As everyday inches closer to truly uncharted territory, there are some very serious questions that remain as a result of the arrival of a pandemic. While new viruses continues to challenge scientists and public health officials in novel ways, one thing that the public will be asked to do is make appropriate preparations. What follows are 22 of the best steps anyone can take to prepare themselves and their family for a pandemic.
Before or at the beginning of a pandemic, prepping will be crucial. The scenes seen in stores during previous outbreaks are truly frightening, and add considerable panic. That said, with a few easy steps, they can be avoided:
1. Start Good Habits Now
Hand washing and social distancing are the two most effective methods to prevent the spread of virus, and should be used immediately. Younger people especially should limit their travel, as even if they are not susceptible, their loved ones may well be. Wash hands for no less than 20 seconds with soap and water; the water does not have to be hot, nor does the soap have to be antibacterial.
2. Prep, but Don’t Hoard
One of the most important things a family can do to prepare for the arrival of an outbreak to their neighborhood is to prep. Purchasing enough food and other essential supplies for a two week period is crucial. However, remember that two weeks is just fourteen days; it is not the end of the world.
Something that has been particularly hard-to-find in some regions during outbreaks is toilet paper. Bear in mind that few families use more than a roll or two of toilet paper per day. Therefore, more than a 24-pack is utterly unnecessary, and only increases panic among others.
3. Focus on Officials, Not Rumors
In continuing preparations, focus on official news from reputable sources. Facebook and Twitter are rarely proper outlets, nor is a distant aunt in a different state. Listen to federal, state, and local authorities, while also paying attention to the Centers for Disease Control. They will have the most up to date information, and help to make sure that people everywhere are kept safe.
4. Consider a Bidet
For those reading this who still cannot get over the math of two rolls of toilet paper per family per day, consider a bidet. Simple ones cost around $30 and can be shipped by Amazon and others within a day or so. Installation takes less than 15 minutes. Bidets allow individuals to drastically reduce the amount of toilet paper that they use in a given sitting, and have also been proven to be considerably healthier than toilet paper alone.
One thing that may be worth getting a 4-6 week supply of are medications. Families may also want to consider getting pain relievers, fever reducers, and allergy medicine as well. In short, anything one would prepare before a trip to the beach should be purchased.
This does not have to be an expensive undertaking. Generic versions are sold for less than a dollar for a 2-4 week supply; a family of four could get all the over the counter medication that it needs for approximately $15.
One stop that should absolutely be made is to the local pharmacy. Drug insurance companies have dramatically loosened their limits on how many days of medication a person can receive at a given time. This allows those who depend on prescription drugs to obtain more than 30 days of treatment without paying the full out-of-pocket cost. Additionally, insurers may also encourage policyholders to consider mail-order pharmacies, whose operations are less likely to be interrupted by an outbreak.
One of the most crucial pieces of equipment that any family can have to prepare for a virus is a thermometer. In the event that a family member is suspected of having the virus, a fever is one of the most important symptoms. Simply relaying that the individual is running a fever is not enough information to allow healthcare officials to act. Having a record of a sustained fever over time gives providers more information, helping them to make the best choices for a loved one.
Water supplies are not expected to be interrupted by an outbreak. However, individuals may want to have a couple of days of water per person on hand in case a water main breaks. Typically, this sort of incident could be sorted in a matter of hours, but with more people staying home from work, it may take a day or two to fix. Plan on a gallon of water per person, per day, for cooking, drinking, and basic sanitation.
9. Baby Wipes and Dry Shampoo
In the event of a water outage, it may be worth picking up a small bottle of dry shampoo as well as some baby wipes, so as to allow loved ones to clean themselves, if only to a degree, during the outage.
10. Shelf-Stable Food
While stocking the fridge and freezer (more on that in a moment) is crucial, families should also be sure that they have plenty of shelf-stable food on hand. While this does not have to mean military rations or anything like that, canned and dried foods are preferable to those that require refrigeration. Especially for larger families or those with smaller refrigerators, saving room for dairy, meat, eggs, and other perishables is better than having a lot of pre-made meals taking up room.
11. Baking Supplies
With flour, yeast, and salt, one can make bread, pizza dough, rolls, and any other number of baked goods. With shortening and baking powder, suddenly biscuits and cookies are possible. At times when a family may be spending a bit too much time together, something freshly baked can not only raise spirits, but also mean that bread is less likely to go stale.
12. Stock the Freezer, Clean the Fridge
Finally, look to perishable food storage. A fridge should be cleaned of any expired foods or half-eaten leftovers, cleaned, and packed logically. Remember that a refrigerator cools food by circulating air, so in order to work effectively, it should have room for air to flow through. Meanwhile, a freeze can be packed with abandon, as long as it closes securely. Rather than depending on air circulation, a freezer relies on lowering the temperature, so one can fill it to the brim.
Staying Healthy and Sane
No matter the circumstances of the mandate, whether it is a suggestion to shelter in place or a government-decreed lockdown, there are a number of steps that can be taken to help individuals realize that they are ready for more than just the logistical aspects of a pandemic. What follows is a discussion of the ways, no less important than those described above, that an individual can know that he or she is prepared for what is to come.
With a switch to self-stable food, less sunshine, and other such changes, taking a daily multivitamin can be a simple and effective way to help keep healthy. In the worst case scenario, the vitamins can offset any nutritional deficiencies that could erupt due to supply chain shortages. In the best case, it is simply a healthy measure to take, regardless of the pandemic.
14. Bodyweight Fitness
For millions of people, a trip to the gym is a crucial part of their routine. Given the moisture of gyms, that is no longer advisable. However, there are a number of bodyweight routines that can help even the most advanced athletes stay in shape. Yoga, pilates, martial arts, and calisthenics all require only a few minutes a day, and provide not only a boost for the body, but also the immune system. They even release endorphins, helping make people feel better. For those who are not active, keep in mind that sitting at home will require even less movement, so now is the time to start moving.
15. Charger for Phones
Much like the water mains described above, there is no reason to think that a virus will interfere with electrical grids; after all, it is not a hurricane. However, things happen, and having a phone charger, especially one that is solar-powered, will ensure than an often valuable link to the outside world (as well as to sanity!) is preserved.
16. Fast-Growing Seeds
Authorities often have little idea how long a pandemic could last. For those who have the ability to grow food, whether it is a few herbs on a window or a couple of tomato plants in the backyard, will have fresh vegetables and a chance to have some fresh air, courtesy of the green provided by the plants.
17. Propane Deliveries
In the event that a family uses propane for heating or cooking, making sure that tanks are full now is crucial. Gas supply companies are happy to top off tanks while they have trucks operating, but propane supply is likely to not be as essential as other requirements. Call providers now to find out how to best proceed.
18. Streaming Services
With the family effectively confined to the house for at least two weeks, now is a great time to start exploring the many different streaming services that exist. For those who have not tried them already, many offer a free month of streaming. Included in said free month is also the option to stream on multiple devices, meaning that larger families do not have to share quite as much.
While Albert Camus’s The Plague may be a bit too on the nose for most people, staying at home for two weeks offers plenty of time to catch up on a reading list. Even for those whose jobs still require them to commute, the lack of traffic should help make getting through their lists much easier. Remember that Project Gutenberg hosts hundreds of thousands of free ebooks in the public domain, ranging from Mark Twain to Jules Verne.
20. Library Policies
Additionally, some libraries are offering more liberal borrowing policies during pandemics. That could allow families to check out streaming devices, pre-loaded eReaders, and much more. Further, almost every library now has ebook reading through Overdrive or Libby, or another such provider, meaning that even more recent books are simply a click away.
21. Board Games and Puzzles
Always wanted to institute a family game night but didn’t have the time? Now there is no excuse! From a deck of cards to a board game that has only gathered dust in the closet, there is no shortage of things that a family can do during this time. New card games can be learned online, with some card manufacturers offering apps that include the rules to hundreds of games for free. That said, games of Monopoly are best avoided for the super-competitive, given the circumstances. For those who are less competitive, puzzles offer a great chance to work collaboratively as a family.
Now is also a great time to explore new apps, and being prepared means making the most of the time at home. For those looking to learn new skills, Codecademy teaches coding, while Duolingo teaches dozens of languages. Apps like Houseparty allow individuals to stay connected to families and friends, even talking to multiple people at the same time.
Keep a Positive Attitude
Finally, maintaining a good attitude is a true sign of readiness for dealing with a pandemic. There is no doubt that times like these will be difficult. However, a willingness to undergo a bit of change now, and perhaps making the most of it along the way, will not only help keep people safe, but it also helps give healthcare providers and public health researchers the time they need to deal with the situation.