If you live in Florida, you are likely familiar with our seasons: tourist, summer and hurricane.
Each year hurricane season begins June 1 and lasts five months, with peak season occurring between Aug. and Oct. Bringing powerful winds and torrential rain, hurricanes are said to be the most violent storms on Earth. Even low category storms can often lead to the loss of essential services such as electricity, water, gas and communication channels. If outages are prolonged, they can potentially impact health and safety.
Given the sunshine state, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has sustained an astonishing 40% of all U.S. hurricanes, with 120 hits and 37 major hits, everyone should develop a hurricane preparedness plan. A plan is especially crucial for those with chronic health conditions, disabilities and seniors who have complex needs. These individuals not only need to prepare for the storm but should consider the days following as recovery could be delayed.
If you are an older adult, managing a chronic condition or disability or are a caretaker, the following tips should be considered when creating your hurricane preparedness plan.
Tip 1: Create a shelter plan
Should I stay or should I go? If a hurricane strikes, will you be able to safely shelter in place? Now is the time to discuss shelter and evacuation options with family and friends, especially if you cannot evacuate on your own or if you rely on medical equipment that requires electricity.
Evacuate. If possible, evacuate with family, friends or to a motel outside of the storm area. Let family and friends know your evacuation plan.
Transportation. If you require transportation or accessible transportation to go to an emergency shelter, you should work with local County services to identify public transportation, paratransit or private accessible options.
Special Needs Shelter. If you are medically stable but require help with basic tasks or rely on an electronic medical device, or on oxygen, and have no other evacuation options, you may be eligible to evacuate to a Special Needs Shelter at no cost. Contact your local Emergency Management office, or Health Department for eligibility and to complete the required pre-registration. County and Health Department staff will conduct a review of your situation to determine whether or not the shelter is suitable for your unique medical needs.
Tip 2: Create a medical plan
Medical care. If you receive regular medical treatment for a chronic health condition such as chemotherapy or dialysis, talk to your provider about a backup plan. Also, work with your care team to outline your current treatment plan in case you need to seek medical treatment from your evacuated location.
Medications. Be sure to have at least two weeks’ supply of prescriptions. According to Florida law, you can obtain a 30-day refill on your prescription medication, even if you just had a refill, when you live in a county that:
• is under a hurricane warning issued by the National Weather Service
• is declared to be under a state of emergency by the Governor
• has activated its emergency operations center and its emergency management plan.
Medical history. Make sure you have copies of important papers – personal id, medical and immunization records, Social Security card, health insurance cards, prescriptions, insurance policies, and contact information for doctors and family numbers in your travel medical kit.
Medical Id. If you have a condition that might cause a medical emergency, you should consider purchasing a medical bracelet or tag to relay vital health information in the event you become unconscious or incapacitated.
Travel medical kit. Make sure you include the above items in your medical supply kit. Due to the vulnerability of paperwork and medications, you should invest in a waterproof container. Additionally, your medical supply kit should include necessary medical equipment such as blood sugar monitoring equipment, hearing aids, eyeglasses and extra batteries. Furthermore, to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses such as the flu, pneumonia and COVID-19 while staying in a community shelter consider packing face masks, hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes.
Individual conditions. As you prepare, consider additional supplies or services needed to support a specific condition. For instance, if you are deaf or hard of hearing perhaps your travel medical kit includes a dry erase board to help you communicate with someone who does not know sign language. Or, if you have a mobile disability and require a walker, wheelchair or electric scooter consider keeping extra batteries, patch kit for flat tires and air pump on hand. If you use oxygen, ask your oxygen provider to help you secure a backup cylinder, a portable tank and necessary supplies in case of evacuation.
Tip 3: Create a basic supply kit
A basic supply kit can help you evacuate more quickly or support you as you hunker down from the storm. Basic supplies should be stored in an easily accessible and moveable container such as a suitcase or box with wheels. Recommended items include:
• Your stocked waterproof travel medical kit (see above)
• At least a three-day supply of water (one gallon per day per person), food (non-perishable food)
• Battery operated or hand crank radio
• Extra batteries
• Cash and important documents (store in waterproof container)
• Manual can opener
• Lighter or matches
• Cell phone with charger and battery back up
• Sleeping bag or blanket
• Complete change of clothing
• Whistle or other help signal
• Personal hygiene items and sanitation items
• Special needs items: pet supplies and baby supplies if applicable
• Books, magazines, games for recreation
Hurricanes can be unpredictable and disastrous; above all, the best course of action is to be prepared and plan ahead. By following these tips, you can ensure you and your loved ones are safe during hurricane season.
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