What happens when disaster strikes?

Emergency Situation

 

Remember Hurricane Katrina?

Hurricane Katrina was one of the costliest and deadliest storms to ever hit the United States. After Katrina, many people didn’t have access to essential medications and supplies.* There was no electrical power. No drug stores. No food stores. No reliable source of safe, clean water. And very limited transportation.

Hurricane Katrina

Are you prepared for an emergency situation?

Emergencies do happen, and everyone with diabetes should have an emergency plan.

Hurricanes, tornados, typhoons, floods, avalanches, mudslides, forest fires, earthquakes… Even a thunderstorm can knock out electrical power for days. You need to be sure that, no matter what, you have access to all of your medications and any other necessary supplies.

Things that should be part of your Diabetes Emergency Kit:

  1. Medical Alert bracelet or equivalent
  2. 3-day supply of water in a safe place
  3. 2-day supply of non-perishable foods
  4. Cell phone, charger and/or extra batteries. (It is good to have an car adaptor so your cell phone can be charged with power from a car.)
  5. First aid supplies such as bandages, cotton swabs, dressings, topical medications (such as antibiotic ointments).
  6. Flashlights, batteries.
  7. A designated meeting place in case you are separated from your family and/or significant others and are unable to reach them by phone.
  8. Up-to-date vaccinations, including tetanus.
  9. A supply of rapidly absorbed carbohydrate to use in the event of a low blood glucose.
  10. Diabetes Emergency Kit essentialsThe most recent information regarding your medications so you can get refills of medications, as needed, and obtain treatment from a new medical care facility, if needed. This critical information should include:
    1. a letter from your healthcare provider specifying your current medication regimen;
    2. recent blood work/laboratory results;
    3. contact information for all of your health care providers, at least two emergency contacts, and organizations like the American Diabetes Association;
    4. list of health insurance;
    5. healthcare power of attorney; and
    6. your living will.
  11. 30-day supply of ALL of your medications. For medications that need to be refrigerated, make sure you have a way to keep them cold (but don’t freeze them)! Use FRIO® packs or a portable cooler with room for 4 re-freezable gel packs. (Do not use dry ice; do not ever freeze insulin – freezing can inactivate the insulin.)
  12. 1-month of supplies for your glucose meter. You may want to have 2 glucose meters in case one stops working or gets lost/damaged. Include a little plastic container to use as a way to dispose of lancets, needles, syringes, etc.
  13. Insulin pump users: you will want to have supplies for as long as a month — infusion sets, tubing, batteries, and insulin. Be prepared to switch to insulin injections if your pump stops working. You need to know how to manage your insulin using this alternative approach, no matter how well you have been doing or how long you have been using a pump.

    Glucagon

  14. At least 1 Glucagon kit. If your doctor hasn’t prescribed one, ask him/her about it at your next office visit. Make sure that family, friends, and everyone else who is likely to be  with you know about the glucagon kit and how to use it. This is important for everyone taking insulin, especially people who do not always recognize when they are having lows (a.k.a. “hypoglycemia unawareness”).
  15. Paper and pens so that you can still keep a log of your medications, even if you are unable to log in One Drop.

Store all of the above in a portable, insulated, waterproof diabetes emergency kit. Have this kit ready to go at the drop of a hat! It could save your life!

 

*“Diabetics put at risk amid hurricane exodus.” (www.boston.com)

The above materials are based in part, with minor modifications by the present author, on www.mydiabetesemergencyplan.com , a report of the American College of Endocrinology that was sponsored by Lilly Diabetes. The American Diabetes Association also recommends that people with diabetes prepare a diabetes emergency kit: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/30/9/2395.long

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David Rodbard MD
David Rodbard MD

David Rodbard MD is President of Biomedical Informatics Consultants, based in Washington DC, and is a specialist in diabetes and clinical endocrinology. Prior to consulting, David spent 30 years as a clinician, researcher, and computer scientist for the National Institutes of Health.