This column appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette. To syndicate the national version, contact DrHubbard [at] TheSurvivalDoctor [dot] com.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Anyone reading this who doesn’t know this is wildfire season is either from out of town or doesn’t have a very good memory.

Among the lessons we should have learned from last year’s Waldo Canyon fire are wildfires are unpredictable, and you could be asked to evacuate your home very quickly at any time.

You don’t want to be running around looking for your medication and not have time to pack those precious photos or valuable documents. The better prepared you are the more likely you’ll have time to remember to carry the items you hold dear.

For medical preparedness, since that’s what I specialize in, I suggest the following:

  • Have a written plan in checklist form.
  • Keep your prescriptions and commonly used over-the-counter medicines in a case or box ready for transport. Have several resealable plastic bags to store any liquids in case they leak. Don’t forget to pack something for the headache you’ll probably have and for the stomachache you’ll probably get.
  • In the same box, store a paper with a list of current medicines and allergies. Also list essential phone numbers, such as for your pharmacy and doctor. Laminate the paper, or keep it in its own plastic resealable bag.
  • Get in the habit of refilling your prescriptions a few days before the bottles are empty. That way you’re less likely to run out if you’re displaced from your home. Check with your pharmacy or insurance agency for specific early refill rules.
  • If someone in your family has a disabling health problem, prepare for that also. For instance, how are you going to pack that wheelchair? What about portable oxygen? Whoever provides you with those things should be able to help you plan. And don’t forget extra batteries, especially if you need a special type for something like, say, a hearing aid.

Keep an easy-to-carry bag packed with all your essentials ready to grab at a moment’s notice. Unless you know you’re going to a motel or private home, consider including the following:

  • Waterless hand sanitizer. The alcohol-based wipes are good, but a gel bottle will do also. Just make sure the lid is good and tight, and store the container in a resealable bag. In a shelter, infections like colds and pinkeye can spread easily, yet water for hand washing may be at a premium. Since germy hand-to-mouth and germy hand-to-nose are major ways to spread infection, keeping your hands clean is essential.
  • Masks. Somebody’s going to be coughing; odds are they’ll be close by. Many people won’t cover their nose and mouth—especially kids. Stuff several disposable surgical masks in your bag. Offer one to the person doing the coughing. Actually, even a clean scarf or handkerchief will do. The N95 masks catch more germs, but if you use them correctly, they fit so snugly that they’re hard for some people to keep on for long.
  • Water. Most community shelters will have drinkable water available. But if you have time and room, pack at least 3 gallons per person to be sure not to go thirsty.
  • Snacks. Throw in a few protein bars, nuts or other nonperishable foods.

Being medically prepared for a disaster can go a long way in keeping you as healthy as possible—and, in turn, better able to cope with the event and its aftermath.

Colorado Springs family doctor James Hubbard teaches how to survive when you can’t get to a doctor at, one of the most popular survival websites. Dr. Hubbard is the author of the best-selling e-books
The Survival Doctor’s Guide to Wounds and The Survival Doctor’s Guide to Burns.