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Emergency Preparedness

Never underestimate the value of being prepared for a natural disaster. The VA is here to help you, but the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center and Community Based Outpatient Clinics are not emergency shelters. In the event of a major impact, the VA Community Clinics may be closed for extended periods of time. Take the time to prepare yourself and your family. Veterans are advised to follow any evacuation orders.

Personal Preparedness checklist – Basic Disaster Supplies Kit

Your personal preparedness should include enough supplies for about two weeks:

  • Water – 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Medicine – Your prescription medication, first aid kit that contains aspirin, non-aspirin pain reliever, antacid, antiseptic, scissors, and insect repellent
  • Personal Hygiene/Care Items - toilet paper, towels, soap, shampoo, dental needs, eyeglasses, and sun protection
  • Other supplies – battery operated radio, flashlight and batteries, non-electric can opener, portable cooler and ice, plastic trash bags, tarp or sheet plastic, cleaning supplies such as bleach, paper napkins, plates and cups, pillows, blankets, a whistle, a wrench of pliers to turn off utilities, local maps, a cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Prescription Medications

  • Keep a list of all medications in your personal preparedness kit.
  • Keep a 15 day supply of medication and supplies on hand. Do not allow your supply to go below 15 days.
  • For medications that require refrigeration, make sure you have a small portable cooler or ice chest ready for easy transport if needed.
  • If you evacuate, bring prescription bottles, whether full or empty, of all medications that you are currently taking with you.

Emergency Pharmacy Refills

Due to anticipated impacts from Hurricane Ian, the Emergency Pharmacy Refill Program has been activated.

Veteran may visit local retail pharmacies to obtain needed refills (Link to emergency refill locations: Please have the following handy: An empty active VA prescription bottle (not older than  6 months and with refills available) or a new VA prescription on a VA form by an authorized VA provider to a retail pharmacy. This does not include controlled substances.

The Heritage Health Customer Care Line is available Monday-Friday from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. EST and Saturday-Sunday from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. EST for both VA Veterans and Pharmacies for billing questions or coverage at 1- option 1.

If a Veteran is displaced, has lost his or her medication, and no longer has a written prescription or bottle, please contact West Palm Beach VA Medical Center or the 24/7 VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center at 1-.

Your Pets

  • It is important to have a preparedness plan for your pets. Know which shelters in your community will accept pets. If you plan to evacuate to your family’s or friends’ home, make sure they will accept your pets, too.
  • Be sure to have supplies on hand like canned/dry food, newspapers, cat litter, and drinking water.
  • Make sure your pets have an ID tag, collar and/or micro-chip in case they get lost during the storm.
  • If you are taking your pet to a shelter with you, be sure to take supplies to care for your pet, such as food, health records, and a current license. Most shelters will require that your pet be kept in a cage or carrier.

The Calm before the Storm... Develop your Family Disaster Plan Now

The best time to make important decisions about your family's safety is before disaster strikes. Past events have shown that people who think ahead, prepare, and have a plan fare best during and after a disaster. If a disaster occurs in your community, local government and disaster relief organizations will try to help you, but you need to be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours (3 days).  Do you have a plan?  This may help Make A Plan

Elements of a Good Family Disaster Plan include:

  • Locating a safe room or the safest areas in your home for each hurricane hazard. In certain circumstances the safest areas may not be your home but within your community.
  • Determining escape routes from your home and places to meet. These should be measured in tens of miles rather than hundreds of miles.
  • Having an out-of-state friend as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point of contact.
  • Making a plan now for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate.
  • Posting emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.
  • Checking your insurance coverage - flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.  Do you know what flood zone you're in?
  • Stocking non-perishable emergency supplies and a Disaster Supply Kit.
  • Using a NOAA weather radio. Remember to replace its battery every 6 months, as you do with your smoke detectors.
  • Taking First Aid, CPR and disaster preparedness classes.

You should have enough supplies in your home to meet the needs of you and your family (don’t forget your pets) for at least three days – 5 – 7 days might be better.

National Hurricane Center Advisory Schedule

When a storm threatens, the National Hurricane Center (NHC)  begins issuing hurricane advisories.

Full hurricane advisories are issued at:

5 am EDT, 11 am EDT, 5 pm EDT and 11 pm EDT

When a Watch or Warning is issued, intermediate advisories are initiated, usually at 8 am, 2 pm and 8 pm.

Just what does a watch mean? What does a warning mean?


WATCH A tropical storm watch is issued when tropical storm conditions, including winds from 39 to 73 miles per hour (mph), pose a possible threat to a specified coastal area within 48 hours.

WARNING A tropical storm warning is issued when tropical storm conditions, including winds from 39 to 73 mph, are expected in a specified coastal area within 36 hours or less.


WATCH A hurricane watch is issued for a specified coastal area for which a hurricane or a hurricane-related hazard is a possible threat within 48 hours.

WARNING A hurricane warning is issued when a hurricane with sustained winds of 74 mph or higher is expected in a specified coastal area in 36 hours or less. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continues, even though the winds may have subsided below hurricane intensity.

Should You Stay? Or Should You Go?

Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency, the first important decision is whether you stay put or get away. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information, including what you are learning here, to determine if there is immediate danger.

In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should monitor TV or radio news reports for information or official instructions as they become available. If you're specifically told to evacuate or seek medical treatment, do so immediately.

Broward County - Shelter Information

Glades County Shelters

Hendry County Shelter Information

Indian River Pet Friendly Shelter

Indian River County Special Needs Shelter

Martin County - Shelter Information

Martin County - Special Needs Evacuation Assistance

Okeechobee County Special Medical Needs Shelter

St. Lucie County Pet Shelters

St. Lucie County - Special Medical Needs

West Palm Beach Shelter Information

Rebuild Your Emotional House

Picking up the pieces after a disaster isn’t easy the road to recovery involves more than cleaning up physical debris. It also involves working to get your emotional house in order.

Suggestions to relieve or prevent disaster related tensions

  • Keep the family together. Togetherness provides mutual support for everyone. Make an effort to establish normal routines. Include children in safe cleanup activities.
  • Discuss your problems. Don’t be afraid to share your anxieties with family and friends. Let others talk to you. Crying is a natural response to a disaster and a good way to release pen-up emotions.
  • Set a manageable schedule. Make a list and do jobs one at a time. Establish a schedule to clean up and rebuild. Try to return to your pre-disaster routine as soon as possible.
  • Take care of yourself. Rest often and eat well. Remember that your children or other family members can reflect your fears. If they see you striving to adjust to the situation, they can learn from and imitate your efforts, enabling them to cope better.
  • Listen to what children say. Encourage your children to talk or otherwise express their feelings. Teens may need to talk to other teens.
  • Explain the disaster factually. Children have vivid imaginations. Things they do not understand make them afraid. When they know the facts they may deal better with the disaster.


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Other Emergencies

Tornado Safety Tips

To stay safe during a tornado, prepare a plan and an emergency kit, stay aware of weather conditions during thunderstorms, know the best places to shelter both indoors and outdoors, and always protect your head.

To protect yourself and your family from harm during a tornado, pay close attention to changing weather conditions in your area. If you know thunderstorms are expected, stay tuned to local radio and TV stations or an NOAA weather radio for further weather information. Some tornadoes strike rapidly without time for a tornado warning. The following weather signs may mean that a tornado is approaching:

  • A dark or green-colored sky
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud
  • Large hail
  • A loud roar that sounds like a freight train

If you notice any of these conditions, take cover immediately, and keep tuned to local radio and TV stations or to a NOAA weather radio or check the internet.

Know when to shelter. Falling and flying debris causes most deaths and injuries during a tornado. Although there is no completely safe place during a tornado, some locations are much safer than others.

  • Go to the basement or an inside room without windows on the lowest floor (bathroom, closet, center hallway).
  • If possible, avoid sheltering in a room with windows.
  • For added protection get under something sturdy (a heavy table or workbench). Cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag or mattress. Protect your head with anything available.
  • Do not stay in a mobile home.

Flood Safety Tips

During a Flood Watch or Warning

  • Gather emergency supplies, including non-perishable food and water. Store at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet. Store at least a 3-day supply.
  • Listen to your local radio or television station for updates.
  • Have immunization records handy (or know the year of your last tetanus shot).
    • Store immunization records in a waterproof container.
  • Bring in outdoor items (lawn furniture, grills, trash cans) or tie them down securely.
  • If evacuation appears necessary, turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve.
  • Leave areas subject to flooding such as low spots, canyons, washes, etc. (Remember: avoid driving through flooded areas and standing water.)

After you return home, if you find that your home was flooded, practice safe cleaning.

After Flooding Occurs

  • Avoid driving through flooded areas and standing water. As little as six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
  • Do not drink flood water, or use it to wash dishes, brush teeth, or wash/prepare food. Drink clean, safe water.
  • If you evacuated, return to your home only after local authorities have said it is safe to do so.
  • Listen for boil water advisories. Local authorities will let you know if your water is safe for drinking and bathing.
    • During a water advisory, use only bottled, boiled, or treated water for drinking, cooking, etc.
  • When in doubt, throw it out! Throw away any food and bottled water that comes/may have come into contact with floodwater.
  • Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Use generators at least 20 feet from any doors, windows, or vents. If you use a pressure washer, be sure to keep the engine outdoors and 20 feet from windows, doors, or vents as well. Never run your car or truck inside a garage that is attached to a house even with the garage door open.

The initial damage caused by a flood is not the only risk. Standing floodwater can also spread infectious diseases, bring chemical hazards, and cause injuries.

After you return home, if you find that your home was flooded, practice safe cleaning. Remove and throw out drywall and insulation that was contaminated with floodwater or sewage. Throw out items that cannot be washed and cleaned with a bleach solution: mattresses, pillows, carpeting, carpet padding, and stuffed toys. Homeowners may want to temporarily store items outside of the home until insurance claims can be filed. See recommendations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)external icon.

Clean walls, hard-surfaced floors, and other household surfaces with soap and water and disinfect with a solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water.

Wild Fire Safety Tips

Wildfires affect everyone. They can spread fast and harm us. Wildfires are getting bigger and more dangerous. More people are living in areas at risk for wildfires, but we can take action to prepare. Learn how to prepare your household and community.

Protect yourself from smoke.

When wildfires create smoky conditions it’s important for everyone to reduce their exposure to smokeWildfire smoke irritates your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. It can make it hard to breathe and make you cough or wheeze.  Childrenpregnant women, and people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart disease, need to be especially careful about breathing wildfire smoke.

Keep smoke outside.

  • Choose a room you can close off from outside air.
  • Set up a portable air cleaner or indoor air filtration to keep the air in this room clean even when it’s smoky in the rest of the building and outdoors. If you use a do-it-yourself box fan filtration unit, never leave it unattended.

Reduce your smoke exposure by wearing a respirator.

  • A respirator is a mask that fits tightly to your face to filter out smoke before you breathe it in.
  • You must wear the right respirator and wear it correctly. Respirators are not made to fit children.
  • If you have heart or lung disease ask your doctor if it is safe for you to wear a respirator.
  • Avoid using candles, gas, propane, wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, or aerosol sprays and don’t fry or broil meat, smoke tobacco products, or vacuum.
  • If you have a central air conditioning system, use high efficiency filters to capture fine particles from smoke. If your system has a fresh air intake, set the system to recirculate mode or close the outdoor intake damper.

Pets and other animals can be affected by wildfire smoke too.

Keep track of fires near you so you can be ready.

  • AirNow’s “Fires: Current Conditions” page has a map of fires throughout North America.
  • NOAA’s “Fire weather outlook” page maps fire watches and warnings.
  • Listen to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for emergency alerts.

Pay attention to any health symptoms if you have asthmaCOPDheart disease, or are pregnant. Get medical help if you need it.

Learn more about protecting yourself from wildfire smoke.

Evacuate safely.

You may be asked by public authorities to evacuate or you may decide to evacuate. Read about how to evacuate safely and how to develop a family disaster plan, including:

  • Finding out what could happen to you
  • Making a disaster plan
  • Completing the checklist
  • Practicing your plan

Stay healthy during power outages.

Large fires can cause long-term power outages. Read about what to do if your power goes out, including:

  • Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Food safety
  • Safe drinking water
  • Power line hazards

Health Information Card

An emergency health information card communicates to first responders what they need to know about you if they find you unconscious, incoherent or if they need to quickly help you evacuate. An emergency health information card should contain information about any disabilities, medications, any equipment you use, allergies, communication difficulties you may have, preferred treatment and medical providers, and emergency contacts.

Print the emergency health information card located below and complete it with a permanent ink pen. Make multiple copies of the card to keep in emergency supply kits, car, wallet or purse, wheelchair pack, etc.