Before Disaster Strikes

When Before Disaster Strikes
Part 1 – Medicines & Papers

Wildfires to the west; hurricanes to the south; blizzards in the north; and tornadoes in the Midwest: Wherever you live a natural disaster can occur, an evacuation might be ordered, or a disruption of medical services could result. Are you prepared? While all possible medical scenarios and preparations are well beyond the scope of these three blog entries, hopefully the information presented will help you organize your thoughts, research further, and proactively prepare for the future emergencies we hope never arise.

Part 1 – Medicines & Papers

1. The stress of an emergency situation can impede your thought process and make difficult the collection of needed supplies. Create a list of necessary medical supplies prior to the event. It will decrease the time necessary for their collection and packing and minimize forgotten items. Be sure to set a reminder to update the list semi-annually or when the medical history of any family member changes.
2. If you take medication, don’t run out. Keeping a three- to seven-day supply of your medications on hand at all times can literally save your life. Some sources suggest even longer reserve supplies, i.e., up to 30 days, although many third-party payers will not authorize such extremely early refills. Most will, however, allow you to refill a few days ahead of schedule, giving you the reassurance of having a few extra doses on hand.
3. Some folks put their extra medicine in an emergency “grab bag” for easy retrieval in the event of an evacuation. If you don’t choose this approach, try as much as possible to store all your medicines together so you can gather them quickly. Consider keeping a sealable plastic bag folded up with them to facilitate packing. However you choose to consolidate your medications for travel, leave them in their original bottles. This can prove helpful in many ways, not the least of which is if you need an unfamiliar physician or pharmacist to refill your medicines. Outside your own home it is best to be discreet about your medications, especially if they are of the type desired by those who suffer with substance abuse issues.
4. Do any of your medicines need to be refrigerated, and if so at a specific temperature? Ice in a cooler is hard to regulate; you may want to invest in a thermometer to insure that the correct temperature remains constant. Don’t assume your neighbors with generators will be willing to assist you. Talk to them in advance about willingness and comfort level regarding keeping your medications in their refrigerator. And, always have a back-up plan, in case Neighbor #1 with whom you have made the arrangements is not available.
5. Paper copies of your medical paperwork, insurance cards, health history sheet (we discussed in a prior blog), vaccination records, etc., should be included with your other important papers that will be evacuating with you. Don’t forget information about medical equipment or implants (pacemaker, etc.).
6. Although not specifically related to medical history, you will need to gather birth certificates, social security cards, marriage/divorce certificates, banking information, etc., so you will know exactly where they are and can quickly retrieve for packing.