The Need for Emergency Preparedness in Type 1 Diabetes

I grew up slightly risk averse. My father was a risk manager. In my healthcare career I worked on emergency and risk-management programs for hospitals. I am a firm believer in pro-activeness.

While not everything is in our control, we can try to be prepared for the unthinkable. For my son with Type 1 Diabetes, I do not take the subject of emergencies lightly.

Preparation for Diabetes Emergencies at School

I have emergency boxes in every classroom at his school, and my son’s school nurses have a plan, too. I have small bags of glucose tabs and a few other non-perishables within his reach in my car. Those are not full emergency kits as he does not leave the house without a bag that includes additional insulin, glucogen, syringes, juice, water, batteries for his insulin pump, and snacks.

At home, I have an even larger backpack with juice, water, non-perishable food, glucogen, flashlights, a small first aid kit, batteries, additional insulin pump supplies and more.

It Pays to Be Prepared for Any Emergency

Whenever I read about any emergency – man-made or natural – the first thing that comes to my mind are those with chronic diseases, especially Type 1 Diabetes. It is horrible to think about the unthinkable. I wish we did not have to think about such things.

But we do. We should. Not constantly. But there is no harm in being prepared.

Our Emergency Preparedness Kit

Emergency preparedness for diabetes and disasters

What is in our diabetes emergency bag?

We make sure we have the following diabetes supplies:

  • Blood glucose test meter – and at least one back-up and extra batteries for it
  • Test strips, extra test strips and even more test strips (at minimum at least 2–4 extra boxes)
  • More than one lancing device and plenty of needles for that
  • Insulin pump reservoirs and infusion sets
  • Extra batteries for the insulin pump
  • Syringes (yes, even if on a pump those may be needed)
  • Insulin (that we hope we could pull out of the refrigerator in the case of an emergency, and if time a cooler to keep the insulin cold)
  • Needles for insulin pens (most of our insulin is in pen form even though we pump)
  • Glucagon.

And we also strive to include these useful items:

  • Paper listing all medications, copy of insurance card, doctor and emergency contacts
  • Notepad with a pen or pencil (I’m not sure why, but it feels like the right thing to include. If technology fails, we may need to take low-tech notes)
  • Hand sanitizer and baby wipes
  • Extra food like granola bars that will not go bad – lightweight, non-perishables
  • Flashlights & extra batteries
  • Now that we have one, a transistor radio
  • Fast-acting sugar to treat lows (we prefer Smarties which we sell in our D-Shop. Note, Smarties in the UK, Australia and other countries are chocolate with a candy shell. These are not good for treating severe lows. The US Smarties are pure sugar, kind of like a glucose tab)
  • Juice – because sometimes you just need to drink your sugar.

You might also like to include drugs such as something for pain relief, or other medications you take, plus Bandaids and any extras you think you could need.

Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters – Emergency Preparations Can Save Lives

I got to test my emergency preparedness a few years ago. Only we were not at home. We were on holiday and there was an earthquake in Southern Turkey. It was a pretty hard shake and we were not terribly far from the epicenter.

We only had our supplies that we traveled with, so there was not much to carry. When I travel I always pack extra of everything, so we would have probably been okay for a few days worth of supplies.

But I learned something important during that earthquake. Even when you travel, keep your supplies together. In the event you need to leave your room quickly, you don’t want to be trying to find everything in an emergency.

During the earthquake we walked outside immediately. Although we camped outside that night, I did go back and get our supplies to keep near us.

Be Prepared

If you are reading this, I hope you never have to use any emergency prep at all. We cannot really prevent emergencies. We can only prepare the best we can.

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5 Essentials for Managing Type 1 Diabetes at School

Relieve some of the anxiety you feel whenever your child with Type 1 Diabetes heads to school for the day.

You'll find tips on educating the teacher and nurse, making emergency snack boxes, traveling on the school bus and more.

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