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Are You Prepared for a Hurricane…Medically?

You can’t stop a tropical storm or hurricane, but you can take steps now to protect you and your family.

With most of the nation focused on hurricane Harvey and the destruction it’s bringing to massive swaths of Texas and Louisiana, it’s a stark reminder of storms we’ve faced in the past and the very real possibility of future devastating weather. Peak hurricane season is upon us—the majority of deadly storms form in the months of August and September—and we should all have a plan in place to stay safe.

Most of us understand how to prepare our homes and protect our property from damage, but we often overlook medical needs during emergencies such as these. We often don’t think about our medication supply or what happens when the power goes out and there’s no way to keep insulin cold.

The Basics

The National Hurricane Survival Initiative advises all families to compile a first aid kit for the home and one for each car. It should include:

  • Twenty (20) adhesive bandages, various sizes;
  • 5” x 9” sterile dressing;
  • Conforming roller gauze bandage;
  • Triangular bandages;
  • 3” x 3” sterile gauze pads;
  • 4” x 4” sterile gauze pads;
  • A 3-inch roll of cohesive bandage;
  • Germicidal hand wipes or waterless, alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
  • Six (6) antiseptic wipes;
  • One pair of large medical grade non-latex gloves;
  • Adhesive tape, 2” width;
  • Anti-bacterial ointment;
  • Cold pack;
  • Scissors (small, personal);
  • Tweezers; and
  • A CPR breathing barrier, such as a face shield.

The organization also suggests you keep these non-prescription drugs on hand:

  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever;
  • Anti-diarrhea medication;
  • Antacid (for stomach upset);
  • Laxative; and
  • Activated charcoal (use if advised by the American Association of Poison Control Centers).

Now, Let’s Get Specific

If you or a family member has more specific medical needs it is crucial that you gather as much information and medical history as possible well before the threat of a storm or, worse, an evacuation order. The Orlando Immunology Center (OIC) offers a list of smart suggestions when it comes to being medically prepared for a hurricane:

  • Medical contact list – Maintain a list of phone numbers for your doctors, pharmacy, service providers, and medical facilities to keep with you.
  • Medication – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends you have a one-week supply of prescription medications on hand and a two-week supply if possible.
    • Update list of medications – Make sure your pharmacist has an updated list of the medications you’re currently taking. Ask if those prescriptions are linked with any other pharmacies and get that contact information.
    • Printed list of medications – Ask your local pharmacy or doctor to provide a list of your prescription medicine and medically-prescribed devices.
  • Medical records – Make hard copies and maintain electronic versions, including a portable thumb drive containing:
    • Doctors’ orders for durable medical equipment, consumable medical supplies, and assistive devices you use. Include the style and serial numbers of the support devices you use and where you purchased them.
    • Medical insurance cards, Medicare or Medicaid card, a list of your allergies, and your health history.
    • List of medications.
  • Medical alert bracelet – If you own one, wear it.
  • Additional medical supplies – If you need any additional medical supplies such as blood testing strips, bandages, or insulin make sure you have a two-week supply.
  • Online information – Make an index card with all important online insurance or website information on it and keep passwords in a different, secure location.
  • Extra pair of glasses – This extra pair can be critical in an emergency.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you share with a trusted friend or loved one that you are medically prepared and who they should contact in case of emergency.

What if You’re Pregnant?

Unlike some disasters, hurricanes usually come with warnings, giving pregnant women and families with infants time to prepare.

The American Public Health Association says you should create a family communication plan so everyone knows what needs to be done before and during a hurricane or in an evacuation. Review and practice the plan with all family members. Know the location of other places to have your baby in case you cannot get to the hospital or birthing center of your choice. If you are close to your due date, talk to your health care provider about what to do in case of an emergency.

Put together an emergency kit for your family, including supplies such as flashlights, batteries, a first-aid kit, food, and water, but—because of the pregnancy—the kit should also include:

  • Nutritious foods, such as protein bars, nuts, dried fruit, and granola;
  • Maternity and baby clothes;
  • Prenatal vitamins and other medications;
  • Extra bottled water;
  • Emergency birth supplies, such as clean towels, sharp scissors, infant bulb syringe, medical gloves, two white shoelaces, sheets, and sanitary pads;
  • Two blankets; and
  • Closed-toe shoes.

If you have an infant, your kit should also have:

  • A thermometer;
  • Copies of vaccination records;
  • Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer;
  • Dish soap;
  • A portable crib;
  • Baby food in pouches or jars and disposable feeding spoons;
  • Two baby blankets;
  • Extra baby clothes and shoes for older infant;
  • Baby sling or carrier;
  • Diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream;
  • Medications and infant pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen;
  • Small disposable cups; and
  • Ready-to-feed formula in single serving cans or bottles.

If an evacuation order does come, make sure that officials know you’re pregnant (or have an infant with you) as soon as you arrive at the shelter.

If you’re a mom who relies on pumped milk, make sure you know how to express your milk by hand and how to feed your baby with a cup. Breast pumps cannot be cleaned without clean water and milk cannot be stored without refrigeration.

If it is medically necessary to feed your baby infant formula during a disaster, ready-to-feed formula is recommended. Clean water may not be available for mixing with powdered formula or for cleaning bottles and nipples. Feeding your baby with a small disposable cup is preferable. Even tiny babies can use a cup. Unused formula cannot be refrigerated during a power outage, so small containers of formula work best.

A Few Final Tips

FEMA reminds us to never use a generator, gasoline powered equipment and tools, grill, camp stove, or charcoal burning device inside or in any partially-enclosed area. Keep these devices outside and at least 20 feet from doors, windows, and vents.

Throw out any food, including canned items, that were not maintained at a proper temperature or have been exposed to floodwaters. Do not eat food from a flooded garden. The best way to remember is: “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Avoid drinking tap water until you know it’s safe. If you’re uncertain, boil or purify it first.

Clean and disinfect everything (literally, everything) that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage, bacteria, chemicals, or worse.

If you have questions about any healthcare issue, contact the primary care providers at Coastal Carolina Health Care by calling (252) 633-4111 or visiting www.cchchealthcare.com.

(Sources: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; American Red Cross; American Public Health Association; Federal Emergency Management Agency; National Hurricane Survival Initiative; and Orlando Immunology Center.)