Preparing for Natural Disasters and Shortages

Preparing for Natural Disasters and Shortages

Stocking Up for Cancer Care

empty shelves

Image Credit: Russ Allison Loar

Nowadays, news coverage almost always contains some warning about an impending natural disaster or resource shortage. We either thoroughly shake it off and decide that these warnings are false prophecies or begin to quickly binge-watch “Survivalism” shows that urge users to high-tail it to the nearest Costco for pallets of toilet paper. However, though it’s doubtful we’ll get to the likes of an apocalyptic-level shortage of goods any time in the next few decades, globally, we witnessed how the 2019 pandemic slowed down and even sometimes stopped the way we acquired the goods and services we needed. Shifts in the environments around us due to climate change and new outbreaks of infectious diseases will undoubtedly cause shortages that could impact the way we live in a significant way. Preparing for natural disasters can help alleviate worry, especially during cancer treatment. For a family with a cancer child, these shortages may cause delays in essential supplies needed to care for your child. Preparation is critical and can make all the difference, especially in times of natural disasters and shortages. 

If you search the internet, hundreds of disaster preppers and organizations provide what they believe are the essential items to stock up on. It can be overwhelming to think about what you will need to invest to begin your emergency supply. After researching many “top ten” and most recommended lists, we’ve developed a recommended supply list specific to cancer families and their needs. Keeping your emergency supplies separate from your everyday use items is essential. As you curate your supplies over time, whether in a spare bedroom, a closet, or a basement, be sure that wherever you decide to store your emergency stocks, you can quickly and safely access them at any time.

Emergency checklistFood & Household Supplies to Stock Up
  1.  Bulk Water-Water is precious, especially in cities and states formally declaring a water shortage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that households always have a 14-day supply of water for emergencies per family member. Water is necessary for taking medications and brushing teeth, as well as essential for hydration, and it’s a non-negotiable for survival. The best and most economical option is to purchase water supplies from bulk warehouse stores like Sam’s Club or Costco.
  2. Rice and Beans- Stock up on filling foods, easy to make in a pinch and affordable in large quantities. Rice and beans are also usually okay for patients with cancer to eat because they provide essential nutrients, vitamins, and fiber needed, especially during the treatment and recovery process. When stored in its original package in a cool, dry location, beans keep for up to one year, and white rice maintains its quality for up to three years. However, when stored in extra-secure packaging and under ideal storage conditions, both have the potential to be longer than five years. Stocking up on non-perishable food is vital when preparing for natural disasters.
  3. Nut Butters-If you don’t have family members with nut allergies, nut butter provides a great shelf-stable and calorie-dense food option to stock up on. Alternatives like peanut, almond, cashew, and even sunflower butter take our favorite protein-laden nuts and seeds and grind them into delicious smoothness. Powdered peanut butter, specially designed for long-term storage, can last up to 10 years. Almond butter is also an excellent alternative to peanuts. According to the USDA, you can keep peanut butter or almond butter in proper storage for six to nine months (unopened) and two to three months (opened).
  4. Medical glovesInfection Protection-Though transmission by touch appears to be the least likely way to spread most viruses; if you live with people who work outside the home, diluted bleach is handy to have for wiping down commonly shared areas such as doorknobs, handles, kitchen counters, bathroom fixtures and surfaces of medical equipment. In addition, masks (for everyone ages two and above), soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes and gloves are all great supplies to keep your surroundings clean and safe for your family. This is especially critical if you have a child with cancer living in the home. If a national shortage or natural disaster does happen, you’ll want to protect your already sick child from any other potentially harmful infections.
  5. Laundry detergent-Make sure you’re able to wash the personal items of a sick child as regularly as needed. They will likely have a favorite blanket or stuffed toy that has provided comfort throughout their cancer journey. The last thing you want is for them to have part with this because you can no longer keep it clean for them.
  6. Toilet paperToilet Paper-Who can forget the toilet paper crisis of 2020? To avoid future repeats of this scenario, it’s a good idea to keep extra TP on hand.
  7. Toothpaste- Maintaining oral care throughout cancer treatment and beyond is crucial. Chemotherapy drugs can cause sores in the mouth and throat and dryness, irritation, or bleeding. Stocking up on items of personal hygiene that you use frequently makes the most sense, especially if it’s part of keeping your child with cancer healthy.
  8. Body & Hair Cleansing and Moisturizing Items– Many patients experience changes to their skin, hair, and nails during and after cancer treatment. Your doctor probably recommended using gentle products for cleaning and moisturizing your child’s delicate skin. If there are specialty products you use, it’s an excellent time to stock up on these because they are the first to become low supply on shelves due to specific demand.
  9. Extra gas and waterExtra Gas-Most people will have the luxury of staying housebound should a national lockdown happen. However, if you have a family member that is sick with cancer, getting to the doctor could be a life or death situation. Keeping some extra gas stored for emergencies may be a good idea if your car requires gas. To learn more about allowable gas quantities and how to store gas tanks properly, check out the Exon Mobil’s website for helpful tips and regulations.
  10. Medications & Medical Supplies-Loading up on critical medicines and medical supplies is probably the most vital when preparing for natural disasters and during a national shortage of supplies. Likely, you’ve already experienced annoying delays in getting the medical essentials you needed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though it seems like supply chains for medical necessities are back in order, it’s still an excellent time to think bulk on the supplies you need to care for your child. Experts in disaster preparedness recommend a 30-day supply, if possible, or 90 days if your doctor and insurance provider (and your wallet) allow.
Home Preparation Tools

In addition to having the supplies your body needs to sustain long periods of supply shortages, there are essential items that every household should have in the case of disasters due to environmental changes. These items include, for example, flashlights, batteries, fire extinguishers, matches, etc. Chances are you already have these tucked away in your home. Now is the time to collect and find these items to ensure they are fully functioning and replace them as needed. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has created a concise, realistic, and easy-to-follow checklist. Click Here to build your home kit based on their recommendations and quantities, and learn how to take care of your bulk stashes properly.

Besides supply-chain setbacks due to public health issues, some specific delays and disasters can happen based on where you live geographically. For example, someone living in California may need to have their home equipped to deal with wildfires rather than large-scale flooding. It’s a good idea to understand the environmental issues plaguing your specific city so you can customize what you need to protect your home. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a statewide database to search past and present declared disasters. To search for natural disasters where you live, click here.

Understandably, preparing for natural disasters and shortages is probably the last thing you want to consider when caring for a family member with cancer. However, our political, financial, and environmental climate seems to be fluctuating unpredictably, and our most vulnerable citizens must be protected and taken care of in times of crisis. Think about collecting your reserves slow and small, but it’s an excellent idea to start somewhere. As always, Here To Serve is here to help provide and connect families to resources they may be unable to find. Please contact us if you or someone you know needs assistance as they navigate a cancer diagnosis. We’ll do our very best to get you the help you need! Please visit  Here To Serves website and click the Get Help button to contact us. From our team at Here To Serve, we wish you a safe season filled with fabulous summer memories!

By Sameera Rangwala, M.S., M.P.H

About the Author

Sameera Rangwala spent 15 years in the biotechnology industry. As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provides words of support to the cancer community.

All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle. Image attributes: