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Emergency Preparedness

Personal Emergency Preparedness Month by Month

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus that infects the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. On average, tens of thousands of people die each year in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands die worldwide. With this knowledge, it makes sense to take some time to learn more about the flu.

Prevention

One of the most important ways to prevent the spread of the flu is proper hand hygiene. Hand washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water is an effective way to kill germs and minimize the spread of disease. Hand sanitizers are an effective alternative when soap and water are not available.

The flu vaccine is another important preventative measure to reduce your risk of catching the flu. The flu vaccine is available as an injection or can be administered as a nasal spray. There are two types of flu vaccines:

  • “Flu shots” — the regular seasonal flu shot is usually injected into the upper arm. It has been approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women.
  • The nasal-spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with a weakened flu virus which is given as a nasal spray. The nasal spray vaccine is approved for use in healthy people 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.

How It’s Spread

When a person who has the flu coughs or sneezes, the flu virus becomes airborne and can be inhaled by anyone who is nearby. You can also get the flu if you’ve touched a contaminated surface such as a doorknob or railing. Washing your hands regularly and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze are two good ways to prevent spreading the flu to others.

Symptoms

The flu can sometimes closely resemble the common cold; however, most cases of the flu are more severe than those of the common cold. Also, flu symptoms tend to occur suddenly and include high fevers. The symptoms can consist of cough, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue and headache. If you are experiencing these symptoms, contact your primary care physician.

What to Do If You Get the Flu

Stay Home! If you get the flu, make sure you get sufficient rest, drink plenty of fluids and limit your physical activity. There are several over the counter and prescription drugs that can lessen the severity of flu symptoms. Always be sure to check with your physician before taking any medications.

For more information about the flu, its prevention and treatment:

A school emergency can have a major impact on students, faculty and the community. Planning ahead for a crisis at your child’s school will help to reduce the level of chaos that occurs and improve your ability to manage your family’s safety.

School Preparedness Activities

All schools have plans set in place for any number of emergencies that could potentially take place. It is important to stay informed and up to date on the specific plans for your child's school.

  • Find out the school’s policies and procedures on security and emergency preparedness.
    • Is it communicated clearly and regularly?
  • Ask if the plans are tested and practiced regularly.
    • Is the staff aware and knowledgeable on the procedures and protocol?
    • Is there is a lockdown plan set in place, and is it practiced routinely?
  • Inquire whether the school staff has been trained on security and emergency preparedness.

Home Preparation

The first step in ensuring your child’s safety at school starts with you preparing them at home.

  • Talk with your children about drugs, weapons, school and community safety.
  • Do not assume that your child knows the “basic” facts.
    • Inform your child first hand with the information in a non-threatening manner.
    • Create open lines of communication.
  • Prevent access to any weapons in the home.
  • Teach children to work cooperatively with police, school officials, and other authority figures.
  • Seek professional assistance, if needed, after school crisis.

Create a Family Plan

Having a plan already set in place is critical when it comes to an emergency situation. Among the things you can do to be prepared are:

  • Keep emergency contact information up to date.
  • Make sure that there is a secondary emergency contact listed in case the primary is unavailable.
  • Keep the school nurse informed of any medical conditions that may exist.
  • Pick a place to meet up in the event of an emergency (at or near the school), because cell phone towers can become overloaded in times of crisis.
  • Know if your school’s plan designates meeting areas for times of crisis.

Emergency Situation Response

Planning ahead can help you respond quickly and effectively in case of emergencies at a school. If an emergency should arise, do not call or go to the school unless directed to do so by a school or public official.

  • Register and be alert for automated telephone notifications.
  • Monitor the local news and the school district's website, which can be used for posting emergency alerts.
  • Keep open lines of communication that are vital for emergency responders.
  • Keep open vital access routes to your child’s school for emergency personnel.
    • Going to the school can cause road blocks and obstruct first responders.

For more information on maintaining your child’s safety at school, please consult the following websites:

Spring is an active vacation time, especially for families and students. Disasters can strike anywhere and anytime, even when you are traveling. When you are not home or in a familiar area, managing these situations can be challenging. That is why it is important before you travel to be aware of the possibilities that could occur where you are visiting and to develop a plan on how to deal with an emergency situation away from home.

Communication Systems

In any disaster situation, communication is a vital tool not only for you to get the help you may need, but also to ensure that family, friends and associates know that everyone is safe. Before you take a trip, make sure you have a system to contact home, work or other important associates if there is an emergency while you are away. 

  • Set up a call center.
    • Designate a family member or friend located somewhere else, such as in another state, as a point of contact to act as an information source for all parties.
  • Specify “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) on your cell phone contact list.
    • Put an emergency contact person in your cell phone contact list under “ICE”.
    • If you are incapacitated, emergency workers can reach your emergency contact.
  • Use email and social media networks (e.g., Facebook or Twitter).
  • Use your cell phone conservatively; don’t waste battery life on unimportant distractions.
  • Make sure you have your cell phone charger.
  • If you are traveling with others, it is a good idea to have two separate agreed upon meeting places, such as inside and outside your hotel.
  • Keep a hard copy of all important phone numbers.

Investigate Vulnerabilities

When traveling to unfamiliar locations, it is important that you acclimate yourself to the surroundings in advance. Make it a point to know the area you are visiting and determine if it is prone to any disasters. Most people assume that they will not encounter any problems instead of taking just a little time to prepare.

  • Is the area you are traveling to vulnerable to certain kinds of disasters, e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, or tornadoes?
  • Are there local emergency response procedures for that location?
  • Does the town have an emergency management and response system? How is it accessed?
  • What resources are available to you in that area, e.g., FEMA, Red Cross, Civil Preparedness?
  • If staying at a hotel or facility, is there a specific emergency response plan in place, such as an evacuation or sheltering?

Traveling Abroad

From natural disasters to political unrest, emergencies occur around the world. Knowing what to expect in advance when traveling outside the country is very important to your safety. Different countries may have different procedures for handling foreign citizens in an emergency situation. In addition to following the procedures for Communications and Investigating Vulnerabilities, also consider the following preparedness tips when traveling abroad:

  • Know the location and contact information for the U.S. consulate or embassy near your travel destination.
  • Register with the U.S. Department of State to let them know where and when you will be traveling abroad.
  • Make sure you have a communication system set in place.
    • Contacting home might be more difficult from outside the country.
  • Create copies of all your important documents.
  • Establish a way of receiving important updates from local authorities.

Visit these websites for more information and resources:

One of the most common natural disaster occurrences in the United States is flooding. There are different kinds of flooding. Some are flash floods that come on with almost no warning, while others build slowly. Most flooding is due to overland flooding, which is when waterways, rivers and streams overflow into surrounding areas. Another type of flooding occurs when dams or levees fail. The most important thing to do when it comes to flooding is to be aware of your surroundings and the potential for flooding.

What is the Difference between a Flood Watch and a Flood Warning?

A flood watch is when there is a possibility of a flash flood in an area. It is a recommendation for planning, preparation and an increased awareness of the situation. A flood warning means that flooding is already occurring or it is imminent, and immediate action should be taken to protect yourself and your home.

Before a Flood

There are things that can be done beforehand to prepare for possible flood risk.

  • Determine if you are at risk for a flood
    • Be aware of flood hazards where you are (Are you in a low-lying area? Near a dam or a waterway?)
    • Look at FEMA Issued Flood Maps for your area
  • Protect your property
  • Have an emergency kit
  • Set a family communications plan in place
  • Don’t be left in the dark in a power outage
    • Prepare for power loss

What to Do during a Flood

  • Be aware of your local emergency management plan for flooding, including municipal and regional evacuation plans and procedures
  • Avoid driving near or through flooded or flooding areas
  • Monitor media and community communications to stay up-to-date with what is happening

Safety after a Flood

  • Avoid areas that may still have flooding
  • Use caution when driving over roadways that may have experienced flooding
    • Water can loosen the soil under pavement and cause the road to give way
  • Inspect your home for any potential structural damage that may have occurred
  • Be wary of mold that could potentially grow in dampened areas

Additional Resources & Information

Preparing your pets for a disaster is just as important as preparing yourself. When planning for disasters, take into account the needs of your pet as you would a member of your family. If it isn’t safe for you then it is not safe for your pets. Try not to leave your pets behind in an emergency.

Rescue Alert Sticker

These stickers let others, including rescue workers, know that there are pets inside your home.

  • You should include three things on the sticker:
    1. The types of animals and the number you have of each
    2. Your veterinarians name
    3. Veterinarians phone number/contact information
  • Get a free sticker from the ASPCA

Emergency Supply Kit

Prepare a kit beforehand to take with you and your pet in an evacuation situation.

  • 3-7 days’ worth of canned or dry food for each pet
  • Disposable litter pans (aluminum baking pans work well)
  • Litter or paper towels
  • Trash bags for clean up
  • Feeding dishes
  • An extra collar and an extra leash
  • Bottled water (7 days for each pet)
  • Travel crate
  • Flashlight
  • Blanket
  • Recent photos of your pets (in case your pets become lost)

Evacuation Preparation

  • Make sure that your pets have collars with ID tags
    • Name of animal, phone number, any health concerns, your name and contact information
  • Bring your pets inside at the first sign of a storm or disaster
  • Know your evacuation route
  • Arrange a safe place for you and your pets to go
    • Determine which shelters accept pets
    • Know what hotels accept pets
    • Friends and family nearby that could help out
    • Contact your veterinarian about possible kennels or facilities your pet could stay

Pet-Friendly Hotels

Some hotels in the Griffin Hospital area that allow pets to stay are:

You can also search for pet-friendly hotels on travel search engine sites using a “pets allowed” search filter.

Additional Information

For more information on pet preparedness, please visit the following sites:

Extreme Heat Emergencies: Beware the Critical Days of Summer 

As the summer months are upon us, it is time to start thinking about the dangers associated with extreme heat conditions. Over the last 30 years, more people have died as a result of heat emergencies that other natural disasters combined.

Very high body temperatures can injure the brain other vital organs, and occur when the body’s natural cooling abilities are compromised. In addition to the heat, factors such as humidity, age, medical conditions, exercise, and medications can predispose someone to a heat related emergency.

Heat related death and illnesses are preventable. Drinking fluids, wearing appropriate clothing, regulating activity, staying indoors and identifying high risk individuals are a few of the steps you can take for yourself, your loved ones, and even your pets.

Preparation and Response

In cases of Extreme Heat conditions, check back to this website, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, access the other resources listed on this page, and check local government and media sources for more up to date information.

Know the Difference

  • Heat Wave - a prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity. During a heat wave temperatures are generally 10 or more degrees above the regional average high during summer months.
  • Excessive Heat Watch - Conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to meet or exceed local Excessive Heat Warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Excessive Heat Warning - Heat Index values are forecast to meet or exceed locally defined criteria for at least 2 days (daytime highs = 105°--110° Fahrenheit).
  • Heat Advisory - Heat Index values are forecast to meet locally defined advisory criteria for 1 to 2 days (daytime highs = 100°--105° Fahrenheit).

For Your Consideration

Use this Heat Wave Safety Checklist to be prepared and stay safe during extremely high temperatures. Also, check out these tips for preventing heat-related illness from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors

The warm summer weather in Connecticut provides for many outdoor pleasures and fun activities. But summer weather can also bring violent and dangerous weather like severe thunderstorms, lightning, hail, and even tornadoes. Knowing what to do and how to prepare for these storms can be the difference between life and death, especially when caught outdoors. A few simple steps can minimize the impact of these weather occurrences and make summer safe and fun for everyone.

Monitor the weather: Stay alert for weather reports, like warnings and watches, and keep an eye out for darkening skies. Consider a NOAA approved weather alert radio.

When thunder roars, go indoors! If you can hear thunder, you are at risk for being struck by lightning. Seek shelter!

Seek appropriate shelter: There is NO safe place outside during a thunderstorm. Seek shelter in a substantial building. Avoid open areas and isolated trees, towers or utility poles. The majority of lightning strike victims meant to seek shelter, but waited too long!

Stay away from “CORDED” phone and plumbing: Cordless phones and cell phones are safe, but avoid corded phones and using the tub, shower or other plumbing fixtures during storms.

Turn around, Don’t Drown! During flash floods, avoid flooded roadways. Don’t try to drive through them. Avoid areas with roads known to flood and rivers that overflow. Seek higher ground.

For more information on preparing for and reacting to severe thunderstorms, lightning and tornadoes, you can download these fact sheets and visit the following sites:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season ranges from June 1 through November 30; however, August and September historically are the most active months for Connecticut. From Fairfield to New London, previous hurricanes have flooded Connecticut streets, homes and businesses.  Strong winds have snapped trees, left debris and interrupted essential utilities and power sources.

Families and businesses can be forced to manage as best as possible in the aftermath of the major storms. Without power, traditional media sources may be unavailable and important advisories and information can be difficult to obtain. Being prepared is one of the most important things that every household and business can do before a storm hits. Check out our Hurricane Preparedness Guide to find out what to do if you lose power, how to build your own emergency kit, and how to access other resources to keep you safe.

Come to Terms with Storms

Warnings and Watches. Learn more about the weather terminology you hear on the news. Get familiar with the terms to help identify hazards in your area!

Make a Kit, Before Your Hit

Everyone should have an Emergency Preparedness Kit. Learn what you should include and start building your kit today!

When the Lights Go Out

Generators are a great way to produce your own power when the lights go out, but can also be dangerous if not operated properly. Get familiar with generators so you aren’t powerless.

Keep Foods Fresh

Food safety is extremely important if there is a loss of power in your home. Learn how to keep your food fresh during a storm and read about creative meal plans.

If You Have to Get Out, Know Your Route

It is vital for your safety to know the evacuation plan of your community. It is also important to create a safety plan with your whole family, including your children.

Kid Zone

Get your kids involved in planning. There are a number of fun and educational activities for family preparedness planning.

For further information on the above topics, view our Hurricane Preparedness Guide as well as the other links below:

If disaster strikes your community, you might not have access to food, water, or electricity for some time. Evacuation may occur at a moment’s notice, and you probably will not have time to search for the supplies or other essentials you need to take with you. By taking time now to prepare a disaster supply kit, you can prevent wasting time and resources during an emergency.

WATER

In an emergency, having a supply of clean water for drinking, food preparation, and hygiene is the highest priority. You should store at least 1 gallon per person and pet per day. Be sure to have a three day water supply for each.

FOOD

Make sure to store enough non-perishable emergency foods to provide for your family for at least 3 days. Ideal items are those that do not require refrigeration such as cereals, crackers, canned items (low salt), and some fruits.

PETS

The federal government now officially supports including pets in disaster plans. Make sure to include your pets too by creating their own preparedness kit today!

FAMILY WITH DISABILITY

Personal needs and abilities are unique, but every individual can take important steps to prepare for an emergency regardless of their capabilities. If you, or someone close to you has a disability, consider taking additional steps to preparing a safe and efficient plan.

INFANTS/CHILDREN

Remember to include special items to support your infants such as formula, diapers and bottles. Also, consider games and activities to occupy your children.

Important Links:

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning materials containing carbon. You cannot see it, smell it or taste it, but carbon monoxide can easily cause illness and death. According to the CDC, more than 400 Americans die each year from unintentional CO poisoning.

Causes

CO can be produced by faulty or improperly used generators, automobiles, furnaces, gas ranges, chimneys, heating systems and burning charcoal or wood. CO emissions from these sources can quickly build up, especially in enclosed and poorly ventilated spaces.

Risks

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be very difficult to detect because its symptoms mimic those of other common ailments. Symptoms of CO poisoning can include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and confusion. The inhalation of high levels of CO can potentially cause loss of consciousness and death. The most vulnerable populations include the elderly, pregnant women, children and those with respiratory conditions. Sudden illness among both people and pets can be a reliable indication of CO poisoning.

Protection & Prevention

Installing carbon monoxide detectors is an excellent way to protect your family and pets from carbon monoxide poisoning. The detectors work much like a smoke alarm, beeping loudly to alert you when CO is detected, and one should be installed on each level of your home. In the state of Connecticut, it is required to install carbon monoxide detectors in new residential buildings and all schools. Having your heating systems and chimneys inspected and cleaned by a licensed technician every year can reduce the incidence of carbon monoxide in your home.

For more on carbon monoxide safety, please check out the following information:

With the winter season approaching, we can expect the potential for heavy snowfall, icy roads and severe cold temperatures. It is a good idea to start updating your emergency kits and preparing your home and vehicle before it is too late. If you have not made an emergency kit yet, the Red Cross has suggestions that could help you get started.

Prepare Your Home

Start preparing your home for winter weather and cold temperatures by insulating walls and attics, weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows. Be sure to have your chimney or other heating appliance serviced and clean before using them this season!

Prepare Your Vehicle

Driving during the winter months poses a great risk for accidents, injury or becoming stranded. There are several steps one should take to prepare any vehicle for driving in winter weather conditions. Check your windshield wipers, tires and vehicle fluid levels; try to keep your gas tank full at all times to keep fuel lines flowing freely. Also, it is a great idea to make a special winter kit for your vehicle in case you find yourself in an emergency situation. Your kit should include blankets, a shovel and a set of jumper cables along with other suggestions from FEMA.

Pets

Extreme cold temperatures can pose a substantial danger to household pets. Make sure to bring your pets indoors during the winter season to protect them from severe cold. If animals cannot come indoors, ensure that their access to food and water is not blocked by snow or ice. The Humane Society offers great information on pet safety during the winter months.

Snow Blowers & Generators

Snow blowers and generators are commonly used in the winter months. Both machines emit large amounts of carbon monoxide (CO), therefore it is important to start the machines in a well-ventilated area in order to prevent CO poisoning. For further information about the hazards of CO poisoning, see our November posting, or read the appropriate information from the links below.

Additional Information:

Events