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How to Prepare Yourself for Another Pandemic

by Kindra Liang
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For most of us, COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for how life gets turned upside down when a pandemic hits. After all, movies like Contagion and Outbreak have been our only reference up until now so it is no wonder people have reacted with panic, terror, and confusion.

The reality of a pandemic is somewhat different from the movies, but there are some general assumptions we can make based on COVID-19 on how to be prepared if a new coronavirus emerges. So what are some practical things you can do to make another pandemic more bearable?

Have an emergency plan

A pandemic can cause big disruptions to your daily routine but if you have an emergency plan you can adjust your lifestyle to roll with the punches. Here are some things to consider.

You may be asked to work from home for an extended period of time. How well are you set up to work remotely? If you or a family member becomes ill are you able to extend your sick leave? Learn about your employer’s emergency operations plan.

If you have children, they may be asked to stay home from school to reduce the spread of the disease. Read the emergency operations plan for your child’s school or childcare facility. Their school is likely to assign lessons, but this may not happen straight away, so you’ll want to have educational materials, such as books and videos, on hand. You can also research online activities and fun games to keep children engaged and busy.

Normal activities, such as catching public transport, going to church, to the gym, to a restaurant or meeting friends and even family may cease for weeks at a time. This can affect your mental health. If you don’t have technology in place already, get an app like Zoom for virtual socializing and onIine group activities to keep sane during a shelter-in-place order.

Stock up on food and household supplies

When a pandemic hits, there can be panic buying causing items like canned food, dry goods, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer to quickly run out. Interruptions to supermarket supply chains and online deliveries can also last for a number of weeks, so you may not be able to easily purchase supplies.

Be prepared for this by having a stock of essential supplies plus canned food, frozen meals, and dry goods that can support you and your family for at least two weeks.

This will ensure you can be comfortable staying home, especially if you, or someone in your family, does get sick and needs to remain in isolation. You don’t need to go crazy and spend hundreds of dollars but regularly adding a few extra cans and frozen foods to your weekly shopping list ahead of time is a smart idea.

Stock up your first aid kit

If there’s a vaccine publicly available and recommended by local health authorities, then don’t skip getting immunized. Even if you’re in a low risk group, there’s always a small chance you or a family member may get very sick. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t take risks with our health, especially with an unknown pathogen.

If there’s no vaccine, over-the-counter medication may be of some help to strengthen your immune system or lessen the severity and length of an illness once it starts. It pays to keep your medical kit stocked because everyone else will have the same idea.

In general, consider stocking up on over-the-counter medication like:

  • Pain relievers
  • Cough and cold medicine
  • Stomach medicine, including anti-diarrheal
  • Vitamins
  • Herbal remedies

Make sure you also have a good supply of band-aids, bandages, antiseptic wipes, and arnica to treat minor cuts, scrapes, bruises, and any accidents that happen while you’re social distancing at home.

Set up an emergency savings

During a pandemic your workplace may have to start making people redundant or you could be faced with a pay cut. Having emergency savings will give you huge peace of mind to know you can survive for a period of time without a regular income. As well as providing money to cover essential expenses, it can relieve stress so you don’t make bad budgeting decisions, like taking on extra credit card debt.

So if you don’t currently have emergency savings set up, start now – you’ll be glad you did. You want to aim for enough money to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses but even a couple of thousand dollars can be a big help.

Ideally you should set up a high-yield savings account so at least you’re making some interest while your emergency money is sitting there. An automatic payment to transfer savings each time you get paid will make it easier to get into the habit. The golden rule is to only use your savings for absolute emergencies, and keep the account topped up if you do dip into it.

Practice prevention now

Before COVID-19, you may have not bothered washing your hands after being in a public place. But everyday preventive actions like this can significantly reduce the risk of catching and spreading an infectious disease. So if you want to prepare for another pandemic, get into good hygiene habits now so they’re second nature.

The CDC recommends:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use at least a 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces and objects.
  • Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
  • Staying home when you are sick. Staying home for at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medicines.

Stay informed

Last but not least, when there’s a pandemic, suddenly everyone is a medical expert; it can be easy to believe everything you read online. Be skeptical of miracle cures or advice from celebrities until you’ve checked it via a reliable source like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), or your local health department.

It’s not fun having to think about preparing for another pandemic but the good news is, you probably already know most of these tips from COVID-19, so it might just be a matter of evaluating your emergency plan, tweaking your budgeting to restock food, or building up your emergency savings. The more you can do to get your household ready before a pandemic hits, the more likely your health and finances will come out of it intact.

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