Prep Your Health with Advance Care Planning


April is National Donate Life Month. April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day.

Emergencies, including personal injury and illness, are often unpredictable. That unpredictability is both a reason to prepare and something to prepare for.

Plan Ahead for Personal Health Emergencies

Many people face decisions about treatments that a medical emergency might leave them incapable of making.(1)

Advance care planning is an important preparedness step toward making sure you get the medical care you would want if you cannot speak forcallout yourself.(2)

While you might prefer to think that you will never need such a plan, advance care planning is a way to care for others if you get ill or are injured.

Advance care planning is not just for older adults. At any age, a medical emergency could leave you too ill or injured to make your own health care decisions.

Advance care planning can save loved ones from confusion, family infighting, and second-guessing if they made the right decisions on your behalf.(3)

Advance care planning involves several steps:

  1. Learn about the types of healthcare decisions that you might need to make.
  2. Consider those decisions ahead of time.
  3. Make your decisions known to others.

Talk to family and a doctor as part of your advance care planning. They can help you understand the choices you may need to make and think through your decisions before you put them in writing.(4)

Organ Donation

Organ donation is one of many important decisions you can make as part of your advance care planning for medical emergencies. Others include deciding when you want emergency medical professionals to use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or an automated external defibrillator (AED) to restart your heart.

Organ donation is the process of taking healthy organs and tissues from one person for transplantation into another. Organs you can donate include:

  • Internal organs: Kidneys, heart, liver, pancreas, intestines, lungs
  • Skin
  • Bone and bone marrow
  • Cornea(5)

Learn more about how donation works and the difference you can make when you become an organ donor.

Become a Donor

Anyone can sign up to be an organ donor regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, or health status. It only takes a few minutes. Sign up online through your state registry or in person at your local department of motor vehicles. Your donation can save or improve more than 80 lives.(6)

You can update your information on your state’s online donor registry at any time. Most states let you choose which organs and tissues you want to donate.(7)

Make Your Decisions Known

Preparedness isn’t a prediction of the future. There’s no guarantee that you’ll need advance care planning. You may never need others to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Once you’ve come to decisions on things like organ donation, you should talk to your family about your decisions and write them down. There are several ways to do that.

Advanced directives, including living wills, are legal documents that go into effect only if you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself.(8) You can use them to organize and communicate your decisions about things like end-of-life care and organ donation.

Another way to make your decisions known is to carry a wallet card that explains that you have an advance directive and where it is kept.

Give copies of advance care planning documents to your healthcare proxy, your healthcare providers, your hospital, and anyone you think should have the information.

Create digital duplicates of hardcopy documents. Save them in a password-protected format to a flash or external hard drive or a secure cloud service.

Like most important paperwork, advance directive documents, wallet cards, and even online profiles for decisions like organ donation require occasional maintenance. Periodic proofreading for errors and outdated information will save yourself and others time, frustration, and added worry in an emergency.




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.

Good Cents: Prep Your Finances for Emergencies

A middle-aged man and woman discussing finances.

This post was written in collaboration with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in observance of National Financial Capability Month.

Emergencies—especially when multiple occur at the same time—can test your ability to financially respond and recover. For example, getting back to “normal” after a flood during a pandemic takes financial resources that many people may not have.(1)

Emergencies big and small often feel like they couldn’t happen at a worse time. There are things you can do to improve your financial preparedness that might make the unexpected a little bit less of a disaster.

Building an Emergency Fund

Developing a habit of putting money aside—even if it is a small amount—is the easiest way to develop an emergency fund and build financial resiliency.

Without savings, the financial shock of an emergency—however minor—could affect you, your family, and your community. Research suggests that people who struggle to recover from a financial shock have less savings to help protect against a future emergency. They may rely on credit cards or loans, which can lead to debt. They may also pull from other savings, like retirement funds, to cover these costs.(2)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers advice and resources on how to financially prepare for an emergency. Here are five strategies for building and maintaining an emergency fund:

  • Create a savings habit. Set some goals for yourself, create a system for making consistent contributions, monitor your progress, and don’t forget to celebrate your successes!
  • Manage your cash flow. Your cash flow is how your money comes in (your income) and what you spend. If you notice gaps where more money is going out, you can work with the people or organizations you owe money to (i.e., your creditors) to get extra time and avoid falling behind with your payments.
  • Save. Take opportunities to put away money whenever possible: a tax refund, or a holiday or birthday gift. Putting away some money, even small amounts, helps you create an emergency fund.
  • Make your saving automatic. Setting up automatic transfers from your checking account to a savings account is a great way to start saving. And you can always adjust the transfers if your situation changes.
  • Save through work. You might be able to split your paycheck between accounts if you have direct deposit set up. Work with your employer to see if there are options to put money aside without having to remember to do it.(3)

A low or no-cost way to prepare for the financial impact of a disaster is to collect important information related to your property and accounts. Download a copy of the “Your Disaster Checklist” (available in multiple languages) to help you keep track of account numbers, valuables, medical information, and more.

An additional set of challenges often affect individuals and populations with limited English proficiency or who are unfamiliar with the nuances of the U.S. financial system and culture. The American Savings Education Council, a coalition of private and public partners offers resources for communities about all aspects of financial security. has information on how to rebuild your finances after a disaster. Call 1-800-FED-INFO to speak to a specialist in English or Spanish. They can answer your questions about federal agencies, programs, benefits, or services related to financial literacy and education.

Other resources include:

Personal and Community Financial Resiliency

Natural disasters are happening with greater will greater frequency and severity. In 2021, there were 20 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters.(5)

Experts say the “whole community” must respond by increasing its preparedness, response, and recovery capacities.(6) Everyone has a role in making our communities and our nation more financially resilient.

Working together to address the causes of people’s and communities’ barriers to financial preparedness is essential to developing a stronger, more resilient, and healthier nation. Work with organizations to promote financial education in your community. Homeowner associations, community organizations, adult learning centers, social clubs, places of worship, and other members of the whole community have the potential to increase our resiliency.

Tailoring Financial Preparedness Strategies

The financial readiness needs of a community are closely related to the conditions where members live, play, work, and study and while some communities focus on mastering FEMA’s Emergency Financial First Aid Kit, others may need to start first on increasing access to education and basic financial literacy.

Ultimately, it’s about individuals and communities owning their financial preparedness and building resilience. When they receive the support of their local authorities, our nation becomes more resilient and better prepared to expedite its financial recovery after disasters.




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.


Callout: What is an emergency fund?


An emergency fund is a cash reserve that’s specifically set aside for unplanned expenses or financial emergencies. Some common examples include car repairs, home repairs, medical bills, or a loss of income.


In general, emergency savings can be used for large or small unplanned bills or payments that are not part of your routine monthly expenses and spending.



Creating a Nutritious Emergency Food Supply

Nutrition Facts label

March is National Nutrition Month.

There are several things to think about when picking food to include in your emergency food supplies. They include:

  • Shelf life. Shop for nonperishable items
  • Foods that don’t require cooking, water, or special preparation are best.
  • Does your family have food allergies or other special dietary needs?
  • How much do you need to keep your family fed? Where will you store it?

Often less attention is paid to the nutritional facts of the foods in our emergency kits. But taking care of your body is an important part of self-care during an emergency. One way to do that is to try to eat healthier foods.

Here are a few tips to help you build a nutritious emergency food supply.

Improve Your Food Label Literacy

Knowing how to read food labels is a practical skill that you can use to make decisions about what goes in your emergency food supply.An annotated example of a Nutrition Facts label.

Nutrition Facts labels include information on serving size, calories, and nutrients that can help you make healthier food choices.(1)

Because you can’t know how an emergency will affect your every day, you may want to stock your food supply with more calories than you normally eat. A day spent cleaning up after a disaster expends more calories than one spent sheltering in place.

When using food labels to help make healthier choices consider the serving size, especially how many servings there are in the food package. The number of servings you eat determines the number of calories you’re eating. Eating too many calories per day is linked to overweight and obesity.

Shop Smart

When shopping for food, imagine having to rely on your emergency food supply and emergency water supply. How will you meet your family’s nutritional needs on a limited supply of water and without access to grocery stores and restaurants? Here are some things to think about when buying for your emergency food supply.

Include Fruits and Vegetables

Canned and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables can be a nutritious addition to your emergency food supply. Look for low and no sodium and no-sugar-added options. Also, consider dried fruit and nuts.

Look for Lower Sodium Foods

Sodium (salt) helps to preserve some foods, especially shelf-stable canned items. Salty food can increase your thirst, which could cause you to drink more water than you planned when creating an emergency water supply.

You should store at least 1 gallon of water per person per day for 3 days for drinking and sanitation. Try to store a 2-week supply of water, if possible.

Most of the sodium you eat is added to packaged foods before you purchase them. This makes reading food labels and choosing lower sodium foods even more important.(2)

Different brands of the same foods may have different sodium levels. For example, sodium in chicken noodle soup can vary by as much as 840 mg per serving for different brands. Look for brands that advertise low or reduced sodium. Compare the nutrition facts panels of different brands to choose the lowest sodium option.(2)

Include Protein

Protein is a critical part of our diet. Everyone needs a minimum amount of protein every day, even during an emergency.

Protein also gives you a feeling of fullness. Feeling full can help keep you from eating other foods in your emergency supply and make your emergency food supply last longer.(3)

Protein-rich foods include:

  • canned or pouched fish,
  • canned poultry,
  • beans and legumes,
  • nuts
  • low-fat or non-fat dairy products packaged in shelf-stable packaging. You can usually find these products in the cereal aisle at the grocery store.

Things like canned or packaged tuna, salmon, or chicken; protein bars, nut butters (presuming no one has an allergy), and some non-dairy milk alternatives are good choices for your emergency food supply.

If buying dairy or non-dairy beverages, look for products that are UHT, or Ultra High-Temperature Pasteurization (also referred to as Ultra Pasteurization or UP). These are shelf-stable and do not require refrigeration for safe storage.

If buying canned proteins, look for labels that say canned in water, low sodium, or no salt added.

Avoid Added Sugars

Added sugars include sucrose, dextrose, table sugar, syrups, honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices.(4)

The leading sources of added sugars in the US diet are sugar-sweetened beverages, such as regular soda (not sugar-free), fruit drinks, and sports drinks, and foods like cookies and cakes.(4)

One way to avoid added sugars in your emergency food supply is to choose foods with little to no added sugar. Examples include fruit canned in its juice or water.

Help Others Create a More Nutritious Food Supply

People get most of their food for an emergency food supply from food retail venues, such as grocery and corner stores, and food pantries. Having healthier food available and making it affordable in places like these empowers people to make healthier food choices every day and when preparing for emergencies.(5)

When nutritious foods are not available, people may settle for foods that are higher in calories and lower in nutritional value.(5)

The whole community can work together to improve access to healthier food in several ways. They include:

  • connecting people to healthier foods by addressing transportation gaps in communities.
  • increasing nutritious food offerings in food service venues
  • bringing partners together to link local food hubs to organizations that sell or serve food in low-income communities.

Learn more ways government, communities, businesses, nonprofit groups, and others can work to improve access to healthier food.




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.

Arizona Creates ASL Glossary of Emergency Management Terms

An American Sign Language interpreter at a press conference.
ERIC team member, Jackie Schodt (left), interprets remarks from Cara Christ, former Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, in April 2021 at the opening of Arizona’s first state-run indoor drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination site.

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.

During an emergency, the right message, from the right person, at the right time can save lives. That’s assuming people can find, understand, and use the information.

Many people who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing rely on sign language interpretation and captions to receive information. The inability to provide real-time interpretation and captions during an emergency can endanger lives.

In Arizona, where nearly 17% of people have a hearing loss, the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) has created an American Sign Language (ASL) glossary of emergency management terms to improve access to information during emergencies.

The ASL glossary website features a series of videos. The videos are a training resource for Emergency Response Interpreter Credentialing (ERIC) program interpreters and a reference for Deaf community members who are unfamiliar with emergency management terms.

Victoria Bond, Community Outreach Coordinator for DEMA, leads the team that created the glossary. The team included Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDI) Beca Bailey and Shelley Herbold.

CDIs are members of the Deaf community who know and understand Deaf culture. Their linguistic expertise helped account for nuances in ASL, which evolve like any other spoken language, Bailey said.

“The language [ASL] is complex,” said Bond, an experienced interpreter in her own right. “The glossary was created to standardize language around emergencies for interpreters and the Deaf community.”

But emergency management is also complex. Interpreters needed to learn about the Incident Command System and the terminology before they could create accurate interpretations. They took online training and spoke to response experts to broaden their understanding and create a list of possible terms for the glossary.

The team drafted signs for the terms. They shared the signs with other trained interpreters and Deaf professionals in emergency response to ensure that they were clear and accurate. Their feedback was used to decide which signs to include in the glossary.

So far, the team has created and recorded over 150 terms for the glossary. Related terms are grouped into the same video.

The glossary was made possible with funding from the Arizona Department of Health Services and is an outgrowth of DEMA’s ERIC. Bond is the program director.

The ERIC program trains American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) captioners on the Incident Command System, integrating into an emergency response team, content, and vocabulary for all-hazard incidents. ERIC trained personnel deploy statewide to support state and local emergency response agencies.

Interpreters and captioners attend media briefings, town hall meetings, and livestreamed meetings. They interpret and transcribe emergency information in real-time for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing.

The alternative is to add sign language interpretations and captions to recordings after the event. Bond says that’s too long to wait for emergency information, especially in life-threatening situations.

Bond recalls a deployment to Coconino County, Arizona, in July 2019. She provided interpretation services during a town hall meeting. One community was under an evacuation order. Fifteen others were under an evacuation watch. In situations like that, making time-sensitive information accessible cannot be an afterthought.

“The goal of ERIC is to provide real-time access to emergency information,” said Bond. “If information is being livestreamed or broadcast on television, we want it immediately accessible and understandable to people who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing.”

“The glossary helps advance that goal,” she continued. “If someone watching doesn’t recognize a sign, the glossary is there for their use and understanding.”

Bond thinks of the glossary as a living resource that DEMA will continually edit and update.

“We plan to continue to add terms,” said Bond. “As the community and our team of interpreters use the glossary and become familiar with it, we’ll use their feedback to determine what terms are missing. We may also add longer videos that give more detailed information about a specific topic.”

Visit the Arizona Emergency Information Network website to access the ASL glossary and the DEMA website for more information about the ERIC program.



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.

3 Ways to Improve Your Food Label Literacy

A person pushing a shopping cart in a grocery store.

Canned goods are an emergency preparedness staple. And for good reason. They are reasonably affordable, require little to no preparation, and have a long shelf life. These characteristics make them a good choice for your emergency food supply.

As often as people buy and cook with canned goods, they can find food labels confusing.(1, 2) Because labels are required for most packaged foods, it’s good to know how to read and understand them.(3)

Knowing how to read food labels is a practical skill that can help you avoid food allergens, reduce sodium and sugar in your diet, reduce food waste, and better manage your emergency food supply.

Here are three ways you can improve your food label literacy.

Learn to Identify Allergens

Food allergies affect millions of Americans and their families. They occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to certain proteins in food.

Food allergic reactions vary in severity. Mild symptoms can include hives and lip swelling. One severe, life-threatening reaction, often called anaphylaxis, may involve fatal respiratory problems and shock.(4)

The best way to prevent a food allergy reaction is to avoid the foods that cause reactions.

Laws and regulations, such as the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA), and the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research Act (FASTER) make it easier for people to identify potential food allergies in food products.

FALCPA requires labeling for the eight most common food allergens. They are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts.

FASTER identifies sesame as a major food allergen. Food labels must start to identify sesame as an allergen beginning January 1, 2023.

FALCPA says the name of the food source of a major food allergen must appear in one of three ways:

  • Using the allergens common name in the ingredient list (e.g., milk).
  • In the ingredient list in parentheses after the name of a less common form of the allergen (e.g., “lecithin (soy),” “flour (wheat),” and “whey (milk)”).
  • Immediately after or next to the list of ingredients in a “contains” statement. (e.g., “Contains wheat, milk, and soy.”).(5)

Consumers may also see advisory statements such as “may contain [allergen] or “produced in a facility that also uses [allergen].” Statements like these are used to address “cross-contact,” which can occur in different ways:

  • When multiple foods are produced in the same facility using shared equipment.
  • When multiple foods are produced on the same production line.
  • As the result of dust or aerosols containing an allergen.(4)

Make a habit of carefully reading labels even for foods you purchase often because ingredients and manufacturing processes can change. Reading labels each time you shop to avoid food allergens will ensure your emergency food supply is ready when you need it.

Be Informed About Expiration Dates

Americans throw away almost 40 million tons of food every year. Confusion over date labeling accounts for an estimated 20% of consumer food waste, according to FDA.(6)

Many people incorrectly think phrases like “Best By” and “Best if Used By” refer to food safety. Manufacturers use phrases like these to refer to when the food is at peak freshness and flavor.

Shelf-stable foods like canned goods can last for years past their “best by” date if the can is in good condition. That means no rust, dents, or signs of swelling.(7)

Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems launched the “Labels Unwrapped” website to help you better understand food labels. The “Labels 101” resource includes examples of common phrases on food packaging and explanations of the terms used to communicate quality.

After an emergency, it’s important that you take steps to prevent illness from unsafe food. Visit CDC’s website for information on what to do with food after an emergency or disaster.

Get the FoodKeeper App

The FoodKeeper app was developed by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and others to help you understand how to store food and beverages.

The app allows you to search different foods by category for information about when you should consume them and how to safely store them. For example, the app recommends that you keep low-acid, unopened canned goods like stew, soups, and beans in the pantry.

The app also suggests you eat them within 2 to 5 years of purchase. You should refrigerate and eat low-acid canned goods within 3 to 4 days after opening.

Use your new understanding of food labels and tools like the FoodKeeper app to help you manage your pantry and maintain your emergency food supply. At the same time, you can avoid allergens, reduce waste, and save money on your food bill.





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.

Prep Your Health for Earthquakes

A seismograph

February is Earthquake Awareness Month

If people were asked where in the United States do most earthquakes happen, they are likely to answer California. They’d be correct.(1) But earthquakes are a hazard in other parts of the country, too.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that nearly half of all Americans live in areas with some potential for damaging earthquakes. That includes people living in the central states where there is what USGS calls “strong shaking potential.”(2)

If you live under the threat of earthquakes, there are ways you can prepare. They start with collecting emergency supplies, including personal needs, and planning ahead. Here are three more ways you can prepare.

Know Your Risk

There’s no way to know when or where an earthquake will happen. The best scientists can do is calculate the probability that a significant earthquake will happen in a specific area within a certain number of years.(3)

It is, however, possible to better know the earthquake hazard where you live and the earthquake risk to your community.

An earthquake hazard is anything associated with an earthquake that may affect the normal activities of people. This includes landslide, liquefaction, tsunamis, and seiches.(4)

Use the USGS National Seismic Hazard Map to learn the general earthquake hazard in your area. The map shows how many times earthquakes could cause damaging ground shaking in 10,000 years. That doesn’t mean the earthquakes won’t happen before. They could happen at any time.(5)

Your earthquake risk is the probable building damage and the number of people that are expected to be hurt or killed if an earthquake occurs on a particular fault. Earthquake risk and earthquake hazard are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably. High earthquake hazard does not mean high risk.(6)

The best way for you to stay informed about both the hazard and risk to your community is to contact your local emergency management or geological survey office. Understanding your risk can help you take steps to protect yourself and your property.

Earthquakes can trigger tsunamis. A tsunami can strike any U.S. coast, but the hazard is greatest in places near subduction zones. For example, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, and the U.S. Caribbean islands. If you live along the coast in one of these places, you are at risk from tsunamis.

Practice Your Response

Earthquakes can have immediate and long-term impacts on health and safety. They can cause injuries, anxiety and stress, and death.(7)

Participating in emergency response activities like the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill can teach you practical skills that you can use during an earthquake. Take these steps:

  1. STOP and stay put. Stay inside if you are inside and outside if you are outside. If inside and if possible, move away from glass, hanging objects, bookcases, cabinets, and large furniture that could fall. If you are outside, move away from buildings, utility wires, and fuel and gas lines.
  2. DROP down onto your hands and knees. This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
  3. COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) underneath a table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, get down near an interior wall or next to low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands. If you are in bed, hold on and stay there. Protect your head with a pillow.
  4. HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.

Studies of injuries and deaths caused by earthquakes over several decades show that you are much more likely to be injured by falling or flying objects than to die in a collapsed building.(8)

Imagine your home or workplace being picked up and shaken sideways. What would be thrown around and cause injury or damage?

Reduce your risk of injury by taking no-cost steps to secure the space around you:

  • Move or secure furniture, such as bookcases, away from beds, sofas, or other places where people sit, sleep, or spend a lot of time.
  • Move heavy objects to lower shelves.
  • Move heavy or unstable objects away from doors and escape routes.(9)

Learn more about how to protect yourself during an earthquake.

Protect Your Property

Consider buying earthquake insurance if you have the means and live someplace where there’s a high earthquake hazard. Standard homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies do not cover damage resulting from land movement or landslides.

Earthquake insurance isn’t a realistic option for everyone. Increases in insurance premiums have made it difficult to find coverage in many areas. California experiences 90% of the country’s earthquakes, but only 10% of residents had earthquake insurance in 2014.(10)

There are many things to consider when deciding whether to buy earthquake insurance. They include how often earthquakes happen in your area, how long it’s been since the last earthquake, the value of your home and its contents, and the cost of the insurance and restrictions on coverage (i.e., the deductible).(11)

Learn more about earthquake insurance.





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.

Local CERTs Offer a Way to Get Involved in Your Community

A man in a green vest and hat directs traffic in parking lot.

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.

When a 10-year-old girl went missing from her home in the middle of the night on July 23, 2021, her parents called the police.

The next morning, the Canton (Mich.) Police Department mobilized the local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to help find the child. She was found safe later that day.

William Hayes, the emergency management coordinator for the Canton Public Safety Department, calls CERT “a force multiplier.” CERT volunteers support Canton police on different nonviolent and noncriminal missions like in 2004 when local cell towers broke down. While repair crews fixed the towers, team members developed a system of communication using handheld radios. They used the radios to stay connected with each other and informed of the crews’ progress.

In the case of the missing girl, the combined force of CERT volunteers and police officers were able to search further, wider, and faster than the police could’ve done alone. Jeff Grand, who works full-time at a local bank and joined CERT three years ago to get involved in his community, estimates he and his partner knocked on hundreds of doors that morning.

The response capabilities of CERTs frees up professional responders to focus their efforts on more complex, essential, and critical tasks.

CERT volunteers complete hours of basic training and education on how to respond to various emergencies. Their training includes learning practical skills, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

Volunteers also get hands-on practice putting out a fire, using a jack to lift a car, and searching for missing persons. More than 600,000 people, including the 100 members of the Canton CERT, have completed training since CERT started.

All volunteers receive the same training regardless of their location. This approach makes it easier for CERTs to work together in times of need, such as when tornadoes hit Southeast Michigan in June 2021.

The extreme weather event did little damage in Canton. Neighboring towns like Dearborn, Michigan, faced more challenges. Canton CERT–one of about 20 programs in and around Metro Detroit–turned out to help their neighbors, many of whom struggled with power outages and flooding.

The COVID-19 response has created the need for volunteers to staff local testing and vaccine distribution sites around Wayne County, Michigan. Volunteers who are medically trained help administer vaccines.

Grand has spent the better part of his CERT career registering people at vaccination sites. Thousands of people received vaccines at these sites.

Hayes wants more people to join Canton CERT. He believes the stronger the CERT program in a community, the more resilient the community.

The first CERT was established in Los Angeles, California, in 1985 by the city’s fire department. It became a national program in 1993. Today there are over 2,700 local CERT programs nationwide.

Visit the CERT website to find a team near you and to download basic training materials.


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.

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.




In Case You Missed It: Favorite Posts of 2021

Best of 2021

Year’s end is a good time to reflect on the events of the past 12 months.

The Center for Preparedness and Response (CPR) published about 30 posts to its Public Health Matters blog in 2021. Most of them include suggestions for how you can prepare for emergencies of all shapes and sizes.

In case you missed it: Here are some of our favorite posts from 2021.

Prep Your Mental Health for an Emergency

A man sits in the woods with his eyes closed.Traumatic events and most emergencies are beyond your control. You can, however, prepare your mental health for the stress of an emergency. Practice self-care, develop coping skills, and make social connections before an emergency happens. Taking care of yourself can also better equip you to take care of others.

This post suggests ways you can prepare your mental health for an emergency. They include practicing gratitude, staying connected with friends and family, and learning relaxation techniques like meditation.

Home Alone: Prepare Kids for Emergencies

Dialing 911 on a cellphoneMany children don’t have adult supervision 100% of the time. Parents and caregivers have jobs, errands, and other responsibilities that require them to leave their kids home alone sometimes.

Emergencies and no-notice disasters can happen when kids are home alone. This post includes tips from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Emergency Medical Services for how to prepare children to call 911 in an emergency.

Food Preservation: Home Canning Safety

Glass jars in a hot water bath.

Many of us have discovered new hobbies during the pandemic. Some 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. It’s a practical skill that you can learn and use to supplement your emergency food supply. But it can be risky—or even deadly—if not done correctly. This post includes information on proper canning techniques.

Be Prepared for a Day at the Beach

A green flag.A “day at the beach” can turn into anything but if you aren’t prepared. Rip currents, ultraviolet (UV) rays, and harmful algal blooms are a few of the dangers to be aware of before setting foot on the sand or in the surf.

Swimming in the ocean isn’t like swimming in a pool. This summertime post includes a list of different things you should know before you go to the beach. They include knowing how to escape a rip current and the meanings of different beach warning flags.

Must-Haves for Your First-Aid Kit

First-aid supplies.First-aid kits make it possible for ordinary people to help until professional help arrives. That’s important because family, friends, coworkers, etc.—not first responders—are often first on the scene in a medical emergency.

Owning a well-stocked first-aid kit and the practical skill to use its contents can save a life. This post lists suggested supplies to keep in your first-aid kit. It also recommends practical skills you can learn and use to protect yourself and others during an emergency.

Volunteers Prepare for Another Season of Disaster Response, Relief Work

Red Cross volunteer Gaenor Speed feeds a dog in a carrier.This post was published by CPR in partnership with the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. The author introduces us to Gaenor Speed, a volunteer with the Red Cross South Florida Region.

Speed had responded to more than 20 disasters across the country going into the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. Volunteering with a volunteer organization active in disaster is one way you can get involved in your community.

Emergency Preparedness Tips for Parents of Children with Special Healthcare Needs

A young girl in sunglasses enjoying the beach.Emergency preparedness can be stressful for all families, especially those with children with special healthcare needs. Children with special healthcare needs may have:

  • A hard time moving from one place to another.
  • Urgent or constant medical needs.
  • Difficulty communicating.
  • Trouble with transitioning to different situations.

This post was written in observance of National Autism Awareness Month in April. It emphasizes the importance of emergency action planning. Knowing what to do during an emergency can help maintain calm and keep your family safe.


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.

Get Involved with Your Neighbors During Hi Neighbor Month

A person pushing a doorbell button.

December is Hi Neighbor Month.

Social connections are important to your personal health preparedness. The relationships we build with others are ties that bind during an emergency. One of the more important social connections you can make is with your neighbors.

The Importance of Neighbors

Neighbors can be an important source of assistance in the days after an emergency. Because they live close—maybe even next door—neighbors might be your first and best option for help after a tornado or during something like a power outage.

Research shows that people who think they’re prepared for disasters often aren’t as prepared as they think. Forty-six percent of people surveyed by FEMA expect to rely heavily on their neighbors for help within the first 72 hours after an emergency.(1)

Yes, ask your neighbors for help if you need it, but—if possible—try to be the helper. The more prepared neighbors are to meet the basic and personal needs of their families on their own, the more resilient the community.

Be a Good Neighbor

There’s no science to being a good neighbor. But there are things you can do to create a feeling of community where you live. Here are some neighborly suggestions on how you can build trust with your neighbors.

  • Introduce yourself. A survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2018 found that most Americans (57%) knew only some of their neighbors.(2) Starting an initial introduction with neighbors you don’t know can help them and you feel more comfortable about asking for help.
  • Show kindness. Look for small ways you can be kind to your neighbors. For example, offer to watch their house, collect mail, put out trash cans, or water their yard while they are on vacation.(3)
  • Be a responsible pet owner. Use a leash in public and clean up after them properly. Cleaning up after your dog helps to keep the environment clean and reduces the risk of diseases spreading to people and other animals.(4)
  • Lead by example. Pick a regular time to take a walk around the neighborhood. Use your walk to meet new neighbors and model community-minded behaviors, such as picking up trash or litter.(3)

Other simple ways to build goodwill with neighbors include maintaining the exterior of the house and lawn, keeping the noise down, and respecting property lines and personal space.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

People who live in communities in which members are regularly involved in each other’s lives are more empowered to help one another after an emergency.(5) Here are some ways you can get involved in your community.

  • Offer to help your neighbors, especially older adults and people who live alone or with a disability or chronic disease or rely on electricity-dependent equipment, prepare for emergencies. You can offer to help them collect supplies, sign up for evacuation assistance, and collect and protect important paperwork.
  • Join neighborhood groups on social networking sites.
  • Volunteer with an organization active in disaster, such as your local Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Unit or Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
  • Emergency plan with neighbors. Just 13% of respondents to FEMA’s 2021 National Household Survey said they plan with neighbors.(6) But involving trusted neighbors in your emergency action planning can help improve your resilience. At a minimum and if possible, exchange contact information so you can reach each other in an emergency.

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 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.