If Emergency Strikes, Will You Be Prepared?
By Tami Pyles
We stared at the TV watching the ominous red blob inch closer and closer to our area. There was no doubt a major storm was headed our way. The weatherman encouraged everyone to take cover and prepare for a long evening with potentially damaging winds that could knock out power and the possibility of strong tornadoes. This was our first brush with potential disaster since our food allergy diagnosis, and I began to panic- what if we needed food, what if we needed our daughter’s medicines. I frantically ran through the house and began packing a bag with nut free foods, our daughter’s epinephrine auto-injectors, and all the wipes I could find in the house.
It was an eye-opening experience for me. A disaster can strike without warning. In our case, terrible storms, but disaster can come in all forms - fires, hurricanes, electrical outages, floods, snow storms, terror attacks. Will you be ready? It is a question everyone needs to ask, but takes on even more importance when you have food allergies to ensure you have access to the medicines and safe food you need.
Here are some tips for being ready should an emergency situation arise.
Have a Plan
Think through where you would need to go and what you need to take with you to stay safe. This means thinking through various scenarios and being ready- with required supplies in your shelter in place location and in a “grab-and-go” bag that can easily be taken with you should a quick evacuation be required. Share this plan with your family so everyone knows how to respond, where to meet, and where emergency supplies are located.
Food and Water
The Red Cross recommends that you keep 1 gallon of water per person per day, 3 days’ worth for an evacuation, 14 days’ worth for home. Be sure to switch out your water supply every six months.
Having safe food is critical for emergencies when you are managing food allergies. Even if assistance with food is available after a disaster, there is no guarantee your allergens will be accommodated. The Red Cross recommends you keep a 3-day supply of food for evacuations and a 14-day supply for home. As a food allergy family, you may want to increase this supply to ensure you have access to safe foods.
Foods should be non-perishable, stored in air tight containers and checked yearly so that expired foods can be replaced. Think about what you eat on a daily basis that is safe and stock pile items that can be stored easily. Remember the goal is to have safe foods sustain you- it is not about prepping those awesome allergy-free meals we do all week. Items in your safe food storage package might include:
- Canned fruits and vegetables, or soups
- Peanut butter or nut butter alternatives
- Canned meats (tuna, ham, chicken)
- Applesauce, fruit/veggie pouches, baby food
- Energy bars or protein bars with safe ingredients
- Powdered formula or milk
- Dry cereals, chips, crackers
- Juice boxes
Be sure to also include basic supplies for eating these items- a manual can opener, plastic silverware, paper products and a few storage containers to reserve any extra food.
Medicines and Supplies
Will your emergency medications be easily accessible if you need to leave quickly? Our allergist suggests creating a bag that contains all emergency medications (epinephrine, antihistamine, inhalers, etc.), and keeping this bag in a central location that can be easily grabbed if you need to quickly relocate within the house or evacuate. In addition to medicines, he suggests including a list of contact information for doctors and pharmacists. Keep in mind, if you fill your prescriptions with a national chain they will have access to your records, even if your current location is unavailable to assist immediately following a disaster. Similarly, if your doctor’s office is part of a national or regional network the other offices should be able to access your records and assist if your local provider is unavailable.
For patients who suffer from asthma, ensure your nebulizer is located with your emergency bag and take steps to ensure you can use it in a power outage. Our allergist suggests a car converter or a battery powered nebulizer.
Other critical supplies for a food allergy family will be detailed information about your food allergies and emergency action plan, a phone charger (consider a solar powered one for electrical outages) and wipes. For additional information on emergency supplies to have (for all families, not just food allergy families) check out this supply list from the Red Cross.
It is scary to think about disaster, but scarier to think you may not have access to the life-sustaining foods and medicines you will need to survive. Take time now to plan and prepare so you can thrive in an emergency.
Tami Pyles owns Thrive On Consulting. She works with individuals and families with food allergies to learn practical day-to-day management strategies to Thrive On; and she provides food allergy training and education to groups and companies. She is a certified AllerCoach and a food allergy mom who manages her daughter’s life-threatening food allergies. She frequently speaks and writes on food allergy topics and also has her own blog, Thoughts for Thriving On, where she shares ideas for living safely with food allergies. She lives in Louisville, KY with her husband and two daughters, and is actively involved in the local food allergy community. You can follow Tami on Facebook and Twitter.