Are you medically prepared for a natural disaster?

Jan 11, 2011 By Sarah Jorgenson

Imagine having to evacuate your home quickly as 60 mph winds shatter your windows, water crawls under your front door and the electricity cuts leaving your house as dark as the inside of a coffee can. Would you be prepared? Now visualize being one of the 56 million Americans with a disability, such as wheelchair dependence, or one of the 133 million with a chronic disease, such as asthma.

This scenario is a reality for many who have lived through natural disasters, like or Tropical Storm Fay.

In a new study of more than 37,000 people, lead author Jeffrey Bethel Ph.D., professor for the Department of Public Health at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., and colleagues discovered how many of us would be prepared.

“We found that overall, regardless of health status, 40 percent of all households had four preparedness items, 29 percent had an evacuation plan and 90 percent had a three-day supply of medications,” Bethel said. “When it comes to those with poor health, and , they were less likely to have full household preparedness kits, but more likely to have a three-day supply of medications.”

Household preparedness kits included a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food and a battery-operated working radio and flashlight.

Bethel’s motivation to conduct the study stems from living in Greenville, where Hurricane Floyd attacked in Sept. 1999. “This was an area hit hard by , particularly hurricanes. It is also a region with high rates of obesity and various chronic diseases,” Bethel said.

He and his colleagues analyzed data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey from 2006 to 2008 of households in Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada and Tennessee.

The study appears early online and in the February 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“It was encouraging to see 90 percent of households had a three-day supply of medication,” Bethel said. However, the American Red Cross recommends a seven-day supply of medication after a disaster.

Marcie Roth, director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said it is important for people to also have a copy of their prescriptions or information about the specifics of the medication they take, in case they have to evacuate.

She said that each individual must determine what he or she will need in an emergency. When communities are planning for disasters, people with disabilities, “the experts, those who live it on a daily basis, have to be at the table,” said Roth, who has two children with disabilities and has rheumatoid arthritis.

The study has a message for everyone: “We need to be planning for the whole community because everyone can find themselves in a vulnerable circumstance,” Roth said. “The more prepared I am as an individual, the more I can be a resource for family, neighbors or those with or without disabilities.”

Explore further: Cohabiting couples differ on contraceptive use by class

More information: Bethel JW, Foreman AN, Burke SC. Disaster preparedness among medically vulnerable populations. Am J Prev Med 40(2), 2011.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

More ear infections in teens with smoker at home

Dec 07, 2010

Family members who smoke are more apt to feel it is OK to smoke indoors as their children get older. But in households with secondhand smoke, children between 12 and 17 are 1.67 times more prone to have recurrent ...

Study finds sick kids have fewer friends

Dec 07, 2010

A new study reveals that sick teens are more isolated than other kids, but they do not necessarily realize it and often think their friendships are stronger than they actually are.

Poor health could be linked to unaffordable housing

Nov 09, 2010

People who cannot afford their housing are more likely to suffer from poor health, according to a new study, which also found that renters consider themselves less healthy than homeowners.

Recommended for you

Smoking out the facts in the E-cigarette debate

24 minutes ago

Electronic cigarettes seem to have become as ubiquitous as the vapor they produce. Their popularity has been skyrocketing over the past two years, even in the midst of a fierce debate about their potential ...

Women, work and the menopause

1 hour ago

Menopausal women fear age-based discrimination in the workplace and face a glaring lack of menopause-specific support, according to new research.

Cohabiting couples differ on contraceptive use by class

2 hours ago

Most cohabiting couples intend to delay childbirth until they're married, steadily employed and financially stable. Despite these preferences, surprise pregnancies are common, particularly among working-class men and women ...

Nurse turnover assessments inconsistent

3 hours ago

(HealthDay)—More than 17 percent of new nurses leave their first job within one year of starting, according to research published online Aug. 25 in Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice.

User comments : 0