When extreme weather strikes, cancer survivors need to take extra precautions to protect their health. Will you be ready?
Weather-related emergencies can happen in any part of the country, and at any time of the year. Even though you can’t control when or where a weather emergency will occur, you can protect yourself by preparing in advance.
Talk to Your Care Team
Your first step to being prepared is talking to your care team. Find out the best way to contact your doctor during and after severe weather. Also, confirm your doctor’s office has your current contact information.
Your care team will share any steps you need to take, based on your healthcare needs. You may need to have extra medications on hand and your doctor can help you get them. Even if you’re not in active treatment, you’ll need to discuss your specific action plan.
Consider discussing how to manage your care in the event of an evacuation. For instance, you can ask about what you should do if you’re unable to make your scheduled treatment, appointments or end up without your medications.
Create Your Plan
Together with your care team and family, think about the help you may need during a weather emergency and who can help.
Have Your Information Ready
If you have to see a doctor who isn’t on your care team, you’ll need to have your diagnosis and treatment information handy.
Include medication lists, pathology and lab reports, imaging results and contact information for all doctors who are treating you. Collect insurance information and your past appointment schedule, along with any other relevant medical documents. Be sure to store these items in a waterproof bag.
You can download a PDF of your health records through My Care Plus. Log in to the portal, and go to My Care. Once there, select “Download” on the right-hand side of the page. Choose PDF as the download type. To download your entire health record, simply leave the date fields empty.
Stock up on Food and Water
Depending on the emergency, tap water may be unsafe to use or drink. Roads may be closed due to flooding or debris and you may not be able to go to the grocery store. Stores may be closed or sold out. Prepare by having at least three gallons of water for each person in your home.
If you have a weakened immune system, it’s especially important to have clean water for drinking, washing your hands, brushing your teeth and bathing.
Keep a three-day supply of nonperishable food per person. Don't forget to include a manual can opener, plastic utensils, paper plates and garbage bags.
Staying Safe at Home
Choose a safe spot in your home in case you need to shelter in place or there isn’t time to seek shelter elsewhere. Pick a place that’s away from windows and high enough to avoid flooding.
Find out how to shut off the gas and electricity, and make sure you have the right tools to do so. If you need power for your medical device or medication, consider investing in a backup generator. Remember to use generators outdoors only and away from windows.
Emergency Routes and Transportation
In case you need to evacuate, you’ll want to create a plan now. Local and county governments coordinate with FEMA to determine evacuation routes. These can change based on the emergency. Details are provided by local governments and distributed through the news.
If you don't drive or you need help, talk to family or friends about your needs. You can also contact your local government or county government. Many states, counties and cities can provide evacuation assistance. You can always contact the United Way for help by dialing 2-1-1.
If you live along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, where hurricanes pose a greater risk, make sure you keep a full tank of gas in your vehicle. Storms can create disruptions in GPS systems, so pack a battery-operated radio and a map of your local area.
In advance, choose a meeting place outside of town where you can reunite with your family in case you are separated and there is no cell-phone service.
Build an Emergency Kit
One of the easiest ways to prepare for extreme weather is to build an emergency kit. Kits typically contain inexpensive items that are easy to find and could save your life. The Department of Homeland Security recommends packing:
- Food and water
- Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio that broadcasts the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio with tone alert
- First-aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle, hand bell or flag to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape to make temporary repairs if you need to shelter in place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers (home and car)
- Important documents related to your cancer treatment
If you’re in treatment, your kit may need additional supplies. Talk to your care team about including:
- A two-week supply of medications, along with any supplies needed to administer them
- Latex gloves
- Antiseptic spray and hand sanitizer