Hurricane Response and Recovery
Each year, the hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. The information below will assist states and territories to respond and recover from hurricanes.
Response and Recovery Messages
Follow the direction of local officials. Dangerous flooding continues; do not return home until local authorities say it is safe.
Avoid affected areas. Stay off the roads so that first responders/service crews can get to those who most need help. The US Army Corps of Engineers Trafficability Dashboard provides real time road status information.
Keep out of the water. Flood water can contain dangerous debris, downed power lines or hazardous materials. Do not walk, swim, wade, or drive through flood waters.
Power, water, and communication outages may be extensive. Services in affected areas may take time to fully restore.
Cash is best. A financial contribution to a recognized disaster relief organization is the most effective donation to make. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers a Disaster Recovery Fund to support AAP chapters to meet pediatric needs.
Be vigilant in looking for certain infectious diseases. Clinicians assessing patients affected by hurricanes should be watching for certain infectious diseases, including leptospirosis, hepatitis A, vibriosis, and influenza.
With a recognized increase in the number and severity of natural and other types of disasters, pediatric health care providers can be a critical partner in coordinated response and recovery efforts.
Hurricanes can result in storm surge, heavy rainfall, flooding, high winds, and tornadoes. During each hurricane season, the AAP works with AAP chapters, federal disaster response and recovery agencies, and non-governmental organizations to ensure that children's needs are addressed in a strategic manner during the response and recovery periods. Clinicians can play a critical role in assisting children and their families to prepare for, respond to, and recover from hurricanes. Also see the Hurricane Preparedness resource page.
Response activities take place during the hurricane and include actions to save lives and prevent future damage in an emergency situation. These activities could include:
Evacuation – When a hurricane is pending, there may be a need to evacuate your home, hospital, or office. Pediatricians should follow evacuation orders from officials and encourage families to do the same. If evacuation is required:
Sheltering – Taking appropriate shelter is critical in times of disaster. Sheltering is appropriate when conditions require that you seek protection in your home, place of employment, or other location. Children require a safe, secure environment during and after a disaster.
Vaccine Storage – If there is a loss of power, do not open freezers or refrigerators containing vaccines, except to transport vaccine to an alternative storage location. Continue to monitor the temperatures of your vaccines. After the event, do not discard vaccines. If vaccines were lost or damaged:
Recovery activities take place after a hurricane and include actions to return to normal or an even safer situation following an emergency situation. These activities could include:
Response to a Power Outage – During a power outage, several issues may arise. In addition to vaccine storage mentioned above, depending on the time of year, extreme temperatures could impact children. Food and water safety, as well as safe generator use, will be important to consider in recovery efforts.
Food and Water Safety – Take steps to prevent illness from unsafe food and water. Keep food at recommended temperatures. Do not eat or drink anything that has touched flood water. When there is doubt about a certain food item, throw it out. If you are unsure about the safety of your water, boil the water or use bottled water. The US Food and Drug Administration and the CDC offer strategies for keeping food and water safe after an emergency.
Returning to Affected Areas – Children should be the last to return during flood recovery or when disaster clean-up is needed. Clinical recommendations are available from the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs) regarding return of children to areas impacted by flooding and/or hurricanes. The management of children with asthma needs to be taken into consideration.
Prevention of Infectious Diseases – Flooding can increase the transmission of many communicable diseases. Preventative measures should be taken, including enforcing the importance of hand-hygiene when running water is available.
Mosquito Bite Prevention – Flood waters can result in a very large population of mosquitos. Take steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites after a disaster to prevent mosquito borne diseases, including Zika, dengue, malaria, and others. Share the Mosquito Bites are Bad Ready Wrigley activity book with families.
Determining Special Needs – The special needs of pregnant women, new mothers, and their newborns (especially when water and/or medical care is not consistently available), is important to consider. The AAP has recommendations for infant feeding in disasters and emergencies. Emergencies or disasters are difficult for all families, but for those that include a child with special needs, this can be even more challenging. The AAP offers strategies and things to consider on the AAP Children and Youth with Special Needs Web page.
For Those Interested in Traveling to Help
The AAP does not send teams to disaster-impacted areas or endorse/approve any particular means of traveling to or volunteering in disaster-impacted areas, yet the organization hopes to continue to keep its members informed of relevant opportunities. The security and safety of members continues to be a high priority, and members are urged to educate themselves about the reality of travel details, security issues, liability insurance, living conditions, and other details regarding the provision of medical care in austere conditions. It is important that health care professionals carry copies of licenses and board certifications when traveling, as well as become knowledgeable about documentation needed when taking medicines into a foreign country.
Below are some resources that may be of interest:
Other Ways to Help Out
The AAP offers a Disaster Recovery Fund through which contributions can be made to support pediatricians and the children they serve as a result of natural or man-made disasters anywhere in the world. Clinicians can learn more about Direct Relief, an organization that provides assistance to people and communities in all 50 states and more than 80 countries. Volunteer opportunities are available through the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.
Primary care providers are essential for promoting children's mental health and well-being throughout the recovery process following hurricanes. Strategies for clinicians are outlined on the AAP Promoting Adjustment and Helping Children Cope Web page.
Archived Hurricane Response and Recovery Webinars
In August 2018, the AAP convened a webinar titled, "Hurricanes and Storms: From Preparedness to Recovery, Strategies for a Brighter Future", that provided details on why disaster response and recovery efforts are critically important for all pediatricians and how clinicians can prepare to respond and help colleagues and families to recover after a disaster. See the PowerPoint slides from the presentation. Also see the archived CDC Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity webinar, "Primary Care Providers' Role in Supporting Children, Families, and Professional Self-Care Following Hurricanes and Other Disasters".
Public Service Announcements for Puerto Rico from the AAP/CDC