Early on in the 20th century, the world saw the Spanish influenza pandemic. In the early 21st century we had the coronavirus pandemic. One of the ways that a pandemic becomes a pandemic is through global travel. As we've progressed in life, so has the risk of spreading disease. Given how connected the world is at this time, another pandemic is not just a faraway event that “may” happen; it's an inevitability. Knowing how to prepare for a pandemic can help ease fear and improve your safety.
Much of what happened in the last year can guide you to what you may need to do if another pandemic occurs. To keep it simple and easy to remember, below is a list of things to consider.
A Bit on How Disease May Spread
The origins of Covid are mired in controversy. We may never find out the whole truth about where it came from and how it initially started to spread. However, one thing is certain; with gentrification and the expansion of cities into the new wilderness, animals become displaced or come into contact with humans in a way they never have before. Exposure equals risk.
Someone getting bitten or getting exposed to animal body fluids stands the chance of getting sick from a new virus or disease. Remember, many diseases that animals carry don't affect them. So these creatures will look normal and healthy. If you get sick from them though, you may not have the same fate. Most of us aren't in these situations directly. Instead, we come into contact with people who have been.
You could run into them on an airplane, restaurant, or at a party. Now, this doesn't mean we have to run and hide and isolate ourselves. It does mean that we need to be aware and be prepared for the potential of a new virus.
How To Prepare for a Pandemic
1 – Supplies
Masks (regular ones and N-95's), sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizing gel, cleaning supplies, and soap should be at the top of your list of how to prepare for a pandemic.
You don't need to go crazy and fill your basements or garage. Just be sure you maintain a few weeks' of supplies of each. This way, if something does happen, you're good to go and don't need to worry about potential shortages.
In addition, be sure you have the following:
- A working thermometer
- A pulse oximeter (measures your oxygen levels, can be found on Amazon)
- A first aid kit with up to date medications, including anti-inflammatory medicines & antibiotics
2 – Working From Home
While many employers are transitioning to a hybrid model of work (part work from home, part office time), many are requiring that employees come back full time. Understand that in another pandemic situation work from home will likely be back. If you plan on being at your job in the long term, then look into the equipment you need to make work from home successful. If you already invested in the equipment you need, then hang on to it.
Find ways to keep using it to work from home, or convert that new home office into a permanent fixture that can be used by the whole family. If you plan to leave your job for another, then be sure to ask the new company/employer what they have planned if another pandemic or lockdown situation occurs. Entering a new job that has contingencies will help set you up for success in the future.
3 – Beef up Your Emergency Fund
This past year there were layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts that people suffered. Having a financial cushion worth up to 6 months of expenses (or more) can go a long way towards easing your stress should you find yourself in this kind of situation. So, if you don't already have one, take a look at your expenses and your spending habits and find a way to get that emergency fund off the ground. You won't regret it.
4 – Take Care of Your Health
People with chronic medical problems were hit the hardest during the pandemic. Being obese, having diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, or underlying lung problems increased the severity of symptoms and made the coronavirus all the more dangerous and deadly. One of the best ways to protect yourself during a pandemic (or before it) is to maintain your health. Get your doctor's checkups, pay attention to your diet, get moving and exercise as much as you can and cut back on those bad habits that hurt you.
You don't need to become a triathlete; but making your health a priority and optimizing it, even it a little bit, can make a huge difference in your risk, boost your immune system and improve the survivability of another unpredictable disease.
5 – Improve Your Hygiene
How many times a day did you wash your hands before the pandemic? I'm sure that changed drastically once Covid took over. Whatever hygienic habits you've developed in the last year, keep them. To name some:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or touching your face
- Wipe down phones regularly with sanitizing wipes
- Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you and use it often
- Shower daily
- Reduce sharing of food utensils and beverages (especially from people who don't know or have just met)
6 – Develop Your Hobbies & Interests
A pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown that comes with it, can be very isolating. Knowing how to keep yourself busy at home can go a long way towards keeping up your mental health.
7 – Be Sure You Are Protected
Disability insurance? Health insurance? Life insurance? Get them all. Being prepared for any possibility makes it easier to deal with the unknown and the unpredictable. Yes, it's an upfront cost, but it can go a long way towards keeping you safe, healthy and your family protected.
8 – Optimize Your Living Situation
Does your home need repairs? Do you need to upgrade old appliances that aren't working satisfactorily? Get it done sooner rather than later. During a pandemic, you will be confined to your homes. The last thing you want is to be dealing with broken appliances or a leaky roof. Try to optimize your living situation as much as you can. If not repairs, can you move? If you're renting and hate it, can you change buildings or location?
If you have children and your jobs allow you to work from home, consider moving closer to family. I know plenty of people who lost their childcare options when Covid hit. Family is an excellent cushion of help to have should the need arise again.
9 – Educate and Discuss
The more you know, the better prepared you can be. Just like fire drills and earthquake drills, pandemic preparedness should be a topic that you discuss with your families and kids. Chat with each other about what a global pandemic means, how you would make adjustments should it happen again, and what you would do if you came into contact with someone who was sick.
While every infectious disease will not necessarily require the same precautions, having a plan of action can make it easier. Some specifics you can discuss with your family, include:
- Travel restrictions – be prepared to cancel plans and/or consult with your family before going on a trip if another pandemic starts brewing
- A plan to self-isolate – how would you and your family implement isolation and distancing measures to keep each other safe?
- During another quarantine how will you take care of your mental health? Discuss a plan for mental health check-ins with family and friends, and consider a plan for setting aside time each day to take care of yourselves.
Another discussion to consider is one with your physician. Talk to him/her about the pandemic, about what to do in the future, and trust their expertise. The biggest problem with pandemics, especially nowadays, is that new pathogens are unpredictable and we have very little information about them.
Only as they learn more can they then teach you. So, check-in often and understand that you won't get all of the information at once; rather, it's an evolving process, and they can provide the best context for the information for you and your family.
There are a lot of life lessons to be learned from this past pandemic. Our priorities have shifted and we have changed the way we work and live in many ways. While things are looking up and we are moving towards a new normal, we must be prepared for it to happen again. Knowing how to prepare for a pandemic, and taking some of the steps described above, can go a long way towards providing you with the stability and peace of mind to be ok.
Sanjana is a physician anesthesiologist, avid traveler, and entrepreneur. She founded The Female Professional in order to give women a voice, a community, and provide resources to help them overcome hurdles and achieve success.
With her experiences as a physician, as a CEO of a startup, and as a writer, she understands the struggles and frustrations that women face. She also understands what it takes to move past those things and come out on top.
Through this platform, Sanjana aims to empower women to be their best, authentic, selves, achieve work/life balance, and live life to the fullest.