Disaster Preparation for People With Diabetes
Before the next emergency strikes, work with your healthcare team to create a plan.
Each year, the lives of millions of Americans are affected by natural and manmade disasters and other emergencies. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, extreme heat or cold and wildfires lead to power outages and evacuations. And media coverage of these events makes us quickly aware that people with health problems can be especially hard hit when the normal infrastructure of daily living is disrupted.
If you or a loved one is living with diabetes, you know how important it is to follow the prescribed care routine. In an emergency situation, this may not be easy! For example, people with diabetes need to avoid dehydration — yet in a hurricane or flood, for example, the water supply may be unsafe. Pharmacies and food stores may be closed. People who take insulin or other medications that need refrigeration may be faced with power outages (a common event: In a recent Caring Right at Home poll, 71 percent of readers reported experiencing a power outage during the previous year).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released emergency preparation tips for people with diabetes. If you or a loved one has diabetes, planning ahead can help you stay safe and healthy.
Planning for emergencies …
- Make an emergency plan for you and your family.
- Always wear identification to notify others you have diabetes.
- Prepare an emergency supply of food and water.
- If you take insulin or other medicines, ask your doctor what you should do during an emergency if you do not have your medicine.
- As you are preparing your emergency kit, be sure to include an adequate supply of medicine, testing equipment and other medical supplies — enough for at least three days and possibly more, depending on your needs.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist about storing your medications. Learn how to correctly store insulin and other medications that require refrigeration, and have a plan and equipment for keeping them cool if you are without power.
- Make sure you change the medicine and medical supplies in your emergency kit regularly, to ensure that they are up to date if you need them.
- Keep copies of prescriptions and other important medical information in your emergency kit, including the phone number for your healthcare provider.
- Keep a list of the type and model number of medical devices you use, such as an insulin pump, in your emergency kit.
- If you need dialysis or other regular medical treatments, talk to your service providers about their emergency plans.
During an emergency …
- If you must evacuate to an emergency shelter, let others know that you have diabetes so they can help you get the care you need.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. The effects of diabetes, as well as the effects of some medications used to treat it, can lead to dehydration that can cause serious medical problems.
- Keep something containing sugar with you at all times, in case you develop hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar). You may not be able to check your blood sugar levels, so know the warning signs of low blood sugar, which include double or blurry vision, fast or pounding heartbeat, nervousness, headache, hunger, shaking or trembling, fatigue, tingling or numbness of the skin, and fainting.
- Pay special attention to your feet. Stay out of contaminated water, wear shoes and examine your feet carefully for any signs of infection or injury. Pack antibiotic cream in your emergency kit. Seek prompt medical treatment for any injuries.
Find more information about insulin storage, blood glucose meters and diabetes disaster preparedness on the CDC website.
To help people with diabetes prepare for the special situations that might arise during an emergency, the American Diabetes Association offers in-depth medical and planning advice.