Know how the COVID-19 pandemic can affect disaster preparedness and recovery, and what you can do to keep yourself and others safe.

Natural Disasters and COVID-19: Preparedness Information for Specific Groups

Diverse group of people of all ages

With social distancing and other preventive actions taking place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, preparing for hurricanes and other natural disasters might look a little different this year. For example, you might find that it is harder or takes longer to get certain medications and supplies that you will need to have in your emergency preparedness kits.

If you live in an area that tends to be impacted by hurricanes or severe weather events, it is important to start planning early. If you are someone who has specific needs (including durable medical equipment, medicines, or medical care) or may have trouble gaining access to services, it is especially important to take extra steps to prepare for your needs during and after a hurricane.

Children

Children have unique physiological, developmental, and social-emotional needs during public health emergencies, such as natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, tornadoes) and infectious disease outbreaks (e.g., influenza, COVID-19). Young children rely on adults for their protection and may not understand what to do to keep themselves safe. Older children and teenagers may need to keep up with schoolwork while sheltering away from home. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender youth may feel especially stressed when sheltering with others who might not accept or understand them. Most children will feel stress and worry when facing uncertainty or sudden changes to their daily routine. When multiple public health emergencies happen at the same time, like a hurricane or other severe weather event during the COVID-19 pandemic, preparing for children’s needs is even more important.

Take steps to protect yourself and your family:

  • Prepare an emergency kit and make a plan so that family members are ready and know what to do. An emergency kit has all the things that you and your family may need during an emergency in which you may have to stay inside for longer or leave home to seek shelter. Having your children help with preparing an emergency kit can teach them the basics of staying safe.
  • Practice everyday preventive actions as a family, like washing hands often with soap and water (or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available), avoiding close contact with people who do not live in your household, and wearing a mask when you are around people who do not live in your home.
  • Prepare for sheltering. Before a hurricane or other severe weather event, you may need to leave your home to stay with friends or family or go to a shelter. Sheltering during severe weather may be more complicated during COVID-19. If you need to evacuate because of severe weather some things to think about include:
  • Prepare for remote learning. Schools may already be offering remote learning during COVID-19. Prepare to continue or to change to learning from home.
  • Follow recommendations for protecting yourself from COVID-19 while preparing for a hurricane this season.

Preparing for emergencies is particularly important for families of children with special health care needs. These children may also be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 or may need extra precautions.

Additional Information and Resources:

Pregnant Women, Postpartum Women, and Infants

Natural disasters and public health emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic, can make it harder to gain access to medical services. Based on what we know at this time, pregnant women might be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant women. Infants may encounter additional risks during emergencies because their immune systems are still developing and they are dependent on parents, guardians, and caregivers.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or caring for a newborn, you can follow these tips to help you stay safe before, during, and after a natural disaster:

Additional Information and Resources:

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People

Regardless of how you identify, it’s always important to plan for possible hurricanes and other natural disasters. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially important to plan ahead as public health and social services may be more limited than usual.

Here are some things you can do to help prepare:

Additional Information and Resources:

Older Adults

If you are an older adult, you may need to take some extra steps this hurricane season to minimize risks from COVID-19 and make sure you have everything you need to stay safe during and after the storm. If you rely on support services, such as help from caregivers or in-home health care and meal delivery services, know that these might be unavailable for some time during and after the storm. Additionally, if you or someone you care for suffers from a cognitive impairment, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, additional planning may be required.

Before a hurricane or other severe weather event, you may need to leave your home to stay with friends or family or go to a shelter. Sheltering may be more complicated during COVID-19.

Some things to keep in mind if you or a loved one are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and need to evacuate because of severe weather include:

  • Follow recommendations for protecting yourself from COVID-19 while preparing for a hurricane this season.
  • Develop a disaster plan, and create a Hurricane Preparedness “go kit” that includes personal items, including chargers or batteries for hearing aids and other medical equipment, disinfectant wipes and spray, bar or liquid soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, and at least two masks per person age 2 or older. If you take prescription medicine, talk with your pharmacist or health care provider about getting extra medication in case pharmacies are closed.
  • Take steps to protect yourself and others while you are away from your home. Wearing a mask is especially important when social distancing is difficult.
  • If you are staying in a shelter or in close quarters with people who do not usually live in your household, consider creating family groups, or pods, and limit interactions with people who are not part of your pod.
  • If you are dependent on electricity for medical devices or have special medical needs, contact your local health departmentexternal icon to see if they offer special needs shelters or medical shelters in your area. Also consider signing up for SMART911, Code Red, or your local county registry, depending upon which service your area uses to helps first responders identify people who may need assistance right away.
  • If you need help with meals, transportation, or other services, contact your local area agency on agingexternal icon.
  • Create a care plan and keep a copy in your Emergency Supply Kit. Try out CDC’s easy-to-use care plan template pdf icon[PDF – 1.48 MB].
  • If you are a family member of an older adult living in a nursing home, contact the nursing home management to ask how their emergency management plan addresses the specificexternal icon needs (e.g., medical, mobility) of your loved in the context of both COVID-19 and a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Additional Information and Resources:

People with Chronic Diseases

During natural disasters and other emergencies, people with chronic diseases can face special health challenges. If you have a chronic disease and are concerned about being able to maintain your health during a hurricane or other natural disaster, speak with your health care providers and pharmacists about potential options. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health centerexternal icon or health department.

Here are some additional actions you can take to help you and your loved ones prepare for a natural disaster and reduce your risk of illness or serious health complications during or following a disaster:

  • Ask your doctor if you can get a 30-day (or longer) emergency prescription refill. Some states permit coverage for advanced refills of prescription medication during an emergency, but laws vary by state. Learn more about Emergency Prescription Laws in your state.
  • Follow recommendations for protecting yourself from COVID-19 while preparing for a hurricane this season.
  • Do not delay getting emergency care for your underlying medical condition because of COVID-19. Emergency departments have plans in place to protect you from getting COVID-19 if you need care. Also, do not avoid seeking shelter with friends or relatives or at a disaster shelter, if needed Emergency managers, shelter managers, and public health professionals are taking measures to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19 among people who seek safety in a disaster shelter during severe weather events. Follow CDC recommendations to help you shelter safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If you go to a group shelter, tell the shelter staff if you have any medical needs, including medicines that need to be refrigerated.
  • Take steps to protect yourself and others while you are away from your home. Wearing a mask is especially important when social distancing is difficult.
  • Keep medicines, supplies, and equipment out of the heat and in a safe and waterproof location. If you use medical equipment that works with electricity, learn how to prepare and handle power outages pdf icon[PDF – 5.11 MB]external icon.
  • If you are dependent on electricity for medical devices or have special medical needs, contact your local health departmentexternal icon to see if they offer special needs or medical shelters in your area. Also consider signing up for SMART911, Code Red, or your local county registry, depending upon which service your area uses to help first responders identify people who may need assistance right away.
  • The Department of Health and Human Service’s Emergency Prescription Assistance Program may be activated after a disaster. It is a free service that helps residents get medicine, medical supplies, medical equipment and vaccines that were lost, stolen, or damaged due to the disaster. If you were affected by a federally-identified disaster, call 855-793-7470 to enroll or visit PHE.gov/EPAPexternal icon.
  • If you are living with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, or kidney disease, please see the following disease-specific disaster information.

Additional Information and Resources:

People with Disabilities

If you have a disability, there are steps you can take to prepare for a hurricane during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Additional Information and Resources:

People with Mental Health Disorders

People with mental health disorders may react more strongly to public health emergencies, like hurricanes, wildfires, and COVID-19. The stress from needing to evacuate from your home or practice social distancing can trigger negative thoughts and feelings that can make mental disorders worse.

It is very important that people who are receiving treatment (e.g., therapy, medication) continue their treatment plans during an emergency and monitor for any new symptoms. In-person treatment may be an option during COVID-19 if everyday preventive actions like social distancing and wearing a mask are used. Individual and group therapies may be done by phone or using video conferencing.

If emergency professionals say that the area you live in may be at risk for severe weather or other natural disasters, talk with your health care or mental health care provider about any concerns you might have.

Planning ahead can help you feel more prepared for emergencies. Here are some things you can do:

  • Follow recommendations for protecting yourself from COVID-19 while preparing for a hurricane this season.
  • Develop a disaster plan, and create a Hurricane Preparedness “go kit” that includes personal items, disinfectant wipes and spray, bar or liquid soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, and at least two masks per person age 2 or older. If you take prescription medicine, talk with your pharmacist or health care provider about getting extra medication in case pharmacies are closed.
  • Identify shelter locations near you. If you have a psychiatric service animal, tell a shelter staff person when you arrive at the shelter. Follow CDC recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Talk with your health care providers about how to continue your treatment if offices and health clinics are damaged or closed.
  • Have multiple ways to stay connected with family and friends.

People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment plans during an emergency and monitor for any new symptoms. Additional information is available at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSAexternal icon) website.

Get immediate help in a crisis

  • Call 911
  • Disaster Distress Helplineexternal icon: 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish), or text TalkWithUs for English or Hablanos for Spanish to 66746. Spanish speakers from Puerto Rico can text Hablanos to 1-787-339-2663.

Additional Information and Resources:

Infographic: Be Ready! Hurricanes Ready: Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed. Social Media at CDC Emergency