By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2011 – As Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast, a senior TRICARE official said the storm highlights the importance for people to practice emergency preparedness before such potential natural disasters occur.
“We are very aware that when people leave their homes [during an evacuation], they may [develop] new medical issues, become acutely ill while away from their homes,” said Navy Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, the deputy director of the TRICARE Management Activity.
People can also be in a situation outside their homes without their regularly taken medication during an emergency, Hunter said, something she calls a “real concern.”
Missing a dose of regular medication can sometimes lead, Hunter said, “to a chronic illness becoming worse than it was, or being exposed to something like an air conditioning issue that can worsen an illness.”
If someone needs medical care or their medication and can’t get to it because of a natural disaster, TRICARE has provisions in place, Hunter said.
The TRICARE website follows incidents and posts the status of storms such as tornadoes, hurricanes or blizzards online at tricare.mil/disaster.
“If we know there’s a [potential] disaster coming, we always put a line on tricare.mil,” Hunter said, “which helps with the specifics of that particular incident.”
Because being prepared and equipped before an impending or unexpected emergency is critical, Hunter said, a checklist on the TRICARE website suggests keeping these items handy: uniformed services identification card, Medicare card, other health insurance card, driver's license, Social Security card, checkbook, credit card, cash, prescription containers and a list of medications with names, doses and frequencies; important phone numbers; important medical or military information and documents; and shot records.
“We have provisions for [filling prescriptions] in the TRICARE system so people can get their medications,” Hunter said. “We want them to stay healthy.”
Doctors and other medical resources can be found through TRICARE online, she said, and people can download their medical information to give to a health care provider referred by TRICARE.
“Tricare online has your medications, allergies, your pathology and laboratory results, all of which can be downloaded so you can take it with you to a health care provider,” Hunter said. “A physician can treat you more accurately with your records.”