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News & Press: National

Pharmacies Front and Center as Florida Preps for Hurricane Irma

Friday, September 8, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Shannon Glaittli
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Having killed 13 people, destroyed nearly every building on the island of Barbuda and left nearly 1 million Puerto Rico residents without power as it made its way through the Caribbean, Hurricane Irma is bearing down on Florida, and the retail pharmacy, grocery and mass merchandiser community is working to make sure Floridians are prepared.

In declaring a state of emergency in Florida’s 67 counties, Gov. Rick Scott authorized pharmacies to dispense up to 30-day emergency prescription refills to patients. As Irma has gotten closer to the U.S. mainland, both CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens emphasized being prepared by keeping prescriptions stocked, or at least on-hand.

"Prescription preparedness is one of the most important steps individuals and families can take in the lead up to potentially severe weather, and CVS Pharmacy is working to ensure that our patients have the medications they need in advance of the storm," CVS Health EVP retail pharmacy and supply chain Kevin Hourican said.

Walgreens urged patients to follow evacuation orders and get to a safe location before refilling their prescriptions, noting that all locations can access a patient’s records and that the Walgreens app can be used to refill prescriptions and pick them up nearby.

In addition to drug stores, grocery retailers have been on the front lines of preparedness, with Publix racing to keep shelves stocked — particularly with water — as far north as Charlotte, N.C., ahead of Hurricane Irma. And even as the company adjusted operating hours of certain stores and closed its Florida Keys locations due to safety concerns, Publix has been working to keep its shelves stocked to keep Floridians prepared.

“As part of our commitment to you, we are actively working with our suppliers to deliver essential items to potentially impacted stores,” the company wrote on its website. “Our pharmacies are receiving medications more frequently to assist in filling prescriptions. Our manufacturing facilities are working around the clock to produce items you’re looking for. We have hundreds of drivers, as well as third-party carriers, continually delivering batteries, canned goods, bread, milk and other hurricane essentials, but the demand for these items is greater than our supply. … Our goal is always to serve as many customers in our communities as we can, and this storm is no exception.”

Southeastern Grocers’ Winn-Dixie banner also is doing its best to keep its stores open ahead of Hurrican Irma. The company’s website promises, “We are doing everything we can to keep our stores open in impacted areas where it is safe and possible to do so.”

Like Publix, several Florida Keys Winn-Dixie stores were closed Thursday afternoon due to the storm, with some stores closed due to evacuation orders. As of Thursday afternoon, none of Southeastern Grocers’ Harveys, Bi-Lo or Freco y Más stores had been closed due to the hurricane.

Walmart also is stepping up to help prepare for Hurricane Irma, with the Miami Herald reporting that the company had activated its Emergency Operations Center, which Walmart director of national media relations Ragan Dickens said was part of an effort to “get those shelves stocked as soon as possible.” The effort included the deployment of 800 truckloads of supplies Tuesday en route to Florida with emergency supplies for stores with the most need, the report said. A video on Twitter Thursday showed a new pallet of bottled water being snatched up by customers in Miramar in under a minute. 

NBC News reported that Target also was working to keep its shelves stocked and its associates safe, with Target spokesperson Jenna Reck telling the outlet that the company worked with its distribution teams to know which stores need merchandise, and that it was trying to ensure stores had the requisite emergency suppliers, including water.

"We're tracking Irma and making sure our team members are safe and informed of what to do when the storm hits," Reck told NBC News.

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