When Before Disaster Strikes
Part 2 – Medical Equipment
7. Don’t forget fresh batteries for hearing aids and wheelchairs, remote monitoring devices for pacemakers, etc. Small medical devices such as spacers for inhalers should be stored with medication. Colostomy bags, urinary catheters, and the like may need to be readily accessible. Perhaps someone in your household uses a product such as a thickener to assist with swallowing; if evacuating, this may be necessary during the journey, so keep some handy. Some of these items are available in single-use packages for handy pocket/purse or emergency kit use.
8. Are any special foods or food preparation equipment necessary? While hot dogs may taste great, a diabetic needs something better suited to her dietary needs. What about those who require a soft diet; no electricity means no blender. At least three days of non-perishable food that meets specific medical needs can be very important. (Don’t forget to periodically check those expirations dates and replace if necessary.) The stress of the event is enough; the body doesn’t need to be further taxed by depriving it of nutritious food.
9. In the event of a tornado or similar situation, have you identified and prepared a safe place which can be reached by a loved one who is confined to a wheelchair or hospital bed? If not feasible, do you have an alternative plan regarding how and where to move him so as to keep him and yourself as safe as possible?
10. Utility companies sometimes provide expedited relief to patients with documented severe health issues, especially in cities which have programs that pre-register them for prioritized repairs. Check with your utility companies now; don’t wait until the next disaster is knocking on your door because they will not have the manpower to evaluate and act on the request at that 11th hour.
11. If medical equipment is supplied to you by a medical supply company or your loved one receives services of hospice or home-health providers, know their emergency policies. For example, ask:
a. Will the medical supply provider deliver a supplemental oxygen tank (which does not require electricity) to my loved one in advance of the oncoming storm for his use should loss of electrical power render his oxygen concentrator unusable?
b. What is the plan to provide service to patients during and after the event?
c. How is patient status prioritized with regard to deliveries, etc., after the event?
d. How are patients contacted if phone systems are out of service?
e. If your work site experiences facility damage or destruction, what is the back-up source for supplies and delivery?
12. Do you have a C-pap machine, oxygen concentrator, etc.? Smaller equipment could be run on battery power IF the patient has the resources to purchase and a way to recharge it. Some choose to have a generator for their home. While a good option for some, especially professionally-installed models, keep in mind that all have maintenance tasks/costs, some can be difficult to operate, and all are potentially dangerous. NEVER operate a portable generator inside a structure, as carbon monoxide poisoning can easily occur. Fires are also potential dangers, and electrocution of homeowner or utility company line workers can occur if improperly used. (Note: NEVER connect a portable generator directly into the home’s wiring; feedback can electrocute line workers!)
13. A few example questions for rehab and long-term care facilities should you have a loved one in residence:
a. Does the facility have back-up generators? If so, where are they located and to what extent are they protected from flooding, wind, etc.?
b. What is the procedure regarding assessment for adequate staffing and where are the staff physically located in the facility throughout the emergency event?
c. What is the policy regarding moving patients to the safest location within the facility?
d. Is a family member allowed to stay with her loved one?
e. How will food preparation be accomplished during a power outage, especially if the patient is on a special-needs diet?