Caring for Patients During a State of Emergency

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Caring for Patients during a State of Emergency

Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and wildfires are just some of the potential hazards in BC.

Medical records may be difficult to access during a disaster. Patients who rely on a prescription should talk to their primary health care provider or pharmacist about how to keep an extra supply or valid prescription in their emergency kit and grab and go bags.

Patients displaced by an evacuation, can also visit a pharmacy near them to access an emergency supply of medications they may need. The College’s Find a Pharmacy tool can help patients locate a pharmacy in the community where they are staying.

Providing Continuity of Care for Patients

Professional Practice Policy 25 – Pharmacy Disaster Preparedness outlines what’s expected of pharmacists in providing continuity of care for patients during a state of emergency.

Pharmacists are required to use their professional judgement, thoroughly document any medications they provide and communicate with the patient’s prescriber as soon as possible.

PharmaNet also plays an important role in supporting continuity in care by allowing a pharmacist to review a patient’s prescriptions and medication history regardless of what pharmacy a patient typically uses.

Participating in Local Emergency Management Plans

In BC, local governments lead the initial response to emergencies and disasters in their communities.

Pharmacy managers should reach out to the Emergency Program Coordinator for their community to ensure they are aware of and participate in local plans.

Temporary Pharmacy Licence

A Temporary Pharmacy Licence may be issued to help provide continuity of care for patients during an emergency.

The Temporary Pharmacy Licence applicant must already own a licensed pharmacy in the area where an Evacuation Order or Declared Local State of Emergency order has been issued.

The new location for the temporary pharmacy must be located near the area covered by the Evacuation Order or Declared Local State of Emergency and is at the discretion of the Registrar.

Learn how to apply for a Temporary Pharmacy Licence during an emergency.

Pharmacy Disaster Preparedness

  1. Notwithstanding the provisions of the Health Professions Act, the Pharmacy Operations and Drugs Scheduling Act, the Regulation and the bylaws of the College of Pharmacists of BC made pursuant to these Acts or any other provision of law, a pharmacist in good faith may furnish a drug without prescription in reasonable quantities during a declared state of emergency to further the health and safety of the public.
  2. If a drug is provided in accordance with point 1 above, a record containing the date, name and address of the person to whom the drug is furnished, and the name, strength and quantity of the drug furnished must be maintained. The pharmacist shall communicate this information to the patient’s prescriber as soon as possible.
  3. The Registrar may waive pharmacy licensure requirements (pertaining to minimum equipment, minimum space, sanitary facilities or any other licensing requirements) and issue a temporary pharmacy licence to a licensed pharmacy required to relocate because of a declared state of emergency. 
  4. It is the responsibility of each pharmacy manager to approach regional emergency preparedness coordinators and be aware of and participate in local plans. Pharmacy managers should develop more detailed individual disaster plans for their own pharmacies (beyond the regional plans).
New Resource on Caring for Patients during a State of Emergency

The College has developed a new resource at with information for pharmacy professionals and the public on accessing medications during a state of emergency.

The College would like to thank Emergency Management BC, the Ministry of Health, and the First Nations Health Authority for their input in developing the new resource.


For questions related to providing continuity of care for patients during a state of emergency, contact the College’s practice support at [email protected]

Pharmacists and patients can also contact the First Nations Health Authority at 1-800-317-7878 to verify patient identification information and for NIHB billing purposes.


See the updated list of resources on

May 31, 2018