WASHINGTON — Hurricane Matthew’s forecast track changes hourly but this massive, powerful storm has the potential to cause a devastating blow to a large portion of the East Coast, affecting millions of Americans. The nation’s emergency physicians warn the public to take this situation seriously.
“It is essential that people living in coastal areas listen closely to evacuation orders,” said Dr. Jim Augustine, member of the Board of Directors for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and an emergency physician in Naples, Florida. “The timing may allow for safe evacuation; otherwise, being trapped in these storm conditions may be very hazardous.”
Hurricane Matthew threatens Florida, the Carolinas and even the mid-Atlantic coast with dangerous winds, severe storm surge and heavy rains that cause extensive flooding. For the latest information on Hurricane Matthew’s forecast and other storm-related information, continue to follow your local news as well as the National Hurricane Center at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/.
In addition, Dr. Jay Kaplan, president of ACEP, said that people should stock up on essential emergency supplies that can last a few days – in case they lose power or water.
“Emergency physicians are on the front lines of disasters, and they are on alert in the affected areas, ready care for any one who needs it,” said Dr. Kaplan.
All of this is part of ACEP’s Family Disaster Preparedness Guide http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/Health-Tips/Disasters/Family-Disaster-Preparedness-Guide/
Food and water supplies should include:
- Water (three gallons per person recommended).
- Non-perishable foods (replace every six months) that require no refrigeration or preparation (e.g., peanut butter, canned foods).
- Bread and crackers stored in waterproof bags or containers.
- Cereal and granola bars.
- Special supplies for babies (e.g., diapers, formula, powdered milk, medications) or elderly people.
Other supplies and information to include:
- Battery-powered radio, flashlights, and extra batteries.
- First-aid kit http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/Health-Tips/Home-Safety/Home-First-Aid-Kit/
- Personal identification, passports, and copies of social security cards.
- Health information, such as prescription medications (one month's supply recommended), copies of prescriptions, children's immunization records, and lists of allergies.
- Extra pairs of eyeglasses or contact lenses and supplies.
- Emergency phone numbers.
- Bank account numbers, insurance policies, wills, deeds, stocks, and bonds.
- Credit card account numbers and companies; credit card and extra cash and change.
- Family records (births, marriages, death certificates) and inventory of valuable household goods.
- Map of the area to locate shelters and track storms.
- Mess kits or paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils.
- Non-electric can-opener and utility knife and matches in a waterproof container.
- Personal hygiene items.
- Change of clothing, rain gear, and sturdy shoes for each family member.
- Blankets or sleeping bags.
- Spare set of car keys, signal flare, and whistle.
- Masking or duct tape and plastic garbage bags.
- Shut-off wrench, to turn off household gas and water.
During a hurricane:
- Remain calm, and put your plan into action.
- Reassure children that they are safe and explain what is happening. ACEP has a learning game called Disaster Hero that can help them. http://www.disasterhero.com/
- Listen to local radio and television stations for updates; follow all instructions.
- If the electricity goes out, listen to a battery-powered radio for instructions. If told to evacuate, leave right away. Use flashlights instead of matches.
- If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and get everyone outside quickly. Shut off any other damaged utilities (a professional will need to turn the gas back on).
- Clean up any spilled household chemicals, gasoline, or other flammable liquids immediately.
- Confine or secure your pets.
- Check on neighbors, especially elderly or disabled persons.
If asked or ordered to evacuate:
- Take personal identification and evacuation box with you.
- Use routes suggested by officials.
- If safe and if advised, shut off water, gas, and electricity.
- Stay away from power lines that are down.
- Take first aid and disaster supplies.
- Leave a note in your home telling when you left and where you are going.
ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.