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Fires in California and Other Weather Emergencies are Especially Dangerous for People Living with Diabetes

Oct 29, 2019

By Marlisa Brown MS, RDN, CDE, CDN

Fires across California are leaving thousands without power or access to basic services, and in some cases without a home. Residents have often had little or no time to prepare. 

While any natural disaster is dangerous, these events can be particularly hazardous for those living with diabetes. The aftermath can leave survivors without food, water, clothes, shelter, power and medical supplies for days or even weeks. For a person with diabetes, the biggest possible risks during an emergency include not having medications or insulin, dehydration (which can lead to huge jumps in blood sugar) and lack of food available when blood sugars drop. 

However, being prepared can help reduce the chances of a possible life-threatening situation. Of course we hope that we are lucky enough to never experience any of this, but either way it makes sense to be prepared in the event we do.

Since November is National Diabetes Month, it’s the perfect time to work with your clients to create a plan, or if you are living with diabetes, then use the below list to plan ahead and create a disaster emergency kit to get through any possible event safely.

In your emergency kit try to include:

  • A water safe case to fit everything needed. if possible, make sure it’s on wheels to make it easier to move it since it may become heavy.
  • A flashlight and a radio with backup batteries.
  • A solar charger for your phone.
  • A list of all your health issues and needed medications and insulin (include dosing information as well).
  • If possible, a 30-day supply of medications (check periodically for expirations).
  • A list of your all your doctors and contact information.
  • A list of family members and contact information. Most people rely on cell phones to remember this but what if yours was lost or damaged?
  • Your personal ID and some cash, and a debit or credit card. When you get to a safe place you may want the ability to purchase some items on your own.
  • Prescriptions for your medications.
  • A cooler or cooler bag with refreezable gel packs that can keep injectables cool.
  • Glucose tablets and glucagon.
  • Blood glucose monitor, strips and lancets. If possible, include an automatic blood pressure monitor. Check batteries and expirations periodically.
  • Sealable containers to dispose of sharps.
  • Enough bottled water for 3-5 days. Note you most likely will end up sharing some of your water supply with others.
  • 2-4 days’ worth of non-perishable foods. Examples could include trail mixes, individual cereal, peanut butter and crackers etc.
  • Have some comfortable shoes, socks, jackets, light layers for change of clothing, towels, light blankets, etc.
  • Include an emergency medical kit. You can buy one or put it together yourself.
  • Talk to those close to you on what to do to in case you were ever in an event where you were separated so you can find each other.

Make an emergency kit for your home and your car that you can grab and take with you whenever needed.  Hopefully you will never need it, but if you do you will always be glad that you were prepared.

For more information on disaster preparedness for people with diabetes, visit DiabetesEducator.org/Disaster. You can also follow the Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition on Twitter (@DiabetesDisast1) for the latest updates.


AADE Perspectives on Diabetes Care

The American Association of Diabetes Educators Perspectives on Diabetes Care covers diabetes, prediabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. Not all views expressed reflect the official position of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

Copyright is owned or held by the American Association of Diabetes Educators and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered, and proper attribution is made to the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

HEALTHCARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your diabetes care and education specialist or healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. To find a diabetes care and education specialist near you, visit DiabetesEducator.org/Find.

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