Protect your health: Important disaster preparedness tips for Harvey and Irma

Hurricane Irma is poised to make a hit on health care infrastructure. That’s why it’s crucial to create a disaster preparedness plan for your health care needs.

Guest ContributorSeptember 6, 2017

Protect your health: Important disaster preparedness tips for Harvey and Irma.

Conversations and healthy debate about issues facing our industry and the health care system are critical to addressing some of today’s challenges and opportunities. The Catalyst welcomes guest contributors, including patients, stakeholders, innovators and others, to share their perspectives and point of view. Views represented here may not be those of PhRMA, though they are no less key to a healthy dialogue on issues in health care today.

Today, we are pleased to share a blog post from Nicolette Louissaint, executive director of Healthcare Ready

It’s clear that natural disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey and Irma, bring dangerous and destructive winds, rain and flooding. But the greatest threats of a natural disaster are not always immediately apparent. Harvey didn’t just destroy homes, stores and roads; the storm dismantled critical safety nets that we rely on every day, particularly for our health and medicines. 

Hurricane Irma is poised to make an even larger hit on our health care infrastructure. That’s why it’s crucial to create a disaster preparedness plan for your health care needs – before, during and after a state of emergency. While it’s impossible to predict everything during a natural disaster, the following tips will prevent many life-threatening situations before they occur. 

  1. Prepare and plan your medicines. Bring all current prescription medicines and medical supplies with you and store them in a waterproof bag. Use Rx On the Run to stay on top of prescribing and dosage information and make sure you have a sufficient supply. During emergencies, many states, such as Texas and Florida, allow pharmacists to re-prescribe up to a 30-day supply without a doctor’s signature, so be sure to check your state government’s laws and regulations and plan ahead.
  2. Mind your chronic conditions. Many chronic diseases require consistent attention, and during a natural disaster access to necessary medicine or medical equipment is far from guaranteed. It’s best to bring medical equipment with you, if possible, and stay in touch with emergency responders and/or the closest available health care provider. Many organization have specific tips for those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, heart disease and others.
  3. Beware of contaminated water. Flooding causes the water from reservoirs, sewage lines, and septic tanks to intermingle. Even the water from your kitchen sink may be contaminated. It’s best to drink bottled water and to always boil or disinfect water before using it to clean clothes or dishes. Open wounds are also at high risk of infection, so keep them covered and stay out of floodwater, whenever possible.
  4. Stay aware of your closest health resources. An unexpectedly blocked road or sudden injury can complicate any plan, but unpredictable factors can be catastrophic for one’s health condition, particularly for vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with disabilities. Be aware of the closest provider, pharmacy and emergency department. Rx Open, a tool from Healthcare Ready, provides a map of the closest open pharmacies, with daily updates to ensure displaced patients can access medicine they need when they need it.

Your prescription medicines or the closest hospital may not be the first thing to come to mind during a natural disaster, especially when bare essentials such as food, water and shelter aren’t even guaranteed. But these tips, and other resources from Healthcare Ready, can prevent future health complications and be the difference between life or death in the uncertain and dangerous environment of a natural disaster.

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