Protect Your Health During Weather-Related Emergency

Protect Your Health During Weather-Related Emergency

How to Be Medically Prepared for Weather-Related Emergencies

When a natural disaster or severe weather event is in the forecast, there is a strong possibility that you will be without power or transportation for several days. This can create a serious situation for people with medical conditions. To be fully prepared in the event of a weather emergency, it's best to have an emergency preparedness plan in place ahead of time that you can activate as soon as a weather emergency is in the forecast. Here are some suggestions to help you be medically prepared.

If the Power Goes Out

Losing power during a storm can have a major impact on your health. This is especially true if your medication requires refrigeration, or your medical needs require electricity. If this a concern, you may want to:

  • Borrow or purchase a home generator.
  • Stay in a hotel or with family and friends who are not at risk for power loss.
  • Evacuate to a shelter that has refrigeration options. 

Check Your Medication

Do you have enough medication?
If you do not have enough medication to last through the anticipated emergency, contact your pharmacy to request a refill. If your prescription isn’t eligible for refills or if you usually get medications by mail and there isn’t enough time to have them shipped, call your Duke Health provider’s office. Do this as soon as the weather event is forecast. Do not make this request through Duke MyChart if the anticipated event is expected within the next 48 hours.

  • Request at least a one-week supply of your medications and store them in a waterproof container. 

Does your medication require refrigeration?
If you use insulin, certain antibiotics, injectable biologic medications like interferon or any other medication that requires refrigeration, plan for a way to keep your medication adequately cooled in case you lose electricity.

  • Consider borrowing or purchasing a home generator.
  • Consider staying in a hotel or with family and friends who are not at risk for power loss, or at a shelter that has refrigeration options.
  • Alternatively, place your medication in a cooler with enough ice to keep it stored properly for the duration of the expected power loss. This may be an option if the duration of power loss is expected to be relatively short.

Download and print this checklist to help ensure you have enough medication for an emergency, and how to keep it safe.

If You Use Medical Oxygen

Does your oxygen concentrator run on rechargeable batteries?
Oxygen concentrators need electricity to recharge the batteries. If you are using an oxygen concentrator, plan for how you will meet this need if you lose power.

  • Consider borrowing or purchasing a home generator.
  • Consider staying in a hotel or with family and friends who are not at risk for power loss, or at a shelter that has refrigeration options.

Do you have enough oxygen canisters?
If you use a portable oxygen tank, make sure they are full, and that you have enough to last for at least one week.

  • Call your Duke Health provider’s office directly to request help in getting additional oxygen tanks as soon as a severe weather event is being forecast. Do not send a message through Duke MyChart if the anticipated event is expected within the next 48 hours.

Stock up on Medical Supplies

Do you have enough wound care supplies?
Stock up on bandages and supplies for dressing changes or routine wound care in case transportation is not an option during the emergency.

Do you use a glucometer?
Make sure you have at least a one-week supply of blood testing strips.

Do you have enough diapers, urinary catheters, and other personal care supplies?
Assess whether you need to obtain more supplies if transportation is not an option during the weather emergency.

  • Call your Duke provider’s office directly if you need more supplies. 
  • Do not send a message through Duke MyChart if the anticipated event is expected within the next 48 hours.

Do you follow a special diet?
Make sure you have enough food on hand if you are on a restricted diet.

Plan for Medical Equipment that Requires Electricity

Does your food pump or IV pump run on rechargeable batteries?
If you require tube feedings via a gastrostomy or nasogastric tube that runs on rechargeable batteries or needs to be plugged into an electric outlet, you may need a way to access electricity in the event of a power loss.  This is also true if you use an IV pump to administer medications or intravenous nutrition like TPN. 

  • Consider borrowing or purchasing a home generator.
  • Consider staying in a hotel or with family and friends who are not at risk for power loss.
  • Determine the locations of nearby shelters that have refrigeration options.

Some food pumps (both for feedings and IV medications) can be administered using gravity alone without the use of a pump. Contact your care team to determine if this is a safe option for you in the event of a power loss.

Does your electric wheelchair require electricity for recharging?
If your wheelchair runs on rechargeable batteries or needs to be plugged into an electric outlet, you may need access to electricity in the event of a power loss.

  • Use your regular wheelchair as a back-up. If you don't have a regular wheelchair, request one from your care team.

Do you use an electric bed and/or portable powered patient lifting assistance device?
If they run on rechargeable batteries or need to be plugged into an electric outlet, you may need a way to access electricity in the event of a power loss. It is possible to be cared for safely without the use of these devices. However, if you feel that your care would be significantly impaired by loss of use of your electric powered lifting assistance device, make arrangements to have your care transferred to a location that will have power.

Download and print this checklist to plan for your oxygen, medical equipment, and supplies needs.

Emergency Medical Kit

Creating an emergency medical kit will ensure you have all the important information you need in one place. The kit should include:

  • Contact List. Include phone numbers of your providers, pharmacy, caseworkers, and medical facilities. 
  • Medical Records. Include a list of your medications, doctor's orders for medical equipment, insurance cards, list of allergies and your health history.
  • Medical Alert Bracelet. Wear it if you own one.

Finally, if you have special needs and may require assistance during an emergency, you can register with a special needs registry in your area.