You need to plan ahead!
The back-to-back hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as the widespread wildfires in my state, have me thinking about emergency preparedness.
There are lots of websites that tell you how to plan and what to pack. Most suggest having enough food, water and equipment for at least 3 days.
They also advise stockpiling prescription meds and keeping a copy of the prescription in your emergency kit.
But none of these sites seems to realize how difficult it is these days to horde even a small number of extra meds.
That’s because the cost of so many prescription medications has been skyrocketing. To prevent waste (or something) Insurance companies are tightly controlling refills, limiting us to a 30 or 90-day supply.
A few months ago I tried to refill a medication a few days early because we were going to be out of town. NOPE! The pharmacist would not refill the prescription. I had to contact my insurance company and ask for a “vacation override” first.
So to gather enough prescription meds for 3 days—or even more in the case of severe emergencies like Harvey—requires a little advance planning and help from your physician and pharmacist.
Stockpiling prescription meds
Tip #1: Never wait until the last minute to refill your prescriptions! Always refill prescriptions as soon as you are allowed. If your insurance offers automatic refills by mail, sign up. That service usually gets your meds to you a few days earlier as they allow for mail delays.
Tip #2: Squirrel away one or two doses every month. I don’t mean skip a dose. Just see if you can work out your refill schedule (Tip #1) so you have an extra dose or two at the end of the refill period. Put it in a LABELED medication bottle with the year clearly marked.
Tip #3: Talk to your insurance company about getting an extra refill in case of an emergency. Some refills are so tightly controlled that squirreling away an extra dose just won’t be possible. In that case, talk directly to a customer service rep at your insurance company and explain that you want a small stockpile of your prescription meds in case of a natural disaster or other emergency.
(Now would be a good time to do this with all these disasters fresh in everyone’s minds!)
Some prescription medications are so expensive that an insurance company might not OK this. And even if they do, expect to pay the extra copay/coinsurance.
Tip #4: Ask your physician for a second prescription and pay cash. This is how my husband put together an emergency supply of his thyroid medication. He used the second prescription with Walmart’s online pharmacy, which offers low cash prices for many generic medications. We didn’t need to use our insurance coverage, so he was able to double up on his thyroid med for a few months.
Preparing for an emergency
If you take medications that require refrigeration or other special equipment (such as insulin syringes), make sure you have those as well.
Also keep a hard copy of your prescriptions, or take a picture and store it in your cell phone. You may need to seek refills at a pharmacy outside of your usual neighborhood or network.
Rotate out and use your stockpile of meds every year. Pick a date (your birthday is a good one) to replace your stockpile with a new supply, and then use up the old medications.
Dispose of medications you don’t use anymore. If your prescription has changed to a higher or lower dose, update your stockpile.
If you have a health condition that requires several prescription meds or other special needs, talk to your physician about what you should plan for in case of an emergency. He or she may be able to recommend other medications as temporary substitutes, perhaps even come common over-the-counter drugs.
What’s important is to have a plan and be prepared!
I used to teach emergency preparedness classes for the American Red Cross, and I think such a class is time well spent. You not only learn CPR and first aid, but other ways to safely respond to emergency situations.
Related post: Learn CPR and first aid
FEMA, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also offers online courses and lots of resources for preparing for and responding to an emergency.
Or check with your city or county’s Office of Emergency Management to see if they offer local training. Local fire departments are another good source of information or classes.
The thing about emergencies is they happen when we’re not expecting them. Plan ahead, be prepared and stay safe.
And here are a couple of my favorite books that I keep with my emergency supplies 🙂