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Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.

Disaster Planning

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A Disaster Plan should include the following:

A plan for staying in touch with family and friends, your medical team and your insurers. 

  • Your Medical Providers: 
    • Find out how to contact your health care providers in the event of an emergency. Also find out who to contact (and how) if you can't get through to your normal providers.
    • If you live in an area that is particularly prone to flooding or earthquake, perhaps an emergency back-up should be in a nearby city.
  • Family and Friends
    • Set a person who lives out-of-town for everyone to coordinate with. There are times when it is easier to make a long distance call compared to a local call.
    • Make sure there are alternate means to charge mobile phone devices in the event electricity isn't available. For example, a plug-in for an automobile; a solar powered charger and/or a hand cranked charger
    • Be sure everyone with a mobile phone knows how to text message. When circuits are jammed (as they often are in an emergency) texts are more likely to get through than calls. (Text messaging also consume less power than a telephone call).
    • At home, if you have a land line, keep at least one telephone with a cord. Cordless phones won't work without electricity.
  • Keep contact information for all of your insurers with you at all times, including health, automobile and home.   This can be particularly important if your health insurance requires prior approval before receiving a service. If your policy contains a waiver of pre-approval for emergencies, it generally only refers to a health emergency that threatens your life, not an emergency to your home or the area. 

Emergency medications and medical records

  • Keep a one to two week supply of your medications on hand. 
  • If you do not fill your prescriptions at a national or online pharmacy (where you can get your prescriptions filled in another state in which a branch of the chain is located), also keep a copy of your prescriptions for refill purposes.  
  • Keep with you a duplicate copy of the prescription for your drugs in the event you need a refill while away from home or in case you can't get to your usual pharmacy. The copy could be stored on your mobile phone.
  • A copy of your medical records (or at least a summary of your diagnosis and treatments).  One way to stores these records is as an attachment to an email you can find easily.

If you are in the middle of treatment, ask about an alternative in the event of a disaster.

While treatment may be taking place in what appears to be a very secure building, in the event of a disaster you may not be able to get to the building. Even worse, the building or at least the part of the building in which you receive treatment may be severely damaged. 

Ask the doctor or technician in charge of the treatment and/or equipment about an alternative location to receive the treatment. Also ask for a copy of the treatment regimen so you can continue treatment with minimal interruption. As you are likely aware, you are entitled to a copy of all of your medical records, including regimen instructions. (For additional information about medical records, click here.)

Emergency supplies

The American Red Cross and Home Safety Council suggest that the following items be kept in an easily portable watertight tub that you can take with you in the event of a disaster. 

  • A gallon of drinking water per person  NOTE: Bottled water has an expiration date because plastic containers can degrade. Replenish and restock at least once a year.
  • 3 days' worth of protein rich canned food (preferably with an easy to open top) and a can opener
  • A small tool kit
  • A flashlight with batteries or flourescent glowsticks.
  • Spare socks.
  • A disinfectant such as rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer
  • A first aid kit. You can purchase a first aid kit at your local pharmacy. The American Red Cross offers first aid and emergency kits at redcrossstore.org offsite link. NOTE: make sure you know how to use everything in the kit.
  • An extra pair of eyeglasses
  • A one or two week supply of prescription medications
  • We also recommend 
    • At least a week's supply of cash
    • A radio that runs on batteries and/or is hand cranked and/or works on solar power. 
    • Workers' gloves

In addition to the above, the following should be considered as part of a disaster plan:

  • If you have small children or older adults in your family, find out what plans their schools and care facilities have in place.
  • Tools to quickly turn off all your utillities.
  • Protect important papers. 
    • A fire proof filing cabinet or safe should be above possible water lines - even if means keeping them on the second floor.
    • Decide now which papers are important enough to take with you. Consider keeping them in a separate envelope or folder so you won't have to think about what's on the list when you are in a rush.
    • If you have a question about which documents should be stored where, click here.
  • Check your mobile phone for Wireless Emergency Alerts.

Create an exit strategy from your room, home and the area.

  • Your Home: 
    • Have at least two ways to exit every room and to exit from your home.
    • Think about what facilities within walking distance would be used as an evacuation center. For instance, a school, or a building on a high rise. If there is a question, contact your local government.
  • Your Area
    • Also have at least two exit strategies from your community. If one route is blocked, you'll have the other.
    • Do the same thing for means of transportation. For instance, a way to get away if your vehicle is destroyed or if jpublic transportation stops running.

If you have a pet, plan for your pet's needs.

Thinking about what you need for a pet, essentials include more than food and water. Consider the following subjects:

  • Where you will be able to stay with your pet if you are forced to leave your home. Not all emergency facilities are pet friendly. The same with hotels.
  • Just as with your needs, think about your pet's medical needs - including a copy of your pet's medical records.
  • It may be wise to keep a few photographs of your pet on your phone and with your emergency supplies in case you get separated.
  • For information about  pets and a person with a serious health condition, including travel, click here.

Sign up for free emergency alerts. Alerts can be provided by e-mail or mobile phone. See: www.EmergencyEmail.org offsite link

NOTE:

  • If you are self employed, to learn what steps to take with respect to your business interests, click here.
  • If you are a small business owner, to learn what steps to take with respect to your business interests, click here.

While on the subject of disasters, please consider at least the following prevention techniques at home.  

  • A smoke detector on every floor.
  • A carbon monoxide detector in the home.
  • Set a date on your calender to change batteries in the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors - preferably twice a year.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and one near the fireplace. Also consider one for the garage. Models which combat oil, electric and dry fires are known as A/B/C models. They should be replaced at least every ten years.
  • Sign up to receive weather warnings on  your mobile device. For example, at www.weather.com offsite link. You can track storms via the National Weather Service by logging on to: www.nws.noaa.gov. offsite link.

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