BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana residents are no stranger to the devastating effects of hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters. Often these events can cause health challenges, particularly for those with physical and cognitive disabilities.
September is National Preparedness Month, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is sharing emergency preparedness health care tips to raise awareness about the distinct needs of people with disabilities.
“It is important to deliberately plan for your unique health needs, especially if you have a disability or care for a loved one with a disability or those who are aging. Your needs may change as disasters evolve,” said Dr. Dee Barfield, Blue Cross senior medical director and vice president, Medical Management. “The better you prepare for various situations, the more likely you are to have the medications, supplies, equipment and accommodations you need, or know how to get them.”
One out of three Louisianians have a disability, compared to the national average of one in four, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During natural disasters, the daily inequalities that people with disabilities face are amplified.
That’s among the reasons why Blue Cross’ recently formed (dis)Ability Blue Employee Resource Group devoted part of its first meeting to planning for emergencies. The group aims to support and be an ally to people across abilities, recognizing the wide range of physical, psychological, developmental and intellectual conditions that fall under the disability umbrella. The group is developing a network of employees with diverse abilities, experiences, backgrounds and knowledge to encourage one another within Blue Cross and across the community.
“At Blue Cross, we value having a diverse workforce and know it helps us improve the health and lives of Louisianians,” said Rod Teamer, Blue Cross Director of Diversity Programs and Business Development. “This a great opportunity to come together to learn more about each other and how we can advocate for one another. This is important to our mission because people with disabilities often have issues accessing health care, experience stigma and discrimination, and receive poor quality services.”
(dis)Ability Blue’s tips to help Louisianians with disabilities or other access or functional needs prepare for natural disasters or emergencies are timely, as August through October are peak months of hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s mid-season update forecasts that 2022 will be an above-normal year for named storms to form.
Hurricane season lasts until Nov. 30, so as you make plans for what your family will do in the event of tropical weather, here are scenarios to consider and steps you can take to prepare.
Emergency Preparedness Tips
Have a plan for when and where you will go if you evacuate. Know ahead of time where you will go if you need to evacuate your home. Check with your parish or other local leaders to see which shelters will be able to best handle your health and accessibility needs. Also, remember if you do not evacuate ahead of time and must be rescued later, it may be hard or impossible for rescue workers to transport equipment you need such as wheelchairs, portable oxygen and assistive devices.
Consider your health needs if you are without power for an extended period. Often during a storm and the aftermath, power may be out for days or weeks at a time. Consider how your health will be affected if you are without air-conditioning and refrigeration for an extended time. If you rely on electricity for medical and assistive devices, you may want to evacuate, even to a nearby location with reliable backup power. If you need daily medication such as insulin that must be refrigerated, make sure you have cold-storage backup options like ice chests or ice packs ready.
Keep your health care information handy, including your member ID card. Have your insurance card or a copy of it with you at all times, especially if you evacuate. Blue Cross customers can log into their member accounts online to get a digital version of their ID cards. Many other plans offer digital options, too. Digital ID cards are an easy way to keep this information with you.
Have a current list of all the medications with doses and details on the medical devices you use. If you need to refill or replace something, having a list will make it easier for emergency and health care personnel to help you. Consider saving the list on your phone. You may also want to have a written list in your wallet or another safe place. During hurricanes and other emergencies, Blue Cross and most insurers will waive refill limits so you can get a larger supply of your medications to last longer. Stay aware of your refill options, especially if you plan to evacuate, and fill the largest amount of medication you are able to.
Label all medical and assistive devices. If you get separated from your items, having your name and mobile contact information on them will help you get them back.
Bring your driver’s license or other identification with you if you evacuate. Your ID can help you refill needed prescriptions and get medical care and information.
In the event of a hurricane or severe weather, Blue Cross will post information about services to help members at www.bcbsla.com. If a storm is forecast, check the site for the most recent updates.
To learn more about hurricane preparedness and your health, visit bcbsla.com/Summer or watch Blue Cross’ short, animated video Get Health Ready for Hurricane Season (:33) for tips. Visit the State of Louisiana’s Get a Game Plan website for more information.
Visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel to see short videos on emergency preparedness and various health topics. Subscribe to know when new videos are added. You can connect with Blue Cross on social media @BCBSLA for updates. Blue Cross posts regularly on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We have been recognized for the past three years as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media.