Emergency Preparedness Guide for People With Diabetes


We can’t complain that nature isn’t giving us fair warning of impending disasters. Big storms are queued up in the Atlantic. A monster wildfire has taken two months to consume more than 800,000 acres of Montana and other exceptionally large fires are burning in Washington, Oregon and California.

It’s an uncommon region that isn’t prone to one natural disaster or another, which means emergency preparedness is important for pretty much all households. That goes double for people with diabetes, who have more to prepare than the usual flashlights, batteries and canned food, and who have special needs around hydration, food and hygiene.

Here are some of the items to consider:

Generator. If you have the ability to invest in one, this can make a huge difference during the aftermath of a disastrous event, when it can take days or more to get electricity back on. You don’t need to power the whole house; consider a smaller, less expensive unit that can keep a small refrigerator going and recharge cell phones.

A basic diabetes emergency kit. Our 2015 report on disaster preparedness lists all the most pertinent items, but pack them in a waterproof, insulated carry bag. If you need batteries for your diabetes devices, be sure to have some in your emergency kit. 

–This is one of the most elementary items, yet so easy to overlook: a plentiful stash of bottled water, which is especially important for people with diabetes, who need to stay adequately hydrated. Individually wrapped energy bars are a good idea, too.

–Keep in mind that cooler wallets keep insulin cooled for a limited amount of time. The FDA recommends the squeezable cool packs if additional cooling is needed, or dry ice. Of, if you must use ice, make sure that it’s in a waterproof bag and that you take other steps to keep any of the moisture from reaching insulin and any other medical supplies. Also, make sure that insulin stays cool but not frozen.

–That brings us to another extremely useful item: Insulated shoulder bags or backpacks to stow cooling packs and so forth with the insulin, and generally to carry items that you want to keep cool.

–The pictures of Houston are a reminder that you simply can’t have too many waterproof bags of various sizes. They weigh practically nothing and the uses are almost endless. Use them for your medical gear, cell phones, household records, really pretty much everything is best off stored in them.

–The FDA suggests that if you use a blood glucose meter, keep the inserts handy for instructions on or using them during unusual heat and humidity. Read the instructions beforehand to store and handle the equipment properly.

Dry cloths or paper towels in waterproof bags to wipe any moisture off the blood glucose meter and other supplies.

–The state of New Jersey created an emergency preparedness sheet specifically for people with diabetes. It recommends keeping a handy copy of your emergency information and medical list, as well as extra copies of prescriptions, your health insurance information, the names and contact info for your medical-care providers and a blood-sugar diary. A waterproof bag is perfect for containing them, and throw a couple of pencils into it.

–The sheet also recommends a glucagon emergency kit for people on insulin.

–Hygiene is crucial in emergencies, especially because flood waters can be a soup of infectious material. Alcohol prep wipes, alcohol-based hand sanitizer and bars of soap are all necessities.

Quick-acting carbohydrates that need no refrigeration are recommended by several sources, including the state of New Jersey. Juice boxes can fulfill this need, or glucose tablets.

–One of the most overlooked yet useful devices for any emergency is also one of the cheapest. The Mayo Clinic and other sources recommend a good, old-fashioned, noisy whistle to alert others when you are in need. Put it on a lanyard around your neck so you can’t be separated from it.

–Keep a waterproof to-go bag of extra clothing, including lightweight, quick-drying pants, protective shoes and a few pairs of socks.

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