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Disaster Planning for Special Needs of Medically Fragile People

Published on: 2/13/2013 4:19 PM
Our Medically Fragile population includes people with a disability due to a health impairment, including those with cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, AIDS, and other illnesses if the illness substantially affects a major life activity. The Americans With Disabilities act protects people who have a history of a disability, such as cancer, from discrimination on the basis of disability.
The following information was produced by a group of healthcare professionals who obtained a grant from the American Red Cross Northern California Disaster Preparedness Network. The group works in San Jose, California, for Columbia San Jose Medical Center, Columbia Homecare & Hospice, Columbia Good Samaritan Hospital, and the Planetree Health Library.
How to Prepare For a Disaster
In preparing for a disaster such as an earthquake, storm, or power outage, people with special medical needs have extra concerns. Try to picture yourself as you might be during such a disaster and during the three days immediately following it. What might be some of your special medical needs? This has been designed as a helpful tool for you and your family as you prepare for a possible disaster.
  • Always have at least a three-day supply of all of your medications.
  • Store your medications in one location in their original containers.
  • Have a list of all of your medications: name of medication, dose, frequency, and the name of the doctor prescribing it.
Medical Supplies
  • If you use medical supplies such as bandages, ostomy bags, or syringes, have an extra three day supply available Intravenous (IV) & Feeding Tube Equipment.
  • Know if your infusion pump has battery back-up, and how long it would last in an emergency.
  • Ask your home care provider about manual infusion techniques in case of a power outage.
  • Have written operating instructions attached to all equipment.
Oxygen and Breathing Equipment
  • If you use oxygen, have an emergency supply (for three days or more).
  • Oxygen tanks should be securely braced so they do not fall over. Check with your medical supply company regarding bracing instructions.
  • If you use breathing equipment, have a three-day supply or more of tubing, solutions, medications, etc.
One of the negative after-effects of a flooded building is mold. When airborne mold spores or mold cell bodies are present in large numbers they can trigger allergic reactions, asthma episodes and other respiratory and immune system problems. An allergy to mold can develop and become a lifelong problem. People with asthma or pulmonary problems and those who are allergic to mold are especially vulnerable to mold-related illness.

Electrically Powered Medical Equipment
  • For all medical equipment requiring electrical power such as beds, breathing equipment, or infusion pumps, check with our medical supply company and get information regarding a back-up power source, such as a battery or generator.
  • Check with your local utility company to determine that back-up equipment is properly installed.
Emergency Bag

Have a bag packed at all times in the event you need to leave your home.
  • A medication list.
  • Medical supplies for three days.
  • Copies of vital medical papers such as insurance cards, Advanced Directive, Power of Attorney, etc.
  • When you leave your home, be sure to take refrigerated medications and solutions.
People Who Can Help
  • An important part of being prepared for a disaster is planning with family, friends, and neighbors. Know who could walk to your home to assist you if other means of transportation are unavailable.
  • Discuss your disaster plans with your home healthcare provider.
  • Ask your local fire department if they keep a list of people with special medical needs.
  • If you depend on electrical power for your medical equipment, notify your local power company. Some companies are able to provide priority service to people with special medical needs.
  • Keep a list of people who can help (Their name and phone number):
    • Family or friends
    • Neighbors
    • Hospital
    • Medical suppliers
    • Doctor/homecare provider
    • Pharmacy
See our web page for People with Disabilities for further information.
For More Information Please Contact:
Office of Emergency Services
55 W. Younger Avenue
Suite 450
San Jose, CA 95110
Fax: 408-294-4851
Phone: 408-808-7800