Wise Words – Well This Is Just A Disaster!

Submitted by Dr Becky Wise

Well This Is Just A Disaster!

Disasters, whatever kind they may be, are something that many of us are probably not prepared for. Since we can’t predict when these disasters and emergencies happen, knowing how to prepare and then being prepared is critical. While being prepared for a situation like this can be even more difficult when you have chronic conditions and take multiple medications there are several steps you can take. The most important thing to have is your own personal information. This may sound self-explanatory, but there are many different pieces of information that will be crucial in making sure you get the help and care you need quickly. Here is a list of information you should always keep with you in case of emergency:

• A list of all medications you currently take

o This should include name, strength and how you take it
o It may also be necessary to keep a list of medications for your immediate household members as well
• A list of any and all allergies, even non-medication allergies

• If you have a medical alert bracelet or necklace, make sure you wear it

• Keep a list of emergency contact numbers for both nearby and long distance contacts

• Name and contact of your primary care doctor and any specialists you see regularly

house-surrounded-by-waterWEWhile this may seem like a lot of information to carry all the time, but having this information with you will help make sure you get the care you need as soon as possible. This is especially important when you have time sensitive conditions like diabetes.

It is also very important to have emergency supplies of all your medications. This should include over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and any medications you take as needed. Remember that depending on the emergency, it may be difficult or even impossible to reach your pharmacy. Even if you’re able to reach a pharmacy or hospital, you may be in for a long wait. The Centers for Disease Control you keep a 7 day emergency supply of all medications. They also recommend you maintain a “disaster kit” made up of the following items:

• Water – one gallon per person per day
o If you have multiple household members, a large amount of water will be needed

• Food – should be easy to prepare and have a long shelf-life
o Manual can opener
• Cellphone and chargers

• Flashlight – preferably a crank powered version, if not be sure to have extra batteries as well

• Battery powered radio

• First aid kit

o It’s a good idea to have one in both your home and car

• Extra blankets
• Soap, toothbrush and other personal care items
• Extra cash
• Copies of important documents such as medical records, insurance cards, etc.

This list seems excessive but that is because you will need enough supplies to get the initial emergency AND the recovery afterwards. These things should be stored in clear, air tight containers if possible, and should be clearly labeled.

As mentioned earlier, it is important to have an emergency supply of all your medication. The best way to do this is to make sure you refill your prescriptions before they run out. If possible, refill your prescriptions 3-4 days early. Most insurance plans will allow you to fill non-controlled medications as many as 7 days early. If you don’t have an emergency supply, your state or local government will likely set up “Points of Dispensing.” These are sites that will provide emergency medical care and medication in the event of a disaster. In an urgent/emergent situation, pharmacies will not be used as “Points of Dispensing.” These will most likely be hospitals/ERs, urgent care centers, universities, etc.

However, pharmacies may become “Points of Dispensing” after the initial event to aid in recovery, and help lighten the burden on other facilities. To check and see if your pharmacy is open during a disaster you can visit www.rxopen.org. This will only tell you they are open if they are processing prescriptions electronically, so if they are unable to do that for some reason, they will not be listed as open on the website.
Pharmacies might not be able to provide you with medication if your prescription has no refills, or if it is a controlled substance. If this is the case, you may need to visit the nearest hospital or ER for a new prescription. If you don’t know if your prescription is a controlled substance, speak with your pharmacist. In certain types of disasters, pharmacies will likely become major sites for vaccinations.

The CDC has different recommendations for each type of disaster/emergency such as weather, earthquake and outbreaks of disease. To find information on each type of disaster, there are a number of reliable websites you can visit:


The best way to be prepared for an emergency is not to put off the preparations. We never know when disaster will strike so it is critical to prepare as quickly as possible. It is also important to have multiple disaster kits and copies of important information in different locations. This way you will always have what you need no matter where you are when there’s an emergency.

Be Well, Be Wise,

Article written by Noah Ray, PharmD Candidate, LECOM School of Pharmacy Class of 2015


Dr. Rebecca Wise

Wise Words…. is a general medical information column from Dr Rebecca Wise. Dr. Wise has a master’s degree in education as well as her doctorate in pharmacy. She is an assistant professor and ambulatory care specialist at a Medication Therapy Management (MTM) clinic in Erie, PA.

Soon to be released is Dr Becky’s new website which will address women’s issues, watch for it: www.WiseWordsforWomen.com

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