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Emergencies & Your Health

Planning ahead to protect ourselves in a disaster, including people who are medically vulnerable.

Essential Information to Collect and Keep Ready

It's important to collect medical information for everyone in the household as part of an emergency preparedness plan - but it's absolutely essential to do this if anyone has a major medical issue.

Make an up-to-date record of:

  • everyone's current medications (both prescriptions and any over the counter ones, too);
  • medical conditions, including allergies as well as chronic illnesses;
  • whether anyone needs a assistance with eyesight, hearing, cognition, or mobility;
  • health insurance information (including ID numbers); 
  • contact information for key medical personnel;
  • details on medical devices used.

Keep this record with contact information for family and other important people where it is easily found, and easily grabbed in an emergency. It's a good idea to have multiple copies of this record, not just one. Many people put this information into a smartphone, but it's good to have a paper copy as well for times when phones lose their charge.

This checklist can be adapted to include the relevant information for medically-vulnerable people:

Access to Health Care In or After an Emergency

From CA Dept. of Public Health:

California requires health insurance plans to cover victims of natural disasters, including earthquakes, wildfires and flooding, who are experiencing problems obtaining health care services. This could include speeding up approvals for care, replacing lost prescriptions and ID cards, or quickly arranging health care at other facilities if a hospital or doctor’s office is not available due to the disaster.

So, contact the  health plan first in an emergency. If there are problems with getting services or assistance from a plan, then contact the Department of Managed Health Care’s Help Center at 1-888-466-2219 or online at the HealthHelp website.

What About People in a Care Facility?

Facilities and homes licensed by the State of California are required to have emergency plans that include a plan for emergencies, what they will do, where they will go, if necessary, how they will get there, and similar considerations. The people working in these places know what to do to keep residents safe from harm.

If you are concerned about the well-being of a loved one residing in a long-term care facility (board and care, assisted living, skilled nursing), the Statewide Long-Term Care Ombudsman CRISIS line is available 24/7 at 1-800-231-4024.

People with Physical disabilities (mobility-, hearing-, or vision-impaired)

When talking with emergency staff, EMTs, or First Responders, they may ask about "access and functional needs" - that's a catch-all phrase for the kinds of issues or disabilities that may make it harder for someone to move, to react, or to respond to a problem.

California's network of Independent Living Centers offer resources to help people with disabilities prepare for a disaster (including power outages). Contact your local center - before an emergency hits! - to find out what might be available.

People who need electrically-powered medical devices (hearing aids, portable oxygen, nebulizers, powered wheelchairs, CPAP, dialysis, etc.) should prepare for when power goes out.  

See the section for What about medical electrical devices? on the page in this collection for Power Outages.

People who use a medical communication device (in person or over a phone) would be wise to check out alternatives, and to plan ahead what to do if their equipment stops working.

More on Medications and Medical Devices

Calculate how many days' worth of medications are already in-hand, and try to have enough doses for at least a week on hand at all times. If there aren't enough to last that long, arrange to get renewals in advance if at all possible. Don't forget any over the counter medications or products needed to stay clean and comfortable.

Put medications (and other important supplies) in waterproof containers or sealable plastic bags.

Plan for how to keep medications at the right temperatures in a power outage or evacuation situation (for example, use a cooler pack for insulin; in low temperatures, protect medications from freezing).

In a pinch, this map application will show pharmacies (and hospitals, urgent care centers, etc.) open during a declared emergency:

People who need electrically-powered medical devices (hearing aids, portable oxygen, nebulizers, powered wheelchairs, CPAP, dialysis, etc.) should prepare for when power goes out.  

See the section for What about medical electrical devices? on page for Power Outages.


What's the source for your medical equipment? The CalHHS advises that users keep a record of the brands and model numbers, who paid for it (e.g., Medicaid, private insurance, etc.), and where to get supplies for it. In an emergency these records may make it faster or easier to get replacement equipment.


People who use a medical communication device (in person or over a phone) are advised to plan how to communicate if the equipment stops working.

Preparing with Medical Conditions, Diseases, or Concerns in Mind

Emergency kit for medically-vulnerable people

Advice for specific diseases, conditions, or concerns:  

Anemia or hemophilia 

Asthma, COPD, and other breathing disorders



Dementia, including Alzheimers

Developmental disabilities

Diabetes, Type I & Type II

Dialysis and Kidney Disease


Antiretroviral therapy (ART) prescriptions need to be taken exactly as prescribed, so it's wise to have an emergency supply, if that's possible. Poor air quality, disruptions in the availability of food and clean water can increase the risk for opportunistic infections in people with low immunities.

Mental Illness

Disasters can be rough on everyone's mental health (although people can be remarkably resilient, too). But some disasters can make a pre-existing mental illness worse, and/or it more difficult to respond to the emergency. The National Rehabilitation Information Center offers this emergency preparedness advice to people with psychiatric disabilities:

  • Create an individualized preparedness plan that meets your specific needs. Include support staff and personal support networks in any emergency preparedness plan you create. Some individuals may benefit from practicing evacuation routes and emergency drills occasionally, while others may find this stressful.
  • Ensure you have enough medication to last through an event and store it appropriately. Medication holders and medication reminder products can be helpful. Don’t forget to include dosage information.
  • Therapeutic aids such as weighted blankets, headphones, or other audio sensory integration aids may help reduce loud noises and assist in staying calm during an emergency and/or evacuation. A sensory first aid kit can provide comfort for some people during emergencies.


SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has a 24/7 helpline to help when the distress of an emergency situation gets to be too much:

Pregnancy or a newborn child

Include emergency preparedness as part of planning for a new child.

The text on this page is copyright PlaneTree Health Library, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Linked contents are the responsibility of their creators or copyright holders.