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Commentary and Observations from
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Disaster Preparedness

Disaster Preparedness

Since we are in the heart of hurricane season on the East Coast, it is important to be ready. September is National Preparedness Month to promote family and community disaster and emergency planning. This year’s theme is “Prepared, Not Scared.” You may want to share with your patients the following items they may need if they need to evacuate:

  1. Personal needs
    1. Toiletries (toothpaste, soap, shampoo)
    2. Eyeglasses
    3. Baby wipes
    4. Diapers
    5. Feminine supplies
  2. Clothing
    1. Pack enough for a few days (eg, long pants, long sleeve shirts)
    2. Rain gear
    3. Waterproof boots
    4. Backpack or small bag to put everything in
    5. Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  3. Medications
    1. Make sure to have enough to last 3 to 5 days
    2. Oxygen (portable)
  4. Basic electronics
    1. Pack an extra phone charger or portable battery pack
    2. Have an LED flashlight
    3. Radio; either a battery operated, solar powered, or one that has a small hand-crank
    4. Extra batteries
  5. Paperwork
    1. Zip lock or waterproof bag with photocopies of birth certificate, driver’s license, social security card, Medicare card, power of attorney, will, marriage license, adoption paperwork, naturalization certificates, etc.
    2. Proof of address, insurance, and medical cards
    3. Medical and immunization records
    4. Information about credit cards and banks
  6. Food and Drink
    1. At least 3-day supply of nonperishable items
    2. Granola bars or energy bars
    3. Camping meals that you "just add water" to
    4. Bottled water (one gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days, for drinking and sanitation)
    5. Infant formula
  7. Cash
    1. Enough money for a few days (small bills and a roll of quarters)
  8. Pets
    1. Pet food
    2. Water
    3. Dog bags for poop
  9. Miscellaneous
    1. First-aid kit
    2. Whistle to signal for help
    3. Multipurpose knife or a can opener
    4. Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
    5. Matches in a waterproof container
    6. Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
    7. Plastic sheeting and duct tape
    8. Garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
    9. Local map
    10. Fire extinguisher
    11. Paper cups and plates, paper towels, and plastic utensils
    12. Paper and pencil
    13. Books, games, puzzles, or other activities

Household chlorine bleach and medicine droppers are important items to have as well—when diluted (9 parts water to 1 part bleach), bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or, in an emergency, it can be used to treat water (16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water). Do not use bleach that is scented, color safe, or has added cleaners.

FEMA has a mobile app with disaster resources, weather alerts, and safety tips (accessible at As healthcare providers, we can volunteer to help during a disaster. One program called CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) educates volunteers about disaster preparedness and trains them in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

Hope everyone stays safe during this year’s storms.

  • Department of Homeland Security. Community emergency response team. Accessed September 6, 2019.
  • Department of Homeland Security. National preparedness month. Accessed September 6, 2019.

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