News & Events

How to Prepare for a Pandemic: 100 Tips, Tools, and Resources

By Meredith Walker

A pandemic, or the spread of an infectious disease worldwide or over a large geographical area, can be frightening to anticipate. Not knowing where the disease will spread next or if you will be able to protect yourself may leave you feeling vulnerable. Whether you are a parent or medical professional, it is important to taken certain precautions. Especially in light of the recent developments of the swine flu that began in Mexico and has begun to spread around the world, find out how to protect yourself and your family for a pandemic with these tips, tools, and resources.

General Information and Preparedness

Learn the basics to ensure you are prepared in the event of a pandemic with these resources.

  1. Preparing For Pandemic Influenza — What You Can Do. This resource offers the basics on what communities, businesses, and individuals can do to prepare for a pandemic.
  2. Pandemic Influenza: What You Can Do to Be Ready. Learn what to expect and how you can protect yourself and your loved ones in case of a flu pandemic.
  3. Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response. Published by the World Health Organization, this handbook is put together by experts in the field and provides an in depth look at pandemic influenza along with recommendations for government, communities, and families.
  4. Pandemic Influenza Planning: A Guide for Individuals and Families. Learn the differences between seasonal flu and pandemic flu, learn how your life may be disrupted during a pandemic, learn what you can do to keep yourself healthy, and more in this guide.
  5. Swine influenza frequently asked questions. Another publication from the WHO, this one is briefer, but offers detailed information about swine flu, how to prevent it, and what to do if you think you have it.
  6. Pandemic Influenza: Behavioral Health Tips on How to Prepare. From basic tips to preparing for pandemic influenza to preparing yourself mentally to helping children cope, this guide offers many helpful suggestions to handle the stress of pandemic influenza.
  7. Flu Checklist. From the Red Cross, this guide helps you learn the difference between seasonal flu, epidemics, and pandemics, as well as know what to do if you get sick.
  8. Questions about Swine Flu. Learn how swine flu is transmitted and how to protect yourself from it by watching this video from the New York Times.
  9. How to Prepare for a Swine Flu Epidemic. This eHow article offers basic steps to help avoid exposure to swine flu.
  10. Swine Flu FAQ. From WebMD, this list of questions and answers addresses concerns such as how the virus is spread, how it’s treated, and how dangerous it is.
  11. Answers to Swine Flu Questions. CNN has compiled it’s own list of questions and answers, some overlap with WebMD and some are unique.
  12. Top 20 Ways to Prepare for a Pandemic. Published by British Columbia Ministry of Health Services, this list provides advice to help prepare yourself in case of a pandemic.

Preparing the Family

If you have the additional concerns of making sure your family is protected during a pandemic, then take a look at these resources to find out how to create family emergency plans, how to talk with children, and much more.

  1. Family Emergency Plan. This print-out provides a place for you to keep all of your family’s important information in one place in case of an emergency or disaster.
  2. You Can Ask. From Sesame Street, this guide helps parents understand the child’s perspective during a time of stress and also helps parents know how to talk with both preschool and school aged children about emergencies, disasters, and health stressors.
  3. Make a Plan. This page offers a few suggestions for family emergency preparedness as well as links to forms you can complete.
  4. Pandemic Flu…What to do, what to do!. This site for children offers an overview of what a pandemic is and how families can prepare for one.
  5. Preparing for Pandemic Flu: A Family Checklist Video. This Real Time video tells four things parents can do in case of a pandemic and defines different versions of pandemics.
  6. Talk it Out. With a focus on emergency planning in general, this site offers tips for children to prepare in case of any emergency.
  7. How to Swine Flu Proof You and Your Family. Emphasizing ways to prevent the spread of swine flu, this article offers some basics to protect your family.
  8. How to Avoid the Swine Flu in Your Family. This article stresses other options to keep your family safe such as limiting travel and avoiding petting zoos during the emergency.
  9. The swine flu: How to keep your family healthy. Looking at ways to boost overall health, this article provides sound advice for keeping your family healthy in order to fend off any illness that may come your way.
  10. Talking with Children about a Flu Pandemic. This guide offers practical tips on what you can say to your children to prepare them in case of a flu pandemic.
  11. Pandemic Flu Preparation: Hold Family Meetings. Learn how and why you should hold family meetings to prepare your family for pandemic flu.


Follow these tips to help prepare and deal with any situation that may arise during a pandemic.

  1. Don’t panic. Overreacting can be as dangerous as underreacting to a potential situation. Stay on top of what is happening and follow the advice of experts to ensure the safety of yourself and your loved ones.
  2. Watch local broadcast stations. Watching local stations will ensure not only that you are staying up to date on the latest information, but that you know exactly how the pandemic is impacting your region.
  3. Wash hands. Wash hands frequently and properly using warm water and soap to help prevent the spread of germs from others to yourself. Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer for those times you will not have access to soap and water.
  4. Avoid contact with sick people. Stay away from those you know are sick or who have recently been sick.
  5. Understand the incubation period of illness. Be aware that often the flu can be spread prior to the onset of symptoms and up to 10 days after someone has become ill.
  6. Ask about telecommuting. Many employers already allow telecommuting for their employees, but in the face of a pandemic, it may become even easier for you to work from home to ensure your health as well as help keep the workplace running smoothly.
  7. Wear a medical facemask. If there are confirmed cases in your geographic region, wearing a protective facemask approved by the FDA can help keep germs from entering through your nose or mouth.
  8. Create an emergency stockpile. Make sure you have extra food, water, and anything else you may need if you must stay at home for any length of time.
  9. Get to know your neighbors. Coming together as a community means you can look out for each other and pool your resources in case of a health emergency.
  10. Create an emergency plan. Compile family member contact information, plan for a meet-up spot in case your immediate family becomes separated, and gather emergency numbers you may need.
  11. Put together a first-aid kit. Think about over-the-counter and prescription medications you may need in the event of illness as well as materials for injury. If medical communities are busy with a pandemic flu, they may not have the resources available for typical care.
  12. Have a way to stay connected. In case of an emergency, you will need to have access to news and updates. Have a plan in case your usual sources are unavailable or in case communication systems go down temporarily.

Pandemic Tools

From maps to keeping important emergency information to computer widgets, these tools will help you prepare and monitor a pandemic.

  1. QuickShare My Emergency Information. Create email text with basic emergency information you can share with friends and family using this simple tool.
  2. Flu Trends. This tool is based on Google search trends, and in the past this tool has shown to predict flu outbreaks in specific geographic areas faster than traditional methods.
  3. HHS Widgets. Find widgets here to post on your website or blog that will help readers know where they can go for important health emergency information.
  4. Where You Live. Select your state from this map to learn how your state has planned for a pandemic, important contact information, and more.
  5. H1N1 Swine Flu – Google Maps. This map marks suspected and confirmed cases of Swine Flu, as well as deaths.
  6. Global Map of Pandemic Risk. These four maps show risk of emergence, spread, and capacity to contain a pandemic.
  7. Twitter. Do a search using keywords such as "#swineflu" to find out what people are Tweeting about the situation.
  8. CDC Emergency on Twitter. Follow the CDC Tweets that update with information as a pandemic unfolds.
  9. 2009 swine flu outbreak. This Wikipedia page is updated frequently and may serve as an important news source. Be aware that due to the nature of Wikipedia, some information may not be accurate and may later be changed.
  10. HealthMap Global Disease Alert Map. This world map not only tracks global diseases, but also includes updated news links for each location.
  11. Google Alerts. Set up Google Alerts with whatever key words you want to include (i.e.: "swine flu") to get breaking news sent directly to your email or RSS reader.

Public Health and Government Resources

Considered some of the main sources for vital information during a public health emergency, these resources provide the latest word during a pandemic.

  1. Get updated information on a pandemic as it unfolds, including tips to protect yourself, press releases, and breaking news.
  2. CDC – Swine Influenza (Flu). From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this page provides updated counts of confirmed swine flu cases in the US as well as general information, suggestions for staying healthy, and other resources.
  3. US Department of Health and Human Services. In case of any public health emergencies, the HHS website will have news and updates posted here.
  4. World Health Organization – Swine influenza. WHO coordinates a global response to pandemics and provides news and information from around the world.
  5. Ready America. This site offers tools, resources, and information on preparedness in case of any major emergency.
  6. American Red Cross. Get preparedness information, tips on dealing with any health emergency currently occurring, and find local chapters that can help you with issues pertaining specifically to your geographic location.
  7. The White House. Look for updates or do a search by keyword to find press releases and any other breaking information out of the White House concerning public health emergencies.
  8. Office of Medical Services Pandemic Influenza Plan. Learn what the Department of State’s plan is for dealing with pandemic influenza here.
  9. United Nations Pandemic Influenza Contingency (PIC) Guidance and Resources. Get news and resources from this branch of the UN–updated frequently in times of pandemic emergency.
  10. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. This agency is similar to the CDC in America, and you can find updates specific to Europe on this site during a pandemic.
  11. Public Health Agency of Canada. Canada’s organization to protect public health offers updates on emergencies, travel statements, and more.

Resources for Educators

Because schools are often considered one of the biggest sources of disease sharing, it is especially important for educators and school nurses to be prepared for all aspects of a pandemic, from school closing to communicating information effectively to parents.

  1. Pan Flu Guidance. This guide is intended to supply information to educators at the elementary and secondary levels who may have to deal with prolonged school closures during a pandemic.
  2. Emergency Planning. This list from the Department of Education provides several links to emergency preparedness and planning resources that can help schools facing any emergency–including a pandemic.
  3. Pandemic Flu: A Planning Guide for Educators. The three documents here will help educators prepare for anything from season flu outbreaks to more severe pandemic outbreaks.
  4. Pandemic Planning: Examples of State and Local Plans and Planning Efforts. The examples here are taken from real school districts and include such information as planning frameworks and communications to parents and families.
  5. Seasonal Flu Information for Schools & Childcare Providers. While the focus of this page is specifically seasonal flu, there are some posters and materials that are handy for any school wanting to head off potential problems, no matter the severity of the outbreak.
  6. Pandemic Flu: A Planning Guide for Educators. This guide is easy to read and understand and offers a breakdown of what to do in each of three levels of pandemic severity.
  7. School Planning. This resource gives educators several links to help reduce the spread of a pandemic. Be sure to sign up for the email notification when the page is updated.
  8. West Virginia Pandemic Influenza Tool Kit. Find letters, documents, parent communications, resources, and more to help your school (whether in West Virginia or not) respond quickly and effectively during a pandemic.
  9. Child Care and Preschool Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist. This checklist will help early childhood providers prepare their staff and the children for a pandemic and also includes important links for more information.
  10. School Guidance During an Influenza Pandemic. From the Illinois Department of Public Health, this site has plenty of resources ranging from school action steps to what parents should have on hand during an extended stay at home.
  11. School Crisis Guide. This guide offers preparation in anticipation of a crisis, hour-by-hour directives during a crisis, and help for dealing with the aftermath of a crisis.

Community Resources

From physicians to non-medical public health officials to community leaders, these resources will help those in the community understand how to prepare and how to proceed during a pandemic.

  1. It’s Not Flu as Usual: What Businesses Need to Know about Pandemic Flu Planning. This guide provides information on what a pandemic can mean for business, how to handle an outbreak, steps your business can take, and ways to protect employees.
  2. Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation. This publication offers non-pharmaceutical approaches to lessen the impact of a pandemic influenza prior to the development of effective vaccinations.
  3. Preparing for the Next Pandemic. From the New England Journal of Medicine, this article focuses on what public health can do to lessen the impact of the next pandemic.
  4. Preparing for a Pandemic Influenza: A Primer for Governors and Senior State Officials. This brochure is full of information about pandemic influenza and also offers suggestions on how government officials can work most efficiently and in the best interest of the people in the face of a pandemic.
  5. Global Surveillance during an Influenza Pandemic. This publication from WHO give specific details and suggestions for a community approach to monitoring and reacting to a pandemic.
  6. Mental Health and Behavioral Guidelines for Response to a Pandemic Flu Outbreak. Community leaders can study this guide to help prepare for the mental stress of a pandemic.
  7. Pandemic Planning: Tools. From the Canadian government, this set of guides helps business owners plan for and understand what to expect during a health emergency, offers tips to help employees, and information employees should know.
  8. Instructions to Estimate the Potential Impact of the Next Influenza Pandemic Upon Locale Y. This resource gives instructions and links for using FluAid 2.0 and FluSerge 2.0, two software programs communities can use to calculate the impact of a pandemic on any given location.
  9. Tabletop Exercises for Pandemic Influenza Preparedness in Local Public Health Agencies. State and local health agencies can use this publication, which is customizable, to help prepare for pandemic influenza.
  10. Community-Based Mass Prophylaxis: A Planning Guide for Public Health Preparedness. Officials at any level can download this guide to help communities meet federal guidelines in case of a public health emergency.
  11. Mass Medical Care with Scarce Resources: A Community Planning Guide. Download this guide, which includes a pandemic flu case study, to prepare your community for ways to deal with a mass casualty event.

Travel Resources and Tips

Travel is frequently disrupted and discouraged during a pandemic. Check with these resources to learn what you need to know about travel during a pandemic and follow the tips if you do travel.

  1. CDC – Travelers’ Health. The CDC keeps current information for travelers at this site including health risks by geographic location, news and announcements, and resources for special populations.
  2. U.S. Department of State International Travel. If you plan to travel outside the US, check with this website to learn all you need to know about traveling to your destination safely.
  3. U.S. Department of State Current Travel Warnings. Cut to the chase and find out anyplace not recommended for travel by US citizens with this listing.
  4. World Health Organization: International travel and health. Find interactive maps, search by specific disease, and get updates for travelers here.
  5. Bird and Pandemic Flu Information from Other Nations and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs). Find out what these countries have planned in case of a pandemic to understand how safe you may be during travel there.
  6. Monitor CDC and WHO websites. If you are traveling abroad, stay updated with these websites to learn developments of any health issues which may affect your travels or return home.
  7. Understand that borders may close. If you choose to travel during an outbreak, you may not be able to return home if the country you are visiting or your home country closes its borders. Have enough supplies to stay longer than you may anticipate.
  8. Recognize the symptoms. If a pandemic is underway, recognize the symptoms you may develop and do not hesitate to report them to officials while traveling. Refusing to do so only helps spread the disease.
  9. Monitor your health. Even after returning from an area where there was potential for a pandemic, monitor your health for ten days to insure you are not sick.

History of Past Pandemics

Understand what you may be able to expect and how to avoid mistakes from the past by learning about the history of past pandemics from these resources.

  1. Assessing the Danger of New Flu. While this article does focus on the emergence of the latest swine flu pandemic, it also shows the amazing response Hong Kong has to the pandemic as a result of their experience with SARS in 2003.
  2. 1918 Influenza: the Mother of All Pandemics. This article offers an in depth look at the 1918 pandemic, including how it started, the three waves of it, why it was so dangerous, and more.
  3. 1918 flu pandemic. Wikipedia offers an easy-to-understand article outlining the 1918 pandemic and plenty of links to learn more.
  4. 1976: Fear of a great plague. Read how a pandemic was closely avoided in 1976 and some of the turmoil surrounding it.
  5. Pandemics and Pandemic Threats Since 1900. Learn about the actual and threatened pandemics up to the avian flu threat in 1997.
  6. 5 Deadliest Pandemics in History. From the Peloponnesian War Pestilence to the Spanish Flu in 1918, find out why these were so deadly.
  7. The Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Stanford presents this article about the history of the pandemic as well as links to letters, memoirs, and more from that time.
  8. The History of Pandemics. Find out about four historical pandemics, then click on the other links to discover more about the nature of pandemics.
  9. Pandemics: The history of influenza pandemics in the last century and lessons we can learn from them. (Part 1). Learn about four 20th century pandemics, find out why there is concern over pandemics, and find links to articles and videos to help you learn more.
  10. History’s lesson: Prepare now for pandemic. Get a glimpse into why being prepared is important, based on a story from the 1918 pandemic.
  11. Pandemic history offers lessons. Learn how the past lessons have helped prepare society for a likely better outcome in the event of a pandemic.
  12. Pandemic influenza: Studying the lessons of history. Learn why society is better off today than in 1918 and how better prepared the community is for dealing with a pandemic.