By Kathleen Sebelius
The devastation wrought by the recent powerful tornadoes in the Oklahoma City area is a tragic reminder of the importance of being prepared for severe weather of all kinds.
Last week was National Hurricane Preparedness Week and it offers a time to emphasize that preparing for these massive storms is vital to every family’s health and well-being. By preparing now, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the damaging impacts of a storm.
Last fall, many along the East Coast felt the impact of Hurricane Sandy, one of the largest hurricanes in history. The storm affected millions of people, and for some, the devastation will be felt for a lifetime. This season, I urge you to make a plan to stay safe and protect your health as storms develop so you are ready when minutes count.
Steps you can take to keep you and your family safe include:
• Discuss with your family what you will do if you need to evacuate. Where will you meet? What will you take with you? How will you check in so that you’ll know who is OK and who isn’t?
• If you have a pet, make a plan for your pet if you have to evacuate.
• Get backups for things you need every day: Do you have backup clean drinking water? Do you have a backup supply of medication, and a copy of your current prescription?
• If you use electricity to run medical equipment (like a nebulizer, oxygen concentrator, or ventilator) or to keep your medication refrigerated, do you know where to go if the power goes out? Do you know where you can go to recharge your batteries? Do you know who you will call if you need help getting there?
• Do you have a backup copy of your medical record? You can ask your doctor to print a copy for you, or save an electronic copy in the cloud or on an external hard drive or enter the information into a smart phone or tablet application.
• Make sure you know how to use a backup generator safely. Remember to keep it outdoors and away from windows to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Talk to your friends and family about your emergency plans. Establish family and friends as your lifelines, and talk about how you could help each other and communicate during and after a hurricane.
• If you know a storm is coming, follow the instructions of your local emergency officials. If they suggest evacuating, get out of harm’s way.
• Make sure to fully charge your cellphone or other mobile devices so you can communicate after a storm. Plan to text, email, or use social media to let everyone know you’re OK so phone lines remain open for first responders.
These steps can save your life and keep your loved ones safe.
For more information on how to stay safe and protect health in an emergency, please visit:
Kathleen Sebelius is the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.