On Monday, August 21st, 2017, all of North America will experience an eclipse of the sun. Depending on your location, a partial eclipse will be seen, lasting 2 to 3 hours during which the moon covers part of the sun. The total solar eclipse only lasts 2 to 3 minutes—14 states are in the narrow "path of totality" from Oregon to South Carolina.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been in touch with other national and government organizations preparing for this event.
As your family prepares for this exciting event, be sure to read over the following information.
Keep Your Eyes Safe While Viewing the Solar Eclipse!
As many are gearing up to witness such an awe inspiring natural occurrence, it is important to keep eye and vision safety in mind. Looking directly at the sun during an eclipse can cause permanent damage, and the only safe way to do so is through special-purpose safe solar filters. Even very dark sunglasses or homemade filters don't protect your eyes while looking directly at the sun.
Wondering why you and your children should take precautions?
Normally the sun is too bright for people to look directly at it. During an eclipse, the moon partially covers the sun allowing some of the white light to be blocked. The red spectrum can come through, making it possible for the retina to burn.
The lenses in your eyes act like a magnifying glass, one that is 5 times more powerful than a handheld magnifier. Think about how you can use a handheld magnifier to focus the sun to burn holes in a piece of paper. That's what happens when you look at the sun without appropriate eye protection. You focus the sun's light on the retina, burning holes in light-sensitive photoreceptor cells, 5 times faster, and causing permanent blindness. Watching a partially eclipsed sun is when the damage occurs.
Be sure to follow these steps from the Children's Eye Foundation to protect your eyes:
Anyone planning to view the eclipse should wear a pair of solar viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers that contain safe solar filters. Always supervise children using solar viewing glasses or viewers with safe solar filters.
Protective eyewear will allow observers to look directly at the sun during the eclipse. Sunglasses and homemade filters should not be used in place of solar viewing glasses – they will not protect your eyes from damage.
Always inspect your safe solar filter before you use it – if it is scratched or damaged in any way, do not use it.
Don't look at a partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, binoculars or telescope – even if you are wearing solar viewing glasses. A special safe solar filter is required to view without damage to your eyes.
Remember – no matter where you observe the eclipse, looking directly at the sun, especially when it is partially covered by the moon, can cause serious eye damage or even blindness.
Be Prepared for Emergencies—Especially If You Are Traveling!
Emergency preparedness is essential for any large-scale, public event. The American Red Cross is coordinating with local emergency agencies along the total eclipse viewing path, and if needed, they are prepared to help.
For example, the Red Cross has hundreds of emergency shelters in the states that will be touched by the eclipse in case of other emergencies such as severe weather and extreme heat that might occur while travelers are away from home. Supplies such as cots, blankets and water are already pre-positioned across the country. In addition, more volunteers and resources are on standby in case they are needed. The AAP offers tips for families to prepare in the AAP Family Readiness Kit.
The American Red Cross and emergency officials urge those planning to travel to see the eclipse to come prepared:
Pack an emergency kit in case you get stuck in traffic or can't find a place to stay. Include water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items including toilet paper, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information. See Disaster Supplies List for Families for more information and tips.
Be informed. Learn how officials contact people in the area you are planning to visit in case of an emergency (e.g., via the local news, emergency texts, social media, etc.).
Inform others of your plans. Let family or friends know where you are going and the route you plan to take to get there. Note that cellular service could be impacted by the large number of people visiting these areas. If networks go down, the Red Cross will use ham radio to communicate or top-priority emergency cell channels to communicate. Sometimes texts will go through when phone calls will not.
Arrive early. Arrive at where you plan to watch the eclipse at least a day ahead of time.
Be a weather-watcher. Check the weather forecast ahead of time and throughout the day. Dress in layers so you can adjust for changes in weather conditions, and check www.weather.gov for signs of low humidity and high temperatures—a recipe for wildfires.
Create an emergency plan. Determine a location to meet in case someone gets separated from your group, and where to go if severe weather occurs. Because cell service may be overwhelmed, print out your directions.
Know where you're staying at night. Hotel rooms along the eclipse route are mostly sold out, and rentals are extremely high in some cities. Plan to camp if necessary. If you do camp, visit the U.S. Forest Service website for safety tips.
Keep your gas tank full so you don't run out while stuck in traffic.
Download free Red Cross apps to help you be better prepared. The Red Cross app "Emergency" can help keep you and your loved ones safe with instant access to large-scale event tips, weather alerts as well as the location of any open Red Cross shelters. The Red Cross First Aid App puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid scenarios at your fingertips including heat emergencies. Download these apps by searching for 'American Red Cross' in your app store or at www.redcross.org/apps.
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