Hurricane season in the Atlantic typically runs from the first of June to the end of November, but this year, for the fourth time in as many years, we’ve already seen our first named tropical storm in May. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with other forecasters, predict that the 2020 hurricane season will be more active than normal but even so, it turns out that there is no correlation between the number of storms in a season and how often they make landfall.
So our concierge doctors at MD 2.0 suggest that you begin preparing now, and want to offer you some guidance from the experts on how to keep your family safe. The coronavirus pandemic will complicate preparations and evacuation plans, so take that into account, as well.
The following tips were compiled from the American Red Cross, the National Hurricane Center, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Before the storm
- Be sure you have a 30-day supply of your medications—both prescription and non-prescription—on hand before the storm hits. Talk to us if you need refills of any drugs you may be taking.
- If your medications need to be refrigerated, ask us how to keep them properly stored if your power goes out.
- If you are on dialysis, talk to the doctors or staff at the dialysis center about where to go after the storm.
- If you use medical devices such as oxygen concentrators, be sure the batteries are fully charged and know where to go if the battery doesn’t work.
- If you are on a special diet, be sure to have enough food available to last at least a week. And have enough bottled water available for everyone in the household to prevent dehydration. The rule of thumb is, one gallon per person per day.
- If you have service animals or pets, make sure they have enough water, food, and any medications for them to last at least 10 days after the storm.
- If the power goes out, hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies, and hand wipes will be critical to disinfect surfaces, so be sure to have plenty available. FEMA also recommends you have at least two face coverings available for each member of your family.
- Make sure to take all your medical paperwork with you if you evacuate: list of current medications, list of drug allergies, insurance cards, and contact numbers for your physicians.
- If you haven’t had a tetanus vaccine in the past 10 years, see us now to be inoculated. During after-storm cleanup, tetanus bacteria can infect you with even a minor cut or scratch.
- Download the FEMA mobile app to receive real-time weather alerts from the National Weather Service (NWS), and to locate open emergency shelters in your area.
During the storm
- Be prepared for changes at shelters, which will be enforcing social distancing and instituting health screenings for evacuees. Masks will be required, and anyone thought to be infected with COVID-19 will be isolated from the rest of the population.
- If you are in an evacuation shelter, cleanliness is paramount to prevent the spread of illnesses. Wash with soap and water frequently. Use hand sanitizers and wipes as much as possible, and continue to practice social distancing.
- Try to keep insulin as cool as possible, away from direct heat, and out of direct sunlight. If using ice, avoid freezing the insulin.
After the storm
- Avoid floodwaters if at all possible. They are filled with such contaminants as oil and gas, household chemicals, and sewage, not to mention frightened snakes, alligators, and floating fire ant “rafts.”
- If you’re using a generator to maintain power, be sure it’s far enough away from the house to prevent carbon monoxide seeping into the home.
- Do not eat any food or water that may have come into contact with floodwater. If in doubt, throw it out.
- If lifesaving drugs have been exposed to floodwaters, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that if the container is contaminated but the contents appear unaffected (i.e., the pills are dry), they may be used until replacements are available. Other types of drugs or drug products such as inhalers, oral liquids, drugs for injections, and so forth, should be discarded if they have come in contact with contaminated water.
- Insulin loses its potency according to the temperature it is exposed to and the length of the exposure. Under emergency conditions, you might still need to use the insulin that has been stored above 86 degrees Fahrenheit. When a fresh supply becomes available, discard any questionable insulin remaining.
- Take care during cleanup. Be aware when cutting downed trees that they may have been twisted by the hurricane’s winds or embedded tornadoes. People have died when they cut loose a limb which then freed the torqued trees beneath, causing the chainsaw to lash back on them. Also, be aware of downed power lines.
Finally, don’t hesitate to evacuate if directed to do so out of fear of the coronavirus. The Red Cross has taken additional measures to ensure the safety of evacuees in shelters, so don’t risk an imminent threat for fear of the possibility of another one.