Hurricane Season Is Here – Be Prepared

By: Pat El-Hinnawy

Bottles of water? Check.
Food for the family? Check.
Dad’s blood pressure medicine? Check.
Grandma’s heart monitor? Check.

It’s hurricane season again. 

Anyone who lived through or watched Hurricane Sandy last year knows the horrific consequences that can follow major storms.  

As we enter the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, keep in mind that good planning can help ease the burden on you and your family if and when bad weather comes your way.  

And FDA can help. To make sure you have the products you will need to get through a hurricane and its aftermath — including FDA-regulated products such as your food, medicines and medical equipment, — we have prepared a simple checklist.  It shows what steps to take to protect those products you have and to make the right choices as you prepare for this year’s bad weather. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says it’s always best to start with a plan and an emergency kit. 

Your emergency kit should include enough food, water, medical supplies, pet food and supplies, and equipment to get you through the first 72 hours after a big storm or other natural disaster. 

For more tips on how to protect your FDA-regulated items, see FDA’s Hurricane Safety Checklist

After the storm has passed, it’s time to pitch in and put your homes and neighborhood back in working order. In a similar way, our field investigators contact local regulated firms that produce or process food, medicines, medical equipment, vaccines and other medical supplies. 

We work with those firms to make sure their products can still meet FDA’s standards before they’re sent to market. For foods, this means the products are safe, wholesome and correctly labeled. For medical products (medicines, medical equipment, vaccines, etc.) it means they are safe and effective. 

Nathan Beck and Valerie Hall are just two of the many FDA specialists working behind the scenes. They draw on an impressive array of data and equipment to quickly develop maps using FDA’s Geographic Information System (GIS). These maps show field investigators how to get around flooded areas to reach industries affected by a hurricane or other emergency. And they provide crucial information to emergency managers coordinating FDA activities.

Many specialists at FDA headquarters also work to support and coordinate the work in the field. They monitor all affected areas across the country to make sure that our investigators have what they need to get the job done. 

We also regularly train for emergencies, and we practice responding to a wide range of incidents, including hurricanes. Recently, we held a hurricane season training session for more than 200 staffers from around the country. 

No one can control where or when hurricanes may strike.  But at the FDA we can, and do, prepare for major storms – and so can you. 

Pat El-Hinnawy is a Public Affairs Specialist in FDA’s Office of External Affairs

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