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

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. Although it may seem like a lot to do when things are fine, one can never know when a disaster may strike. Take these important steps to be prepared:

  • Talk with your health care provider about what to do and how you will stay in contact in the event of a disaster. If you access your medical information through a patient portal, or website, be sure to have your account information and password handy. You might be able to stay in contact with your provider through electronic mail or secure messaging.
  • Know that you have the right to see and get copies of your health information and also to share it with whomever you choose. Visit HealthIT.gov to learn more about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
  • Make a plan with your family, friends, and neighbors - whoever may need to help you during a disaster event. Resources are available on Ready.gov, an official website of the Department of Homeland Security, to help you make a plan.
  • Know your exact diagnosis, cancer stage, and any medications you take. If you are receiving chemotherapy or radiation, know where you are in your treatment cycle.
  • If you are on a clinical trial, know the trial number (NCT number, preferably), Principal Investigator, hospital, and drugs or treatments being given.
  • Make sure you have your health care provider's contact information and other important phone numbers with you at all times. Cell phones may not work and batteries can drain, so be sure to have important phone numbers written down on the card or elsewhere.
  • If you have insurance, make sure to carry your insurance card. Contact your insurance provider in the event you are displaced and need to seek care.
  • Make a kit with items you may need like dressings, antiseptic, medications, a 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. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides safety tips on food and water use.
  • If you are experiencing emotional distress, the Disaster Distress Helpline is a national hotline provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that is dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling following any natural or human-caused disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Wallet Card 

NCI and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) developed a free wallet card for patients in English and Spanish. 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 event 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 near-by cancer centers or 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. 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: February 6, 2018