How to Prepare for a Hurricane When You Have Special Medical Needs

September 01, 2019
medical hurricane prep

For people with medical conditions such as diabetes, breathing problems, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or other severe or chronic conditions, getting prepared for a hurricane involves a lot more than a standard emergency kit. This is also true for those who care for people with these conditions.

Getting prepared for a hurricane may involve ensuring that you have enough portable oxygen tanks, ensuring that you will have a way to refrigerate insulin, or simply ensuring that you have an adequate supply of medications. 

If you have special medical needs, the best option might be to evacuate the area. This ensures that you will have power to operate medical devices and easier access to emergency medical treatment. During a hurricane, power may be out for days or even weeks and emergency medical crews will be temporarily unable to respond during high winds.

If you require regular medical treatment such as dialysis or chemotherapy, it is best to evacuate if you can because you will be able to receive the treatment you need more easily.

Whether you are evacuating or staying in an emergency shelter, put together an emergency medical kit to take with you to your evacuation destination. Here is a list of what should go in your kit:

  • Medications – At least a one-week supply.
  • Medical Devices and Supplies – Put all devices such as a glucometer, walker, oxygen tank, or ventilator together in an easily accessible area. Also include any supplies you need to operate the devices such as blood testing strips or filters.
  • Dietary needs – If you are on a restricted diet, make sure you have plenty of the foods you can eat.
  • Emergency Contact Numbers – Print out phone numbers of family, close friends, doctors, pharmacy, service providers, and medical facilities. If your cell phone battery dies, you will not be able to retrieve stores numbers.
  • Medications List – Create and print out an updated list of medications and dosing instructions.
  • Medical Records – Make paper and electronic copies of medical records including insurance information and cards, Medicare/Medicaid card, a list of allergies, medical history, and any treatment schedules for things like dialysis or chemo. Also include the model numbers, manuals, and provider information for any medical devices you have.

If you are cannot evacuate, make sure that your family, friends, neighbors, and community resources know where you are and what your needs are so they can assist you. Invest in or borrow a generator to help keep medical devices running or medications stored at proper temperatures. Learn where nearby emergency shelters are and find out how to get to one if necessary.

The emergency medical kit will help you whether you evacuate or stay in an emergency shelter. Put the kit together as soon as possible. Waiting until the last minute will only cause additional stress.

Before a storm even exists, you can gather your emergency contact numbers, medications list, medical records, and nonperishable food items. You can also create a list of what you would need to include in your emergency kit. This is also a good time to communicate with family and friends about what your needs would be during a storm. Having a solid plan in place will increase your confidence in dealing with a hurricane if one is heading for the region.

ReadyNC has additional information about preparing for an emergency such as a hurricane when you have special needs:

Many local counties also have a special needs registry with caseworkers available to help you prepare for a hurricane. Please register in your county if it has a registry:

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