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HHS: Take action before Hurricane Irma to protect your health, safety

By Staff | Sep 6, 2017

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response encourages residents to take the following actions to protect their health and safety before and during a hurricane:

* Preparing before a storm for your medical needs

– If you regularly take prescription medicines, check your inventory. If you are low on prescription medicine, check into the possibility of refilling your prescriptions early.

– If you take medications that need to be refrigerated, talk with your doctor about how to keep them properly stored if the electricity goes out so the medicine remains effective.

– If you have a doctor’s appointment scheduled during the immediate time period during or after the storm for a health condition that requires regular monitoring or follow up, call your doctor’s office to see if you should reschedule your appointment before the storm hits.

– For those who use oxygen concentrators, ventilators, or other medical devices at home, start making plans to ensure your equipment is fully charged and know where to go if the battery does not work. If you use a dialysis center, talk with your doctor or staff at the center about coming in for early dialysis and where to go if the center is closed after the storm.

– If you have chronic or complicated health issues and live alone make sure you have a plan to touch base with your family or friends. They will want to know that you are alright or if you need help. Letting your relatives know your plans also prevents them from going into storm-hit areas to search for you, putting themselves in harm’s way.

– Make sure to have enough drinkable water available to prevent dehydration. Also, if you have special dietary requirements, you should have enough on hand to last several days after the storm.

– People who have service animals or pets should make sure there is enough water, food, and medications (if needed) for them to last until several days after the storm.

* Planning for medical care in case of evacuation

– Make sure you have the necessary medical paperwork with you, including your insurance cards, list of your current medications, list of any drug allergies, and contact information for your physicians.

– If you need to evacuate, determine where you would go to receive medical care at that location.

* Keeping food safe during disasters

– Before the storm hits, move food to high shelves that will be as safe as possible from flooding. If food or bottles may have come into contact with flood water, consider them contaminated.

– Begin freezing containers of water now so if the power goes out you can use that ice to help keep your food and medications cold. You also can buy ice or gel packs to keep food cold.

– Freeze refrigerated items like leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you do not need immediately so they will remain at a safe temperature longer without electricity. To keep items frozen for longer, group them together in the freezer.

– To keep your food at safe temperatures the longest, avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer. Your refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the doors stay closed, and a full freezer will maintain its temperature for approximately 48 hours. A half-full freezer only maintains its temperature for about 24 hours.

– Place appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer so you will know if the food is a safe temperature. You should set your freezer at or below 0F, and your refrigerator should be set to at or below 40F.

Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross-contamination in case they thaw.

– If food in your freezer has ice crystals or is below 40F, the food may be safely refrozen.

– When it comes to the safety of your food, when in doubt, throw it out.

Learn more at foodsafety.gov.

* Protecting health during post-disaster clean-up, before the storm hits

– If you haven’t had a tetanus vaccine in the past 10 years, get vaccinated because people can get infected with tetanus disease while cleaning up after storms. The bacteria that cause tetanus commonly can be found in soil, manure and dust, and infection can occur through punctures and even small scratches.

ASPR leads HHS in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security. HHS is the principal federal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. To learn more, visit PHE.gov .

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services