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NJ Pharmacies Prove to Be "Stronger Than the Storm"

By April Hall

storm raved coast

After Superstorm Sandy, streets at the Jersey Shore were “post-apocalyptic,” residents say. More than a year later, the memories are as clear as the repairs that still need to be completed.

On October 28, 2012, one of the most serious storms to hit the East Coast made landfall. Though not technically considered a hurricane, winds and rain brought destruction to homes and businesses all along the Jersey Shore. Electricity was out. Some people were without water. A 6 p.m. curfew was in effect in some towns, and there were three armed checkpoints to get onto Long Beach Island and into the town of Beach Haven.

SAMANTHA KELLY P’88 has owned Kapler’s Pharmacy there for 11 years and never saw weather damage like Superstorm Sandy brought to her hometown.

quoteKelly and her husband stayed on the island during the storm in order to keep an eye on the pharmacy. “A lot of times they don’t let you back on the island right away,” Kelly said. “If I knew I could get back to my business, I would have left. [Staying] actually turned out to be a good thing because they didn’t let anyone back on the island for 10 days.”

In preparation for the storm, Kelly and her husband placed inventory, refrigerators, and important papers on high counters and on top of tables, at least four feet off of the floor. That would have been fine, but the water was 4.5 feet high.

While most residents were exiled after the storm, one of Kapler’s pharmacists was stuck on the mainland. She went to Kelly’s husband’s pharmacy in Forked River, N.J., about 45 minutes away from Beach Haven. Through their computer systems, the pharmacist was able to fill customer prescriptions while the island was off-limits.

For those stuck on the island and first responders, Kelly was filling prescriptions immediately after the storm. She was also providing free tetanus shots to first responders.

On the other side of the bridge, THOMAS GENCO P’78, RPh, stayed away from the brunt of the storm. Stafford Pharmacy in Manahawkin, where Genco is manager, had a few tripped alarms, but all he found when he got to the store the day after Sandy were a couple of broken windows. A trip to Lowes and the windows were boarded up. Once power was restored, the store reopened two days after the storm.

Genco said it was a fax sent from the Board of Pharmacy that made him realize the seriousness of the situation.

“It said you had to make every effort possible to contact the pharmacy and prescribers, but we were able to fill refills just from the bottle,” he said. “We are very legalistic in what we do. In 30 years, I don’t believe I ever saw the Board of Pharmacy do that. We were in a disaster situation.”

Mostly, Stafford worked in tandem with Surf City Pharmacy to fill prescriptions for people unable to get to their regular pharmacy. Other people who were staying at nearby hotels also came by to get everything from maintenance medications to emergency prescriptions filled.

“I know I didn’t see the worst of it, but I felt so helpless,” Genco said. “It was the strangest feeling.”

In Beach Haven, Kelly didn’t have a chance to feel helpless. She had to start gutting the pharmacy right away to try to keep the worst of the mold away.

“It was like you were literally watching the mold grow, it came on so fast,” she said.

Two doors down from Kapler’s, Kelly rents a gift shop. It has cement walls and flooring covered with vinyl tiles. They were able to bleach all that clean, replace the fixtures and bring down any surviving inventory to serve as a temporary pharmacy. Again, the Board of Pharmacy stepped in to help by making timely inspections so Kelly could open her doors by Thanksgiving, about a month after the storm.

Just before Memorial Day weekend, the original Kapler’s Pharmacy was able to reopen. She hopes she’ll recover financially from the storm, but she said the lessons she learned has helped her business and will protect her customers in future storms.

Kelly moved her compounding pharmacy to the mainland; that pharmacy will be able to fill island prescriptions.

“We learned a lot between moving a location to the mainland and learning how long it takes to recover from something like this.”

Categories: The Bulletin, Alumni, , Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Misher College, USciences, Department of Pharmacy Practice, Pharmacy, Pharmacy Administration