5 Hurricane Preparedness Counseling Points

AUGUST 28, 2017

Hurricane season is here, and as the news of Harvey's destruction in Texas illustrates, preparation is key. Both during and after a hurricane, patients will need various supplies for their health and safety. 

Patients should keep in mind that roads can be flooded or blocked, and the power may be out due to the storm. Pharmacists can play an important role in ensuring that families stay safe during and after a hurricane. Check out these 5 hurricane preparedness counseling points.

Make sure to have personal care products on hand.1

Educate patients to ensure they have the following personal care products for their families:

  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Baby wipes
  • Soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Tampons and pads
  • Diapers
Have prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications available.

Educate families to ensure they have an adequate supply of OTC and prescription medications prior to a hurricane. Many state boards of pharmacy have laws that allow pharmacists to dispense an emergency supply of prescription medications in the event of a natural disaster.  For example, the governor of Texas declared a state of disaster in various counties in Texas due to Hurricane Harvey.2 

The Texas Board of Pharmacy laws allow pharmacists to dispense up to a 30-day supply of a prescription drug, other than schedule II controlled substances, without the authorization of the prescribing practitioner under the following conditions: 2  

  • Failure to refill the prescription might result in an interruption of a therapeutic regimen or create patient suffering.
  • The disaster prohibits the pharmacist from being able to contact the prescriber.
  • The governor has declared a state of disaster.
  • The board of pharmacy has notified pharmacies in Texas that they may dispense up to a 30-day supply of a prescription drug.

Other states, such as Florida, have similar laws regarding prescription emergency refills for natural disasters. Families should also ensure that they have adequate OTC products for children and adults, including acetaminophen and ibuprofen for fever and diphenhydramine for allergic reactions. Recommend that parents have Pedialyte® for their children at home to prevent dehydration in the event of vomiting or diarrhea. It is extremely important to stock up on medications in advance because families may be unable to drive during or after the storm.

Ensure that you have an adequate supply of food and water.

Educate families to have the following items:1

  • Clean containers for water
  • At least 5 gallons of water per person (last 3-5 days)
  • A 3 to 5 day supply of non-perishable foods (e.g canned food)
  • Baby food and formula
Make sure to have safety items.

Counsel patients to have and prepare the following safety items:

  • First aid kit and instructions
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Sleeping bag and blankets

Use health and safety precautions.

Educate patients that after a hurricane, it is important to make sure that the food and water are safe to use.  Food should be disposed of if it needs to be refrigerated but has been warmer than 40°F for 2 hours or longer.1 

Patients should try to have documentation of their immunization records on hand, as individuals may need vaccines if they were exposed to unsanitary conditions during the hurricane.  Injuries are common during disasters so patients should be up-to-date on tentanus-containing vaccines.3 Encourage patients to get their annual influenza vaccine, as it may be difficult to obtain during and after a hurricane.  

Pharmacists can be a great resource for educating patients on hurricane preparedness.

References

1.      1. Hurricanes and other tropical storms.  CDC website.  https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/.  Accessed August 27, 2017.

2.      2. Hurricane Harvey emergency dispensing of prescription medications.  Texas Pharmacy Association website.  http://www.texaspharmacy.org/news/news.asp?id=360856.  Accessed August 27, 2017.

3.      3. Immunizations after a natural disaster.  CDC website.  https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/immunizations.html.  Accessed August 27, 2017.



Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2
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