Natural disasters can cause catastrophic damage leaving many without power, food, water or shelter for days or weeks. While a natural disaster can strike at any time, if you have advance warning, it’s important to be prepared especially if you have a chronic illness such as congenital heart disease (CHD). Listed below are a few helpful tips to prepare for a natural disaster.
- If you are instructed to evacuate, do so. Many people choose to ride out a hurricane or wait to see how close wildfires will get to their home before making the decision to leave the area. Waiting and/or staying put can be a life-threatening decision. Depending on the area affected by the natural disaster, you may be without power for days or weeks and first responders may not be able to reach you if you have a medical emergency. Don’t gamble with you or your family’s lives. If you don’t have family or friends that you can stay with during this time, other areas usually have shelters or hotels and campgrounds may offer a discount.
- Pack an emergency medical kit. Your emergency kit should first include personal identification and a written copy of your medical information, such as your defect, surgeries, any implantable devices, medications and allergies, contact information for your ACHD center and emergency contact. The ACHA Personal Health Passport is a great tool to use for this purpose. You can download and print this resource directly from the website or request a copy by emailing email@example.com. Other things to include in your emergency kit include any medical supplies, such as oxygen canisters, CPAP machines, breathing treatment equipment or ICD/pacemaker transmitters; personal hygiene products, medications, clothing and non-perishable food items. Pack your emergency kit early and load it into your vehicle or keep it near the door in the event you need to leave quickly.
- Make sure you have at least a week’s worth of medications and keep them with you at all times. As suggested above, pack non-perishable food items if your medications require you to take them with a meal. If a medication requires refrigeration, add ice packs to a cooler, along with food items and bottled water.
- Talk to your doctor about medical plans in the event of an emergency during the disaster. If you are traveling within or out of state, identify the closest ACHD center using ACHA’s ACHD Travel Directory. You can also request a print copy of this resource by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are traveling with someone, make sure they understand what to do in case of an emergency and can communicate your medical conditions and needs to hospital personnel in the event you are unable to do so.
- Make sure your electronic devices have a full charge in the event of a power outage. Another helpful tip is to keep a power bank with you and ready to charge your electronic devices, especially your cell phone. If you are in an area without power or access to it, you want to make sure you have a way to call for help in the event of an emergency and stay up to date on the latest news related to the disaster.
- If you require assistance to evacuate or have special needs, contact your local emergency management office to discuss programs and resources to help you do so safely and in a timely manner. This is also a great resource for additional information on emergency preparedness before, during and after the disaster. You can also learn about what alert systems are in place for your area and can find the emergency hotline number to stay up to date on the latest information concerning the disaster.
Preparing early is the single best thing anyone can do in the event of impending natural disaster but it’s crucial for those with CHD and other chronic illness to ensure you have the supplies, resources and information to care for yourself or your loved one. We can’t control the weather and we often can’t control what happens related to our CHD, but we can empower ourselves by preparing for such disasters with valuable knowledge, resources and action.
For more information and tips on natural disaster preparation, click here to view the FEMA Guide to Citizen Preparedness. This resource was used in the creation of this post, along with preparation tips from the American Red Cross.
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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.
The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.