A T2D’s Guide to Natural Disasters
Having type 2 diabetes (T2D) means being prepared—not only for the day-to-day challenges but also, and more importantly, for disaster. Whether it’s an earthquake, fire, flood, or a simple power shortage, you’ll need certain supplies to ensure your safety or the safety of your loved one.
What if you run out of diabetes supplies?
- To prevent this, consider bulking up on supplies by asking your doctor to call in a larger script in advance. It may be difficult to access supplies while on the road or due to closures.
- For emergency supplies, contact the Red Cross at 877-500-8645. Visit here to find a location near you.
- Have your prescriptions filled at a chain drugstore. If your prescriptions are filled at a major drug store, you can get them filled on the road at another location.
Other than supplies, bring:
- A separate binder or folder with your medical information, including from your doctor
- Downloaded and printed data from your diabetes devices such as your blood glucose meter, pump, or continuous glucose monitor (CGM)
- Plenty of water and food
- Emergency contact numbers
- A phone charger and extra battery pack
In light of the COVID-19 situation, it’s highly recommended to also have face masks, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer in our natural disaster preparedness kits. If in a shelter, be ready to have your temperature checked frequently, and if you feel ill or suspect you have been in contact with an infected person, let shelter personnel know immediately. Again, you can use this guide for a more comprehensive checklist of recommended supplies and other items to have on hand in your kit, like copies of medical documents.
What else should you consider when evacuating for a natural disaster?
Consider evacuating to a city or center near a medical facility where you can be treated if you have a medical emergency. Living with type 2 or being related to a person with T2D means being prepared—not only for the day-to-day challenges, but also, and more importantly, for disaster. Whether it’s an earthquake, fire, flood, or simple power shortage, you’ll need certain supplies to ensure your safety or the safety of your loved one. When creating your T2D Emergency Kit, assemble these essentials, so when it’s go-time, there’s no stopping you.
Where to start
After devastating Hurricane Maria hit the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition was created to facilitate a coordinated disaster-response effort, educate about emergency preparedness and advocate for the well being of people living with diabetes during a natural disaster.
People living with diabetes need to take some extra precautions when preparing for a natural disaster. So, with the support of scientific organizations, diabetes community organizations, and pharmaceutical companies, the Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition created the Diabetes Disaster Preparedness Plan, available in both English and Spanish. Use this checklist when preparing for any disaster.
Let’s talk about supplies…
Building a natural disaster kit? Your container should be:
Medicine and healthcare details
A two-week supply of your prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs that are part of your regimen. Make sure to keep medicines in their original containers for easy identification.
Note: If you lose power and you have unused insulin, don’t throw it out! In an emergency, it is okay to use expired or non-refrigerated insulin. Contact your manufacturer, pharmacy or doctor with any questions.
A complete list of all medications you take and when you take them. Include any medication allergies. Also, list your physician and emergency contact information. Keep a copy of your health insurance details in case you need to refill prescriptions.
Diabetes tag or medical bracelet that indicates that you have type 2 diabetes
Blood glucose meter and continuous glucose monitor
The go-to device for testing your blood sugar levels. Don’t forget extra testing strips and lancets. If you use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), make sure to pack extra supplies in case you need to replace it sooner than expected.
The American Diabetes Association recommends packing a three-day supply, but if you’re evacuating and don’t know when you’ll be back, pack up to two weeks’ worth of supplies. Include short-acting as well as long-acting insulin.
When insulin is kept cool at the recommended temperature of 36° F – 46° F, it will last until its expiration date. Unrefrigerated insulin can be stored at a temperature between 59°F-86°F and may be effective up to 28 days. Don’t forget to rotate supplies so that your emergency kit does not contain expired products.
Include four reusable ice packs to keep insulin cool. (FRIO makes insulin pouches that cool when submerged in water.) Never use insulin that has been frozen.
Syringes and/ or Pen needles
Both deliver insulin; it depends on what’s your instrument of choice. If you are on a pump you should carry emergency needles and insulin vials, or an emergency pen in case of failure. Also, carry extra syringes for mini glucagon shots.
If you use a pump, pack extra reservoirs (objects that contain insulin dose) and infusion sets (tubing used to deliver insulin). Remember to pack insulin and syringes should your pump fail.
This is to help soothe pump or CGM site areas prior to insertion.
Alcohol swabs and hand sanitizer
Bring alcohol wipes to clean the skin surface before administering an injection of insulin. In case washing your hands is not possible, having hand sanitizer will work just as well.
For disposing of used syringes, needles and lancets. An empty water bottle can do.
Ketone testing products
This is for testing your urine for ketone, a chemical produced when there’s a shortage of insulin in your blood. The presence of ketone in the urine means the body is using body fat for energy instead of glucose because not enough insulin is available to use glucose. You can either use a ketone meter or strips.
For treating hypoglycemia pack hard candy, fruit juice, regular soda, glucose tablets, or gels.
Glucagon is used to treat severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
- Nasal glucagon – Baqsimi®: This is an emergency glucagon that’s administered through your nose.
- Glucagon pen – Gvoke HypoPen®: This is a premixed glucagon injection that you press against your thigh. The auto-inject device makes it quick and easy to use. It is also available in a prefilled syringe (PFS).
- Glucagon vial & syringe – Gvoke Kit®: This is a premixed glucagon in a vial that comes with a syringe, allowing you to draw up the dose manually and inject it directly into your thigh.
- Glucagon pen – Zegalogue®: Also a premixed glucagon, available as an easy-to-use auto-inject device. It is also available in a prefilled syringe (PFS).
When you’re without power, this is essential for navigating.
It’s old-school, but it works. Keep yourself posted on emergency warnings and instructions.
Batteries and charger
For your meters, pumps, flashlight and radio. It’s also smart to include an extra cell phone charger.
Water and food
Staying hydrated is essential, so pack at least a three-day supply of water. Also include a three-day supply of non-perishable food like peanut butter, cheese crackers, granola bars, or meal replacement shakes.
You can purchase one from the American Red Cross or assemble one yourself. Make sure to include bandages, cotton swabs, dressings, scissors, saline solution and topical medications. As a person with diabetes, you are more susceptible to infection, so wound-care products are particularly important to have. It’s a good idea to also include pain and fever-reducing medicine as well as a thermometer and blanket.
Comfortable and closed-toe shoes
In case of evacuation, you may have to walk long distances. An injury to your feet is an easy way to contract an infection and immobilize you.
Where your kit should be
In a cool and dry place that’s easily accessible. Tell others about it, so you’re not the only one who knows. And remember; check your kit once a month so that all supplies are replenished and up-to-date. Consider using a system like Tile to keep track of your kit and be able to locate it should you lose it.
Pet emergency precautions
Taking care of and evacuating loved ones also includes your pets (whether they are service animals or not). Be sure to assemble Fido’s own “survival kit” before disaster strikes. Especially if you’re depending on your animal to keep you safe in high-stress situations, you’ll need your pet prepared to go on the move and integrate easily into any potential disaster shelter or situation.
Pack the following:
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable food
- Can opener
- Crate (if required)
- Food and water dishes
- Veterinary records
- Identification tags (up-to-date and visible on the collar)
- Additional evacuation site tag (attach to the collar and include address and phone number)
This last recommendation is in the chance that your animal is separated from you and can be relocated to your temporary safe haven.
Especially because shelters may be noisy and chaotic spaces during a natural disaster, try to socialize your animal beforehand in busy public spaces and around loud noises such as parades or fireworks.
If you have a DAD (a diabetes assistance dog) for example, prepare yourself for the ignorance that surrounds service animals. Be ready to show service authentication and to explain the service your dog provides as well as the laws that permit you to have the animal in any location.