By: Heather Michon |
Since about half of modern IVs run using electric pumps, it’s important to prepare a backup plan in the wake of natural disasters. Patients who use medical devices like IVs in their home are encouraged to use the FDA’s guidance on preparing for medical emergencies during natural disasters.
In the fall of 2017, hospitals across the United States were confronted with a potential shortage of a staple of their medical supply closet: the mini-bag.
These 50ml and 100ml plastic IV bags of saline and dextrose are used by the thousands in every hospital in the country. Most of them are manufactured in Puerto Rico.
The U.S. territory is home to around 80 pharmaceutical factories, some of them the sole source of lifesaving drugs and medical equipment for the U.S. When Hurricane Maria devastated many of these vital facilities, it disrupted the entire global supply chain.
It was a stark reminder of the impact natural disasters can have on medical care, sometimes even thousands of miles of away.
In the field
Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes and earthquakes all carry with them the risk of critical injuries.
In the aftermath of any serious natural disasters, the IV fluid bag steps up as the first line of defense for many common injuries and conditions. Disaster medicine handbooks emphasize the importance of IV infusion for burns, crush injuries, fractures, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and cold exposure. All require the rapid infusion of fluids, drugs and blood products to stabilize patients for further care.
Almost all hospitals have contingency plans for power outages that might occur after a major natural disaster. For IV management, this often means returning to setting infusions by gravity drip, as electric pumps go offline.
In the home
The potential for long-term power outages can be especially problematic for the millions of Americans who use medical devices in the home. Equipment professionals stress that anyone who uses a powered home medical device should have contingency plans for power loss well ahead of any potential storm.
They recommend users:
- Make a list of alternative power sources (batteries, generators, local shelters, hospitals)
- Contact police and rescue to let them know you are power-dependent
- Call your power company to see if there’s a medical priority list for power
- Train caregivers to switch to alternative power and reset machines
The FDA also has this useful printable booklet to keep vital information on your medical conditions and equipment ready in case of emergency.