Emergency Preparedness: Make prescriptions a priority

April 06, 2011 04:00 am

This is part two of a continuing series about disaster preparedness on the Southern Oregon Coast. The first part, published on March 26, focused on water storage.


For the next few months I will be purchasing one item (or set of items) on the Red Cross Disaster preparedness list, or finding the one I already have in my home. Then I will put it in a designated disaster kit storage area.

I challenge you, my readers, to do the same.

Each week I will list one item from the American Red Cross list along with alternatives and tips.


Prescription drugs

Now that you have your water (if you don’t have it yet, you can still go out and get it), the next item you can’t live without: prescription medications.

Keeping a supply of medications can be difficult, I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to get down to the last few pills in the bottle before I call the pharmacy for a refill.

While I wouldn’t die if I didn’t get my thyroid medications, the high stress of an emergency situation added to my lack of medication could easily make a bad situation worse. 

There are many in this community who are dependent on medication to manage life-threatening illnesses. In an emergency, those medications can be left behind in a collapsed home, or could run out.

Local pharmacies have limited supplies of most drugs, and if the area is cut off because earthquake-collapsed bridges, mudslides, or other disasters, new supplies are unlikely to arrive quickly.

Most doctors will write a special one-month prescription for emergency kits, my pharmacist told me when I asked about my own prescription.

Some may do it with a phone call, others may require an appointment.

Insurance may or may not pay for an emergency supply of medications, he said. Call your insurance for information for your own insurance plan.

Keep your prescriptions in a small, brightly colored bag or keeper that is easy to find, and store it at the very top of your supplies. Prescriptions should not be kept in a warm or hot location. Heat and light can reduce the effectiveness of many medications.

Some prescriptions, such as insulin, need to be refrigerated. 

There are several options to keep medications cold during a blackout.

For short-term refrigeration, battery powered coolers can keep items cold. I have a camping-size cooler that can be operated with batteries, or can be plugged into a car cigarette lighter, but I’ve also seen some just large enough for a six-pack of soda cans.

Most stores that sell camping equipment carry the coolers.

There are also coolers that can operate indefinitely using small solar cells, which recharge a built-in battery to continue cooling at night.

Don’t forget a replacement cycle. Watch the expiration dates of medications. When  you get your monthly prescription, trade it with the bottle in your emergency supplies to keep your medications fresh and effective.

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While I’m thinking about it, I’m also going to add some basic medicine cabinet supplies, including:

•over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen

•antacids

•toothpaste and toothbrushes

•mouthwash

•hand soap


Next week’s item: food.