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Cancer and Hurricane Preparedness: Begin to Plan Now


What are important considerations for hurricane preparedness when undergoing cancer treatment?

With June comes the beginning of hurricane season. This is a scary thought for some of us who are still rebuilding or recuperating from the damage caused by last year's storms, including Maria, Irma and Harvey. All were powerful storms last year, and with any luck, it would be nice to have a break from major storms. But it might also be a good time to remind ourselves how to prepare and take in any special considerations you might need to plan for during hurricane season.

When undergoing cancer treatment, I was fortunate that I was not placed in the situation of also having find a special needs shelter or leave town, as we had a mild hurricane season that year. But that was not the case in 2017. While any storm-related evacuations are an inconvenience, I encourage those who are entering hurricane season to heed warnings seriously and most importantly to plan now for what actions you will take.

What are important considerations for hurricane preparedness for patients undergoing cancer treatment? While it is likely to very vastly from person to person, it is a good time to start discussing plans with family members and medical team. It is also good to know the difference between what could be expected based on the type of storm and what your local county or emergency preparedness centers suggest. Some storms, such as hurricanes, are not just about the winds, but also potential flooding due to rising water levels. It is not just a matter of surviving the storm, but it is being prepared for the weeks or months of potentially disrupted access to homes, electricity or medical centers following a storm.

For some individuals preparedness might be as simple as registering with your hospital or a special needs evacuation center, but for others it might mean making a decision to relocate to a safer area and working with your medical team to plan for a smooth transition with treatments you might be receiving which may include contacting your special needs pharmacy and asking questions in advance as to how they will help you if for example you need medications sent out of town.

Based on your plans, you can then begin to develop a list of supplies. While this might be time-consuming, you might want to prepare a plan for your home or what you need once returning, staying with others, or what would be needed if you go to a shelter, hospital, hotel or other such location. Resources should hopefully include your medical team's recommendations, your local emergency preparedness departments guidelines and any information you can find of support from FEMA websites and other websites such as the Red Cross for guideline's and tips. There is likely not a one-size-fits-all plan, and resources and events related to any storm can change quickly. The idea is to begin to prepare now.

In Florida, we have already begun to prepare, with state-wide days where hurricane-related purchases were tax free. Batteries, propane, water and other resources were on my list. I have also personally chosen to fix my home to be more resilient; Irma convinced me that a metal roof was on my to-do list. But many of us — myself included – have not even been able to complete all our repairs from last year's damage, so also take this into consideration. Some of your homes may also not yet be ready for the current hurricane season.

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