Don't Let a Public Disaster Become a Personal Medical Emergency

Tips for Staying Healthy and Safe When Disaster Strikes

Oct 29, 2013


With the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy upon us, New Yorkers are thinking back on the devastation caused by one of the greatest natural disasters to ever strike the city. The storm caused thousands to evacuate their homes, and many more were left without power for weeks.

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, government agencies, hospitals and other organizations have revisited their plans for handling a disaster. It is also recommended that individuals be prepared at home, and make special accommodations to stay healthy in the event that help cannot be reached right away. Below are some tips to help stop a public disaster from becoming a personal medical emergency:

  • Keep a first aid kit including:
  • Extra bandages, gauze compresses, and first aid tape.
  • Antiseptic wipes, creams, etc., as needed.
  • Pain relief medicines, antacids, cough medicines (including infants'/children's if appropriate).
  • Three to four days' supply of medications for each person who is on a regular medical regimen (store copies of prescriptions if possible).
  • For the elderly:
  • Keep a list of the medications and dosages household members take, or copies of all your prescription slips with doctors' names and phone numbers.
  • If you rely on medical equipment that requires electric power, contact your medical supply company and power provider for information regarding a back-up power source and the life-sustaining equipment customer service phone listing.
  • If you rely on oxygen, talk to your oxygen supplier about emergency replacements.
  • For diabetics:
  • Consider storing three days' worth of diabetes supplies, which, depending on how you take care of your diabetes, could include oral medication, insulin, insulin delivery supplies, lancets, extra batteries for your meter and/or pump, and a quick-acting source of glucose.
  • Have an extra glucagon emergency kit.
  • For the hard of hearing:
  • Practice communicating your needs through gestures, note cards, text messages, or other means.
  • Prepare something now that describes your needs in short, meaningful phrases. You may not have much time to get your message across. Prewritten cards or text messages can help you share information during a stressful or uncomfortable situation.
  • Water safety:
  • Keeping a 3-day supply of at least 1 gallon of clean water per person for hydration and safe food preparation.
  • All water of uncertain purity should be treated before use. To treat water, boil it for about 1 minute before cooling it. For more information on preparing for an emergency, visit the Emergencies and Events page at

These tips have been adapted from information provided by the American Diabetes Association, National Crime Prevention Council, Federal Emergency Management Agency, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the World Health Organization.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is one of the nation's largest and most comprehensive hospitals, with some 2,600 beds. In 2012, the Hospital had nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits, including 12,758 deliveries and 275,592 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian's 6,144 affiliated physicians and 20,154 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at six major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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