How cancer patients should prepare for a hurricane

Hurricane preparedness: cancer patients

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - With hurricane season set to begin in June, there are numerous things for the community to remember, like knowing your evacuation routes ahead of time and having the necessary supplies.

But doctors said there’s another community of people who need to be prepared in additional ways.

Water and non-perishable foods are easy to run to the store to grab, but for cancer patients, there’s special planning that’s equally important, to include making a contact list with their doctor and pharmacist’s numbers.

“I never really gave much thought before I became a cancer patient,” said Betty Alpaugh.

Now that she is, Alpaugh realizes there’s another list of things she needs to consider to be prepared for a hurricane.

“Not just your neighborhood, not just your house and your loved ones," she said. "But also, be sure that you have the proper medicines and that you know where to go in case the storm strikes.”

Those are the two most important things Dr. Miguel Pelayo said cancer patients should do to start preparing now.

“A lot of our medications are oral and they do get shipped by the mail and those are things that we usually do in 30 day increments," said Dr. Pelayo, physician with Florida Cancer Specialists in Lakewood Ranch. "So thinking ahead is very important in that regard. For infusions also, clinics can close, electricity can go out.”

Some hospitals, like Florida Cancer Specialists, will have centers equipped with generators and larger refrigerators so they can remain open for treatment, even when other facilities have to close.

“We went through it with Hurricane Irma," said Dr. Pelayo. "We had to shut down some offices, but then other offices served as resources and that way patients kept on their schedule.”

For cancer patients, a quick call to your physician will answer the following questions:

  • What’s my list of medicines and treatment schedules?
  • Do I need an extra supply or any special equipment on hand?
  • Should I get additional vaccines to protect me in unsafe conditions?
  • Who should I call if I can’t get through to you?

Once a patient is adequately prepared, Dr. Pelayo encouraged them not to be afraid to leave if they’re in an evacuation zone.

'You may feel you’re committed to the area because of a certain treatment, but first and foremost is getting to a safe spot," said Dr. Pelayo.

At the Emergency Operations Center in Sarasota County, there’s a medical needs program cancer patients will need to apply to before a natural disaster.

If qualified, they’ll be accepted into the medically dependent evacuation center during a hurricane.

For more information and to apply, click here.

For further details from the American Cancer Society about how those with cancer can get ready for a natural disaster, click here.

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