Preparing for an emergency

Everyone needs to be prepared for natural disasters and other unexpected emergencies ─ but that’s especially true for anyone impacted by type 1 diabetes (T1D). If you or anyone in your family has T1D, it is important that you are well prepared in case there is an unforeseen event.

This might sound daunting, but we’re here to help! Below you’ll find a packing list and tips for staying safe when you’re facing an emergency.

Your Diabetes Emergency Kit Checklist

First up, pack your bags. Think through your daily type 1 diabetes routine and how you would accomplish them without power, clean water, transportation or heating and cooling. This diabetes emergency kit checklist is a good place to start:

  • Printed copy of all prescriptions and pharmacy information
  • Printed copy of health insurance card and your photo ID
  • Emergency contact information
  • Printed copy of the make, model and serial number of your insulin pump or Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)
  • Record of recent A1C results and insulin dosing recommendations such as basal rates, insulin-to-carbohydrate ratios, and insulin sensitivity factor
  • Insulin (two weeks’ worth!)
  • Syringes
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medicines
  • Extra blood glucose monitor
  • Test strips
  • Lancets
  • Insulin pump and/or CGM supplies (if needed)
  • Glucose tablets or other fast-acting carbohydrates for treating hypoglycemia
  • Extra device batteries
  • Glucagon is a hormone used to raise blood sugar administered via injection, auto-injection pen or nasal spray. Have a glucagon kit on hand in case of an emergency and make sure others (especially caregivers of children with T1D) know where to access glucagon and how to use it. This is especially important if you or your child are unable to treat low blood sugar or are unconscious.
  • Ketone strips
  • Sharps container or empty plastic bottle to safely carry syringes, needles and lancets
  • Cooler and reusable cold packs (Note: Don’t freeze your medication or use dry ice)
  • Non-perishables (e.g., juice boxes, peanut butter, canned foods, crackers, shelf-stable milk)

It is recommended to pack at least two weeks’ worth of these supplies in a waterproof, insulated bag. Make sure you keep supplies up to date, so it is always ready to go! Every so often, go through your emergency kit and look for expiration date of medication and food, revise prescriptions if needed, and check whether the batteries are working or not.

Once it is packed and ready, keep your diabetes emergency kit handy and near a convenient exit in your home. While you should reach for and recheck your kit at the first news of an approaching storm, many disasters strike with little to no warning. Easy access is important.

What to Do When the Power Goes Out

Natural disasters can result in long-term power outages, which make food and insulin storage a challenge. And once battery power runs down, communication with the outside world may be cut off. Here are some things to consider:

  • A universal battery-operated charger can recharge your CGM as well as phones and other devices.
  • Insulin pouches that cool when immersed in water can help keep your insulin intact in hot weather.
  • Make sure you are always prepared for the possibility that your diabetes device like a pump or CGM could fail. Having an extra blood glucose meter is important, as are multiple daily injections (MDI) supplies in case of insulin pump failure.

Emergencies Often Equal to Stress

Stress and blood sugar fluctuations that can come with it are often to be expected in an emergency situation. Try to stay on top of your blood glucose testing and management, but don’t get down on yourself if your numbers are not ideal. The storm (both actually and metaphorically) will pass; right now you just have to stay healthy, safe, and confident that you are prepared!

Above All, Stay Safe

Worse comes to worst, remember you are not alone. If there is an evacuation plan for your neighborhood, go to an area with a hospital so you have access to medical care if you need it.

If you or anyone in your family has type 1 diabetes, it is important to be as prepared as possible. Take the time to establish your family’s disaster plan and pack your emergency kit. For more tips, check out the Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition, of which JDRF is a member.

Life With T1D

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You Are Not Alone

Living with the burden of T1D can be overwhelming at times. But you’re never alone. The JDRF community has your back.