We are a society of planners. We plan for vacations, retirement, and this week’s dinner menu. We plan for all the pleasant things we hope the future holds for us. How many times have we heard or read the following saying: “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”? We don’t tend to plan for the unpredictable events that we may face, events that may occur due to both natural and manmade causes, but people living with Diabetes need to have a plan for when the unexpected occurs. This recent New England winter has reminded all of us of the potential for power outages and even the need to evacuate our homes with the high tides of blizzards. It is important to prepare a disaster kit so you can have it ready to use and even to take with you if you have to evacuate your home. While I will be focusing on the scenario assuming that you are at home when an event occurs, it is important to think of having extra supplies in your office and car, too.
The Red Cross suggests that all people have a minimum 3 day supply of food and water, but 7 days would be safer. You should try to have an extra 2 week supply of all your medicines and testing supplies. That can be challenging with the insurance rules, so you should discuss this specifically with your health care provider. This is a general list of things to include in your disaster kit, but remember to individualize it as needed. Always remember to check your kit every 3 months to look for expired supplies.
General supplies: paper plates, plastic utensils, manual can opener, hand sanitizer and disinfectants, toothpaste, plastic trash bags, flashlight, waterproof batteries and matches, radio, rubber and heavy work gloves
Personal papers: important documents (or at least copies of) such as passport, insurance and financial records, updated medication list; list of important phone numbers, any external hard drive or thumb drive with important personal/medical data, cell phone chargers and batteries, cash
Water: at LEAST 1 gallon of water per day per person
Food: non-perishable choices may include crackers, peanut butter, regular soda, diet soda, juice boxes, canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned meat, and Parmalat milk
Medicines: basic first aid kit, non prescription pain/fever relievers such as Tylenol and ibuprofen, Benadryl, antidiarreal medicines, prescription medicines in the original bottle (whenever possible)
Diabetic supplies: an extra glucometer if possible or at least extra batteries, extra test strips and lancets, alcohol wipes, an emergency source of glucose such as glucose tablets or gel, hard candies such as Lifesavers or jellybeans, juice boxes, glucagon emergency kit, extra syringes or pen needles, ketone strips, extra insulin pump supplies, a cool gel pack for insulin safety.
A special note about medication safety: Make sure that the people with you know when and how to use the glucagon emergency kit. It is also important to know that insulin will last until the expiration date on the bottle IF unopened. Insulin will last for 28 days once opened. It is important to remember that insulin must be stored carefully so as not to get too hot or too cold and must be kept out of direct sunlight. Always check ALL the expiration dates on your medications.
It’s important to remember that events that would require implementing your disaster kit may disrupt your eating schedule and cause a great deal of stress which can in turn impact your glucose control. You will probably need to check your blood sugar more frequently and try to make adjustments as best you can under the circumstances.
Get a head start on the stress factor. Set aside some time this weekend to get prepared. It could save your life.