So far this year, there have been 75 major natural disasters that have hit the US. Of those, 37 have received a major disaster declaration from FEMA. And while the total damage from Harvey is still unknown, Hurricane Irma is already on the way.
September is National Preparedness Month and the theme for this year’s emergency planning is “Disasters don’t plan ahead. You can.” The VA has released a list of what you should have ready, should a disaster hit in your area.
First, create your own patient file. The patient file serves several purposes, it keeps medical records organized as well as serving as a history of the health care each veteran has received. As with any tool, this is only useful if it’s kept up to date. After every encounter with the VA’s health care team, update your file – whether it’s face-to-face, on the phone, virtual or by email. Also, keep the file in the same place – somewhere convent where you can grab it in an emergency or while you’re heading out for an appointment.
A patient file can be as simple as a three ring binder. It should include the veteran’s medical history and insurance information. Medications from both VA and non-VA providers should be included. Even over the counter meds, vitamins, or any herbal remedies being used should be included. Also, a good Power of Attorney for Health Care is a very good item to have in this file. Contact info for medical providers, case managers or other people as needed. A large envelope or pouch is a good suggestion to have that can hold lose documents or any other items.
Now that you have your file ready, what next?
According to ready.gov, you can put together a good emergency plan by starting with four simple questions. There is even a section specifically designed to help military families prepare for disasters or acts of terrorism. The hyperlinks take you to more information that will help you develop your own plan.
- How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
- What is my shelter plan?
- What is my evacuation route?
- What is my family/household communication plan?
Next, you should think about any special needs your family may have. What are the different ages in your family? Do some family members need special assistance? Your patient file should cover most of this, but are there any cultural or religious considerations you haven’t thought about yet?
From here you are ready to fill out a family emergency plan. There are many templates to pick from to get you started. The American Red Cross has templates and tips on best practices for coming up with your own plan. Once you have your plan, practice, practice, practice!
One last plan to think about… what about your pet? According to the US Humane Society, just under 80 million households have a pet. Planning for a disaster when you have a furbaby adds a whole other level of need. After Hurricane Katrina, Congress passed the PETS Act that authorizes FEMA to rescue and give shelter to household pets and service animals.
Your pet emergency kit should include:
Food: At least three days of food in an airtight, waterproof container.
Water: At least three days of water for your pet, in addition to water needs for humans.
Medicines and medical records: Keep an extra supply of meds for your pet in a waterproof container.
First aid kit: Ask your vet what you should include.
Collar with ID tag, harness or leash: Your pet should have a collar with its rabies and ID tags on them.
Important documents: Copies of your pets’ registration info, adoption papers, vaccination and medical records.
Crate or pet carrier: Depending on the size of your pet, a carrier may be the best way to transport them. Also, once you reach a safe area, a crate may make your pet feel more secure.
Sanitation: Include pet litter and a litter box. Also, newspapers, paper towels, plastic bags. Household chlorine bleach can help with sanitation needs (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach).
A picture of you and your pet together: If you become separated from your pet, a picture of you and your pet will help document ownership and assist you in identifying your pet. Include information about species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics.
Familiar items: A favorite toy, treats or bedding will help reduce the stress of your pet.
Consider two kits: In one, put everything your pet will need to stay where you are. In the other a smaller, lightweight version that you can take with you if you need to evacuate.