An ice storm, tornado or hurricane could leave you without access to food, water or electricity for several days. If a disaster strikes your community, are you prepared? If you have diabetes, this requires much more planning and gathering of emergency supplies. Even a simple power outage can turn into a dangerous situation if you’re not ready. Besides the basic human essentials, you have additional issues that are critical to your survival – including the need to store medicine properly and to manage the effect that stress, injury and illness can have on your blood sugar levels. Additionally, as a person with diabetes, your daily routine involves schedules and planning. All of these factors can make it more difficult to cope with an unexpected event. However, by following the steps below, you can ensure that you and your family will be prepared in the event of an emergency.
Prepare an emergency kit
Your emergency kit should contain at least two weeks’ worth of diabetes supplies. Since some items have expiry dates, check your kit two to three times per year. During these checks, rotate all stock that has an expiration date (for example, insulin, test strips, glucagon kit, prescription and over-the-counter medicines) and make sure all devices are in working order. The rule of thumb should be to put newly purchased products into the kit (those with the longest remaining shelf-life) and rotate out older, unexpired stock for more immediate use.
You should also talk to your pharmacist about how to correctly store insulin and other medications that require refrigeration, and have a plan and equipment in place for keeping them cool if you are without power. Insulin pouches that cool when immersed in water (for example, FRIO®) may be a good investment for your diabetes emergency kit. In addition, if you have forewarning of a storm or snow event, make as much extra ice as possible to keep your medication cool in case of power outages. (Any items requiring refrigeration should not be moved to the kit, unless there is a power outage or you need to leave your house; until then, they are best stored in the fridge.)
Collect identification, medical records and device information
If you do not have one already, obtain a medical ID bracelet or necklace in order to notify others that you have diabetes. Also, the next time you visit your pharmacist, ask for an up-to-date list of medications and keep a copy of this list in your emergency kit. The list should also include your healthcare provider’s contact information. Record and store the type and model number of the medical devices that you use, such as your blood glucose meter and insulin pump, and have back-up supplies in the kit as well.
Familiarize yourself with pump information (if applicable)
Pump users should include basal rates, insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio and correction factor information within the kit. If you use a pump, be sure you educate yourself on how to switch to multi-dose injections, in case you are unable to use your pump during an emergency situation.
Purchase survival foods and supplies
You will also want to have water and non-perishable food supplies on hand. Make sure that this includes high-calorie “survival” foods, such as energy bars and freeze-dried meals (note the carbohydrate content and serving size) and foods that contain protein (for example, peanut butter. It is also important to pack something that contains fast-acting sugar, such as glucose tablets or LifeSavers, to ensure you can treat a hypoglycemia event, as well as a glucagon kit to treat severe hypoglycemia. Finally, general supplies, such as a first aid kit, flashlights and extra batteries are also essential.
During an emergency situation, it is important to note that stress and irregular eating can affect your blood sugar levels, so you should plan on testing more often than normal during this time, especially if you take insulin to manage your diabetes. Also, drinking plenty of water can help combat dehydration, which can have a negative effect on how your medications work and your overall health.
Don’t delay, build your kit today and put together a plan, so you can rest assured that you and your family will be safe and prepared.