Influenza Pandemic Preparation and Response: A Citizen's Guide
q Be prepared to recognize and treat symptoms of the flu. q Understand the importance of hydration.
Recognize symptoms of dehydration and treat it immediately. q Know when to seek medical care for adults and children.
Communication and Volunteering
A Flu Pandemic would overwhelm the current system and our existing health care resources either we develop resilient communities or tens of thousands will die who might be saved.
— Dr Peter Landsman and Dr Jody Lanard
In this chapter you will learn
- Infrastructure problems during a pandemic
- Alternative methods of communication
- Volunteering during a pandemic
After reading this chapter, you will be able to
- Prepare for the collapse of traditional communication methods
- Understand the critical importance of trained volunteers
When outbreaks first occur, local infrastructure will likely be in working order.
Take advantage of this luxury to stay updated on current news and public warnings set out by local and national authorities.
During a pandemic there will likely be significant disruption of public and privately owned critical infrastructure including transportation, commerce, utilities, public safety, and communications.
This disruption will be partly caused by mass absenteeism, illness, and death of the people in charge of maintaining these areas. For example, in Georgia, estimated deaths are 57,000 and an additional 2,688,000 are expected to fall ill.
In California, the estimate is 235,000 deaths and 10,713,000 sick. 12
While communications are still in working order, frequently check for updates on these websites.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov
- Website about pandemic influenza managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: www.pandemicflu.gov
- World Health Organization: www.who.int
- Your state or county's department of public health website
- For general information about influenza: see www.fluwikie.com
The Internet will be a main source of information during an emergency.
The CDC estimated that 97% of all internet users and 64% of all non-users expect to be able to find important information online. After September 11th, using the Internet as a main news source grew 8%. The 2001 anthrax attacks also demonstrated this, and additionally led to the prevalence of false information and "panic-baiting."
Blogs are another growing source of information that often fill in what is missing in news reports. These may appeal to individuals and communities coping with the effects of a pandemic.
All the free information on the Internet comes with it the need for monitoring that information for accuracy and truth. Technorati (http://technorati.com) tracks and monitors ~50 million blogs.
But during a pandemic, this information will be harder to monitor so find a news source that you trust and stick with it.
Owing to the fast spread of information, world media outlets such as radio, newspapers, T.V., and the Internet will be rapidly dispersing information as soon as evidence of a regional outbreak of influenza is detected.
However, as the pandemic grows, local communications infrastructure, such as power and telephone lines may be compromised significantly thus limiting information dissemination.
- If there is a power failure in your area, this incoming information will be harder to receive.
- Local power failures will lead to loss of T.V., cell phone chargers, and anything else in your home that requires a power source.
- Landlines can sometimes operate during a blackout, but are unlikely to function reliably.
- Cell phone towers have back-up capability but it is not a large source and they, too, may soon become inoperable.
- Add a battery operated or hand-crank radio to your emergency kit. (be sure to stock batteries and to replace them every 6 months!) Make sure the radio picks up AM, FM, and short wave stations.
- Obtain your Ham radio license and see if anyone in your neighborhood owns a Ham radio. Ham Radio is part of the Amateur Radio Service Check it out at www.arrl.org.
* Create a network of neighbors, family, co-workers, and friends to stay in contact with throughout the duration of a pandemic.
Alternative Methods of Communication
Communication skills during stressful times
Most experts predict that the vast majority of people will act rationally in the case of a pandemic.
Creative coping will be the norm. Panic will be the exception.
Fear can be mediated by information, which highlights the crucial role of effective communication.
In a serious crisis, it's important to remember that people take in, process, and react to information differently.
Since information is bound to change often, people will have emotions ranging from fear to disbelief and even panic. Communicating about scary risks and disasters that do not have an immediate, visible threat (such as pandemic influenza) is oftentimes challenging.
These are some simple but important techniques that you can use to more effectively communicate your message through all pandemic phases.
- Be honest.
Speak the truth don't manage the message. Educate people on how to best prepare, stockpile, recognize, and treat influenza, and where to go for information.
- Be clear and concise when communicating information. Avoid using jargon and short hand when talking to people who know little about influenza.
Overwhelming people from the start may lower the impact of your message.
- Don't make promises that can't be kept.
It's best not to tell people everything will be all right, because, sadly, everything won't be all right. If you're caring for someone, let them know you're doing everything you can for them.
Behaviors will impact infection rates13. Denial, high-risk behavior such as coughing without covering or not washing your hands, believing "someone else" will take care of "it", or just ignoring the problem will all lead to higher infection rates and more rapid transmission of the illness.
The fact is that no one is immune, and we all need to take responsibility for our actions.
Mental toughness is more important than physical toughness13.
Self-sufficiency, a desire to survive, and good coping strategies are powerful tools you can use.
Your own health must come before tending to the needs of others.
If you don't take care of your own health, you will be of little use to those that need you. You may experience, see, and hear particularly challenging, difficult, and unpleasant things.
Vicarious trauma, that is, experiencing the trauma of others as your own because of your close proximity and contact with it, is an occupational hazard for people living through a pandemic or any other disaster.