New Orleans. She said the opportunity to engage with local communities in Chicago was a reason that she got involved with the program.

“I love teaching and enjoy interacting with students,” said Morris, after showing two of the program’s participants how to take a blood pressure reading. She said the practical sessions help students gain confidence in their skills.

The program includes a medical careers exposure component. Pratt said it aims to address the disparities within healthcare professions in the community. “There’s a paucity of young doctors that actually come from the community that they advocate for,” he said.

Pratt explains the driving forces behind the program are the medical school and community volunteers. They come from similar neighborhoods in Chicago and across the U.S.

“How often do you get someone who’s first generation? How often do you get someone who comes from Roseland or Englewood? How often do you get someone who’s lost a brother and four of their closest best friends to gun violence?” he said.

Having volunteers and medical professionals that can relate to the students personally helps the program succeed.

“I think that’s why you don’t see as many of these programs,” Pratt said. “Because it takes an intimate knowledge of the problems almost to the point where you’ve suffered. You’ve been traumatized, you are no different than your patients, no different than these students. I don’t see them as any different than me.”

Building Relationships

The program works to foster long-term relationships and mentorship that encourages participants to give back to the community throughout their careers.

“And that’s what I want for them. I want them to look up one day and say, ‘That’s my big sister, and now they’re a young doctor or nurse practitioner, and they can now collaborate on things,’ but it’s been built for years, that relationship,” Pratt said.

It’s not just the program participants who benefit from the mentorship. The volunteers, all of whom are at different stages of their medical careers, are mentees to the students and each other. Pratt sees the benefits of mentorship first-hand. “We’re continuing to guide them in their careers,” he said. “They’re meeting people who are going to help them become better applicants, better candidates to get into the schools or the professions that they choose.”

Nycholle Warne is a certified nursing assistant who joined the program as a volunteer to give back to the community. She said if a program like this had been available to her in high school, she’d be further along in her career.

“The resources, support, and reaching out to people put you in the right direction,” Warne said. With Pratt’s guidance, she recently started working towards her master’s in nursing.

Pratt’s program prioritizes the students rather than overheads. Free use of university facilities and donated equipment help him keep the focus on preparing teens in disproportionately affected communities. Pratt would like to see the program replicated in cities across the U.S. He hopes that other communities with limited resources can create programs inspired by what they’ve built in Chicago.

“A dream of ours is that any student fresh off the streets can hear about what we do, go to our website, and be linked to the corresponding programs,” Pratt said. “My goal is to connect them with people who they can say ‘I’m her. I want to be him. I’m already him. He walked my shoes. He did it. I can do it.’”




Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO ( offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Learning from 2020: Preparing for a Second COVID-19 Hurricane Season

June 1, 2021, marked the beginning of the second Atlantic Hurricane Season during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has affected how we prepare for emergencies in a number of ways, including how we gather emergency supplies, what we include in our emergency supply kits, where we shelter, and how we seek care and preventive services.

These tasks can seem more daunting when dealing with multiple disasters or public health emergencies at the same time. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted two online surveys to assess people’s attitudes and behaviors about going to a disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. Responses showed that people were concerned about the combined effects of these disasters, including concern about potentially being exposed to COVID-19 in a public shelter. With this information, CDC and its partners can better address specific concerns and make sure the public knows the steps that are being taken to protect them in disaster shelters, should they need to evacuate.

What we learned over the past year

Emergency managers often seek to understand communities so that when disaster strikes, they can protect those at greatest risk with effective messaging and instructions. In June 2020, CDC surveyed 500 adults from across the country. The survey asked respondents how the pandemic may affect their plans to shelter for disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. The concern about the combined effect of these disasters was apparent in the responses: 52% of respondents said worries about getting a COVID-19 infection could keep them from going to a shelter during an extreme weather incident. And 64% said they would bring a mask in their shelter “go bag.”

CDC explored these concerns further with an online survey in October 2020. The agency surveyed 3,000 adults from 98 counties in 8 states along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast that have experienced recent hurricanes. About 28% of respondents said they had changed their emergency response plans because of the COVID-19 pandemic. People listed fears about going to a shelter, such as other people not wearing masks, being unable safely distance from those outside their households, and concern about older family members getting COVID-19.

Respondents said they would be more likely to go to a shelter if, among other criteria, masks were required (42%), hotels were used as shelters (40%), distance was kept between different households at the shelter (38%), and medical care was available in the shelter (36%).

Adapting disaster sheltering for the pandemic

Anticipating questions about safe sheltering during the pandemic, CDC worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross in spring of 2020 to develop shelter guidelines that can protect people against COVID-19. These strategies, implemented in 2020, included the following:

  • Limit the use of congregate (group) facilities, such as gyms and convention centers, and instead use sheltering options like hotel and motel rooms.
  • Implement public health measures where the use of congregate shelter options may still be required, including
    • Keeping people with symptoms of COVID-19 in a separate area of the shelter, and referring them to medical care when needed;
    • Requiring the use of masks inside the shelter, and
    • Encouraging distancing, handwashing, and the use of hand sanitizer.

2020 was a record year for wildfire activity and for hurricanes, with 30 named storms.

The American Red Cross provided 1.2 million nights of shelter stays in 2020. About 90% of the evacuees stayed in hotel rooms.

While it’s difficult to determine if some occupants developed COVID-19 in a disaster shelter in 2020, the CDC and the Red Cross are not aware of any COVID-19 outbreaks in disaster shelters. In addition, the Louisiana Department of Health reported no COVID-19 spikes after either Hurricane Delta or Hurricane Laura.

Prepare and protect your health

CDC continues to work with FEMA, the American Red Cross, and other emergency partners to provide public health guidance to help protect shelter residents from COVID-19. CDC and partners continue to recommend that a range of disaster sheltering options be made available to individuals in line with guidance from appropriate state and local health officials, and that available options incorporate the use of COVID-19 protective measures, such as mask wearing and distancing, when group shelters must be used.

Additional information on FEMA assistance available to state, local, tribal and territorial partners during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found at Bringing Resources to State, Local, Tribal & Territorial Governments |

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can is one more step you can take to protect yourself and others when in a group setting. People can be better protected in shelters when most people around them have also been fully vaccinated.

However, CDC is not making a recommendation that shelters require proof of vaccination to shelter.

“Access to safe shelter from disasters is critical even during community spread of COVID-19,” said Captain Renee Funk, associate director for emergency management for CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. “Therefore, shelters should accept all people seeking safety regardless of vaccination status.”

The end of hurricane season, on November 30, also overlaps with the start of the flu season in October. Since storms can form and make landfall late in the hurricane season, it is possible you may have to evacuate to a shelter in October or November. Getting vaccinated for the flu protects you and may also protect other evacuees, including those who are at risk for serious illness.

Learn more about how to protect yourself and your family from hurricanes.


Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO ( offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Create Co(i)mmunity. Get Vaccinated.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, an annual observance highlighting the importance of vaccination for people of all ages.

Life has been anything but routine lately. A sometimes overlooked result of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many people have missed routine medical checkups, routine screenings, and recommended vaccinations.

Recommended vaccines

Vaccines aren’t just for children. Adults need them to avoid getting and spreading certain serious diseases that can result in missed work, medical bills, and problems taking care of others, as well as serious illness, or even death.(1)

Vaccines for adults are recommended based on different factors like a person’s age, health, lifestyle, jobs, and travel. All adults need:

  • Flu vaccine. An annual flu vaccine is recommended for everyone but is especially important for adults with certain chronic health conditions, pregnant people, and those who are 65 years and older.
  • Tdap vaccine: If they have never gotten one before, a Tdap vaccine helps protect against pertussis (whooping cough). Pregnant people should get a Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks.
  • Td vaccine:(tetanus, diphtheria) or Tdap shot every 10 years.(1)
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23): If they are 65 years and older or 19–64 years old and have certain health conditions or smoke cigarettes. In addition, adults 65 years and older may discuss and decide, with their clinician, to receive a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13). Pneumococcal vaccines help protect against serious illnesses like meningitis, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia.
  • Shingles vaccine: Two doses of shingles vaccine for everyone 50 years of age and older. Your risk of shingles and complications increases as you age. Shingles vaccine provides strong protection from shingles and long-term nerve pain.
  • HPV vaccine: HPV vaccination is also recommended through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger. For adults aged 27 years and older, talk with your doctor about HPV vaccine.
  • COVID-19 vaccine: CDC recommends vaccination for all adults and children of certain ages.(2)

Take this quiz to find out what other vaccines may be recommended for you. Then talk with your doctor to make sure you get the vaccines that are right for you. Some adults with specific health conditions should not get certain vaccines or should wait to get them.(1)

Staying up to date on vaccinations helps protect you and others in your family and community. Every year, tens of thousands of Americans get sick and some die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines.(3)

Vaccine records

Today, people move, travel, and change healthcare providers often. This can make it hard to keep an accurate vaccination record. If you don’t have copies of your vaccination records, ask for help from:

  • Your current or previous doctor or medical provider
  • Your parents or caregivers
  • Your high school or college health services group
  • Previous employers (including the military) that may have required vaccinations
  • Your state health department to see if they can direct you to their immunization registry

It’s a good idea to try and keep track of your own vaccinations. Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or vaccination provider for a vaccination record form or download one. Take it with you to health visits. Ask your vaccination provider to sign and date the form for each vaccine you receive.(4)

After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, you should get a small, white card with information about which vaccine you received, when you received it, and where you received it. This card is a vaccination record.(5). As such, it is important that you take steps to check and protect it:

  1. Check your card to make sure everything is correct.
  2. Take a picture of the front and back of the card with your cellphone or a camera.
  3. Use plastic envelopes for vaccine cards. Lamination is not recommended in case future shots are recommended. A photocopy can be laminated.
  4. Store your card in a secure, fireproof, and water-resistant bin or safe.

Vaccination records are examples of important paperwork that you need to collect and protect. Keeping a record and storing it in a safe place can save you time and unnecessary hassle later.

Important paperwork

The term “important paperwork” applies to any documents and personal data that you might need in an emergency or disaster.

What to collect

How to protect

Once you’ve collected your important paperwork, take steps to proofread and protect it. Store paperwork someplace that is a) easily accessible and b) safe from theft, fire, flood, and other emergencies.

Some ways to keep your important paperwork safe and secure include:

  • Scanning or saving to your computer important paperwork and personal items, like family photos. Creating digital duplicates of originals makes it easier to share the information, helps preserve the original, and serves as a backup in case the original is destroyed
  • Storing external drives and hardcopies of important papers in a fireproof and water-resistant file organizer, container, or storage bag with a trusted friend or relative or in a safety deposit box
  • Telling family members, friends, or trusted neighbors where you keep your important paperwork

Learn more ways to prepare your health for emergencies.




Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO ( offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.


Food Preservation: Home Canning Safety

Many people discovered new hobbies during the pandemic.

Some learned to bake bread. Others took up knitting and crocheting. Still others found self-care in gardening and preserving the literal fruits—and vegetables—of their labors.

Food preservation is an excellent way to extend the shelf life of produce, meats, and seafood, and add to your emergency food supply. But it can be risky—or even deadly—if not done safely.

Why preserve food?

A lot of the foods we eat go bad quickly if not eaten right away. We can make these foods last longer when we properly preserve them.

You can preserve food in different ways. They include drying, curing, smoking, freezing, fermenting, pickling, and canning.

Learning how to preserve different types of food is a practical skill you can use to supplement your emergency food supply. Families should stock up on enough food and water to last everyone at least 3 days.

Home canning

Proper canning removes oxygen, destroys enzymes, and prevents the growth of undesirable bacteria, yeasts, and molds.(1) If you can foods incorrectly, you could create the perfect environment for deadly bacteria to grow and cause botulism.

Botulism is a rare but potentially deadly illness caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.(2)

Botulism is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know has symptoms of foodborne botulism, see your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately:(2)

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Double vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Blurry vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty moving the eyes

Many cases of foodborne botulism have happened after people ate home-canned, preserved, or fermented foods that were contaminated with the toxin. Foods can become contaminated if they were not canned using the correct techniques or tools.

USDA guidance suggests that beginners start with high-acid foods that can be safely canned in a boiling water bath, before trying pressure canning. Only use recipes from reputable sources. Contact your local cooperative extension service office with questions.

How to can safely

You can take steps to make sure your food is properly preserved. The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning has step-by-step directions to prevent botulism and includes specific guidance for different kinds of foods. Regardless of canning techniques and tools, always consider the acidity of the food you are trying to preserve.

Canning techniques

Low-acid foods—including most vegetables, some fruits, milk, and all meats, fish, and seafood—are the most common sources of botulism linked to home-canning.

Low-acid foods are foods that are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of botulinum bacteria. Pressure canning is the only recommended method for canning these foods.(2)

Pressure canning tools

Make sure to use the right equipment for the kind of foods you are canning, including the right-sized pressure canner.

The canner should be big enough to hold at least four one-quart jars sitting upright on the rack. It should also meet USDA recommendations for pressure canning when canning low-acid foods. Be sure the gauge of the pressure canner is accurate.

After using a pressure canner, check that your cans are properly sealed in one of these three ways:

  1. Press the middle of the lid with your finger or thumb to see that the lid does not spring up.
  2. Tap the lid with the bottom of a spoon to make sure it does not make a dull noise (it should make ringing sound).
  3. Hold the jar at eye level to see that the lid is curved down slightly in the center.(1)

If you have any doubt whether safe canning guidelines were followed, do not eat the food. When in doubt, throw it out!

Storage & maintenance of canned goods

Store your home canned goods properly to maximize their shelf life.

  • Label and date your jars.
  • Keep jars with other emergency food in a clean, cool, dark, dry place between 50 and 70°F. (1) If you store jars at temperatures outside this range, the food inside can spoil.
    • Stack jars no more than two high so you don’t damage the seals.
    • If storing jars where they can freeze, wrap them in newspapers and blankets.(1)
  • Remove, throw away or use, and replace any canned food and stored water before it expires.
    • Home-canned food usually needs to be thrown out after a year.
    • Remember that once a can is opened, the contents cannot be saved until later without proper refrigeration.
    • When storing safe water, it is best to use food-grade storage containers and to clean and sanitize the container before using it. Replace stored water every six months.

For more information on how to can safely, visit the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.