State Health Department Urges New Yorkers to "Plan to Be Prepared" to Protect Themselves, Their Families

Readiness for Health Emergencies Stressed during National Preparedness Month

ALBANY, NY, September 1, 2005 - State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. today urged all New Yorkers to observe September as National Preparedness Month in New York State by taking simple steps to help protect themselves and their families in the event of a health emergency.

"As a physician, I know from personal experience that life-altering events can occur with breathtaking speed," Dr Novello said. "A medical emergency can happen without warning. Similarly, as a public health professional, I know that prevention and preparation are crucial to an effective response in any emergency. We are asking all New Yorkers to take the time to put together an emergency plan, so that they will be prepared for the unexpected."

Under Governor Pataki's leadership, the State Health Department has been working closely with local health departments, hospitals and health care practitioners to respond to all types of public health emergencies. The state's ongoing preparedness initiatives have further strengthened New York's capabilities for responding to a natural disaster, widespread disease outbreak or other major health emergency.

"While we all hope that nothing will ever go wrong, as is so clear in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we want people to take the initiative to be prepared for a health emergency," Dr. Novello said. "When disaster strikes, it's too late for advance planning. Take steps now to keep yourself and your loved ones safe."

Be Aware!

The State Health Department advises first talking with your family about why you need to prepare for disasters. Then, make a plan. The following suggestions can help:

  • Make sure everyone in your family knows where you keep your emergency supplies and your first aid kit.
  • Make sure you have a battery-operated radio or TV with extra batteries in case the power goes out. Know which station(s) can provide you with up-to-date local information.
  • Know important phone numbers and list them by each phone in your house.
  • Know the best escape route from each room in your home.
  • Know where family members will meet in case they can't get home. One location should be near your home; the other, outside the neighborhood.
  • Know your community's public alert system.
  • Know your child's school emergency plan.

And Prepare!

Create a family emergency preparedness plan, and practice it with your family. Have periodic rehearsals, including some with the lights out. In an emergency, the electricity may be off. You should also prepare a first aid kit and emergency supplies to meet your family's needs for three days. Have at least these emergency supplies on hand:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries;
  • Portable, battery-powered radio or television and extra batteries
  • Matches in a waterproof container;
  • Water for drinking and household use (at least one gallon per person per day for three days);
  • Ready-to-eat canned foods to last three days;
  • Manual can opener;
  • Peanut butter, crackers, granola bars and other high-energy foods;
  • Supply of prescription medication;
  • Disposable diapers, baby food, formula;
  • Supplies for seniors or family members with special needs;
  • Bleach (for disinfecting);
  • Plastic bags and ties (for sanitation);
  • Credit card and cash (in case ATMs are not working);
  • Personal identification;
  • An extra set of keys; and
  • Important documents, such as your insurance policies.

Arrange, ahead of time, for a friend or relative to serve as a point of contact in case your family members are separated in an emergency. Because it may still be possible to call long distance when local phone lines are down, you should select someone out-of-state to be your emergency contact. Plan, also, for what you will do with your pets if you have to leave your home. They won't be permitted in public emergency shelters.

These, and other helpful suggestions, are provided in a free State Health Department publication, Plan to be Prepared. More than 1.4 million copies of the booklet were distributed August 30 in newspapers throughout New York State. The publication was also distributed at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. Additional copies can be obtained from the Health Department's web site at:, or by writing to "Publications, NYS Department of Health, Box 2000, Albany New York 12220."

"As always, 'prevention is the best medicine' and an informed public will help us maintain our vigilance. In partnership with health and safety officials, and knowledgeable and concerned citizens, we will continue to work every single day to protect the public," Dr. Novello said.