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Preparing for Disasters for the Person with Diabetes

Aug 31, 2017

As I watch and hear reports about the devastation caused by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey, I think about what I might do to prepare for a disaster. I think about having to quickly leave my home for safety and wonder what I might bring. People and animals come first; then, perhaps a few days worth of clothes; my phone and charger; some money or a credit card; maybe some food that can be kept and eaten without power; and, possibly a few items I value as keepsakes -- this is the list I made without the stress of imminent danger. I expect many of you could critique this list to see where I have gone wrong. 

Then, I think about the same situation for a person with diabetes. Now comes the additional stress of bringing medications/insulin and supplies, blood glucose meter and supplies, extra batteries, food that might be needed to prevent or treat hypoglycemia, money, medical ID, a list of medications, an emergency contact list, and good shoes and socks. Most of these supplies have to stay at an average temperature and dry or they will be of no value. Again, I am sure I have forgotten some key items.

How can we as diabetes educators help to prepare individuals for a disaster? There were many lessons learned when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the surrounding areas. People left their homes, some possibly for a few days -- but then the days turned to weeks and months and years for many. I talked to some people who lived through the storm and aftermath, and I can’t imagine what it was like.

It is an inconceivable thought for most of us to be in this situation. As I have watched the current situation unfold, I have some thoughts:

  • If you live in an area at high risk of such a disaster, try to help a person with diabetes make a plan in advance of the situation. To some extent, we all live in an area that could be hit by a disaster, be it a hurricane, tornado, snowstorm, or fire, to name a few.
  • Review Tips for Emergency Preparedness provided by the American Diabetes Association.
  • In the event of a disaster, encourage coordination with emergency agencies such as the American Red Cross, The National Guard, FEMA, and local hospitals or health centers.
  • Donate to organizations that provide assistance to those affected.
  • Work with your local AADE groups to provide assistance where needed.
  • Be ready to support those affected by such a disaster for the weeks and months after the event occurs.

If you have experience or ideas about how to help those currently affected by this disaster or to prepare for the possibility of future events, please share your comments. My thoughts are with those affected by this terrible storm and all of the people who are helping them.


Karen KemmisAbout the Author

Karen Kemmis is a physical therapist and certified diabetes educator, and also holds certifications in Pilates for rehabilitation and exercise for aging adults. She is based out of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY and splits her time between a Joslin Diabetes Center affiliate, an outpatient rehabilitation department, and a PT program where she is an adjunct professor.

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