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Hurricane 2022: Prepare now so you won’t panic later | Column

A Tampa General Hospital doctor says “let’s wait and see” and “hope for the best” won’t get you medically ready for storm season.
Dr. Paul Nanda, chief medical officer of Tampa General Hospital's Fast Track Urgent Care
Dr. Paul Nanda, chief medical officer of Tampa General Hospital's Fast Track Urgent Care [ DANIEL WALLACE | Tampa General ]
Published May 26|Updated May 27

As Benjamin Franklin once told the people of Philadelphia when discussing fire prevention: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

While residents of the Tampa Bay region thankfully don’t have to worry too much about fires, we do have our own natural disasters that come around every year: hurricanes. It seems like, as climate change progresses, more volatile natural disasters, in all forms, threaten our region.

Storm experts have been saying for years that Tampa Bay is due for a major hurricane to hit our region. In fact, we were lucky locally a few years ago when Hurricane Irma skirted by, hitting just to our south. While it caused some significant damage and disruption of services, we did not see severe impacts on Tampa Bay.

COVID-19 is changing the way we look at many aspects of everyday life — and hurricane preparedness should be no exception. Plans should focus on preparation, not panic.

Related: Hurricane 2022: Tampa Bay will flood. Here’s how to get ready.

Every year, we should take the opportunity in early spring to review and refresh our preparedness plans when it comes to hurricane planning. Too often, Floridians take the “let’s wait and see” or “hope for the best” approach to hurricane planning, especially from a medical perspective.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to plan for the unpredictable and uncertain, which will help us sail through the upcoming storm season with ease and security.

In addition to the staples found in any household hurricane kit (drinking water, flashlights, batteries, a cellphone charger/backup battery, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, duct tape, a well-formulated evacuation plan, a safe place to stay or friends or family who will be open to housing you, your family, your pets, etc.), it’s a good idea to prepare medically as well.

It is important to have at least two weeks’ worth of medication — especially for chronic issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and asthma — but also for short-term medications that are needed should you get injured or be in pain.

Items such as elastic bandages, moldable splints, Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment and skin cleaners are equally important. No one plans to get injured, just like no one plans to get caught in a storm.

Related: Hurricane 2022: Protect your mental health during the storm

It’s wise to also consider any medications that may need to be refrigerated or temperature-controlled and to have a plan to store those as well.

It’s also good to remember that while everyone is tired of the pandemic, it is ongoing. We could see additional spikes of variants, so keeping a supply of surgical masks and hand sanitizer and having a backup place to stay if a friend or relative is sick or in isolation is also smart.

Hurricane shelters, as a last resort, can be an option, but they can be very crowded in a true emergency and can lead to exposure to respiratory viruses as well.

Often during and after a major storm, emergency services are stressed and emergency rooms can be extremely busy. So, while they are always a last-resort option, it is not best to count on them to be able to provide medications for chronic health conditions during a storm.

Here is where the planning part of the equation comes into focus:

  • Plan to have at least two weeks of extra medications for all your chronic medical conditions, and have a discussion with your primary care provider in advance to discuss your plan.
  • Keep a copy — either a paper copy or one you can easily reference/access digitally — of a list of all your medications, allergies and chronic medical conditions, including your past family and surgical history.
  • These bits of information can be key pieces of any medical puzzle that you might face in an emergent situation. You should also share this information with a spouse or any family member who might be faced with making medical decisions on your behalf and know what the emergency plan is should you find yourself in a true medical emergency.
  • Of course, most non-emergent medical conditions can be seen and treated at an urgent care center or even in a pinch via telemedicine platforms these days.

So, thank you, Mr. Franklin: Your words still hold true. Let’s hope for the best, plan for the worst and, in all cases, like the Boy Scouts motto says, “be prepared.”

Dr. Paul Nanda is chief medical officer for TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track, a network of urgent care clinics on both sides of Tampa Bay that are affiliated with Tampa General Hospital.

• • •

2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

IT’S HURRICANE SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

RISING THREAT: Tampa Bay will flood. Here’s how to get ready.

DOUBLE-CHECK: Checklists for building all kinds of hurricane kits

PHONE IT IN: Use your smartphone to protect your data, documents and photos

SELF-CARE: Protect your mental health during a hurricane

• • •

Rising Threat: A special report on flood risk and climate change

PART 1: The Tampa Bay Times partnered with the National Hurricane Center for a revealing look at future storms.

PART 2: Even weak hurricanes can cause huge storm surges. Experts say people don’t understand the risk.

PART 3: Tampa Bay has huge flood risk. What should we do about it?

INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the hurricane flood risk

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