Disaster Planning

Emergency preparedness involves including medicines in your disaster plan

As we all know, a disaster can strike at any time. Often there is very little warning or no warning at all to the imminent danger. Suddenly, you and/or your family may need to evacuate an area. Or you may be trapped in your home or a building without access to critical supplies. In preparing for such situations, it is important to put together an emergency supply kit with items you may need. These items include things like water, food, clothing, blankets, flashlights, and batteries. However, another important item to include are your medicines.

In the event you or a family member is faced with a disaster, having your medicines is a critical part of your safety and well-being. Here are some recommendations to consider when preparing medicines to include in your disaster plan:

Keep at least a one-week supply of all prescription medicines you take. Ideally you should keep a supply of medicine in your home and where you work. If you have trouble getting extra medicine to keep as an emergency supply, speak with your pharmacist, doctor, or health insurance company.

An emergency plan should be in place for children to have access to their medicine if they get stuck in school or at camp. If your child is away from home and a disaster strikes, they may need to have access to their medicine. In areas that are more prone to natural disasters (for example, earthquakes in California, tornadoes in the mid-west), schools and camps may have disaster plans in place. These plans may require parents to send in an emergency supply of medicine for their child so it can be kept at the school or camp in case of emergency. If your child’s school or camp does not have a plan in place, it is important to speak with the school or camp nurse about the medicine your child may need.

Your emergency supply of medicines should be securely stored. Store medicines in their original container with the correct label intact, whenever possible. The label on the medicine should include the drug name, the dose, the directions of how often to take it, the expiration date, and most important, the name of the person who takes the medicine. If you take more than one medicine, it is important to keep them separated. Do not put them all into one container. If you are unable to get an extra supply of medicine in an original container, another option is to put each medicine in small tablet-sized envelopes. Each medicine should be in its own envelope. Carefully write your name, the drug name, the dose, instructions on how and when to take the medicine, and the expiration date on the envelope (see image). Be sure to seal the envelope and keep them stored securely where children cannot get them. Medicines that require refrigeration should be kept in the refrigerator until the last possible moment.

Store your medicine supply in a disaster-proof container. Medicines, medical equipment (such as insulin needles and syringes), and medical documents (such as medicine lists and insurance information) should be stored in a waterproof and fire-resistant box.

Periodically check your emergency supply. Since your medicine and/or doses may change overtime, be sure to check your supply every few months. Also, remember to check the expiration dates and replace expired medicine as needed.

Have a cooling case for medicines that require refrigeration. If you have medicines that require refrigeration, you will need to keep a cooling case in your disaster kit. Since you may not have access to icepacks, consider using a cooling pack that only requires water to activate the cooling process. An example of a cooling case that does not require icepacks is the Frio Insulin Cooling Case.

Have paper and electronic copies of important medical records. It is important to have your medical information readily available. An easy way to manage your medical information is by using a Personal Health Record (PHR) system. A PHR is an electronic program that allows you to enter your own medical information either by typing it in, scanning documents, or uploading records. These programs are typically web-based, so if you have internet access you can access them anywhere. It is also important to keep a printed copy in the disaster kit in case the internet is not available.