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Include Medications in Your Disaster Planning

Include medications in your emergency preparedness kit.

Authorities repeatedly remind the public about the need for disaster preparedness to mitigate the impact of natural and man-made disasters. And here at Allied Universal, Inc., we encourage folks to BE SAFE by taking necessary steps to prepare for emergencies instead of being caught unawares. Arguably among the most important items to take care of on the front end is medicine.

Medicines are unlike other consumer goods because they are sensitive to external forces such as light and temperature. What’s more, medical professionals prescribe them only in small doses and most prescription or over-the-counter medications have limited shelf lives. So proper planning is important.

Thankfully, external stimulants like sunlight and extreme cold or heat may lead only to superficial changes, like discoloration. However, in other cases, failure to properly handle or store drugs may impact efficacy and/or potency. For specific instructions about safely handling and storing your own medication, contact your health professional. We are not doctors. So we provide these hints for handling medication only as a courtesy to encourage you to factor medication in your emergency planning.

Before a Disaster:

  • Talk to your physician about your desire to prepare for emergencies. Ask if he or she would be willing to prescribe one extra dose of necessary medications, which you should fill and rotate in your disaster supply kit.
  • Include medications for everyone in your family…including pets.
  • Take extra care to make sure life-saving medicine is always on hand, such as insulin, heart medicine or asthma inhalers.
  • Stock up on OTC medicine like aspirin, pain reliever, laxatives, anti-diarrhea medication and nasal decongestants.
  • Don’t forget about topical agents like Calamine lotion, burn cream, hydrogen peroxide, eyewash and antibacterial ointment.
  • Stow adhesive bandages, wraps, swabs, cotton balls, scissors, and disposable gloves, sterile dressings to stop bleeding, hand sanitizer or antibiotic towelettes.
  • Prescribed medical supplies are as important as medications. Don’t forget important items like glucose monitoring equipment or blood pressure monitors.

Following an Emergency:

After emergencies such as a fire, earthquake or flood, consider the possibility that the effectiveness of your medicine may have been compromised.

The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers information about specific drugs that can potentially be affected by fire, flooding or unsafe water as well as the use of temperature-sensitive products that might react if refrigeration becomes temporarily unavailable.

According to the FDA:

“If lifesaving medication in its container looks normal the medication could still be used until a replacement is available.” Again, please talk to your doctor about the medicines you rely on for health and wellness.

  • During floods, medicines might be exposed to unsafe or contaminated water. Contaminated medication can have serious health repercussions.
  • Authorities recommended that drug products—even those in their original containers—should be discarded if they have come into contact with flood or contaminated water. This includes medicine capsules, tablets and liquids in containers with screw-top caps, snap lids, or droppers.
  • Medications that have been placed in alternative storage containers should also be discarded if they have come in contact with flood or contaminated water.
  • For reconstituted medicines or drugs that are mixed with water, the FDA stresses that “The drug should only be reconstituted with purified or bottled water.” Also, in this case, use only water instead of alternative liquids.
  • Power outages often immediately follow disasters. Some medicines such as insulin require refrigeration. This is important to consider because unrefrigerated insulin has a shorter shelf life than what is displayed on the label. So remember to check all of your drugs once power is restored. And, when in doubt, throw it out!

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW Allied Universal Property Messaging System is included FREE for all Allied Universal Online Training System users. Visit for more information.

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