Five Steps to Prepare Yourself and Your Patients for a Hurricane


Plan ahead and minimize the crisis control

By Jennifer Larson, contributor

Updated September 18, 2018

2018 was predicted to be an above average hurricane season. Even downgraded to a tropical storm, Florence certainly delivered above average rainfall, resulting in catastrophic flooding in the Carolinas.

We may not be out of the woods yet: August through October is considered peak hurricane season on both coasts.

As a travel nurse, you're honing your ability to acclimate to new environments and this adaptability can extend beyond the bedside. With these five steps, you'll learn how to prep for any natural disaster that might occur and encourage your patients to prepare too.

“If you plan ahead, it makes the crisis a lot less of a crisis,” said Debra Hauss, MSN, RN, emergency nurse specialty coordinator at Broward College in Florida. Learn about evacuation routes and shelters, as well as your employers’ policies on evacuation and missing work.

1.   Have two plans
Hauss stressed that everyone living in hurricane-prone areas create two plans: an evacuation plan and a shelter-in-place plan.

•   Shelter-in-place plan. Gather certain supplies in advance, including a weather radio and extra batteries, a flashlight, cell phone chargers, insect repellant and first aid supplies. Hauss suggested looking for solar-powered items when possible, since you don’t always know how long the electricity might be out or how long your batteries will last. Don’t forget to include a sizeable stash of potable water, which you can also use in caring for injuries or wounds. You might also need diapers, formula and feminine hygiene products.

•   Evacuation plan. Put important papers, including medical records, in a place where you can easily grab them and take them with you. Fill your car with gas. Establish a person outside the area who will function as your contact person--and let others know who it is. If you have to flee, or if anyone is looking for you, they can contact your point person.

2.   Get medications ready
Recommend to your patients that they refill their prescriptions in advance and have back-up copies of the prescriptions on hand, too. “If they have to evacuate, or if they run out of medication, or if their pharmacy is closed and they need refills, how are they going to get that medication?” said Hauss. Inform first responders of any conditions or care requirements.

3.  Account for your pets
Many shelters do not permit pets, unless they are service animals. Petfinder allows you to search for local animal shelters that may offer advice on what to do if you need to evacuate with your pet. Your pet needs their own emergency kit with food, meds and paperwork.

4.  Involve children in prep
Children may get anxious or scared when they see adults panicking over an impending storm. Suggest to parents that they get their kids involved to lessen some of that fear; even young children can pack a backpack with a few comfort items to take with them if they have to evacuate. Older children can make sure that you have supplies and food ready.

5.   Evacuate ASAP
This advice is for everyone. When the time comes and the announcement is made by a public official, don’t waste any time in grabbing your bags and supplies. It’s better to evacuate sooner, rather than waiting to see how the storm materializes. If you wait, not only are you endangering yourself and others, you could encounter gridlock on the roads and get stuck in an even worse situation.

Learn more about hurricanes and disaster preparedness by visiting these websites:
Ready America
Safety Information for Health Care Professionals
National Hurricane Center
American Nurses Association on Disaster Preparedness and Response

Hurricane season runs Jun. 1 - Nov. 30 in the Atlantic basin and May 15 - Nov. 30 in the Pacific. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Atlantic basin withstands about 6.3 named storms (tropical storms, hurricanes and subtropical storms) per year, of which 2.4 are major hurricanes.  But it can vary widely from year to year.

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