It’s that time again, hurricane season. Of course, it’s time to recheck the fortifications to your house and make sure you have enough food and water and some cash on hand, if possible. As a local physician for almost 20 years, I have been involved in disaster planning with a major hospital in Tampa for several years, and I currently work with our local chapter of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). This has made me particularly aware of the need for disaster preparedness and concerned for the preservation of public health and safety during difficult times. Here is what you should consider:
1) Know Your Zone
We should all understand in which evacuation zones our homes are so that we know when it is safe to stay put, and more importantly, when to leave. The maps have changed a little and new ones are available at http://www.pinellascounty.org/emergency/knowyourzone.htm.
2) Have a month’s supply of prescriptions
I will be advising all of my patients to get a few things done this month. It is important to have enough of your medications in the event of a disaster. Pharmacies may not be open after a hurricane and I recommend that people maintain a one month supply if possible. In some cases, there will not be any serious effects if a person goes without certain medications for a short period of time, but stopping some medications abruptly can be dangerous. Please ask your doctor if you have any questions about specific medications.
3) Be Up to Date with Vaccines
June is also a good time to get tetanus status updated. A tetanus booster is recommended routinely every 10 years. You also need a booster if you have a wound and it’s been 5 years or more since your last vaccination. It is not unusual to get cuts and scratches during cleanup after a storm. One thing to remember about tetanus is that it lives in dirt and not just on those legendary rusty nails. Just about any wound could get infected. Having a set of work gloves to prevent injury in the first place is also a good idea.
4) Do you require a Special Needs Shelter?
Some people require equipment in their home that will not operate without electricity. Oxygen concentrators and home dialysis machines are among them. Some people use medications that require refrigeration. Many shelters offer nothing more than dry land and a solid roof over your head. It is important to make arrangements ahead of time to find a shelter that can meet any needs you have over and above the basics. There is a form on the website below that can be used to register for a special needs shelter and to request transportation in advance. Special needs shelter registration: http://www.pinellascounty.org/emergency/specialneeds.htm
If you have a pet and need to go to a special needs shelter and have no options for shelter for that animal, contact Pinellas County Animal Services at 727-582-2600 to pre-register your animal. They will make arrangements for a host home.
5) Plan for Pets
Many of us have pets and it is important to know if the shelter or home we plan to go to can provide for them. Just like us, pets also need food and medications. Some experts advise three days’ supplies, some say a week’s worth. It would be a good idea to set these aside so that they can be easily grabbed and tossed into a vehicle if you must leave in a hurry. Service animals are welcome in all shelters. Pets are only allowed in pet friendly shelters.
Hurricane season begins this month. Global warming is making storms worse and television and movies all depict the damage and chaos that can come with the season. Spending a little bit of time now getting ready can relieve a lot of anxiety while watching that Cone of Uncertainty later. And if the worst does come, we will be in a better position to preserve our own health and safety as well as protecting those around us.
Dr. Matthew Kramp, DO