How Can I Prepare for a Critical Emergency With Type 1 Diabetes (T1D)?

This is the question that a medicine professor from the University of South Carolina, Dr. Anne L. Peters, tried to answer in the wake of the California wildfires and evacuations in 2019.

She noted two types of critical emergencies that people living with T1D should get ready for: immediate evacuation and longer-term evacuation, where you have the chance to bring some of your things.

What kind of kit should I prepare for an evacuation?

Depending on the circumstances, you could be required to leave immediately (e.g., fire) or for several days (e.g., ice storm, flood), so it’s important that you prepare an emergency kit ahead of time that you can grab in a flash. 

Your kit should include everything you need to face the most extreme of situations, including not being able to charge your blood sugar meter, your phone or your insulin pump, so that you don’t find yourself unable to inject your insulin or monitor your blood sugar. 

You need:

  • Long-acting and rapid-acting insulin (several pens, cartridges or vials);
  • Needles and syringes;
  • A capillary blood sugar meter, test strips and a lancing device; 
  • Quick-acting sugars, such as glucose tablets or juice, and glucagon;
  • Snacks such as cereal bars;
  • Water;
  • The following documents:
    • A doctor’s prescription with insulin doses to inject, in case they’re left behind amid the panic, or in case insulin pump doses need to be replaced with manual injections, 
    • A copy of a valid health insurance card and an updated list of medications.

It can be helpful to keep a copy of these documents in your cell phone (picture or hyperlink). 

Your kit can also include:

  • Oral medication (e.g., medication taken on a regular basis like blood pressure medication, acetaminophen, etc.);
  • A solar charger for charging devices in the event of a power outage;
  • Supplies for your pump and/or continuous glucose monitoring system (sensors, infusion sets, etc.)

As it contains insulin, the kit should be kept in the refrigerator in a bag that can be grabbed quickly and that can keep items such as insulin cold (e.g., lunch bag). The battery from your capillary blood sugar meter should be removed and taped to the refrigerator door to avoid it getting damaged by condensation.

Are you going mountain hiking, canoeing, etc. to a remote area for a few days? Consider bringing your emergency kit with you. 

Who can I contact in case of emergency?

In the event of a critical emergency, people with T1D can contact the Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition (in the USA) to find out where to get insulin or to get help getting ready before an emergency occurs. 

They can also contact JDRF to find out about additional resources.

Of course, we hope we never have to face an emergency situation. But if you live with T1D, putting together this kit will help you be ready and safe at all times.

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