With storm activity picking up in the tropics and an active hurricane season predicted, now is the time to make sure that you and your family are prepared for a hurricane. It’s also important to remember that usual preparations will need to be adjusted this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
How COVID-19 Will Impact Hurricane Preparation
COVID-19 has forced all of us to prepare differently for many situations. Even a simple grocery store trip to buy a forgotten item now requires the extra preparation of a mask and hand sanitizer. So getting ready for a major weather event will certainly be more challenging.
Here are some key things to keep in mind:
- You will need to add COVID-19 spread prevention supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer, to your emergency kit
- The capacity at emergency shelters will be greatly reduced during COVID-19. Your options are to shelter at home or evacuate. Shelters should be considered only as an absolute last resort
- While evacuating, remember to keep social distancing in mind if staying with family or in a hotel
With some planning now, you and your family will be ready to weather the storm safely and healthily.
How To Prepare When You Have Special Medical Needs
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 is 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, you should evacuate if possible so you can receive the treatment you need more easily.
It’s important to remember that, this year more than ever, emergency shelters are not the best option for those with medical needs or other conditions or for those who are elderly. While social distancing and disinfection procedures will be followed at emergency shelters, people who are at high risk of experiencing complications if they get COVID-19 will be safer if they do not stay in emergency shelters.
Put Together Your Emergency Medical Kit Today
Putting together an emergency medical kit will help ensure that you have everything you need to stay healthy in the event of a hurricane. Put the kit together as soon as possible to reduce stress later. Your emergency medical kit should contain everything you need to take with you to your evacuation destination.
Here is a list of what should go in your kit:
- COVID-19 Prevention Supplies - Plenty of masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies.
- 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, pack 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 stored 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 cards, 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.
An emergency medical kit should be put together in addition to a standard emergency kit. Here’s some information about how to put together the basics you need for an emergency: https://www.readync.org/plan-and-prepare/get-kit
Make a Plan to Get to Safety
Keep in mind that capacity at emergency shelters will be greatly reduced this year due to the pandemic, so making a plan to evacuate to safety is even more important than ever.
If you 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. Make a plan to shelter in place as safely as possible.
Learn where nearby emergency shelters are and find out how to get to one if it becomes absolutely necessary.
Take Action Now
ReadyNC has a guide for preparing for a Hurricane during the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.readync.org/plan-and-prepare/hurricane-season-during-covid-19-pandemic
ReadyNC also has additional information on preparing for an emergency such as a hurricane when you have special needs: https://readync.org/EN/Plan_Functional.html
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: