Hurricane Preparedness and the Medically Involved Patient Population

Posted on June 15th, 2013 by Denise | No Comments

Hurricane Preparedness and the Medically Involved Patient Population

By

Denise Koonce OTR

Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, and Erin, Fernand, and Gabrielle, this could easily be roll call in a kindergarten class in Houston, however, it is not.  Instead, it is the first seven names given on the 2013 Hurricane Storm list.  It’s a fact of life, that living along the Gulf of Mexico you will have to endure the possibility of a hurricane.  Fortunately, there is enough knowledge and technology now to help in the preparation for an upcoming storm season.  It is common knowledge that you need to prepare your place of residence, your vehicle, and especially for the individuals who reside in your residence.  There are numerous places in Houston where hurricane preparedness information can be found including the hurricane tracking charts.  Generally a household should have flashlights, extra batteries, a battery operated radio, and enough drinking water for everyone in the household for several days.   However, it is even more important to prepare ahead if you have a medically fragile or medically involved family member.  When you have a medically involved family member there are added steps necessary to ensure their safety during a hurricane or any kind of disaster.  

The extra steps necessary will depend on what medical assistance the individual needs or requires on a daily basis.  Information you should have easily accessible should include a complete list of current prescription and over the counter medications, phone numbers and addresses for physicians, pharmacy, medical supply company, therapy provider and nursing agency, if one is involved.  You should also have your original health insurance card with additional copies and place all of the above documents in a waterproof container. 

Extra preparations may include:

Refill any and all medications in order to have a full month supply.

Two weeks supply of any medical supplies used regularly

Extra over the counter medications that are used on a regular basis

An extra fully charged back up battery for a ventilator

If a power wheelchair is used, make sure it is fully charged and have a manual wheelchair as a backup.

Additional water supply if it is needed to mix formulas or medicines.

Prior to an imminent storm, you should have a plan in place to evacuate if you live within one of the mandatory evacuation zones or you are dependent on a power source for life-sustaining equipment such as a ventilator.  After the 2005 Hurricane season, the Texas Department of Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), created a registry for individuals, including those with disabilities, who are unable to independently evacuate due to lack of transportation or the lack of a support system to aid in their evacuation when a mandatory evacuation is called by city officials.  The registry is housed by the University of Texas Center for Space Research and the HHSC 2-1-1 Texas Information and Referral Network answers the calls.  The 2-1-1 call center will request only basic information for the registry including the individual’s name, address, and phone number.  Additional information they might ask would include an emergency contact and pertinent medical information.  If you have not registered through this program and you meet their criteria it is important that you register prior to hurricane season and you must re-register annually.  You can register by calling 2-1-1 or toll-free at 1-877-541-7905.  They can also accommodate users of video phone relay, IP relay, captioned phone relay or TTY relay.  By registering it provides the state funded programs with better knowledge of how many individuals may require evacuation prior to a hurricane, especially if you are in a mandatory evacuation zone.  Unfortunately, by registering you are not guaranteed assistance with evacuation, but you must be registered for the possibility to occur.  If there is a disaster or the imminent possibility of a disaster and the city calls for your area to be evacuated then someone will call you to inform you of the city’s plans for your evacuation.  Again, by registering there is not an assurance that you will be evacuated especially if you are not in the mandatory evacuation zones.  Therefore, you should prepare for an alternate primary plan by coordinating any resources you may have and are associated with such as a church, civic organizations, and non-profit organizations. 

For medically involved patients, that are dependent on electricity to operate life support such as ventilators, oxygen, and other supportive equipment, it is better to evacuate when mandatory evacuation orders are given than try to stay through the storm due to the possibility of long or even short-term power loss.  If private duty nursing services are involved in the care of a medically involved family member they can assist in the coordination of an evacuation plan, but they cannot provide the transport.

Hurricane season is a season of uncertainty but with prior planning and preparation some aspects of uncertainty can be dealt with and planned for, decreasing fears and anxiety for both the medically involved family member and their caregivers.  I hope for everyone that our 2013 Hurricane Season is quiet and uneventful, but if not, I hope you will be prepared for whatever is ahead of us.   If you have any additional helpful information regarding emergency preparedness for hurricane season please share it with us. 

Useful  Websites:

Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) – www.dads.state.tx.us/hurricane/

211 Texas – www.211texas.org/211

National Hurricane Center – www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare/ready.php

American Red Cross – www.redcross.org

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