If you’re in the path of a hurricane, wildfire or other disaster, make sure you’re prepared for disruptions to utilities, medication and other supplies.
Many people in the pulmonary hypertension (PH) community are preparing for power outages and other issues related to Hurricane Laura and wildfires in California. The Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) offers disaster-readiness resources and tips that apply to many emergency situations.
Here are a few ways to prepare:
Identify a safe place to go if you anticipate being displaced. The Houston Medical Center advises patients that could be hit by Hurricane Laura to evacuate early to avoid shelters because of the COVID pandemic. Plan your evacuation route in advance,
Stock up on necessities, such as food, water, first aid kits, flashlights and batteries.
Keep a supply of extra distilled water for inhaled therapy devices or CPAP machines. Make sure you have enough water for drinking and your medical devices, says Melisa Wilson, APRN, ACNP-BC, an advanced practice registered nurse with AdventHealth Cardiovascular Institute in Orlando. The institute is one of 81 Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA)-accredited Pulmonary Hypertension Care Centers (PHCC).
“The storm itself is a challenge in and of itself, but with COVID-19, there is a whole new layer of concern and complexity,” Melisa says.
Ask your PH care team if you can get extra medication and/or supplies (cassettes, syringes, etc.). Some insurance companies will allow early refills for emergency/disaster assistance. Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, another PHCC, recommends stocking at least two weeks’ of medication and in case delivery services can’t get to your home. Extensive flooding can disrupt delivery service for two weeks after a major rain event, says Erin Ely, R.N., PH nurse coordinator.
If you use oxygen, check your tanks to see how much oxygen is in each one. Contact your oxygen company to fill your tanks to avoid running short, and ask how long each tank is expected to last given your oxygen-flow requirements, Erin recommends. Don’t forget to ask about extra batteries, and make sure to check your concentrator.
If you (or your child) have a tracheostomy, pack an extra trach, Melisa advises. Don’t forget to make sure the suction machines are fully functioning, she says.
Notify your utility company about your PH, and ask them to add you to their priority restoration list for people with special health care needs, Melisa advises.
Keep a list of all your medications with you at all times. For infusion patients, state that your infused medication should never be interrupted or discontinued.
Always keep a list of contact numbers, including your specialty pharmacy, PH doctor/clinic and emergency contacts with you. Program your care team’s number and the practice’s after-hours number into your phone, Erin says.
Make sure you have important documents, such as insurance cards, when you leave home. Keep a copy of your electrocardiogram in case you need to go to the local emergency room. You’ll want the emergency professionals to see your “normal” heart rhythm.
Contact your specialty pharmacy if you are running low on medication or need to ship your medication to another address. Ask your specialty pharmacy to ship medication ahead of the storm when possible, Melisa recommends. Find pharmacies open in disaster-affected areas.
Exchange numbers with the leader and members of your PHA support group to keep in touch.
Connect with PHA and others in the community on social media. It’s a fast, easy way to convey and receive information in a crisis.
These are just a few ideas on how to prepare for natural disasters and other emergencies. See more tips on the PHA website.
Looking for more ideas? Watch a PHA town hall on “Make Your PH Emergency Plan” in English or Spanish. The events are part of our “PHA Connects: COVID-19 and Your Health” series.