Actions to take before Hurricane Harvey to protect your health, safety

Posted at 3:35 PM, Aug 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-24 16:55:12-04

With Hurricane Harvey forecasted to affect part of Texas, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) encourages local residents to take the following actions to protect their health during and after the storm.

Preparing before a storm for your medical needs

  • If you regularly take prescription medicines, check your inventory. If you are low on prescription medicine, check into the possibility of refilling your prescriptions early. 
  • If you take medications that need to be refrigerated, talk with your doctor about how to keep them properly stored if the electricity goes out so the medicine remains effective.

  • If you have a doctor’s appointment scheduled during the immediate time period during or after the storm for a health condition that requires regular monitoring or follow up, call your doctor’s office to see if you should reschedule your appointment before the storm hits. 

  • For those who use oxygen concentrators, ventilators, or other medical devices at home, start making plans to ensure your equipment is fully charged and know where to go if the battery does not work. If you use a dialysis center, talk with your doctor or staff at the center about coming in for early dialysis and where to go if the center is closed after the storm. 

  • If you have chronic or complicated health issues and live alone make sure you have a plan to touch base with your family or friends. Letting your relatives know your plans also prevents them from going into storm-hit areas to search for you, putting themselves in harm’s way.

  • Make sure to have enough drinkable water available to prevent dehydration. Also, if you have special dietary requirements, you should have enough on hand to last several days after the storm.

  • People who have service animals or pets should make sure to have enough water, food, and medications (if needed) for their pets to last until several days after the storm.

Keeping food safe during disasters

  • Before the storm hits, move food to high shelves that will be as safe as possible from flooding. If food or bottles may have come into contact with flood water, consider them contaminated.

  • Begin freezing containers of water now so if the power goes out you can use that ice to help keep your food and medications cold. You also can buy ice or gel packs to keep food cold.

  • Freeze refrigerated items like leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you do not need immediately so they will remain at a safe temperature longer without electricity. To keep items frozen for longer, group them together in the freezer.

  • To keep your food at safe temperatures the longest, avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer. Your refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the doors stay closed, and a full freezer will maintain its temperature for approximately 48 hours. A half-full freezer only maintains its temperature for about 24 hours.

  • Place appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer so you will know if the food is a safe temperature. You should set your freezer at or below 0°F, and your refrigerator should be set to at or below 40°F.

  • Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross-contamination in case they thaw.

  • If food in your freezer has ice crystals or is below 40°F, the food may be safely refrozen.

  • When it comes to the safety of your food when in doubt, throw it out.

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