The Wrath of Mother Nature: Preparing for Natural Disasters

Natural disasters are frightening, especially for those coping with PH, but good preparation can allay some of the fear. This information can help you be ready for the worst when it comes to your safety and your health.

Hurricanes, Tornadoes and Floods

These natural disasters can destroy homes and lives. Preparing for such events starts with knowing when hurricane season starts on each coast. For example, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November. Tornado season commonly occurs from March through August, but tornadoes can occur at any time in any state.

The majority of the time, floods occur as a result of a hurricane. Of course, just as with any other natural disaster, developing an emergency plan is important. Make sure gutters, ditches and drains are kept clear, and reinforce the home by using sand bags or flood bags. Also, elevate furniture and electronics to avoid damage and prevent harm to patients and family members.

Emergency Supplies

Stock water, food, first aid kits, flashlights, batteries, and any other bare necessities. PH patients on intravenous or subcutaneous infusions should prepare an in-case-of-emergency bag. This bag should include any medications and supplies needed to change the cassette or syringe and an extra infusion pump in case there is a need to evacuate your home. Patients with oxygen should make sure to have enough full oxygen tanks to avoid running short. Here are additional helpful tips:

  • Keep a list of your medications with you at all times. For intravenous and subcutaneous infusion patients, specify on the list that your medication should NEVER be interrupted or shut off. Also include the phone number to your specialty pharmacy.
  • Create a supply checklist for your in-case-of emergency bag. This will help you remember any supplies you may need during stressful events.
  • Keep a list of your doctors’ names and phone numbers with you.
  • Keep a copy of your electrocardiogram (EKG) with you. This can help doctors compare EKGs in case you have to take a trip to the local ER.
  • Keep a list of emergency contacts and their phone numbers, including home phone and cell, with you.

Power Outages and Infusions

Natural disasters can lead to power outages, resulting in the added worry of how to maintain intravenous infusions. A power outage poses a problem because refrigeration is needed to keep epoprostenol cold to maintain its potency for 24-hour mixes and to keep extra cassettes cold. If a power outage does occur, patients should fill a cooler with plenty of ice and use it to store ice packs and, if they want, a maximum of 48 hours’ worth of reconstituted cassettes. For safety purposes, patients should always inspect their cassettes for residue and discoloration prior to administering. If possible, go to a family member’s home to utilize their energy and refrigeration.

Oxygen Issues

A power outage for a patient on supplemental oxygen can be dangerous. In this situation, you should:

  • Contact your electric/power company to ask what kind of services they offer to oxygen-dependent patients. Ask how long the power outage will be and if a generator can be provided.
  • Call your oxygen company to ask if extra oxygen tanks can be delivered immediately.
  • Contact your local fire department/EMS to let them know you are oxygen-dependent. Ask to use them as a backup power source.
  • Contact your support system of family and friends to ask for a helping hand during this stressful time.

Natural disasters should be taken seriously. Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes and emergency shelter locations.

By Donneea Edwards-Moore, RN, MSN, PH Nurse Coordinator, Pulmonary Hypertension Program, University of Chicago Medicine, Chicago, Ill.

This article was first published in Pathlight Summer 2013.

To review Conflict of Interest Disclosures for PHA's medical leadership, visit: Disclosures
 
We encourage readers to discuss their healthcare with their doctors. This newsletter is intended only to provide information on PH/PAH and not to provide medical advice on personal health matters, which should be obtained directly from a physician. PHA will not be responsible for readers’ actions taken as a result of their interpretation of information contained in this newsletter.

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The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) awarded PHA the Abbey S. Meyers Leadership Award in 2012 for outstanding service to PHA members in advocacy, education and other key areas.