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Are You Ready? Top 10 Tips to Prepare for an Emergency

Most of the United States has not suffered from severe weather conditions this year. February and March can still surprise us with sudden and wet snowstorms, brutal winds that knock down trees and power lines, and rivers can flood their banks. Keeping safe is easier if you think and plan ahead. Follow these 10 tips to keep yourself safe during a weather event or natural disaster:

Medications
Make sure your prescription refills are up-to-date.
 

My HealtheVet's online Prescription Refill lets you renew and track your prescriptions online. To access online VA Prescription Refill, you must be a Veteran, get your care at a VA facility and be a registered user of My HealtheVet. Take time to Register Today.

Make sure that you have a working carbon monoxide detector with fresh batteries and avoid 'The Silent Killer,' carbon monoxide.

Rows of bottled water
Safe, clean drinking water should be stored in your home in case your water pipes freeze and burst.

Once your power has been out for more than two hours, you should avoid opening your freezer door. A half-full freezer will keep your food sufficiently cold for 24 hours; a full freezer will stay safely cold for 48 hours.

Wear This Not That
Layers of loose-fitting clothing
A waterproof outer layer
Mittens
One heavy coat
An outer layer that absorbs water
Gloves

Keep a year-round emergency kit in your car with items such as first aid kit, flares, spare fuses, rock salt for melting ice, a shovel, a windshield scraper and warm clothing such as hats and gloves.

  1. Think ahead for your prescriptions. When a disaster hits, whether it is a winter storm or a hurricane, you can be stranded without access to a pharmacy. Stay ahead of schedule and have an extra supply of your prescriptions.

  2. Get an online 'house call' from your provider. If you have a non-emergency medical concern, take advantage of My HealtheVet's Secure Messaging. Use this feature to contact your physician with a protected, private message about your care. Secure Messaging is available after Authentication (In-Person or Online Authentication).

  3. Check your carbon monoxide detector. The cold winter months are the deadliest period for carbon monoxide poisoning. As the temperature drops, home heating usage rises and so do the risks for carbon monoxide exposure.

  4. Have a family communications plan. We can't plan when a disaster will strike, but we can have a plan in place for how our families will deal with disaster. Having a family communications plan will ensure that your loved ones can find each other in the event that communications such as phone and Internet service are unavailable.

  5. Stock your pantry. When a storm or other disaster strikes you may not be able to make it to your local grocery store. Be prepared by keeping your pantry stocked with healthy dry goods such as crackers, canned goods, bread and dried fruits for an emergency. Don't forget to keep a stock of baby food or formula for any babies in your family, as well as pet food for your furry family members.

  6. Have water on hand. Food is not the only item you need to stockpile in case of emergency. Safe, clean drinking water should be stored in your home in case your water pipes freeze and burst. Plan on five gallons of water per person in your household.

  7. Know if your food is safe. Your frozen and refrigerated food may be compromised if the power has been out longer than two hours.

  8. Dress for the weather. If you must go outside or if you lose your heat, be sure to dress to preserve your body heat. Not all winter clothing is created equal - check out our quick tips on how to get the most out of your coat closet.

  9. Prepare your car. Get your vehicle ready by getting it thoroughly checked out by a mechanic. Especially for winter, pay special attention to the antifreeze levels and functionality of the heating system. Make sure you have good winter tires to avoid getting stuck in the snow.

  10. Tune in to official reports. Depending on where you live, always keep one eye on the weather report. Learn about the official plans for emergency preparedness set forth by your state and local government. If the National Weather Service puts out an advisory against traveling or issues an official recommendation, follow it.

*To upgrade your account, you will need to go through Authentication. This is a process by which VA verifies a Veterans' identity before allowing access to their VA health record. Learn how to upgrade your account by visiting the authentication page at My HealtheVet.

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Updated/Reviewed: August 16, 2012