When hurricane winds and floodwaters overwhelm the Cape Fear region, residents can be stranded without power for a few days to more than a week. This can create a dangerous situation for those with medical conditions such as diabetes, breathing problems, heart disease, high blood pressure, or kidney disease, according to Steven Howell, captain of education for New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Medical Service education.
“We worry about people on oxygen who don’t have enough portable tanks, anybody with mechanical devices such as ventilators, or people who take insulin that has to be refrigerated,” he said. “Please check on your neighbors and family members to ensure that they have what they need to weather the storm.”
To ensure their medical needs are met during these storms, those with health problems need to prepare ahead of time. First, they should strongly consider evacuating the area, Howell said. That way they won’t run out of power; and, if they have a medical crisis, they can get the health care they need.
Five to six days before a hurricane is predicted to make landfall, these individuals should put together an Emergency Medical Kit that includes their medical information and, at minimum, a week’s supply of their medications.
“If it’s a major storm, it could be a week or longer before we get back and running,” said Howell. “Think about what you need to maintain your lifestyle if you depend on any type of medical equipment or supplies.”
Here are some tips for preparing an Emergency Medical Kit and other precautions those with health problems should take when hurricanes threaten.
What to Put in an Emergency Medical Kit
- Emergency Contact Numbers: Provide a list of phone numbers for your family, significant friends, doctors, pharmacy, service providers, and medical facilities.
- Medications: Get at least a one-week supply of your medications and store them in a waterproof container.
- Printed List of Medications: Include an up-to-date list of your medications, doses, and when you take them. Your pharmacy can provide this information.
- Medical Records: Make paper, electronic, and USB flash drive copies of your medical records. Include your medical insurance records, personal identification, medical insurance card, Medicare or Medicaid card, a list of your allergies, and your medical history. If you receive dialysis or chemo treatments, include your treatment schedule.
Include copies of your physician’s orders for medical equipment and supplies, as well as their brand name, style, and serial number.
- Medical Alert Bracelet: If you own one, wear it.
- Online Information: Write your online medical, prescription, and insurance access information on an index card. Keep your passwords in a different safe location.
- Medical Devices and Supplies: Put devices such as a glucometer, blood pressure monitor, walker, or cane in an accessible spot and ensure they will be operational for a week. If you need oxygen, check that your portable tanks are full. You can also ask your health care provider for an extra tank during hurricane season. If you have a ventilator, include its filters. Also, get a week’s supply of blood testing strips, bandages, or other needed materials.
Special Diets--If you’re on a restricted diet, stock plenty of the foods you can eat.
Medications or Devices that Require Electricity—If you have medications that need a temperature-controlled environment or a device that requires power, invest in or borrow a home generator.
Homebound Patients—If you don’t have a vehicle, contact family, friends, and community resources so they know where you are, are better prepared to help if something happens, and can move you to a safe area if needed.
Emergency Shelters—Learn in advance which emergency shelters are open, which ones are close to you, and when and where you need to leave to get to one.
Cape Fear residents should take hurricane warnings seriously, for when winds get too high emergency personnel can’t get to them, Howell said. Having an Emergency Medical Kit will help those with medical conditions maintain their health, whether they evacuate or remain in the area.
If you have special needs, visit https://em911.nhcgov.com/be-prepared-ready-nhc/special-needs-registry/ or call 910.798.6900.