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Medical Records and Emergencies

Make medical records part of essential preparations

A Veteran in the rain on her phoneWe’re all facing the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. But as the weather gets warmer, it’s a good time to think about the potential threats from hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding. Make sure you and your family are prepared for the season's severe weather and can stay healthy and safe. My HealtheVet has the tools to help access your health records during an emergency.

Severe hurricane damage occurs from strong winds and rain, flash flooding, and potential landslides. Tornados can happen along the path of the hurricane as well as storm surges along the coast. As a result, both inland and coastal communities face higher risks this season. If you had to evacuate your home, would you be ready?

What do you need to do to be prepared?

Form a communication plan with your family. An emergency can strike at any time. Make sure everyone in your family has a way of contacting each other. If possible, identify an emergency contact person who is outside of your area so that everyone has a back-up, central point of communication.

Keep health records handy. Print out a copy of a recent Blue Button file and keep it in a safe place. When a disaster hits, you could be stranded without access to a pharmacy. Stay ahead of schedule and have an extra supply of your prescriptions. If you need help, use My HealtheVet's Secure Messaging (sign in required) to contact your physician with a protected, private message about your care. (But remember that Secure Messaging is not for emergencies - always call 911 if you need urgent care.)

Know your resources. Each community has an evacuation plan, and many also offer emergency shelters. If you need to leave your home or community, learn the best exit routes. Also, find out where local emergency shelters are located.

Assemble an emergency kit. Don't wait until the last minute! Here are a few suggestions:

  • Water and non-perishable food items

  • Small amount of cash - ATMs and credit card machines may be inoperable

  • Weather radio

  • First-aid kit and family prescriptions

  • Flashlights, lanterns, and batteries

  • Blankets

  • At least one change of clothes

  • Hygiene and sanitation products

  • Copies (front and back) of your identification and credit cards

  • Full tank of gasoline

  • Cards, toys, and other small recreational items, especially if you have children

  • And of course, a supply of personal, reusable face masks for every member of the family.

Don't forget to plan for your pets! Make sure Fluffy has her carrier and enough food and water, too. Ideally, the supplies in the emergency kit should last at least three days and should be restocked or replaced at least once per year.

What should you do when you know a storm is coming?

Stay informed. The National Hurricane Center and local news stations issue constant weather updates. You can also sign up to receive alerts on your phone. Follow instructions issued by local officials - if evacuations are ordered, leave immediately!

Protect your home and your belongings. Safeguarding windows are a priority. If broken, strong winds may enter your house and pry open the roof. It's best to cover windows with either shutters or plywood. Tie down or bring inside any loose items in your lawn. Storms spring up quickly, so there's no such thing as taking too many preventative measures.

For more information on preparing for severe weather, visit Ready.Gov.


Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.

Before now, have you printed or copied your health records in case of emergencies?