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How to Be Prepared for a Weather Emergency with Diabetes

David Mendosa Mar 24th, 2016 (updated Jan 12th, 2017)
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HurricaneEmergencyBecause we have to manage our diabetes every day, we know that we always have to be ready to deal with whatever difficulties come up. When it comes to emergency situations, we also have several more things to prepare for than people who don’t have diabetes. We can’t just think about the possibility of an emergency — we have to plan for it. (All images credit: Thinkstock)

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How likely are you to face an emergency?
How likely are you to face an emergency?

Only about 10 percent of American households are prepared for an emergency. Yet climate change and increasing weather extremes are creating more emergencies than ever. The United States had an average of 126 natural disasters each year in the previous decade -- more than 1,257 in all -- according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. You have a good chance of experiencing one soon.

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Water is the key essential
Water is the key essential

Make sure that you have enough water stored. How much is that? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has excellent guidance here. You need to keep lots of water with you in your car too because you never know where you will be when disaster strikes.

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Keeping insulin cool
Keeping insulin cool

If you take insulin, you know that you have to keep it cool. But are you prepared for the power to fail? If you regularly refrigerate any of your medications, you need to be prepared with a backup. At a minimum, you will need to keep a lot of ice cubes on hand. And you may also want to consider a device that people use for traveling with insulin, a Freo cooling wallet.

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Make sure you always have enough oral drugs for about a month
Make sure you always have enough oral drugs for about a month

You can’t predict the length of an emergency or if the supply chain for your drugs will be broken. Since businesses try to be efficient with “just in time” deliveries,  your health insurer limits when you can refill your prescriptions. You can survive without diabetes pills by eating very few carbs during an emergency. But having enough pills that you take for other conditions can be a challenge.

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Remember to have enough diabetes test supplies
Remember to have enough diabetes test supplies

Whenever emergencies strike, we will be under a lot more stress than usual. Because stress leads to higher blood glucose levels, we need to make sure that we test even more often than usual. This in turn means that we will use more test strips and lancets than normal. Always make sure that you have at least a month’s supply on hand.

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Remember to eat
Remember to eat

You can go for a few days without eating. In fact, fasting can help you manage your diabetes better by reducing your blood glucose. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has great advice on how to store and prepare emergency food. Unlike your stores of water, which can last for years, you have to recycle your stored food supplies.

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Keep your tank at least half full
Keep your tank at least half full

When disaster hits your area, nearby gas stations might be closed because of lack of power, unexpected demand, or disruption of the supply chain. Make sure that you never let the level of gasoline in your car’s tank go down below half full. This can be a difficult lesson to learn for those of us who want to minimize the number of times we fill 'er up.

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Don’t count on credit cards
Don’t count on credit cards

You need to make sure that you always have plenty of cash on hand because you may need to rent a room or buy gas or food. Credit card terminals, banks, and ATMs may be out of service in an emergency. Plus, you’ve got to have bills of small denomination, because you might not be able to get change for your twenties.

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Keep an evacuation checklist
Keep an evacuation checklist

Make a checklist in priority order of everything you need to take, if you have to evacuate your home. Make sure that you keep this list on a piece of paper that you often see. I keep my list in the drawer of my desk that I open the most often. I keep it on my computer too, so I can update it easily, but I don’t rely on my computer to be working in case of emergency.

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Rely on community
Rely on community

“Personal ties among members of a community determine survival during a disaster,” research shows. Planning with neighbors, friends, and family for whatever might happen can be the most important plans you make. People put off preparing for emergencies because we are so busy these days. Planning for trouble also naturally makes us anxious, but these tips might just save your life.