Helping you live your best life

Skip main navigation
Group Created with Sketch.

Need help

What can we help you find?

Related Search Terms

Related Search Results


How to prepare for hurricanes? VCU Health experts share tips

Creating a checklist and securing supplies ahead of a storm can better protect your household from emergencies, such as evacuations and heat-related illnesses.

Woman putting cans of food to prepare emergency backpack in living room Emergency management experts recommend necessities for an emergency kit, such as water, first aid supplies and medicine, fit in one or two easy-to-carry containers or bags. (Getty Images)

By Sara McCloskey

Most Virginians know what to do when a hurricane rolls in: Find out your evacuation zone, fill up the car with gas and check on your loved ones and neighbors.

But sometimes the little things we do every day can be easily forgotten because of the stress of an emergency.

Federal health and safety experts say about half of all Americans take a prescription medication every day. During an emergency situation, such as a hurricane, it can be difficult to refill prescriptions or to find any stores open.

“In the chaos of responding to an emergency, people can inadvertently forget important day-to-day tasks. This might include taking necessary medications, grabbing important documents, and ensuring they have enough supplies for vulnerable individuals like infants, older adults and pets,” said Jen Early, Ph.D., program manager for emergency preparedness and event medicine at VCU Health. “It's essential to have a checklist prepared ahead of time to minimize the chances of forgetting critical items.”

To help you and your household prepare for severe weather, Early explains several important things to keep in mind while gathering supplies for an emergency kit.

Know who to call and what documents you might need in case of an emergency.

Being able to quickly find important phone numbers or medical documents can help reduce stress, especially if you need to contact someone for help or notify a loved one of where you are located.

This information can also assist first responders, EMTs or medical professionals if you find yourself in a medical emergency.

“Be sure to share details about allergies, chronic conditions, current medications, medical history, any medical equipment you use at home and contact information for family doctors or specialists. Medical bracelets or cards can also help communicate this information quickly,” Early said. “Sharing this information is crucial and can significantly aid in providing appropriate care.”

  • Create a list of emergency contacts, such as your primary care physician’s office, family members and other important phone numbers. If the power goes out or your phone runs out of battery, you will need a written copy of important phone numbers.
  • Write down all of your medications, medical conditions and allergies. Having this personal health information readily available for any medical professional will ensure you get the care you need no matter where you go.
  • Put these lists and other important documents, like insurance cards or state-issued IDs, for members of your household in a folder for safekeeping.

Prepare your emergency kit and secure medical supplies ahead of time.

During disasters like hurricanes, normal services can be disrupted. Entire towns and counties may lose power and water. Publicly available resources like transportation may also be extremely limited.

“The goal is to be self-sufficient for a period of time that local resources might be unavailable,” Early said. “That’s why having an emergency kit ready in advance is crucial.”

Emergency management experts like Early recommend households put together emergency kits, which include supplies that could help during a natural disaster or evacuation. These supplies should be able to fit in one or two easy-to-carry containers, such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

There are health and safety considerations for your kit:

  • If you take any medications regularly, make sure you have extra supplies on hand for 3 days to a week. Your doctor or pharmacist can also help you create an emergency supply of medications. If you have any specific questions because of your unique health needs, give your doctor’s office a call.
  • Consider having a cooler and chemical ice packs on hand in case you need to chill medications that need to be refrigerated.
  • Aside from first aid supplies, emergency kits should also include personal sanitation materials like moist towelettes, garbage bags, feminine hygiene products and diapers.
  • Health experts also recommend packing facemasks in emergency kits in an effort to prevent the spread of airborne illnesses, such as COVID-19 and the flu.

Medical concerns during hurricanes.

Water or food-borne illnesses are common as people are trying to leave the area of the hurricane and then recover from it. Studies show emergency departments also treat many cases of cuts and scrapes caused by falling and being hit by debris during and after hurricanes.

Hurricanes also tend to happen during warmer times of the year, so Early notes heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, are also a concern.

“Dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and respiratory issues can also arise due to the challenging conditions,” Early said.

Preparing ahead of time can also prevent some of these medical concerns, particularly heat-related ones. Here are additional tips for your emergency kit:

  • Get enough non-perishable food and water for you and your household to last a week. A good rule of thumb is to have a gallon of water available per person for each day.
  • Secure food and extra water for pets.
  • Pack appropriate clothing for the weather. Wearing the right clothing can make all of the difference for comfort in terms of your body temperature, especially when it's hot.

Supporting medically vulnerable people in your household and community.

It takes extra thought to plan for medically vulnerable members of your household or relatives who may not live with you, as they have a higher level of need.

If your household is considering using a community-supported shelter, it's important to evaluate the facility. Most shelters are only able to provide the bare minimum necessities that most individuals need at home, Early says.

“These spaces are rarely equipped to support individuals with special needs,” Early said. “For example, power outlets are limited, quiet or private spaces are rare, and mobility assistance may be limited. This is why pre-determining a safe relocation or evacuation destination that will meet your specific needs is so important.”

For medically vulnerable individuals and their caregivers, Early recommends contacting your durable medical equipment provider — who distributes oxygen tanks, among other items — to see what support systems are in place if you are dealing with an extended utility outage or weather event. Be sure to ask how you might get any mail order supplies if you need to relocate. Have a similar conversation with any home health providers that visit you in the home.

Sign Up for E-Newsletter