Get Pandemic Ready: A Simple Guide to Prepare Your Family for the Next One

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When someone would ask me, “What are you prepping for?” my answer was that I don’t prep for one particular event because I’m an “all hazards” prepper. But I knew what the real question was.

“What do you think is the most likely serious “disaster” to occur?”

To that, I always answered without hesitation: Pandemic.

COVID-19 was a hard lesson for many in how accurate that answer was.

While forms of flu are the most likely source of pandemics we’ll face in the United States, concerns about the Ebola virus — its unprecedented outbreak in some African countries over the years, fears that it is spreading to other countries, and its appearance in the U.S. back in 2014 —  started people talking about the possibility of a widespread pandemic here in the United States.

There’s also Monkeypox and H1N1.

Regardless of the reason for the next pandemic, you need to prepare in the lull in between.

image: medical supplies for pandemics on table

A Few Pandemic Facts

  • Illnesses and diseases are not considered pandemics if they only sicken or kill a lot of people. To qualify as a pandemic, the illness must be contagious. (This explains why heart disease and cancer, though they kill millions every year, are not considered pandemics.)
  • An epidemic is a contagious illness that affects more people than average but is contained in one geographic area. A pandemic is one that crosses borders and stretches around the globe as we have seen with coronavirus, COVID-19.
  • A pandemic becomes endemic when it is predictable. In other words, it doesn’t go away but becomes like colds and flu which are expected to be more prevalent in certain seasons. As of this writing, some experts believe COVID-19 is endemic, but there isn’t a consensus. That’s because there isn’t a hard and fast demarcation between pandemic and endemic. It’s more a matter of public perception.
  • One of the earliest recorded pandemics was the Plague of Athens in 430 B.C.
  • The “Black Death” in the 14th Century killed more than 75 million people.

Three major pandemics/epidemics have affected the United States since the early 1900s.

  • The Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 killed almost 700,000 people in the United States and more than 20 million worldwide. Schools and businesses were shut down, and essential services were shut down because of ill workers.
  • In 1952 an outbreak of Polio affected almost 60,000 people, killing more than 3,000. Whole cities were quarantined to help stop the spread.
  • The Asian Flu (similar to the bird flu and swine flu) hit the US in 1957. Thanks to a quickly produced vaccine, the end came within months, but not before killing nearly 70,000 Americans.

The Coronavirus Pandemic was Predictable

  1. We are a mobile world. In 2019, U.S. airlines alone carried more than 926 million passengers. In the same year, Americans alone took more than 2.5 billion rides on public transportation. Think of how many people you come in contact with each day at work, school, grocery store, movies, restaurants… then think of how many people they come in contact with, and how many things you touch that others have touched, and so on. Being aware and practicing good hygiene will only go so far. Unless you become a recluse with zero contact with anyone else, you can’t protect yourself 100%.
  2. Widespread antimicrobial medication overuse has increased the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria which can lead to flu and other illnesses that have no available treatment.
  3. There have been a string of public-safety scares” at CDC and FDA labs studying anthrax, smallpox, and lab-created flu hybrids. There is a lot of information being disseminated that there is little to no risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States, but many people are still concerned.
  4. Another threat we currently face: illnesses and disease unintentionally brought in by immigrants from developing countries that do not routinely use vaccines or provide regular medical care. Some diseases that show up are considered “minor” like chicken pox, scabies, or lice, but others like tuberculosis (TB), MRSA and other staph infections are much more serious viruses.
  5. While the exposure to disease by immigrants coming into this country is unintentional, many illnesses have been weaponized for specific intent to harm an enemy.

So what CAN you do to prepare? Here’s your checklist.

1. Visit the “Get Pandemic Ready” website. This is the number one online source of information about pandemic preparedness. There’s a wealth of information and printable downloads from this site.

2. Stock up on food and supplies. My preparedness plan for pandemics is simple. I want to have the ability to close my doors and not go into public places for up to six months. (Four to six months is how long the experts believe it will take to create and deliver a vaccine to the public. An interesting fact when held up to the timeline of the fast-tracked COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of your opinion on the new technology used to create it, its effectiveness, and the politics surrounding it.)

All I need is to have enough food and supplies (hygiene, paper products, etc) for my family and pets for that long. It isn’t complicated, but it does require some storage space! If you don’t have that much in your stock now, decide how much you are comfortable storing and start increasing as quickly as your budget will allow. Here’s how to stock three months of food quickly. Once you have three months’ worth, just do it again.

3. Stock up on medication and hospital supplies for your family. A great plan is to have a small bin for each person in your household. Then, customize it with supplies like these:

  • Pain relievers and other cold and flu medications
  • Natural remedies to relieve symptoms, such as eucalyptus essential oil for a diffuser
  • Tissues
  • Throat lozenges
  • Eye drops
  • Masks and gloves appropriate for each person
  • A thermometer for each person
  • Drinking cup, utensils, plate/bowl used only by the sick person

If illness strikes your home, and you need to have a mini-quarantine, these bins will make care-taking for each person a little bit easier and help prevent cross-contamination. Another benefit of the bins is that if you or a family member gets a run-of-the-mill illness, there will be no need to head to the store for medication and supplies. You’ll be ready!

4. Know how to clean up a biological mess and stock those supplies as well.

5. Understand how to create and maintain a “sick room” in your home.

6. Remind yourself and your family members about good hygiene and hand washing practices.

7. Just as important, STOP TOUCHING YOUR FACE! Your skin is a strong enough barrier to repel most illnesses. What actually makes you sick is when you touch your face (specifically your nose and mouth) with your contaminated hands. Be conscious of how many times you touch your face. It happens a lot more often than you might think!

8. Consider what vaccinations you and your family members will receive. Vaccinations are a hot topic in our country right now and a whole separate discussion to have. Weigh the risks and the benefits and decide what is the best balance of protection for you and your community.

9. Take active steps today to improve your immune system. COVID-19 currently does not have a cure, and if you become infected with this virus, your immune system will be battling it until you recover. Build a strong immune system with:

  • Regular, moderate exercise
  • Reduction in sugar and fast food/junk food consumption
  • Vitamin C
  • Elderberry juice/syrup
  • Lots of sleep — Make it a priority.
  • Fresh air and Vitamin D directly from the sun

Take active steps as listed here to reduce your chances of encountering COVID-19 or any other virus. And help your body recover as quickly as possible by boosting your immune system.

There WILL Be Another Pandemic

A pandemic can occur anytime and without warning. It doesn’t care if the economy is good or bad, if we are in war or peacetime, or where we live. It doesn’t discriminate if we are wealthy or poor, male or female, or what color skin we have. The economy may never crash, there may never be an EMP or asteroid, and you might never face a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado, but there WILL be another pandemic. You and your family must prepare for its arrival.

How have you prepared for pandemics?

Updated 5/25/2022.

11 thoughts on “Get Pandemic Ready: A Simple Guide to Prepare Your Family for the Next One”

  1. Great article! As a public school teacher, I learned to touch as few things as possible, such as door knobs, doors, as well as my face. This applies to doors, escalators, etc., in public places. The large handicap buttons at public places makes it easier not to touch doors.

    One other point I would like to add is to be very open with your children, especially those who are in college. When my daughters go off to college, I pack medical kits to keep them until we can pick them up. Their kits include everything we have at our house, and I go over what I have put in them. Fortunately for us and them, they don’t go to schools too far from our house, but we realize that other parents don’t have that luxury. Either scenario makes it important to have a plan in place for picking them up in case there is an outbreak of anything on campus.

    Thanks again for such a great article!

  2. I so agree that one of the top reasons to prep is pandemic. I worked on the crisis management team in a hospital when H1N1 (swine) flu first hit, and went through the table top drills to deal with multiple scenarios. These were not ‘far-fetched’ scenarios or ‘crazy idea’ scenarios . . . but very real possibilities that had happened before. Services shutting down across the board, healthcare overwhelmed, no food or water (because there was no one to grow it, transport it, sell it, run the treatment plant), and sadly, not enough space to store/bury the dead. Those in infection control know, it’s not if but when.

  3. Thank you for an excellent post! Great advice that mostly applies across the board to any contagious disease. In the case of Ebola Virus, however, it may not be a good idea to try to treat or care for an Ebola-infected patient in a “sick room” within the home. Difficult as it is to think about, an Ebola infected patient is too dangerous to their healthy family to be within the home. The bodily fluids of the infected patient are too virulent to handle and too difficult to disinfect from mattresses, carpets, walls, etc. And if/when the patient dies, the body itself is too dangerous for the average family member to handle. If the patient cannot be treated at a hospital (due to hospital overload or closures, for instance), some experts believe the patient should be made comfortable in a double-walled tent in the backyard, which can be burned with diesel fuel if/when the patient dies. Your thoughts?

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  5. Truly an ‘Oldie but Goodie’! I am proud to be one of the founding authors of the Get Pandemic Ready website. Sadly, it is no longer up & running, but I do still have all the original pdf files that made up the website. We were the premiere informative website for pandemic preparedness, made up of everyday people in a variety of professions, such as emergency management, education, healthcare, law enforcement and parenthood. The site was originally hosted by an emergency management office in Idao so folks looking for info on pandemic preparedness could access the site. Since then, many preparedness forums & discussion sites have developed, but none were pandemic specific like Get Pandemic Read. Thank you for re-posting this, it brings back many memories!

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  7. This needs serious revision. First, there are exclusive symptoms (loss of smell or taste, increasingly difficult breathing, and a few others) and non-exclusive, such as a fever, runny nose, cough (any kind), and others. 2ndly, testing has become problematic, but call first to arrange the test; one cannot just go get the test, although home testing is coming soon. I quit watching at 9:00, because the information is too dated. Please consider a major revision.

    1. The Survival Mom

      Hi Tom. You are correct that our knowledge of this virus has changed since it first appeared on the horizon back in the spring of 2020. Testing is widely available, though, and very often at drive-up locations with no need for an appointment.

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