Tropical Storm Alberto was a few days early, as the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. In this first of a four-part series, Mayo Clinic experts provide health and safety measures to consider when preparing before a severe weather event.
While most people tend to focus their preparations on having an adequate supply of food, water and batteries, it’s also important to plan for health and wellness.
Dr. Michael Boniface, a Mayo Clinic emergency medicine physician, says addressing health and safety concerns before a storm will help keep you and your family safe during and after severe weather.
“It can be easy to get caught up in storm preparations with respect to making sure you have enough food and water, and neglect your personal health care. But taking time to review your personal health needs and add items to your storm supply kit will be valuable,” says Dr. Boniface.
At a minimum, Dr. Boniface recommends arranging a first-aid kit with items such as Band-Aids and bandages, gauze, antibiotic ointment, handkerchiefs, and over-the-counter pain relievers and allergy medicine.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Boniface are in the downloads.
Medication management and documentation
For individuals routinely taking prescription medication, Dr. Boniface advises checking your inventory before a storm to ensure you have enough to last at least three to 10 days. “Depending upon your situation and the weather forecast, we recommend having at least an extra week’s supply,” he says.
Dr. Boniface adds that, while prescription refills should be requested in advance, in case of emergency, some states allow pharmacies to dispense short-term refills of certain medications.
Keeping medications safe is important every day, but those who have special needs, such as the elderly, immunocompromised people or people with other medical concerns like diabetes, may need to consider additional preparations before severe weather.
“If you have medication that requires refrigeration, for instance, consider your plan to keep medications cold and safe. Make sure you have enough ice and proper storage. As well, it is important to find out how the long medication can last at room temperature,” says Dr. Boniface.
Dr. Boniface adds that people using equipment such as insulin pumps, sleep apnea machines or oxygen tanks also must plan to ensure they have enough supplies on hand, including extra batteries or a backup power supply.
Dr. Boniface also advises having copies and easy access to important medical documents – health records, health care directives and living wills – as well as prescription information. For instance, what and how much you're taking of the prescription medication.
“Everyone should have a list of their medications, their health providers and phone numbers, and keep it in their wallet, in their purse and in their emergency kit. While many people have the information on their cellphones, if your battery runs out, it won’t be helpful,” he notes.
Hurricane preparation lists and other tips are available from many sources, including: