Build Malibu Better: The Intersection of Emergency Prepredness and Covid-19

Like most of you, I have recently become fascinated with the battle against the spread of the “Novel Corona Virus” that medical professionals are now referring to as Covid-19. Every day, we learn of new infections in various parts of the world and new strategies deployed in the attempt to contain it. 

On Sunday night, I was able to attend a presentation by Dr. Daniel Levi, a pediatric cardiac surgeon at UCLA. During Dr. Levi’s educational journey, he was involved in virology research at UCSF during the peak of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Dr. Levi’s presentation was also attended by several medical professionals whose comments and questions enhanced the presentation.

He began the presentation by contrasting the annual toll from the flu and urging everyone to get a flu shot.

As we listened, I was struck by the similarity of the precautions advised to those advocated for fire and earthquake preparedness. Persons who have survived the Wuhan quarantine have said they wished they had more drinking water, food and prescription medicines. These are the same items those of us who stayed behind during the Woolsey Fire needed. Since Woolsey, my wife Sara and I have participated in many CERT (Community Emergency Resource Team) classes and exercises and there is a new series starting Saturday, May 25.

Water. Budget a gallon a day per person for three weeks for drinking, toothbrushing and cooking. Any water used for bathing should be saved and reused for toilet flushing if the water supply is interrupted. Use a Sharpie to date the water containers and rotate them every three to six months or so. Store them in a cool, dark place to lessen the chance of algae growth. If you buy them over a two-month period, a couple would only need to buy two of the 2.5-gallon jugs per week, which will also give you staggered expiration dates.

Food. Avoid the pricey 25-year emergency rations sold in the disaster prep websites. Buy dry ingredients like beans and rice at the market and store them in sealed, five-gallon buckets available at hardware stores. You can store them in your attic or garage if there’s no room inside the house. Canned goods including vegetables and fruit are also useful to build off the dry basics. A propane BBQ and a couple extra cylinders will come in handy if the gas or power supply is interrupted. We are not trying to survive for a year without leaving the house, but three or four weeks is a prudent amount.


Masks. Woolsey taught us that N95-rated masks are very helpful in an emergency to deal with fine dust particles. These masks should also be worn by those who are coughing to lessen the spread of the airborne droplets believed to be the primary method of Covid-19 transmission. Persons providing care to ill persons should also wear the masks. Any facial hair that prevents the mask making a good seal should be removed. Wearing a mask in public identifies you as a possible carrier of infection and should be avoided if you are healthy. Masks are in short supply and should be prioritized for use by the ill and those treating them.

Medications. Those of us of a certain age accumulate prescriptions and supplements that are taken daily. It is prudent to accumulate a three- or four-week supply to ensure that you don’t run out during an emergency when the pharmacies are closed or too full of the ill. We have accumulated three seven-day pill sorting containers that we rotate giving us three weeks’ notice of time to refill prescriptions.

Hygiene: During flu season, frequent, proper hand washing and refraining from touching your mouth, eyes and nose will assist in preventing transmission. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are an acceptable alternative and will come in handy if the water supply is interrupted.

Doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies throughout the world are developing plans and protocols to handle a pandemic. All existing medications used for treating viruses are being tested in the hopes they will prove helpful. New medications have been designed and the first ones have just started undergoing testing. The new medications are not anticipated to be available for about a year. Everyone involved is hopeful that spring will result in a slower spread of the virus, as we experienced with the flu.

We have been fortunate that this disease, which only surfaced a little more than two months ago, started on another continent and that attempts to quarantine the USA have slowed its advance in this era of air travel. I’m confident the time is being used well.

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