Disaster Preparedness for Dialysis Patients

Heather Jordan, MPH  |  Posted
September is national disaster preparedness month for dialysis patients

If you are a dialysis patient, it’s especially important to take steps to make sure you’re ready if disaster strikes.
We can’t always predict when something will happen to derail our treatment plans. There are some simple steps you can take to make sure you are prepared and have access to the things you need to stay healthy in the event of a disaster.

1. Plan ahead

  • If you know a storm is coming, arrange to have dialysis early, before the storm arrives. Also, before the storm, start eating a more restrictive diet to control the build-up of potassium, phosphorus, urea and fluid in case you are unable to have dialysis.
  • Make a disaster preparedness (prep) kit. Choose a safe place in your home that’s easy to access, where you will keep all of your disaster prep supplies and materials. If something happens, you’ll know exactly where to go to find everything you need.
  • Plan how you will keep food and medicines cold if the power goes out.
  • Plan two evacuation routes: one should be the best route out of your community and the other should be the next best route. If one route is blocked, you can take the other. Keep a map of both routes in your disaster prep kit.
  • Identify meet-up locations for your family and friends. One should be nearby your home and one should be far away in case you need to leave town. Keep the addresses of both locations and directions to each one in your disaster prep kit.

2. Be in the know

  • Know how your community notifies residents of disasters.
  • Know what types of disasters are most common in your region, so that you can plan accordingly.
  • Know how your public transportation system functions in disasters.
  • If you are on home dialysis, contact your provider to get specific instructions on what you should do in the event of a disaster.
  • Make a list of your medicines, doses and when they should be taken. Note which medicines on your list, if any, need to be refrigerated. Also write down the name and phone number of your pharmacy. Keep this list in your disaster prep kit.
  • Make a list of the names and contact information of all members of your health care team (doctors, nurses, dietitians, etc.). Keep this list in your disaster prep kit.
  • Make a list of phone numbers of nearby dialysis centers. Keep this list in your disaster prep kit.

3. Be your own advocate

  • Keep a patient ID card with you. If you don’t have one, you can fill one out online and print it, then cut it out and keep with you!
  • Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet. This will inform emergency response personnel that you are a dialysis patient. You may also include on your bracelet any other conditions that may affect how you are cared for (diabetes, allergies to medicines).
  • Some utility (gas, water, electric) companies keep lists of people in their communities who need their utilities for survival, such as people on dialysis. These people are given priority to have their utility service restored as quickly as possible in case of an outage. Contact your utility companies to find out if they offer this, and ask to be put on a priority restoration list.
  • Identify an emergency contact person. This could be a family member, friend or neighbor, but whoever you choose should be someone who knows how to contact you if you need to be reached.

4. Stock up

  • Create an emergency first aid kit. Some key items to keep in your kit are adhesive bandages, antibiotic cream and a 5-7-day supply of all of your medicines. If you are diabetic, you will need a glucose meter and test strips. A more complete list of what to include in your kit can be found in the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ booklet, “Preparing for Emergencies: A Guide for People on Dialysis.”
  • Create an emergency food supply with 3 days’ worth of food. Choose non-perishable foods that will sustain you, while also enabling you to limit your intake of protein, potassium, salt, and fluid. If you are diabetic, you will also need to control your sugar intake. A sample 3-day emergency diet plan can be found in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ booklet, “Preparing for Emergencies: A Guide for People on Dialysis.” The link to this document can be found at the bottom of this page.  
  • Make sure you always have enough of your medicines to last you for a few days in case you don’t have access to a pharmacy.

5. Check up

Just like you have check-ups with your doctors to make sure everything is going as planned, you should have a schedule for checking on your disaster preparedness plans. A good way to remind yourself is to do this every time you change your clocks. 

  • Make sure the food in your emergency supply has not expired.
  • Make sure important phone numbers and addresses have not changed.
  • Make sure your list of medicines is up to date.
  • Make sure your first aid kit is well stocked.
  • Make sure your batteries are still good.
  • Make sure you’re up to date on your vaccines.

6. Additional resources

American Kidney Fund
Toll-free: (800) 638-8299

Kidney Community Emergency Response Coalition
(516) 209-5253

Heather Jordan, MPH, is the American Kidney Fund’s Education Manager.

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