Disaster Preparedness for People with Cancer

This information will help you make sure you are prepared in case of a disaster. Disasters can happen any time of year, no matter where you live. They can interrupt your access to electricity, gas, water, transportation, and telephone services. It’s important for everyone to be prepared, but there are some extra steps you should take during your cancer treatment.

Make a Plan

  • Talk with your doctor about what to do and how to stay in contact during a disaster.
  • Talk about your plan with your family, friends, and anyone else who may be able to help you during a disaster.
  • Sign up to receive emergency alerts through your county or town.
  • Make sure anyone able to turn off the utilities (gas, water, electricity) at the main switches in your home, knows how.
  • Plan for care of your pets.
  • If you need life-sustaining equipment, contact your utility company.
  • Keep all your medications where you can get to them in an emergency. Include the medications you take every day, as well as a supply of other medications you may need. These might include medications to prevent nausea, constipation, diarrhea, allergic reactions, and fevers.
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Make a Basic Ready Kit

  • 1 gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
  • At least a 3-day supply of non-perishable food for each person
  • Battery-powered radio and a Weather (NOAA) Radio with tone alert, and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Tools, including a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities and a multi-tool
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Manual can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Emergency cash
  • Copy of emergency contacts
  • Copy of your advance directives, such as a Health Care Proxy form
  • Copy or scanned image of your prescriptions and the phone number for your pharmacy
  • 1 complete change of warm clothing and shoes per person, including:
    • A jacket or coat
    • Long pants
    • A long sleeve shirt
    • Sturdy shoes
    • A hat and gloves
    • A sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
    • Undergarments
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Personalize Your Ready Kit

  • Add extra first aid items you may need to your basic first aid kit. If you have a low white blood cell count, you’re at high risk of developing an infection. This makes it very important for you to have clean first aid supplies in your kit. Store them in a sealable storage bag such as Ziploc® to stay dry. If you have any medical devices, such as a central venous catheter, drain, or ostomy, make sure you have extra dressings and supplies.
  • Include what you need to manage side effects of your chemotherapy or radiation treatment. For example, if you are receiving capecitabine (Xeloda®) or fluorouracil (5-FU), pack enough loperamide (Imodium®) for diarrhea or petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) or Bag Balm® if you have severe hand and foot syndrome. If you are receiving radiation treatment and have dry mouth, include Biotene® mouthwash or other supplements that are recommended by your doctor.
  • If you have children, include games and activities to keep them busy, as well as the same general supplies you have for the rest of the people in your household. If any are infants, include baby supplies, such as formula, bottles, and diapers.
  • If you have pets, include enough food and water for them. You may also need a litter box, paper towels, plastic trash bags, grooming items, and/or household bleach. You will need to transport your pet safely, so be sure you have a sturdy leash, harness, and/or carrier large enough for the animal to stand comfortably, turn around, and lie down. Include toys, first aid supplies, and your pet’s medications. Include current photos and descriptions of your pets to help others identify them in case you and your pets become separated.
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In the event of a disaster you’ll need to have important information on paper in case you’re unable to use your phone or other device. If you print this page using the “Print as PDF” button on the right side of the screen you will have the option to either fill in the PDF with your information or print a version with areas for you to handwrite your information.

  • Write down important phone numbers, and include local and out of state contacts.  Your cell phone may not work, and batteries can drain quickly.
  • Write the contact information for all of your healthcare providers.
  • Write the exact diagnosis and stage of your cancer. If you’re receiving chemotherapy or radiation, know where you are in your treatment cycle. During a disaster you may need to see a doctor who is unfamiliar with your treatment.
  • If you’re in a clinical trial, write the information about the trial so that you can receive the proper care in an emergency.
  • Write your medical and prescription insurance information.  If you are displaced and need care, you’ll need it to contact your insurance provider.
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