By: Justin Ceravolo, PharmD, assistant pharmacy manager for Cypress Pharmacy
Ready or not, the 2020 hurricane season is upon us. We’re already off to a fast start, with forecasters predicting an above-average season and up to nearly two dozen named storms. Although planning for a hurricane may not be top of mind given the current pandemic, it’s more important than ever to prepare now for future storms on the horizon.
The lessons of past hurricane seasons reinforce the importance of anticipating what needs will arise before, during and after the storm. For those managing conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, going without medication can be life-threatening. Therefore, it’s vital that your hurricane readiness plan includes securing all personal medications.
Preparations will likely require extra steps this year, so don’t wait until a storm is only days away. With possible pre- and post-storm scenarios including evacuations and extended closures that may limit access to prescription medications, now is the time to prepare a stockpile of over-the-counter medications and all regular prescriptions.
Consider these steps for preparing your prescription medications before the next storm:
- Do not wait – fill prescriptions early. Work with your health care provider and pharmacist to order and fill an extra 30-day supply of all medications needed in advance of a storm, and make sure your annual prescription renewals are up to date. According to Florida law, you can obtain a 30-day refill, even if you just refilled your prescription, if you are in a county that is under a hurricane warning, a state of emergency or has activated its emergency operations center. (See floridadisaster.org for prescription refill information)
- Keep a written and digital backup record of your current prescriptions with you if you evacuate or in a safe, dry place. Ideally, share information with someone out of the storm’s path who will be able to access and share your information after the storm. Keep a record of your current dosage and doctor’s contact information for each medication to help pharmacists assist you during an emergency. Carrying copies of your medical insurance, Medicare and Medicaid is also highly recommended, in case it’s hard to search records when systems or power are out. Proof of residency (such as an electric bill) may be needed to re-establish insurance and other disaster assistance when that time comes.
- Make sure medication is properly stored. Be prepared in case you lose power for a prolonged period of time by storing medications that require refrigeration in coolers and ice to keep them cold. Insulin, for example, must be refrigerated, and other medications can become unstable in extreme temperatures. Store medication in waterproof bags to protect from water and contamination.
Well before the next predicted storm, check to make sure all over-the-counter medications have not expired. (Why wait for a storm? You should check medications regularly to make sure they are not out of date.)
Recommended medications and supplies to have on hand (and packed should you need to evacuate) include:
- Acetaminophen for fever
- Benadryl and Ibuprofen for pain and inflammation, plus topical products such as hydrocortisone and Benadryl cream
- Miralax or stool softener for constipation
- Imodium or Pepto Bismol for diarrhea and upset stomach
- Band-Aids and bandages for cuts and scrapes
- Wet cleaning cloths (such as baby wipes) in case clean water is unavailable
- Water (five gallons per person to last three to five days) and Pedialyte for hydration
- Soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill germs
- First aid kit
- Protective face masks, especially if evacuating to a public evacuation shelter
Try to have documentation of your immunization records in case of exposure to unsanitary conditions. Injuries are common during disasters, so patients should know if they are up to date on tetanus vaccines. If available, get your annual influenza vaccine, as it may be difficult to obtain during and after a hurricane.
In addition, establish a network of people including neighbors and friends who know of your medical conditions. This support group can help oversee any care for you in the event of a disaster.
With some advance planning, you and your family can feel better prepared to weather the storm.