A research conducted by the CVS Health Research Institute and the U.S Department of Health and Human Services finds that the pharmacy’s involvement helps patients to access needed medications during a natural disaster.

The study results demonstrated the powerful role of a pharmacy to provide solutions for the community in a disaster situation. Another study showed the significant position of the pharmacy practice during the SARS and blackout crisis in Canada. One of the key findings of the research was that pharmacies become frontline healthcare facilities during times of crisis.

When disasters or unforeseen events happen, medical and pharmaceutical needs of the community are among the major things that need to be addressed immediately. By working closely with other local organisations to support relief and recovery efforts, community pharmacies can take the appropriate initiative in terms of fulfilling the health and wellness needs of the community.

This article outlines several ways in which community pharmacies can expand their roles and become involved in disaster relief as well as emergency preparedness.

Assess the needs for emergency medical needs and supplies

Reduced availability of pharmaceutical needs as well as access to health services delivery can be a major impact of a disaster. Therefore, an important first step towards providing the right help and support for the community is a proper and thorough assessment of the emergency medical needs and supplies.

Community pharmacy staff can continuously monitor news and contact local authorities and organizations to keep up with the emergency situation and identify current needs of the community in disaster situations. In this way, pharmacies can take appropriate actions and initiatives to provide additional capacity to meet the health care services and demands of the community.

Mobile pharmacy unit during disaster

Mobilising a mobile pharmacy unit can be of tremendous benefit during a disaster as natural circumstances may prevent people from obtaining their prescriptions or other necessary medical supplies. A mobile pharmacy can facilitate in dispensing required medications, especially those which are needed urgently by patients with health conditions.

This concept has been deployed following previous disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy and heavy snowstorms in Buffalo, New York, in late 2014.

Education and promoting healthy practices

As healthcare professionals, community pharmacists have a responsibility to develop public awareness and educate the public on sanitary issues, proper medication storage, food/water safety, poisoning and so on.

This might help to avoid hazards as well as prevent epidemics and disease from spreading, especially upon signs of an outbreak following a disaster. Proactive action can also be taken by providing a “Disaster Supplies Checklist” to help the community prepare for disasters.

Having a sound emergency or disaster-preparedness plan is critical for every community pharmacy. As mentioned previously, pharmacies have been important points of contact in relief work during disasters.

In order to respond immediately and effectively to unforeseen events, it is imperative for community pharmacists to equip themselves with required skills and knowledge that are critical throughout the relief operations. These are not limited to aspects such as medication or hygiene management, but also strong clinical reasoning and decision making as well as good teamwork. MIMS

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