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    Emergency Preparedness for Patients with Health Problems

    Tom Fite Pharmacy Manager at Deaconess Family Pharmacy 09/14/2017
    Recent national disasters have caused many people to give more thought to emergency preparedness.  As September is Emergency Preparedness Month, it’s a great time to be thinking about being disaster ready.

    Preparedness is especially important for people with significant and/or chronic health issues, for which special medications, supplies and equipment are needed for wellness, or even survival. Examples of these conditions include:
    • Breathing problems, such as or people with COPD or congestive heart failure who are oxygen dependent.
    • Diabetes patients who are insulin dependent (insulin requires refrigeration).
    • Anyone who takes daily medication needed to manage a health problem.

    Home Medical Equipment Preparedness
    If you or someone you care for requires oxygen, it’s important to be prepared for a disaster—especially one that involves power loss. Power outages are also a problem for patients with other medical equipment needs. 

    Deaconess Home Medical Equipment oxygen patients are each given an emergency tank for use during an equipment failure or power outage. This tank lasts 12 hours for the typical patient and allows DHME time to supply more oxygen, or to replace equipment as long as roads are open.  DHME keeps a large supply of liquid tanks that can be used to supply its patients that will be out of power for several days.

    Beds have hand cranks that can be used in case of power outages. All IV therapy pumps can run on batteries; extra batteries for emergencies are provided at set up. Enteral feeding pumps have an internal battery for short term power loss.

    For long term outages, all patients that are dependent on electricity to power their medical equipment should be ready to relocate to a friend, relative, shelter or hotel until power can be supplied to their home. Take as much of your equipment and medications that you can, as there may be temporary shortages in a disaster area.  A generator that operates on gasoline or natural gas is an option-- these can be small portable units, or large units that will power a large homeBe very cautious with operating generators to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and other dangers.  

    Keep Deaconess Home Medical Equipment’s service number in several places (car, home, wallet and cell phone contacts) so you can reach us with your needs. 
    Medication Preparedness
    When preparing for emergencies, medications are often overlooked. This is unfortunate, because for many people, certain medications are critical for their functioning, and maybe even their life.

    One of the biggest concerns in a disaster is that a patient will run out of medication before a refill can be obtained. Make it a practice to get your next refill as soon as it’s available/insurance allows, so that you’re never down to your last day or two of medication.

    Your provider, pharmacy, and medical records may be inaccessible after a disaster. Every patient should have a list of their current medications in their emergency/evacuation kit. Smartphone apps are available to track your medications, or your pharmacy can print a list of what they fill for you. Also keep a copy of your insurance cards stored electronically and with your other important documents.
    Proper medication storage is also critical.
    • Moisture and heat is damaging to most solid (pill/capsule) medications. Place medication bottles inside a sealed zip-lock bag to protect them. Try to keep them stored at room temperature (59-77 degrees F).
    • Some medications require refrigeration to remain potent, but freezing these medications or placing them in ice may also damage them. The next time you’re at your pharmacy, consult a pharmacist for advice on proper storage and transport, so you can have the right ice packs, coolers, etc. at home.
    If you have to evacuate, or even stay away from home for a few days, remember to pack medical devices and any supplies (blood glucose meters and strips, nebulizers and tubing, etc.).
    Pharmacists are a valuable resource for patients and are problem-solvers by nature. Ask for help.
    Overall preparedness
    In addition to these specific health-related tips, it’s important to be ready overall. These links can help you with many aspects of disaster/emergency preparedness.  
    American Red Cross  
    Kids and Stress (contains disaster/terrorism-related information)
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