Professional Patient Tip: Emergency Preparation – Remember the six M’s


Unfortunately we live in a time, where it seems that emergencies and disasters happen quite often. Some are man-made like terrorism threats and some are natural disasters like floods and hurricanes. In any case, we need now more than ever to be prepared and it is even more important to be prepared when you or a loved one have a chronic illness to also be concerned about.

If you need to evacuate quickly, and as we know from recent news coverage in our country, many Americans have had to.
For emergency preparation, keep the following six M’s in mind-

MAKE A PLAN- Plan ahead where you would go in an emergency- have a Plan B. Always try to keep your gas tank at least half full. Each family member can pack a small duffel bag with extra underwear and changes of clothes. Underwear is most important. Recently, trucks of donated clothing went down to our hurricane victims, but no one thinks of the underwear needed.
MEDICATIONS– Obviously take your medications with you. If your meds need to be refrigerated have a small ice chest and cold packs available. Ask your doctors for copies of your prescriptions that you can keep in a file.
MEDICAL HISTORY– It is important for you to have a medical history written up, in case you need to see another doctor who is not familiar with your case. Include a list of all your doctor’s addresses and phone numbers. Place these in your emergency file.
MONEY- It is important to keep some “mad money” at home and available. In the event of power outages, you will not be able to use your trusty and reliable nearby ATM machine.

MEMENTOS AND MEMORIES– Think now about what you would take if you had to leave your house quickly, so that there is no waste of valuable time in trying to make decisions. Most people would grab not only expensive but heirloom jewelry- perhaps you would just grab your entire jewelry box. Many would want to have old photos that could never be replaced. If you are like my family- we have so many photo albums that they alone would fill our trunk, so I would grab the wedding albums and those that had the older pictures.

Make a list of things you don’t want to forget- any treasured hand me down, and put that list in your file. It is hard to think clearly under stress.
MEALS– Who wants to be caught in an emergency evacuation, without something to eat and drink? No one, but especially not someone who might need to eat or drink on a regular basis while taking medication. In an emergency bag, stock up on bottled water and snacks that will not necessarily go bad quickly like; dried fruit, peanut butter, crackers, etc. They should be changed every six months- mark it on your calendar.
These six M reminders are important, but there are many more good ideas. Check out the following websites which will give you even more information. Hopefully you will never have to use an emergency file and an emergency kit, but being prepared will give you a certain peace of mind.

Here are some helpful links:,1082,0_91_,00.html
-written by Janet Miserandino,

  • I really like this site. Well Delivered!

  • Lindsay Lohann (@doctorlilly1)

    I was around the age of 50 and menopausal. My sleep started to be disturbed by vivid lucid dreams. My legs began to hurt so much after walking only a few yards, and I suddenly became so fatigued I could hardly think. Of course my doctor put it all down to the menopause, yet I knew women didn’t fall apart at 50! The aches and pains began to occur all over my body. Some days I felt sore all over. I was finally diagnosed with F.M. 10 years later. Now, after trials and tribulations with many and various treatments and pain killers (not!), I have found relief with Pregabalin and Tramadol with Aspirin/Caffeine. I have found that Tai Chi is most beneficial for gentle stretching and exercise, along with true relaxation which relieves tension in the muscles and the mind. I feel so much better and more in control today, at the age of 63, that I am enjoying a younger lover after 15 yrs of celibacy. Says it all really!

    Doctor Lilly

  • The first app I added to my smart phone when I got it was an emergency medical information app. It has a full list of my doctors, of my medications and current dosages, which hospital has my file, etc.

    It’s useful when I’m taken to hospital by ambulance, but would also be handy in any other situation (such as a disaster, or even getting sick on holiday) when I might have to visit a doctor I don’t know.

    Since the phone goes everywhere I go, I always have my medical history and emergency contacts with me. The app is the first one on the home screen – so I don’t even have to be conscious for people to be able to find the information easily.

  • One thing to consider would be a weather radio, especially if you live in an area prone to tornadoes during the wee hours of the morning. You can set them to sound an alarm when there is a weather warning for the county in which you live, even if the radio is shut off. They have battery backups for power outages, and most are portable. Many times the weather was clear when I went to bed but became severe while I was asleep and due to my meds I wouldn’t even hear the storm.

  • Kathy Duncan

    Speaking of shoes – only wear sneakers & pack socks or footies instead of having slippers take up room. A long shirt can double as a robe if you need one. I have several denim shirts that are large & long that I could use.
    I keep all my meds in a plastic shoe box size container like teachers use – easy to pack & nothing forgotten.
    I even pack things for bug bites & itches, small travel size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotions, q-tips, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc in a similar container.

  • Donetta

    There are flash drive bracelets that can hold lots of info.. doctors, family with addresses and phones, everything meds etc….even a picture. It can be downloaded from any computer and updated as needed. I also keep a clipboard (the kind that opens up) with lists of all phone numbers, meds, and docs and appointments. I post an emergency plastic covered list with numbers and addresses on my front door to grab if I or a caretaker have to give to medics.

  • Christy

    I would add one more thing. Make sure that you or your doctor has a digital copy of your entire medical history. My family went through Ike and lost our house. My doctors were in the process of upgrading from paper files to digital records so when we had several feet of water in almost every building, paper records were lost. For me, not all of my medical records were saved. My dad thought that Ike would scoot past us like every other storm had in the past few years. Over four feet of water and three weeks later, we learned the hard way. We don’t even have any proof of my vaccinations.

    That’s the other thing. If you have to evacuate, remember that you may not be able to go home for several weeks. Prepare for evacuation with that in mind. Bring your own shelf stable foods as you could be in the car in the heat for hours while evacuating. Wear sunscreen in the car. If you can, make arrangements to stay with a family member or friend who is familiar with your needs. If your health is fragile, head toward the nearest city with the medical facilities you need. You may need a note from your doctor authorizing you to do so. In Texas, different parts of the coast are allowed to evacuate in different directions. So that’s where the note would come in handy – allowing you to head in a different direction.

    Every year or every six months, type up a disaster preparedness plan. Include every single detail, down to what to pack. Maps, hotel information, restaurants, etc…(gps units won’t be reliable). Print it out and keep it in several places throughout the house. That way you don’t end up like my mom, who ended up only bringing one tennis shoe and a pair of house slippers. You won’t have to worry about brain fog or forgetting crucial details because of stress.

  • Nan J.

    I keep all my pill prescription bottles in a basket, insulin pens nearby (refills in refrigerator.) sometimes I’m on nebullizer solutions, too. Last time I had an ER trip, I dumped the basket & insulin into a duffle bag & took it with me. I’ve found the last 6 years that the hospital pharmacy does not stock half the drugs I take (15 regular Rx plus a couple that are injections like IVIG & Xolair.) Some of them don’t have a substitution. This came in very handy at the hospital, as once again, there were at least 5 that they didn’t supply. The dr. just has to write on your orders that patient will take her own Rxs. So not only natural disasters, but ER trips can benefit from this supply readiness.

  • I think carrying medical info is a good idea, but I wouldn’t carry my social security number on me. If someone stole my purse, they would then know all my pertinent info and could steal my identity all too easily. Everything else sounds like good advice. I hate having to feel this way, but with so much ID theft going on, you have to be careful.

  • heather morgan

    One more suggestion about phones. Your cordless phones use electricity, while the old corded phones use the electricity that is already available in the phone lines. We keep an old corded phone in our house to plug in just in case of emergency. It has saved us before in cases of power outages, where the cell lines were jammed up! They are super cheap, and you can still purchase them some places.

    The other suggestion I would make is to have a small first aid kit with OTC and other non-prescription meds that you may need, (bandages, Tylenol, Tums, Benadryl, etc) also sunscreen and bug repellent. Mosquitos seem to really come out after a storm!

    Lastly, it’s also helpful to have disposable plates and silverware for eating, and a good supply of baby wipes to keep everything and everyone kind of cleaned up!

    And don’t forget your pet, if you have one, make a plan, if you are going to a shelter, often they don’t accept pets!

  • Gregg

    Everyone has wonderful suggestions and protocols in place. I wanted to suggest also to keep the info that you have in your notebooks in an online document that you can easily and quickly update. Email it to yourself and make a note in your notebook that all your info is available to print out from your email. This might seem redundant, but may be an easier and quicker read to have a printed document instead of a notebook in handwriting. My best friend also has copies of all my info and accompanies me to my doc appts. so she knows my current situation. She is the first name I have listed with contact info in case of emergency. I don’t have a spouse, so it is helpful to have another person to contact. I do the same for her (even though she is married) so that she has a back up source. Great info and especially timely with the earthquakes and hurricane activity! Stay safe!

  • Lisa Lier

    All these are wonderful, I’d like to add one thing about the cell phones. We found that during Katrina that a TEXT message would go through when a regular call would not, so keep that cell phone charged they may not be as useless as we may think during times such as that.

    Another tip that is a bit “gross” but much needed is a place to “go” when there isn’t a toilet available.

    At the beginning of every Hurricane season my hubby prepares his Sheriff’s Office unit to function as his only shelter for up to 7-10 days. Non-perishable food items, ie:MRE’s, water, bedding, paper towels, etc. and a big thing is the toilet. The men and women doing the search and rescue/recovery during Hurriance Katrina learned so very much, and one thing is that there was nowhere to “go”!

    My hubby makes sure he has his portable toilet at the ready.
    He has a 5 gallon paint bucket he bought from Lowes and places a roll of inexpensive 13 gallon trash bags, rolls of toilet paper, a gallon of water and puts the lid on it and it’s placed with everything else in the trunk. When nature calls he lines the bucket with a trash bag, does his business and disposes of the bag and waste in the next desirable place that comes available. I’ve learned the value of this when you can be caught in traffic while evecuating. You can cut a hole in the lid of the bucket to act as a more comfortable seat.

    Let’s hope that no one needs to use these tips, but if you do find yourself in an emergency situation, be prepared should not be only the Boy Scouts motto! Take care everyone! Thanks for the tips!

  • Jenna

    Also recommended is food for our furry friends, and extra supplies (with RSD, I use special blankets) of those, and perhaps, a simplified way of capturing much loved-mine is a service animal; he is a kitty who has developed the ability to predict impending RSD attacks, so I am going to take him… Although my manager does not require me to leave the building in fire drills, I do-for the simple fact that the disabled are the ones people leave BEHIND. No thank you. I grab Bean, in the carrier he goes, he’s used to it now, but I have to cover him when we get outside.

  • Nanci Tomasetti

    All the suggestions are all important things to do. I keep a list of my doctors (the Long Island ones and the NYC ones), a medical history list and my medication list. Of course, I up date them when necessary. I keep 3 copies of this list along with a health care proxy in our glove box. And I keep 3 copies with the Proxy in a hospital bag – along with slippers, word search books, toothbrust, hairbrush, etc. etc. This way if the emergency is a hospital “run” or a hurricane I have what’s important. I also keep all my medications in one spot so I can grab them at a moment’s notice. And I do keep an ice pack for the insulin. To be perfectly honest, when I say “I” it’s really my husband who does this because my brain fog gets worse under stress. Oh, we keep the 3 copies because we’ve found ourselves being asked the same questions in different areas of a hospital. I like the idea of keeping paper prescriptions on hand. I’ll ask but I don’t know what the doctors will do. It’s nice to feel connected to others with the same problems.

  • I’ve found a few really helpful sites on disaster planning for those with special needs/illness/disability of any type:

    CDIHP Evacuation Preparedness Guide has information for individuals with almost any type of impairment including chemical sensitivities, fatigue, mental health issues, etc. Very comprehensive and they have more links on their resources page – I really highly recommend you read and act on this information before any problem happens.

    Individual Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities,
    Their Families and Support Networks
    – links to resources for planning for all disability/illness types.

    Even though my city isn’t known for disasters or prone to anything specifically I have a “go bag” that has the standard stuff recommended for evacuation kits (my list was largely based on the urban and evacuation kits James MacDonald recommends) with modifications for health/disability stuff relevant to me.

  • Excellent advice, except that I have never seen a phone booth anywhere in the city where I now live, so I guess phone calls would be out of the question?

  • buttakittin

    when I lived in flood/fire prone areas I used to keep an emergency must grab list on the fridge organised by area of the house the items were found in. It was designed to get me out the door quickly from start to down the driveway in about fifteen minutes. I also used to pack my hiking pack with spare clothes, toiletries, important papers, tinned rations etc at the beginning of the fire season and un pack it at the beginning of autumn. I also used to put absolute irreplacables in a crate under the pack so if I had less then the fifteen minutes all I had to do was grab the crate and pack and go…

  • These are all great suggestions!
    If there is a weather warning/alert, I have a small knapsack that I throw all my meds into. Copies (or originials) of important docs can be stored in bank saftey deposit boxes.
    @ Charlayne: I like your notebook idea! I now carry one around to jot down thoughts so I don’t forget them, and have another with passwords. When I’m off shopping today, I’ll look for the appropriate notebook.

  • Charlayne Elizabeth Denney

    I have a small, 40-page notebook that has a sticker on the outside saying “Emergency Information”. Most of it is in blue but I use red for the important stuff. The inside flap has my kid’s contact information (all my kids are adults). The back flap has friends that I trust. The first page has my contact information, birthdate, social security number, my husband’s information, birthdate, job information and his ss number. Second page lists everything I am being treated for.Third page is in red at the top: my allergies. The bottom of that page, in blue, are my medications with the amount of the med and how taken. The next two pages are my various doctors (I have a General Practitioner and then a lot of specialists to handle the various things going on. The second page of the doctors is all my M.D. Anderson information from my breast cancer treatment.
    Next page is a list of the surgeries I have had and the date of the surgery. The next page is the online prescription service for the pharmacy that supplies my one drug that has to be taken as a shot.

    My husband is now being treated with medication for heart issues and I have now added his information to the notebook.

    I keep this little notebook in my purse and if something happens where I cannot talk, the notebook can speak for me. I also take it to appointments to write down changes and to sign in for surgery when the nurses are asking me a bazillion questions that I can’t remember.

  • Photos — I mail all my negatives to a relative in another state for safekeeping. Now that so many people rely on digital photos, e-mail your favorite ones to yourself at a gmail account, so you can download them at any time from anywhere.

  • JenB

    I always keep the following papers in my purse:
    current meds
    (psych) med history
    list of doctors with their addy and phone #
    my medical hx
    family medical hx

    I am having neurological and abdominal issues, so I keep copies of the history of testing, appts and phone calls about those. It’s a burden to carry and to keep up-to-date, but I never know when I may wind up in the hospital alone and unable to provide this information. Being on 15 meds, 2 eye drops and several PRNs there is NO way I’d ever be able to tell anyone what meds I take.

  • Lorilei

    Sorry and about having coins…. if it’s a big emergency situation most cell towers will go down, and you will only have the old in dirt phone lines, and even those sometimes will be down. So have some quarters and coins for making phone calls at the phone booths. Also have a contact person that your whole family will call OUTSIDE the area you live ie. in another state, province, even country. That way you all call that person when something happens and they can tell you who has checked in… it’s so you don’t clog the phone lines, etc where the emergency is.

  • Lorilei

    As an emergency services worker, I want people to remember to keep actual cash and coins too in their emergency kits, as ATM’s won’t be working in major events and credit cards and that won’t necessarily be useful either. Keep an emergency kit in the car, home and at work too, along with a kit for your kids at school too.

    Be ready to be on your own for at LEAST 14 days if you are not significantly injured in a major event ie. earthquake, mud slides, tsunami’s etc. The government and other organizations will not have the time to deal with anything but extreme emergencies during these times.

    Also if you have pets remember to have a carrier, and their food and enough water for them too, along with leashes etc.

    Hope this helps