Disaster-Proof Your Diabetes
Living with diabetes is all about preparation. If you have ever been caught short of supplies or medication, you know the feeling of panic that ensues. And you’ve probably taken extra steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. But in the event of a natural disaster, you may be unable to refresh supplies for weeks. And power loss can impact your insulin and food storage. Are you prepared for a diabetes disaster? Follow these essential steps to be ready for an emergency before it happens.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Planning ahead is the single most important part of being prepared for a natural disaster. This means taking the time now to stock up on diabetes supplies, and making sure your entire household has emergency numbers and important contact information programmed into their cell phones. This should include the whole household, as well as fire, police, and medical providers. Because cell phones can lose power, having this information printed on a wallet-sized card is also a good idea.
In case a disaster separates the family, you should have a plan in place to meet at a common location in the community. If your town has a designated storm shelter—often a local school or other public facility—it may be a good choice for a meeting spot. Children should be taught to stay with the nearest trusted adult at school or elsewhere.
Create an Emergency Kit
Your emergency kit should be kept in a waterproof duffel or similar bag and stored in a place where you can access it quickly if needed. You may want a second bag for bulky items like clothing and drinking water. At a minimum, your kit should include:
• Two weeks’ worth of diabetes supplies. Stockpiling two weeks of supplies should be enough to get you through and past an emergency situation. If you are on an insulin pump, make sure you include back up syringes and insulin in case your pump fails.
• A paper copy or photocopy of all of your prescriptions. In the event of power outages, your pharmacy may be unable to access your electronic data for days or even weeks. It’s also a good idea to have a written record of all current medications Store these in a plastic sleeve or bag to ensure they stay dry and legible.
• Extra batteries and a flashlight. Have extra batteries on hand for your blood glucose meter and other diabetes devices. And of course, pack a flashlight or two to get you through the evenings in a power outage.
• Nonperishable snacks and drinking water. Items like canned foods, peanut butter crackers, and juice boxes (also helpful for treating blood sugar lows) are good choices. Don’t forget the can opener.
• First aid kit. Because people with diabetes are prone to infection and their wounds may take longer to heal, it’s important to have a first aid kit to promptly treat any injuries.
• Protective clothing. A pair of boots and gloves will protect your vulnerable hands and feet from storm debris should you need to go out in the elements. A raincoat, change of clothing, and blanket are also a good idea.
Remember that supplies, food, and even batteries are perishable. At least once a month you should check anything in the kit that has an expiration date and rotate out items close to expiration with your freshest supplies and foodstuffs. This ensures that your emergency kit always contains the items with the longest shelf life remaining.
Extended power loss is common following a natural disaster. In addition to having a stockpile of batteries, a universal battery operated charger can keep your mobile devices charged and ensure you stay connected to the outside world. If it’s within your budget, a gas-powered generator may also be a wise investment.
Use Time to Your Advantage
Some disasters, such as hurricanes and blizzards, come with advance warning. If you know a storm event is coming your way, take the opportunity to fine tune your emergency plan, check your kit, and stockpile a few last minute items like water and ice. Fill plastic containers with water and place them in the freezer to quickly make your own ice blocks for food storage in a power outage. Filling up your gas tank and getting cash to have on hand are also good ideas as extended power outages may limit your access to both.
Finally, remember that the stress of a natural disaster or other emergency event can cause your blood sugars to skyrocket. Having an emergency plan and kit in place will help lower your stress levels significantly, as well as giving you the tools you need to manage your diabetes better during and after the disaster itself.