Preparing for Hurricane and Wildfire Season

Is your pharmacy prepared?

Hurricanes, wildfires, and other extreme weather can cause significant damage and loss for long-term care facilities and pharmacies. Preparing for these natural devastations is vital to keep a functioning pharmacy.

Hurricane Ida, which resulted in destruction, damage, and flooding, created challenges for many pharmacies in the hurricane’s path. Many pharmacies could not process and fill prescriptions which resulted in delays for patients.

The United States experiences its peak hurricane season between June 1 and November 30 in the Atlantic and May 15 and November 30 in the Pacific.

Wildfire season presents itself May through October, with October being the most dangerous and expected time for wildfires. From 2019 to 2020, the average number of wildfires in the U.S. increased by 959%, and the median number of wildfires increased by 46%, according to National Fire and Aviation Management.

The long-term care industry as a whole is well prepared for severe weather events, with requirements from The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to support preparedness and protect our nation’s most vulnerable and medically fragile residents. In 2017, CMS’ Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare Participating Providers and Suppliers went into effect. These regulations outline the requirements for all providers and suppliers regarding planning, preparing, and training for emergencies.

When long-term care facilities are preparing for a potential weather event, their plan should include:

  • Ensuring appropriate stock of emergency drug kits
  • Stocking a 5 to 14-day supply of medications for all residents
  • Maintaining paper-based records of each resident’s medical profile that includes their medications, dosage, and frequency
  • Planning for evacuation and a secure way to collect and transport medications

Pharmacies are essential partners to long-term care facilities when emergency planning begins, but it’s equally as crucial for long-term care pharmacies to be prepared as well.

Backup pharmacy partners are an essential part of a long-term care pharmacy’s business continuity plan.

In cases of natural disaster or other weather emergencies, your backup pharmacy partner can:

  • Provide backup coverage should your pharmacy suffer damages from the storm
  • Move prescription processing to an alternate pharmacy location if facility residents are relocated to another city
  • Coordinate prescription processing at operating pharmacies, providing patients continued access to needed medications until normal operations resume
  • Provide medication delivery for your pharmacy or for backup medications processed at our retail pharmacy network locations

At Care Services, we also maintain a comprehensive business continuity plan, which includes moving our operations to an alternate location should our corporate office be at risk. For example, this occurred in 2018 when Hurricane Florence was projected to make landfall on the North Carolina coast. Even though our corporate office in Raleigh is inland, the forecast still called for high winds and potential flooding, so we relocated our employees to Atlanta to ensure that we could maintain 24/7 operations in support of our customers. We review our business continuity plan at least annually to ensure suitability for any event, and we encourage our customers to do the same.

We will continue to monitor storm systems and work with our clients as weather systems develop. As you make your preparations, let us know how we can help.