Disaster Preparedness for people living with chronic illnesses like epilepsy.Sep 03, 2022 08:47AM ● By Editor
By Kaitlyn Gallagher of the National Epilepsy Foundation • September 2, 2022
Disasters can happen without warning and can be dangerous for people living with chronic illnesses like epilepsy. If you or a loved one has epilepsy, below are useful resources and advice to prepare for a disaster and help you stay safe during an emergency.
Emergency situations include:
- Natural disasters
- Extreme weather such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires
- Terrorist events
Prepare an emergency kit and store it in a place where it is easy to find. Place your emergency kit in a waterproof bag or safe. For people living with epilepsy, the most important items to include in your kit are your medications, and your seizure action plan. Add a list of your prescriptions, dosage amounts, and prescribing doctors. Include any necessary rescue therapies in the event of a seizure emergency.
If you are aware that a natural disaster is coming and you are running out of medication, prepare by calling your pharmacy immediately. Ask your healthcare provider as well as your pharmacist to see if they can supply you with at least three days’ worth of extra medication. This medicine will be a safety net if you are stuck in a location for longer than expected. If you use a mail-order pharmacy, the supply of your medication is running low, or you cannot get in touch with your pharmacist, use Rx Open to find pharmacies that are active in your area.
Other Items for Your Emergency Kit
Medication and seizure action plans are not the only items needed to survive a disaster. Below are other key survival items to include in your waterproof emergency kit to help you and your loved ones stay safe.
Food and Water
Pack at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food for each person in your household. Include one manual can opener to share. You should also pack one gallon of water per person per day. Ideally, you should have enough water for three days. This lets everyone drink and use the water for cleaning.
If you are on a special diet like the ketogenic diet to help control your seizures, make sure you have the appropriate types of food packed. This can help you avoid seizure emergencies during a time of stress.
Have a cell phone with chargers and a backup battery. Make sure to keep any anti-seizure medication reminders active on your cell phone. Include a flashlight with extra batteries to help you navigate around the room/location at nighttime.
A battery-powered or hand-crank radio will help if you are in a situation where power is not available. Look into keeping a specific radio that is tuned into an emergency station.
Health and Safety
- Include a first aid kit for any other injuries in addition to any medication or items for seizure safety.
- Moist towelettes and garbage bags will help keep your shelter area clean.
- Pack enough dust masks for everyone in your household to use for several days in case of contamination in the air.
- Pack one whistle to signal for help if you are stuck in an area where emergency personnel may have to find you.
- Keep several copies of maps of your local area in case you need to move from your shelter.
Sometimes, a disaster may occur when you are away from your loved ones. If you need to shelter in place without your regular support group, make a list of your emergency contacts. Include their names, phone numbers, addresses, and emails. This can be shared with emergency personnel, when needed.
Make copies of personal documents such as your birth certificate, passport, any identification cards, and credit cards in case you lose any of the original copies. Having access to physical money is also helpful if credit cards are not available to you, or if ATMs are not working.
Other personal items include:
- A few changes of clothes
- Prescription eyewear- such as glasses or contacts
- Hearing aids
- Mobility devices
Your emergency kit may be ready for many years before you ever need to use it. Make sure you check the expiration date on any food, medicine, or other items on a regular basis. This will make sure that your supplies are useful during a crisis.
Creating an Emergency Plan
Plan with your family and friends before an emergency to talk about what to do as a group during a crisis.
If someone in your family has epilepsy and does not live at home but at an adult day center, assisted living facility, or away at college, learn about the disaster plans for their living facility. Check that the evacuation plan fits the needs of people with mobility devices, such as wheelchairs. Get information on how to check on your relative at the facility.
Review your emergency contacts with your family. Determine the order of whom to call first to update them on your current situation. Select someone who does not live nearby. The disaster may also affect those who live close to you.
Learn your area’s evacuation routes and safe places to go. If evacuated, discuss a location with your loved ones where you can meet during or after an emergency.
Encourage your family, loved ones, friends, and neighbors to learn seizure first aid. Taking a training will teach them how to recognize a seizure and safely administer seizure first aid.
Wearing a medical alert bracelet helps during an unexpected crisis. Consider always wearing a bracelet with the name of your condition, your emergency contacts, and a list of you prescribed medications. This lets emergency personnel know that you may need additional assistance during a disaster.
The Epilepsy Foundation’s 24/7 Helpline connects people with local services and resources, including food banks, shelters, pharmacies, and more. Call 1.800.332.1000 (or 1.866.748.8008 en español). The Helpline also has interpreters for more than 200 languages.
- The American Red Cross offers information for emergency preparedness and a list of available shelter and supplies in a disaster.
- Ready.gov provides information about what to do before, during, and after a disaster.
- The National Hurricane Center provides alerts and tips about hurricane preparation.
- The Humane Society of the United States provides tips on protecting your pets (including service animals) in natural disasters.
- RxOpen.org has information on open pharmacies in areas impacted by a disaster.