Managing Treatments

Emergency Preparedness for Cancer Patients: How to Prep for the Unexpected

In the event of a natural disaster or other emergency while undergoing cancer treatment, it's important to be prepared. Create an emergency kit that includes the basics like food, water and batteries, as well as medications and other medical supplies.

Natural disasters and other emergencies are scary enough on their own, but they can be even scarier for people with cancer. Some events come up fast, like a tornado or wildfire, while other storms like hurricanes give you more time to prepare. If natural disasters are a risk where you live, it’s best to take some steps for emergency preparedness for cancer patients.

Create a Plan

Talk with your doctor and hospital about how to handle a natural disaster or evacuation. Your doctor can help you compile a list of items you will need in your emergency kit and make sure you have the necessary records of your medications and care plan.

Reach out to your hospital as well to understand its emergency operations plan. Where can you continue to receive treatment if the hospital is affected? Your doctor and hospital can give you resources to call in the event of an emergency to find out where to continue receiving care.

If you have refrigerated medications, you may want to talk to your pharmacist about what steps you should take in the event you are without electricity for an extended time.

Keep your family or caregiver on board with your plan. Decide how everyone will meet up or contact each other, whether you plan to evacuate, and other steps you all need to take together to handle the emergency.

Make Your Kit

Once you have an idea of your plan, you’ll need to make sure you have the necessary supplies to evacuate or ride out the storm at home.

Emergency Kit Basics

First, you’ll want to make sure you have a basic emergency kit, whether you plan to shelter in place or evacuate. If you evacuate, you’ll want to collect items in a “go bag.” The American Red Cross provided a detailed list of items to include in your emergency kit, but be sure to pack these basics:

  • Water. Include one gallon per person per day. If you’re evacuating, include three days’ worth. If you’re riding it out at home, aim for two weeks of water.
  • Food. Include a three-day supply for evacuation, or a two-week supply if you’re staying home. Nutrition can be especially important for people with cancer, so talk to your doctor about whether you should include protein powder or supplements.
  • First aid kit. Clean dressings and sanitizer are especially important for people with cancer to prevent infection. You may need additional dressings or wound cleaning supplies to protect yourself.
  • Extra batteries
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Cell phone and chargers
  • Extra clothes

Additional Items

Emergency preparedness for cancer patients requires some additional items.

  • Gloves or surgical mask. If you may be around flood waters, airborne illnesses or pollutants, you’ll want to cover up to protect yourself from infections.
  • Medications. If possible, ensure you have a sufficient supply of medications before a storm hits. You may need special approval from your doctor to fill additional prescriptions. Remember to include medications or supplements you need to address side effects as well, such as lotion, anti-nausea or anti-diarrheal medicine.
  • Medical supplies. Be sure you have additional supplies if you have a drain, ostomy, catheter or other medical device.
  • Medical records and information. Keep printed copies of your medications, insurance information, specifics about your disease and your current treatment plan. Store these in a waterproof plastic bag. You can also save your medical records and information on a flash drive and add that to the bag.
  • Entertainment. Times can certainly get tense during natural disasters and other events where evacuation is needed. Don’t forget to pack some go-to essential items to keep yourself distracted and reasonably comfortable.
  • Care team contact information. Keep a printed copy of your doctor’s name and contact information, along with any additional numbers or contacts your doctor, hospital or pharmacist gave you.

In the event of an emergency, be sure to only eat foods that are sealed and safe, and wash your hands regularly. Boil water if necessary to ensure it’s clean before washing wounds, drinking or preparing food.

Taking steps to prepare for an emergency will better position you to react and maintain your health no matter what comes your way.

Talk to your doctor about how to handle a natural disaster or evacuation, and what items you should include in an emergency kit.

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Patricia Chaney
Patricia Chaney