Natural disasters can occur at any time. Wildfires, hurricanes, floods, ice storms and emergencies such as power outages can affect your breathing and negatively impact your health. While you cannot prevent a natural disaster, you can plan for it. During a natural disaster or emergency, you may be asked to evacuate or shelter in place. It is important you follow the instructions of local authorities. As you think about the natural disasters or emergencies that most likely affect where you live, you can take steps now that will help you prepare when a natural disaster may strike.
Make an Emergency Preparedness Kit
An emergency preparedness kit involves essential items that you use often and will need in the event of a natural disaster or emergency. Ready.gov has a list of supplies to include in your kit. Living with a lung disease such as COPD, you should have your medications, delivery devices and supplies in one place. This lung disease travel pack should include your prescribed and over-the-counter medication, extra prescriptions and a copy of your Asthma Action Plan or COPD Action Plan. As part of your travel pack, include copies of important paperwork like insurance cards and phone numbers to your pharmacy and healthcare providers. Store your kit in an area that will be quickly accessed in the event of an emergency.
Each year, review what you have in the kit. Add any additional items that may be handy and replace expired medications and food items. If you need to evacuate and seek shelter somewhere else, extra precautions will be needed to help prevent the spread of illnesses like COVID-19 and the flu. Add items like face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to your emergency preparedness kit. Stay up to date with vaccinations like flu, pneumonia and COVID-19 because you may be exposed to crowds and germs.
Communication Is Key
You will need to communicate your plan with your family and friends. Keep phone numbers and email addresses written down of healthcare providers, family and friends so even if your cell phone loses power or is damaged you can use a different phone to connect. Additional suggestions include:
- Sign up for mobile emergency message notifications from the National Weather Service or your local power company.
- Inform your power company, police and fire departments about any medical equipment you use that requires electricity like a CPAP/BiPAP, oxygen concentrator, nebulizer or ventilator.
- Discuss with family or friends your emergency plans in case you need to evacuate due to a natural disaster or emergency.
- Register for a special needs shelter or emergency shelter that can meet your lung disease needs such as oxygen, electricity and air conditioning.
Plan for Power Outages
Power outages are an inconvenience to everyone, but if you use a medical device or medication that requires electricity, it can be life threatening. If you use a CPAP, BiPAP or portable oxygen concentrator, have extra batteries and a car adapter. Talk to your oxygen provider about a backup supply like oxygen tanks and cylinders. Make sure you know how to set up and use the backup oxygen supply. If you use a nebulizer for inhaled medication, ask your healthcare provider for an inhaler of the same medication that can be taken during an emergency. Consider purchasing a power generator to provide electricity during an emergency. Finally, review the instructions or contact the manufacturer to make sure the backup power generator will work with your medical device.
The American Lung Association Lung HelpLine (1-800-LUNGUSA) is staffed with medical professionals who can answer your questions about living with lung disease and natural disaster preparedness. Learn more at Lung.org or download 10 Tips to Prepare for a Natural Disaster When you are Living with Chronic Lung Disease.
Blog last updated: September 14, 2021