Emergency Resources for the Cancer Community

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When emergencies happen, different groups have different needs. NCI stays as prepared as we can to provide cancer care and continue cancer research in the face of catastrophic events. The more you do to prepare for an emergency before something happens, the better equipped you will be to respond. It is important to think ahead, be prepared, and have a plan.

Resources for Patients and Health Care Providers

Natural or manmade disasters often occur with little or no notice. Being prepared for a disaster is important for everyone, but cancer patients need to go beyond preparing for these events—they must also prepare for the disruptions to their cancer care caused by a disaster.

Tips for Patients with Cancer

During a disaster, cancer patients need to be concerned with their wellbeing, especially if they become displaced and cannot follow their usual routines. Cancer patients, especially those on active treatment, can have weakened immune systems and may be at higher risk for infections, bleeding, fatigue, and injury. When things are fine, you may feel there is too much to do to prepare in advance, but it will be worth it if disaster strikes.

To be prepared, take these important steps:

  • Plan with your health care provider. Talk with your health care provider about the following:
    • How to contact your provider in the event of a disaster
    • How your provider can reach you during a disaster
  • Plan with your family and friends. Make a plan with your family and friends, including your neighbors. Consult resources on Ready.gov, an official website of the Department of Homeland Security, to help you identify:
    • What help are you likely to need during a disaster
    • Who can provide that help
    • What resources are available
  • Create your personal plan.  Make a plan for yourself, including all the information you will need to continue your treatment:
    • Know your exact diagnosis, cancer stage, and medications you take. If you’re receiving chemotherapy or radiation, know where you are in your treatment cycle.
    • Get the contact information of your health care provider and others whose help you may need during an emergency.
    • Make sure you have all the information you need about your clinical trial, if you are participating in one, including the National Clinical Trial (NCT) number, the name of the principal investigator, names of any facilities where you receive treatment, and the exact treatment you are receiving.
    • Make sure you have all important contact information written down and with you at all times (cell phones may not work, and batteries may drain).
    • Carry your insurance card at all times, so you can contact your insurance provider in case you are displaced and need to seek care.
    • Make a kit with items you may need (dressings, antiseptic, medications, thermometer, etc.). Put them in a zip lock bag to keep them dry. Resources are available on Ready.gov, an official website of the Department of Homeland Security, to help you build a kit.
    • Be aware that food and water may not be safe to consume after a disaster. Consult the website of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for safety tips on food and water use.
    • Keep handy the contact information of the Disaster Distress Helpline in case you experience emotional distress (1-800-985-5990 or text "TalkWithUs" to 66746). This hotline is provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to provide immediate crisis counseling following natural or human-caused disasters.

Wallet Card 

NCI and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) developed a free wallet card in English and Spanish for patients. The card guides patients to NCI's and ASCO's patient information websites and NCI's Contact Center (1-800-4-CANCER) where they can get more information during a disaster. It includes space for critical information in case a patient is seen by a doctor who is unfamiliar with them.

Linking cancer patients to their doctor in a disaster wallet card

Download and print English version

Download and print Spanish version

NCI Contact Center

The NCI Contact Center can help with disaster preparation, updates on the location of the disaster, and where to receive care in the event that a disaster disrupts care or displaces patients. They provide guidance to people regarding information about their treatment, important medical records to have handy in the event of displacement to another location, and they also refer people who have been displaced to nearby cancer centers or NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) sites.

To reach the NCI Contact Center:

  • Call 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)
    Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time in English or Spanish. After business hours, recorded information is available.
  • Online LiveHelp® chat
    The NCI Contact Center LiveHelp program offers online assistance in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

General Resources

Resources for the Research Community

NCI is very aware of the disruptions that some of our grantees may face in the aftermath of hurricanes or other natural disasters. We understand there may be damage and loss to research infrastructure and resources. NCI is committed to working with affected researchers and their institutions to ensure that their research efforts can continue.

Investigators and their institutions can find additional guidance from NIH about their response to natural disasters and other emergencies.

NCI Contacts for Grantees

If you are an NCI grantee affected by an event like a hurricane or other natural disaster, please contact any of the individuals on the list below. They will direct your questions and requests to the appropriate NCI staff for assistance.

NCI Contacts for Research Contractors

Find a list of contract office contacts, organized by research area, at the NCI Office of Acquisitions (OA) website.

Resources for NCI Employees and Contractors

  • NCI Emergency Management and Physical Security Branch (NCI Staff Only)
    NCI has emergency plans in place to provide for the safety and protection of employees, contractors and visitors, but everyone can take steps in advance to prepare for an emergency. This site provides information specific to NCI staff to increase your awareness and improve your preparedness both at work and at home.
  • NIH Bethesda Radio
    You can get the latest NIH updates from NIH Bethesda Radio within a four-mile radius of the main NIH Bethesda campus. The emergency radio frequency is 1660 AM.
  • Non-Emergency Contacts on Main NIH Campus
    • Fire and Rescue: (301) 496-2372
    • Medical Service: (301) 496-4411
    • Police: (301) 496-5685
    • Radiation Safety: (301) 496-5774
  • NIH Division of Emergency Management (DEM)
    DEM serves as a valuable resource to all of NIH in disseminating information relating to Emergency Preparedness.
  • Updated: April 20, 2018

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