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If you’re worried about the Wuhan outbreak or feel unprepared, this guide is for you.

NOTE: Experts explain what you should do to get ready, how to protect yourself, what researchers believe are the likely scenarios going forward, and the latest fact-checked news..

Always be use caution with what you read online— particularly in situations like this. You can trust this page because it’s built by actual emergency experts with decades of experience, including researchers in relevant fields, and we’re working with primary sources within China and at orgs like the WHO.

Your most important goals:

  • Be able to shelter in your home for at least two weeks — 90 days is even better — without leaving for supplies or outside help. If we have a significant amount of transmission here in the US, you’ll want the option of avoiding other people and public places. Or, if things get really dire, it may be recommended or required that you stay in your home for a period of time.
  • Be able to protect yourself against picking up the virus. There are steps you can take now, and more serious steps you may want to have ready in case things get much worse.
  • Listen to legitimate sources so you can make decisions based on accurate, rational news. This epidemic already has enough actual cause for concern —- there’s no need to make things worse with fake news!

What to buy to protect yourself against the coronavirus

When it comes to stocking up on protective gear and medical products, the idea is not to recreate a full-blown emergency room or ICU. Rather, you want to have enough of an ability to take care of minor medical situations at home that you don’t have to run out to a doctor’s office or pharmacy unless it’s a serious medical emergency.

You should also prepare for medicine shortages, because not only will supply chains and factories be disrupted, but the demand for medications from the overloaded healthcare system will be so high that you may have a hard time getting many common over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs.

The complete list:

For the specific purpose of pandemic preparedness and sheltering in place, we have provided our home medical supplies lists, more specialized kit. This kit also contains hygiene products for cleaning, sanitation, and sealing off an area of a home for quarantine purposes.

Respirators are tricky, and there’s a lot of bad info out there. The most important bits:

  • You want a respirator rated N95 or above (eg. P100).
  • Surgical masks — the common types found at corner stores that are more commonly worn in Asia — are not proper respirators. They are mostly designed to protect other people from you, not the other way around.
  • Respirator filters/cartridges don’t last as long as most people think, so buy as many as you reasonably can.
  • A full-face respirator (ie. a gas mask) protects your eyes, nose, and mouth at the same time. If you buy disposable or half-face respirators, you’ll also want separate eye protection.
  • Fit is important — respirators need a tight seal around your face in order to stop bad particles from getting inside.
  • Which means those with facial hair or children with small faces need to be extra careful, since there isn’t a proper seal around the face.

What to buy for the other challenges of an outbreak

Note that under even the most severe scenarios experts currently envision within the US, utilities and local services/governments will still function. So for now, what you’re mostly focused on is being able to comfortably survive locked in your house for a few weeks. This means you’ll need water, food, and things to keep you occupied during a lockdown.

You also might not have much warning before the moment comes that you need to stay in your home for days or weeks — don’t assume you’ll have time to run to the store or that the supplies you want will still be on the shelves.

Food and water

Your goals:

  • Have ready access to enough potable water for at least 72 hours (i.e. three gallons, at one gallon per person per day). It’s very unlikely the tap would run dry, but water is so critical that you never want to risk being without it. Ideally you’d like 15 gallons per person, so enough for five days.
  • Cover the nutritional basics (carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals)
  • Stock up slowly by grabbing extra every time you go out.
  • Prefer foods you already eat, so as to avoid the gastrointestinal problems that come with disruption to your diet
  • Prefer shelf-stable foods that don’t require refrigeration
  • Get some comfort foods — candy, desserts, snacks, baked goods — to help with the stress of a crisis and a change in routine
  • Mix staples that require stovetop preparation (e.g. rice, pasta, beans) with ready-to-eat meals (e.g. canned goods, MREs), because you may not always be in a position to prepare food due to illness or lack of time.

When most people think of shelf-stable emergency food, they think of canned goods, military-style MREs, or specialized emergency food. All of these things are fantastic, especially if you’re preparing for a long-term grid-down event, but if you’re just preparing for a multi-week shelter-in-place scenario then you don’t need food with a 30-year shelf-life.

The bulk of your shelf-stable food preps will be bags of beans and legumes, rice, flour, pasta, and other staples you can buy in bulk and prepare easily. As you select these bulk staples, look for a mix of carbs (e.g. rice, flour), protein (e.g. beans, lentils), and fiber (e.g. oats).

You’ll need oils and animal fats, both for preparing the staples and because fat is an essential macronutrient. So stock up on cooking oil — the experts we’ve talked to love coconut oil, avocado oil, Smart Balance, almond oil, and olive oil. These different oils have different heat tolerances, shelf lives, and fat profiles, so think through your needs and diet before heading to the store.

Protein is key, so if you have a freezer then now’s a good time to stock up on meats of different kinds. And if you don’t have a freezer, you can get a good-sized chest freezer at most hardware stores for well under $200. So if you have the space and can spend the money, a cheap freezer can be an amazing prep.

You should also consider adding meal replacement mixes and protein powders, because these products last for months in a pantry and can add enough protein, vitamins, and minerals to turn a simple bowl of cereal or oatmeal into a complete meal with most of the essential micro macro- and micro-nutrients. (And if you add oil to the cereal, then you’ve got fat covered, too.)

Shelter-in-place food for one person, one week

The kit below is a sample shopping list for one person for one week. This is meant to give you ideas as you go through Costco, Wal-Mart, or your local grocery store and load up on supplies.

Entertainment and distractions

The most important aspect of preparedness is mindset — this means managing your stress levels and overall state of mind so that you can think clearly and make high-quality decisions. So while it’s important stay informed, if your’e constantly glued to social media or the news during a pandemic lockdown, your mental health may suffer and your decision-making capacity become degraded.

You need to be able to escape for a bit, to relax, to laugh, and to enjoy the company of other people who are going through a crisis with you.

Your goals:

  • Unplug from the news and social media, and give your eyes and mind a rest.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Socialize and interact with others face-to-face
  • Build community
  • Give yourself and everyone else something to look forward to in the afternoons or evenings
  • Unwind at the end of a long day of doing whatever’s you had to do to get through the crisis
  • Be able to keep yourself entertained even if the Internet is too slow to stream movies and TV.

The following list gives a few general ideas for staying entertained and distracted during the long bouts of boredom that characterize a lockdown. Some of the items are solo activities you can do alone, while others are more social. It’s important to have a mix, because you’ll need both face-to-face human connection and some time alone if you’re sheltering in place with others.

  • Downloaded movies and DVDs (in case your internet is disrupted)
  • Computer or console games
  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Puzzles

Ready to go past the basics?

The items above are the bare essentials for this specific scenario and for people who don’t want to go any further.

But if you want to go a little further and cover scenarios where some local services start failing or you have to evacuate:Portable power pack, for keeping phones and other gadgets charged when you’re either on-the-go or in a crowded living situation without convenient access to a wall outlet.

  • Entertainment that works without power/internet — people quarantined in Wuhan are starting to make bad decisions because they’re bored.

  • Best practices

    How to keep from getting infected:

    • Staying away from other people (ie. “social distancing”) is the best way to avoid getting sick.
    • Wash your hands frequently.
    • Don’t shake hands with other people — it’s a gross custom that needs to end anyway.
    • Be aware of how often you touch your face and try to break that habit right now.
    • Don’t forget that your eyes are just as much of a “front door” for the virus as your mouth and nose.
    • If you venture out using gloves, respirators, and/or goggles, wash your hands before removing the protective gear, then be careful of what/where you’re touching as you remove the items. SARS workers were getting sick just from the short moment when they removed their gear and dirty parts/fingers touched places they shouldn’t.

    What to do if you think you’re infected:

    • Isolate yourself and warn family members.
    • If you haven’t travelled in the last week or two, and there aren’t known coronavirus cases in your area already, it’s likely you have the normal flu.
    • Call your doctor.
    • If you go to a hospital or other healthcare facility, wear your protective gear and don’t take it off unless a pro tells you to. If you don’t have proper protective gear, use anything possible, such as a bandana or t-shirt over your mouth and nose while wearing sunglasses and winter gloves.

    What the next weeks might look like?

    The range of realistic scenarios laid out below are not predictions. They’re planning tools to help you prepare based on what you might face.

    Even in pessimistic models, experts aren’t planning for doomsday. We don’t think a really bad situation where food stocks are low and critical infrastructure is iffy is even worth talking about at this point.

    We’ll update this page if expert predictions get worse.

    Baseline scenario

    Our baseline scenario — what we feel is most likely to unfold — is that the virus will spread person-to-person in a sustained way globally, not only in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, but also in the US or Europe. We’re expecting disruption to daily life at some point here in the US, and in most places worldwide.

    This scenario envisions a rising case count in one or more major US cities, possibly to the point that a city has hundreds of cases before serious lockdown measures are taken to halt the spread.

    We’re assuming in this scenario that we can, in fact, keep really bad outbreaks more or less geographically contained with Chinese-style quarantines, lockdowns, and travel restrictions in some cities and counties. We’re also assuming in this scenario that the fatality ratio is low, at about one or two percent at the most, but possibly below one percent.

    What to prepare for:

    • International travel restrictions that extend well beyond China, including the rest of Asia, Africa, and LatAm.
    • Some pressure on US healthcare systems as hoarding of supplies results in shortages for healthcare workers. Health systems in the most affected cities will likely be overloaded.
    • Possible disruptions in domestic air travel, due to the following: 1) pilots and airline staff refuse to fly in and out of affected cities, 2) fear and infection control measures like temperature checkpoints make air travel too inconvenient and people stop flying, which translates into lots of canceled flights.
    • Cancellations of large gatherings or events (eg. concerts), especially in affected cities.
    • Some significant amount of voluntary home quarantine by people whose work and/or lifestyle makes this possible (eg. remote workers, parents who homeschool).
    • Isolated examples of voluntary relocation within your own network, as friends, family, or coworkers opt to move out of an affected zone until things calm down.
    • Isolated but high-profile instances of xenophobic/racist violence, which causes widespread worries about physical safety among targeted groups.

    Severe disruption

    As with our baseline scenario, our severe scenario assumes the virus goes pandemic and spreads domestically, but the situation is worse because we’re not able to keep it constrained in any way.

    If America has uncontrolled community transmission in most cities and counties, then the big questions that determine how severely our lives are disrupted are the following:

    1. What is the fatality rate here in the US, with our advanced healthcare system?
    2. What percentage of non-fatal cases have severe symptoms that require hospitalization, or even just a doctor visit and treatment?

    These are big unknowns, so for the sake of planning we’re currently assuming the following general outlines for a severe scenario: the fatality rate in the US is on the order of about 2-4 percent, and the percentage of severe cases that require treatment is about 15 percent. With less than ten percent of our population infected, this latter number (15 percent requiring a hospital bed) is more than enough to overload the capacity of our hospitals and clinics.

    What to prepare for:

    • Long waits at hospitals and clinics, and more deaths from unrelated illnesses because of overall reduced access to healthcare.
    • Widespread voluntary lockdown in homes for severely affected regions.
    • Dedicated quarantine areas set up by FEMA, the military, the Red Cross, and other groups.
    • Serious restrictions on domestic air travel, either from official order or because pilots and crew refuse to show up.
    • Widespread school and daycare closures.
    • Widespread closures of local businesses.
    • Large companies pushing employees into remote work, halting all air travel, and moving meetings to video chat.
    • Extended delivery times from carriers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx, as they cope with a combination of increased load (everyone’s ordering from home), reduced staff, and travel restrictions.
    • Internet slowdowns in some neighborhoods, since everyone is home and streaming (or remote working) at the same time.
    • Sealing off an area of a home or apartment in order to quarantine an ill family member.
    • Temporary relocation to a safer area with much lower case count and less chaos and disruption.
    • More instances of xenophobic/racist violence, along with some inter-ethnic conflicts in urban areas, as scared people begin to group up and turn on one another.

    - source:theprepared -

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