Emergency Preparedness

Disaster Preparedness
Anthony J. Battista, M.D.
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Disaster Preparedness Resources

In the last few years we have seen millions of Americans displaced and suffering because of natural disasters.  The experts all agree that such an event is likely to strike the Northeastern United States sooner or later.  Being prepared for such events is essential.  One reason to be prepared is because it ensures the survival and relative comfort of your family. The other reason is because it makes things less chaotic for rescuers and relief crews. If you are able to manage your life without any help, it frees up rescue teams to handle those who are truly in need of their help.  Should a natural disaster arise, there are many actions that you can take both before and after the event to ensure your well being and safety.  Hurricanes, floods, ice storms, major snow storms and prolonged electric loss each create different circumstances that you must address.

In an emergency, there may be major damage to the infrastructure (roads, power grids, water supply, gas stations) around us.  Having your car fueled and ready to go is not enough if the roads cannot be traversed.  If an alarm is sounded and you are advised to leave, it is important that you do so immediately, as the roads will get congested quickly.  Have a plan, destination and route in mind.  Be sure you have emergency supplies available for both home and your car.  It is nice to have some cash; with the power out and the telephone system down, ATMs and credit card machines are not going to work.

You should have an adequate supply of batteries, flashlights (consider hand-cranked or glow sticks), extra flashlight bulbs, canned foods, a manual can opener, first aid supplies, seasonal clothing (cool or warm), blankets, a hand-crank portable radio, walkie-talkies (cell towers may not be powered), etc.  It is recommended that you store these materials in a cool, secure place inside your home.  Having a small piece of luggage or back pack (“Go Bag”) prepared will make your moving that much easier.  Do not forget to safely store your passport, credit cards and insurance information, and have copies of them in the Go Bag, and to have a week’s supply of any prescription medications available.  Most importantly, all family members should have contact information (preferably with someone outside the possible disaster area) for after the emergency.  FEMA has more suggestions for preparing a Family Disaster Supplies Kit, and the New York City Office of Emergency Management has an excellent brochure entitled Ready New York.

If you are going to ride out the emergency at home:

  • It is recommended that you have enough water on hand for one week (2 gallons/person/day) for drinking, cooking, washing and bathroom use.  Fill the bathtubs so that you can use the water to pour into the toilets to evacuate them.  Water needs to be in the right kind of package.  Milk jugs of water start leaking after a year or so; clear plastic bottles will not.  If there is a natural source of water nearby (river, lake, etc.) you can use it if you have a way to carry and sterilize the water.
  • You need some food.  Many people have enough food in the pantry to handle a couple of days, but for a big disaster you may want a week or two of food on hand.  Canned foods (soup and other prepared foods) and dried foods (rice, pasta, etc.) are best. Keep in mind that you need a way to open the cans and cook the food.  An old-fashioned can opener and a camp stove are handy.
  • Keep several packages of toilet paper in the back of the bathroom cabinet just in case.
  • For hurricanes, keeping the windows shut with boards has been found to be more effective than taping across them.  A big tarp and some rope might be nice things to have in the garage – if the roof gets damaged, you may be able to cover the hole.
  • Anyone who has a disability or is medically challenged should notify Police in advance so that they are aware and can help in an emergency.
  • If you want to ride out a disaster in style, an emergency generator (and enough gasoline to keep it running) can be nice to have. With it you can keep your refrigerator running, provide lights at night and so on.  Having a generator requires an extra level of discipline, because gasoline goes bad.  If you are keeping gasoline in the garage for the generator, you need to replace it on a regular schedule.
  • Make a Disaster Supply Kit
  • Protecting You and Your Family During a Natural Disaster
  • Disaster Preparedness for Pets
  • AAP Reunification Toolkit – provides guidance for to provide information and safe reunification assistance to family members of patients who have experienced disasters
  • Take 5 To Survive – If you find it difficult to set aside time to prepare for emergencies, you’re not alone.  Public surveys list “lack of time” as the primary reason people cite for not taking steps to prepare themselves and their families for a major emergency.  Rather than viewing emergency preparedness as an insurmountable task, consider what you could accomplish in just 5 minutes. This website contains a list of recommendations from the Take 5 to Survive project list. Make it a team effort and involve your family.  Once you meet your goal, celebrate for being prepared for the emergencies ahead!

The ICE Campaign:  The ‘ICE’ (In Case of Emergency) Campaign idea was thought up by a paramedic who found that when he went to the scenes of accidents, there were always mobile phones with the patients, but they didn’t know which number to call.  Yes, there were hundreds of numbers stored, but which one is the contact person in case of an emergency?  All you need to do is store the number of a contact person or persons who should be contacted during emergency under the name ‘ICE’ (In Case Of Emergency).  In an emergency situation, Emergency Service personnel and hospital Staff would be able to quickly contact the right person by simply dialing the number you have stored as ‘ICE.’  For more than one contact name simply enter ICE1, ICE2 and ICE3, etc.

Text First. Talk Second. Campaign:  When disasters strike, voice networks can become congested with people trying to call each other for non-vital communications. This can result in people in desperate need of help being unable to contact those they need to reach, such as emergency services, friends or loved ones.  In some instances, this may also result in emergency service personnel being unable to communicate with each other.  In order to raise public awareness around the importance of utilizing text messaging for non-emergency communications during a disaster Safe America is recommending the following:

  • Get the word out.  Let your family and friends know if a natural or man-made disaster happens in your vicinity, the best way to find out if you are okay is to first try and contact you via text message and then phone.
  • Make sure everyone in your family knows how to use the text messaging function on their mobile phone and if they don’t, teach them.

Take the time to check travel alerts posted online before you travel.  Travel Alerts for natural disasters, terrorist attacks and high-profile events such as international conferences or regional sports events are routinely issued by the State department to inform travelers of short-term conditions that could pose imminent risk to their security.  Visit www.travel.state.gov for more information.

Professionals should have their community officials confidentially know their contact information.  Professionals may also consider joining their local Medical Reserve Corp (MRC) to make themselves available and for further training if so inclined.  Information for disaster preparedness for the physician in private practice can be found on the AAP’s Practice Management Online website (login required).  For those involved in Emergency Department management, the AAP have revised an Emergency Department Checklist.

Government Organizations in New York:


  1. Emergency Preparedness and Response
  2. Crown Weather Services – This web site has been the best all-around “go-to” site for hurricane information in real time. Does not do analysis, but pulls everything available from all over the web.
  3. Learn more about radiation and health from this CDC site.

Hurricane Health & Safety Tips

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CPR/ Basic Life Support – This web site provides algorithms to refresh your memory in times of crisis.

The September 2009 issue of the journal Clinical Pediatric Emergency Medicine is being made available to you electronically, free-of-charge.  The issue is titled “Pediatric Disaster Readiness” and includes articles drafted by Michael Shannon, MD, MPH, FAAP and many other AAP member disaster preparedness experts.  Much thanks to Theresa Monturano on behalf of the publisher Elsevier Inc.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has published “The Youngest Victims: Disaster Preparedness to Meet Children’s Needs” which provides principles and key messages to guide in the development of public policies and community and state planning for emergencies.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement “Medical Countermeasures for Children in Public Health Emergencies, Disasters, or Terrorism” is also now available.  The statement was developed by the AAP Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council.  The February 2016 AAP News article will highlight key details included in the policy statement.

CDC Emergency Transport of Vaccines

Below are the most recent American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Disaster Preparedness and Response newsletters, in reverse chronological order:


Medical Organizations and Interests:

Disaster Resources for Pediatricians, for Children

From the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Infant Nutrition During a Disaster: Breastfeeding and Other Options – very thought-provoking brochure by the AAP
Infant Feeding in Emergencies and Natural Disasters – PDF of an informative presentation

Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and Other Special Needs

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has suggestions for “Helping Children After a Disaster.” They can be found at http://www.aacap.org/publications/factsfam/disaster.htm

The National Center for Children Exposed to Violence –  a web site maintained by Yale University, supported by a grant from the US Department of Justice.

From the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – How to Respond to an Active Shooter

The AAP Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council has been hard at work developing a strategic plan for the AAP and responding to requests for pediatric input or involvement in national efforts. Some information is available at its newly redesigned web site Children and Disasters.
Click here for the most recent edition of the American Academy of Pediatrics Disaster Preparedness and Response newsletter from the Advisory Council.


Internet Links

American Red Cross in Greater New York

The John Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies

American Academy of Pediatrics Terrorism site

The Biological Terrorism site from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
One of the newer sites on this page is on Smallpox Vaccination and is definitely worth checking out.

The Infectious Disease Society of America

National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Power Outages

From Nassau County Medical Reserve Corp – Emergency Preparedness Newsletter

Hurricane Relief Efforts

Information for those affected by Hurricane Harvey:


Emergency Contact Phone Numbers:

  • FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency): 1-800-621-3362
  • NYS Office of Emergency Management: 1-518-292-2200
  • Nassau County-Office of Emergency Management: 1-516-573-0636
  • Suffolk County-Office of Emergency Management: 1-631-852-4900
  • American Red Cross (Long Island): 1-516-747-3500
Tropical Weather Safety and Preparedness Tips for Potentially-affected areas:

  • Tropical storms can bring high winds and heavy rains.  Listen to local officials and follow their instructions.  Local officials make decisions on evacuations and shelter openings.
  • Have important supplies ready to sustain you and your family, if needed.  This includes water, a battery-powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries, cell phone charger, medicines, non-perishable food, and first aid supplies.
  • Stay up-to-date with the latest forecast.  Monitor local radio and television reports, as well as forecasts from the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service.
  • Those in areas that will be potentially affected by the severe weather should familiarize themselves with the terms that are used to identify a severe weather hazard and discuss with your family what to do if a tropical storm watch or warning is issued in your area.  Terms used to describe severe weather include the following:

History shows that storm tracks can change quickly and unexpectedly. FEMA encourages residents in potentially affected areas to monitor weather conditions and take steps now to get prepared for potential severe tropical weather.  Tropical Storm Erika serves as a reminder for residents in areas prone to tropical storms and hurricanes to refresh their emergency kits and review family plans.  If you do not have an emergency kit or family plan, or to learn about steps you can take now to prepare your family for severe weather, visit ready.gov.

Severe Weather Business Preparedness Messaging:

  • Businesses of all sizes should prepare for all hazards, including severe weather to prevent loss of life, property, or disruption to operations.
  • Review and update your business continuity plan and ensure your workforce knows what to do in the event of severe weather.
  • Resources are available on web sites such as Ready Business Preparedness, ready.gov/business, and the Small Business Administration, sba.gov/content/disaster-planning, including exercises and preparedness tips.
  • Encourage your employees to update their family emergency plan to stay connected during severe weather while at work and develop alternate methods of communication. Also, download the commuter emergency plan to identify evacuation routes while at work, school, or home.

 Earthquake Resources

Winter Weather Resources

Flood Resources

Save for an Emergency

Americans at all income levels have experienced the challenges of rebuilding their lives after a disaster or other emergency.  In these stressful circumstances, having access to personal financial, insurance, medical, and other records is crucial for starting the process of recovery quickly and efficiently.  Taking the time now to collect and secure these critical records will give you peace of mind and, in the event of an emergency, will ensure that you have the documentation needed to start the recovery process without delay.

  • Plan financially for the possibility of disaster.  Gather financial and critical personal, household and medical information.
  • Complete an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK).
  • Maintain emergency savings for use in case of an emergency.  Consider saving money in an emergency savings account that could be used in any crisis.  Keep a small amount of cash at home in a safe place.  It is important to have small bills on hand because ATMs and credit cards may not work during a disaster when you need to purchase necessary supplies, fuel or food.
  • Obtain property (homeowners or renters), health, and life insurance if you do not have them.  Review existing policies for the amount and extent of coverage to en-sure that what you have in place is what is required for you and your family for all possible hazards.  Homeowners insurance does not typically cover flooding, so you may need to purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • Get your benefits electronically.  A disaster can disrupt mail service for days or weeks.  If you depend on Social Security or other regular benefits, switching to electronic payments is a simple, significant way to protect yourself financially before disaster strikes.  It also eliminates the risk of stolen checks.

Disclaimer:  The medical information on the above web pages and their internal links are the sole responsibility of the designers of those sites.  New York Chapter 2 has not verified the medical data on these sites.  You should use the information from these sources at your own discretion.