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We’re not in Kansas Anymore: What we can learn about Disaster Awareness from Dorothy


The chance of coming across lions, tigers or bears is low for many of us, but being in the middle of a disaster is a horse of a different color. As the 2014 hurricane season approaches, we are reminded that disasters are scary, but knowing what to do can make trying times less stressful.

One of the first things you can do to prepare for a disaster is be aware – aware of immediate surroundings and of potential dangers. Had Dorothy paid more attention that she was in the midst of increasing winds and cloud activity in the state of Kansas, she would have known  she was experiencing a tornado and immediately looked for shelter.

After awareness, preparation is key. Keep an emergency kit at home with flashlights, a battery powered radio and other supplies that could be needed in case the power goes out or evacuation is necessary. Always have a copy of important documents like the Uniformed Services ID card or other health insuranceHealth insurance you have in addition to TRICARE, such as Medicare or an employer-sponsored health insurance. TRICARE supplements don’t qualify as "other health insurance." card, driver’s license and social security card and lists of prescriptions and shot records. Have the number to the family’s Primary Care Manager (PCM) or regional coordinator for help getting care. Protecting this documentation is especially important with the destruction that can be caused by fires and floods.

Also, prepare to carry any needed medical devices or equipment: medicines, glucose monitors/diabetic supplies, respiratory aids (nebulizers, oxygen tanks/tubing, etc.), spare eyeglasses/contacts, etc. If possible, get any medication refills that are due. And think ‘clean’ and ‘hygiene’ to remember wet naps and sanitizers as well as towels and blankets.

Don’t be like Dorothy – she got caught in the storm, received a nasty bump on the head and was knocked unconscious. Know where to seek shelter and if asked to evacuate, do it. Be sure to use the pre-designated escape route of which everyone is familiar and meet at the pre-determined area.

If someone is injured, regardless of which TRICARE plan you have, please seek emergency care at the nearest facility.

If evacuation would cause more hardship than staying or if authorities are requesting everyone to stay indoors, having a preassembled disaster kit helps to keep panic in check. The standard rule of thumb is to have one gallon of water per person, per day (plan for a few days), non-perishable familiar food items, and a change of clothes – in a disaster, there are no kind-hearted wizards offering courage or clothes. 

Disaster preparation is important and being prepared is just as essential as knowing how to get help if you need it. Have a disaster plan and practice it. TRICARE has a downloadable contact wallet card with all the contacts you need for help with your health plan. There is also fact sheet that explains TRICARE coverage during natural disasters. Find them both online at

Last Updated 1/22/2016