Plans are needed in many areas of our lives – why not pandemics?

Seasonal influenza attacks us every year. Do we need a plan? Probably not! What about the next pandemic, or COVID-19 Part 2? If you had a personal or family plan in January of this year, would you have been ahead of the hoarders in stocking up on toilet paper? Plans save us time to respond properly to the forthcoming panic.

This COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lesson. People panic. It is expected from the news coverage provided 24/7. Doom, gloom, fear, and panic will make people do things they would not normally do.

We have been quarantined compliments to our local, state, and federal governments to arrest the deluge of incoming patients that overwhelmed our hospitals. I believe they are better prepared for the next round. But, what about us? Are we going to be better prepared? Did we learn any personal lessons this time?

After thirty-plus years in the military and countless exercises preparing for various contingencies around the world, I have read volumes of Lessons Learned in preparation for the next exercise. It is interesting how many times we must learn the same lessons over again.

I bet that if the next pandemic occurs in ten years that most of us will have forgotten the first-hand lessons we have learned this time. It is human nature. We tend to remember the good and phase out the bad memories.

What would I have on my Personal Pandemic Preparation Plan? The keyword is Plan. I need something in writing that can be reviewed, updated, and followed when needed.

The second keyword is Preparation. This implies that we have time to take immediate action. Tropical depressions can turn into tropical storms that can turn into hurricanes. We get advance warnings and have time to shelter in place or move to higher ground.

Why not have a similar plan for the next pandemic? I do not need six months of food, water, medical supplies, etc. I should have two weeks’ worth of critical items though.

What did everyone buy after the first two weeks? Toilet paper and hand sanitizer! How much toilet paper is needed for two weeks in your household? How long does a bottle of hand sanitizer last when you use it five or more times daily?

What do you need on Day 1 of the next pandemic? There will probably not be any future announcement that the next pandemic will arrive on Tuesday and you have 48 hours to start buying what you need. You should probably have most of what you need already in your home.

Those items could include non-prescription medicines, cough medicines, flu medicines, pain relievers, stomach medicines, anti-diarrheal, electrolytes, vitamins, and other health supplies that your family uses. You should have a thermometer, soap, hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, portable radio, batteries, charger, garbage bags, toilet paper (and other paper products), and more.

If you have an outdoor grill, you might consider having an extra propane tank. Food varies, but it should be non-perishable – canned, bottled, dried, etc. Ensure you have a manual can opener! Water purification is probably not a critical item, but it does not hurt to know how to do it at home. (Google it!)

If you are on prescription medicines, when warned about a pending epidemic or pandemic, contact your physicians to see if you can get extra months of prescriptions filled.

Do you have a plan for parent care, childcare, or pet care? It is something you must think out in advance. If you were not able to see your parents for an extended period, what do you need to do first? Pet food is as critical as human food when looking at an extended shelter in place directive.

Do you have an accurate family history for each member of your family? Do you know what drugs (prescription and non-prescription) everyone is taking? Do you have all doctors’ contact information?

Zoom is the current rage for meetings. I do not know what video-conferencing software/applications we will be using in the future. However, it is the current wave and will be for a long time. If you are not familiar, get familiar! Practice with family members who live far away.

We know that we will be social distancing again in the future – no doubt! We know that we will need face masks. Maybe it is time to order an upgrade to what you have now so that it can be placed in your emergency kit for the next time face masks are required. A loose mask is almost no mask. Make sure everyone knows how to fit and wear a mask properly.

Gloves are sometimes mandated. They are cheap to buy when there is no demand. And they are also available. Make sure you have the right sizes for your family. Coughing is common with many upper respiratory illnesses. Most of us do not know how to cough to minimize contamination for ourselves and others.

We tend to cough into our hands. That is not acceptable if you want to prevent others from getting your disease. Cough into the crease of your elbow. Coughing into your hand implants virus and bacteria for spreading to other surfaces. I have a tendency if wearing the right kind of shirt to reach down and bring my shirt up over my nose and cough into my chest keeping the shirt tightly across my face.

Washing hands is probably the best option you have next to a face mask. Twenty seconds is recommended by many authorities. When was the last time you timed the washing of your hands? Probably never! Say the alphabet three times in a normal voice while washing your hands – that is close to the twenty-second mark for most of us.

Every household is different. What you need today is not what you might need in three, five, or eight years from now. A written checklist can be reviewed every year on the first day of the New Year. If things have changed, edit your list. Get the family involved. They have a stake is their safety also.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –


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