Prepare your medical information for evacuation

Hurricane season began June 1. And, if you live in a coastal area, you may have an emergency plan. But, have you also prepared your medical information for evacuation?

I still remember the difficulty of piecing together the medical histories and treatment plans of Hurricane Katrina victims back in 2005.

After our experience with Katrina victims, we understand the need for people to add a simple, one-page form to their evacuation kit. It’s just as important as water, flashlights and extra batteries.

Here are some lessons learned from Katrina.

Keep your “go” form updated

A patient safety “go” form is a one- or two-page document that includes your medical information. You can create your own “go” form by listing out details about:

  • Medical conditions
  • Past surgeries and hospitalizations
  • Allergies
  • Any significant family medical history
  • Names and contact information for your doctors and pharmacy
  • Insurance information
  • Immunization records
  • Laboratory information or results if you have a complex medical history

With this form, health care workers who are unfamiliar with your medical history have more information to help them decide what care you need.

The form also can help avoid confusion and possible complications in emergency situations, such as being given drugs that may cause an allergic reaction.

Store your completed form in a safe place

  • Make sure your completed form is stored in a waterproof, portable container like a Ziploc bag.
  • Save the completed form on your computer. Even better: keep it on a USB drive that can travel with you.
  • Keep information nearby. In emergency situations, carry your own form, and forms for your children and elderly parents.
  • Keep it updated. Be sure to refresh your “go” form after every doctor’s visit.

While we tend to think these things can’t happen to us, no one is totally safe from disasters like hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or fires. So, it’s best to play it safe and get prepared.

Thomas Feeley is head of the Division of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

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