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February 16, 2023

How to Prepare for Natural Disasters & Other Emergencies: A Guide for Medically Complex Families

Power outages and other disruptions caused by storms and natural disasters, while an inconvenience for most Americans, can pose life-threatening challenges for medically complex families. Whether it be a thunderstorm, hurricane, tornado, or snowstorm, natural events have the potential to disrupt the power grid and other vital systems, impacting thousands of people. 

Although very little action can be taken to minimize the impacts of such weather-related events, there are a number of actions you can take in advance to prepare.

4 Ways to Prepare for Natural Disasters

1. Notify your local authorities

For example, electric suppliers often have a list of homes labeled as “critical” when the power goes out. Actions as simple as filling out a form and or supplying a note from your child’s doctor may allow you to be placed on this list prioritizing your home’s return to normal operations as soon as possible. 

The following list references the authorities you may consider notifying: 

  • Electricity supplier
  • Gas supplier
  • Water supplier
  • Telephone providers
  • The division responsible for snow removal and/or tree removal 
  • Local fire department, ambulance, and/or paramedics
  • Local police department 

2. Make a preparedness kit or “go bag”

In preparation for a power outage, consider making a “go bag” to ensure you have vital supplies at your fingertips in the case of an emergency.  It’s wise to always keep two weeks of extra supplies on hand in the event you’re not able to receive shipments or visit your local supplier. From medications to extra formula, having extra supplies will give you peace of mind and may save you from being forced to use products that don’t work for your child. 

“Go bags” may include: 

  • Cooler with several ice packs (keep a few in your freezer at all times)
  • Water—one gallon per person, per day; two-week supply
  • Enteral nutrition supplies
  • Medications and medical items (e.g., syringes, needles, dressing supplies, ostomy supplies, catheter care products)
  • Extra Central Line Vests and/or G-Tube Wraps; plus Line Covers and Safe Strips
  • Hand sanitizers, tape, sterile barriers, and masks
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Flashlight

3. Prepare all medical supplies and technology

In addition to medical supplies, many medically complex families elect to invest in a generator to keep the power running for the duration of the outage. This solution, although ideal in medical terms, may not be possible due to cost or other restrictions. When a generator is not available, consider compact battery packs to charge devices, heating/cooling blankets to account for drastic temperature changes, and sufficient battery-powered lights to illuminate your child’s room. 

Here are medical devices you should consider accounting for during a power outage: 

  • Infusion pump(s): Many feeding pumps need to be charged every 12-24 hours, demanding a power source (generator or portable battery pack). There may be solutions that do not require electricity including bolus feeds via syringe (if the child can tolerate it), and gravity bags for those requiring continuous nutrition; however, you should always have a backup plan developed with the support of your healthcare team. If your pump runs on batteries, take plenty of extra just in case.
  • Oxygen: Children requiring oxygen support should have backup tanks in case of an emergency. Many healthcare providers suggest having two tanks available at all times. While a generator may be quickly depleted by the need for continuous oxygen, parents may consider a concentrator that employs the use of replaceable battery packs.
  • Monitors: Apnea, pulse oximeters, and other monitoring devices often have rechargeable batteries that require regular charges to maintain function. Generators or battery packs are vital to keep these devices running long-term. 
  • Central Line Vests and/or G-tube Wraps: Make sure you have an extra Central Line Vest or G-Tube Wrap packed and accounted for in case of a natural disaster. It’s best not to be left in a lurch without the products you rely on during your daily life.

4. Keep a Full Tank of Gas

To be prepared for an emergency situation that requires you to get to the hospital quickly, relocate, or flee, it’s important to keep a full tank of gas in your vehicle. Either that, or have extra gasoline available. However, always store extra gasoline outdoors in a separate structure like a shed, barn, or unattached garage. 

Prepare With Gus Gear

The more you know, the better you can prepare. Start small and make your own “go bag” and expand to larger steps like obtaining a supply of battery packs or a generator if you can afford one. While natural disasters are always accompanied by a level of unavoidable uncertainty, taking action now can help put your mind at ease.

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