Surviving Natural Disasters with Diabetes – Diabetes Daily


It is probably not potential to anticipate each emergency, however for these with diabetes, it’s particularly necessary to organize for the surprising. Hear how folks with diabetes survived pure disasters, what they realized about planning forward, and the recommendation they’ve for others.

Susan Hoagland, 70, who lives with kind 1 diabetes, labored up till the day earlier than Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005. Then like most individuals within the path of the hurricane, she headed out of city.

“In my thoughts, I used to be solely heading to Austin [Texas] in anticipation of Katrina for a protracted weekend and didn’t pack all of my drugs and provides,” she stated. Hoagland didn’t have a ready container of provides, together with drugs, meals, hypo therapies, glucose monitoring units packed and able to go – one thing she would later remorse.


Coping with diabetes administration day by day takes appreciable effort, and even after we’re on our A-game, issues can at occasions get neglected. It’s necessary to anticipate what may be wanted within the case of a pure catastrophe, in order that the struggle or flight response because of an adrenaline rush doesn’t get the higher otherwise you and your well being.

Rising up in Twister Alley (Oklahoma) means way back I developed a recreation plan for emergencies, in order that an impending twister, and the necessity to depart my residence, wouldn’t imperil my diabetes administration.

I wished to achieve out to others who’ve been on this state of affairs, and to Carol Atkinson, an skilled on the Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition, to listen to extra about surviving pure disasters and the ideas and tips they’ve discovered useful. The underside line is that everybody must be ready to depart their residence in case of an emergency with all the things they should make it by way of the disaster. Being ready and having all the things able to seize and go means when a pure catastrophe strikes, you don’t should face making layers of choices, delay your departure, or increase your flight or struggle response.

To be ready, take into consideration all of the provides you’ll need:

  • Drugs: Put a provide of all of your drugs in separate containers to final per week or longer, and take into consideration the right way to hold insulin on the proper temperature, akin to an instantaneous cool pack.
  • Injection provides: syringes, your insulin pens, additional pump provides
  • Meals, a supply of glucose, water to remain hydrated: a provide of glucose tabs works very well, some bottles of water, and a few meals that doesn’t spoil
  • Monitoring provides – like my CGM, a backup blood glucose meter and strips, and a strategy to measure ketones
  • Copies of prescriptions
  • An emergency contact record contact in case of an emergency
  • Cellphone charger
  • Batteries, an ID, and money


The morning earlier than Hurricane Katrina hit the banks of New Orleans, Hoagland was in a panic ­– not a superb mindset relating to ensuring she would have all the things she would wish to outlive the catastrophic storm. As she gathered her issues in a rush, she realized she had nowhere to go. She referred to as her son and daughter-in-law, who referred to as pals till they discovered a spot in Austin the place she may keep. Even if it takes eight hours to drive to Austin from New Orleans, she left unprepared.

“I drove straight for 2 days since you couldn’t cease; there was nowhere to remain,” she recalled. “The remaining areas had been packed and I needed to hold transferring. I used to be fearful for my life and my animals – we needed to make it to Austin. It was a nightmare and I wasn’t ready. Looking back, I used to be in survival mode, fueled by adrenaline and weathering excessive blood sugars.”

One of many many issues we would neglect as folks residing with diabetes is how a lot of an impact adrenaline and stress can have on our blood sugar. It’s in our greatest curiosity to take the mandatory precautions properly upfront to reduce the burden on our well being when catastrophe strikes. That features having the know-how that you must check your blood sugar, the drugs that you must handle your glucose or different circumstances, and back-up emergency provides like meals, batteries, and water.

I reached out to Atkinson, co-chair of the Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition (of which diaTribe is a member) and director of Insulin for Life USA, to search out out what recommendation she has for the right way to survive the surprising. She emphasised the significance of preparedness, particularly for folks residing with a persistent sickness.

“All the time be ready by constructing your preparedness equipment properly earlier than catastrophe hits and make it customizable to your wants,” Atkinson stated. “You’ll want to examine your equipment each quarter to verify nothing has expired. Different issues to contemplate when packing your preparedness equipment ­– a laminated copy of your prescriptions, picture identification, and money.”

Atkinson suggests leaving the guidelines to the specialists so that you don’t have to fret about making an inventory your self. The Diabetes Catastrophe Useful resource Coalition makes it simple by offering a downloadable preparedness plan checklist. And yow will discover much more assets from the coalition here.

Natural disaster

In 2016, Cynthia Celt and her husband, Mike, set off on an journey in Costa Rica. After a 4 hour van trip in the midst of the evening in heavy rain, the street was nearly a foot deep with mud, they usually discovered themselves caught in a landslide.

Rescue vehicles quickly arrived to extract them from the ocean of mud. Earlier than Celt knew what was occurring, her bag containing all her diabetes provides was positioned right into a truck and took off into the darkish hills of the unknown nation with out her. She rode behind one other truck again to the now powerless resort safely, however with out her bag.

“My cellphone was useless, so I didn’t have my Dexcom readings,” Celt stated. “My meter, chargers, and cables had been behind one other truck, which didn’t matter as a result of I had no electrical energy to cost them. I had little bits of all my diabetes provides with me, however not almost sufficient to maintain me for the complete journey. I used to be scared to dose as I couldn’t examine and had only a sweet or two that remained in my purse to deal with potential lows.”

Not getting access to your diabetes provides is horrifying, however Celt stated she realized some useful classes from this unlucky expertise, together with:

  • All the time have a blood glucose meter and loads of strips. “I had in some way did not convey a meter,” she stated. “Lesson realized 100 occasions over. I now carry a meter and extra strips than I’ll want with me in my purse, even when solely headed out for just some hours!” Just remember to have all of the diabetes provides that you must handle excessive or low blood sugar – together with your drugs and insulin, emergency glucagon, glucose tablets or small snacks, and a blood ketone meter.
  • Having a cellular phone battery charger can turn out to be useful. “What saved me once I did get our baggage was a 72-hour backup cellphone charger,” she stated. “It allowed me to lastly see my blood glucose digits in actual time once more!” Ensure you have emergency backup batteries and chargers.
  • Analysis what providers shall be obtainable to you within the occasion of an emergency (hospitals, pharmacies, shops to choose up low provides, and so forth.). Although this was not her first diabetes journey fumble, being caught at the hours of darkness in a landslide rattled her sufficient that she now packs back-up diabetes provides for her back-ups!
  • Don’t be afraid to trigger a “fuss” or make a scene if it means getting access to the issues that you must keep alive. “I ought to have held onto my bag and helped them perceive my life relies on these provides,” she stated. “I used to be afraid and embarrassed to make an already difficult state of affairs troublesome.”

Atkinson pressured that very same level, “When evacuating or throughout any emergency state of affairs,” she stated, “outline your self as an insulin dependent particular person residing with diabetes, if you’re one. Converse up for your self.”

In April 2021, Celt was thrown into one more pure catastrophe state of affairs – one which that she had no strategy to put together for.

She and her household had been tenting with pals within the sand dunes not removed from their residence in Boise, Idaho. They’re pretty seasoned campers, and this was speculated to be only a fast weekend getaway, nothing excessive so far as journey goes.

She was cruising alongside of their kayak along with her younger daughter Madeline and her pal whereas her husband was in one other boat fishing with the others.

“I started to really feel the air change and heard sirens from a close-by air base,” Celt recalled. “I noticed picnickers scrambling on the shore after which I seemed up. What I noticed was one thing I can hardly element with phrases. The most important, most sky masking, thunderous sounding wall of sand was charging in the direction of us. It was selecting up timber and boats, tossing round bikes and items of campers on the land.”

Natural disaster

Picture supply: Cynthia Celt

Later they realized the storm had overturned semi-trucks and automobiles alongside the freeway. It was what is named a Haboob, a desert sandstorm widespread on the Arabian peninsula.

Fortunately earlier than it hit, they had been capable of make it to shore. Celt grabbed the 2 babies and slung the dry bag carrying all her diabetes “gear” over her arm.

When out on the water all of her diabetes provides are at all times stashed collectively in a single dry bag. That makes it simple for her to “seize and go”.

“I ran for the hopeful security of our SUV perched on a shore ridge,” she stated. “We piled in and watched because it thundered towards us.”

After a number of hours they had been capable of drive to their camper, solely to search out it ravaged by the storm. The winds didn’t let up for 3 days, they usually slept of their SUV in a single day. Nonetheless, this time they had been a bit extra ready. Celt stated, “We at all times hold an emergency/hidden stash of low provides, meals, and water within the automobile when tenting.”

This state of affairs was a stark reminder of how shortly catastrophe can hit. Celt’s phrases of recommendation: “It’s not possible to be ready always when residing with diabetes. However having your provides organized, and simple to entry and seize on the best way out, is extremely useful.”

Natural disaster

Picture supply: Amber Clour

In a distinct sort of emergency earlier this yr, when the pandemic was raging, I packed my baggage and relocated to San Antonio, Texas. My casita was the right isolation get away, till catastrophe struck. An surprising chilly entrance lingered in areas of central Texas the place the folks and the infrastructure weren’t outfitted to deal with under zero temperatures and energy outages.

I misplaced energy for days, however luckily had a fuel range and entry to a wooden burning hearth. I additionally was capable of join with neighbors, and we pooled our assets.

I didn’t worry freezing to dying, however I frightened my insulin may freeze. Nonetheless, within the haze of stress I used to be feeling, I reminded myself the fridge wouldn’t get colder than it already was – and the insulation would hold my insulin from freezing. It wasn’t rocket science, however it was clear that my resolution fatigue was in full swing. In a state of affairs like this, when freezing your insulin is of nice concern, diaTribe’s scientific and medical advisor Dr. Francine Kaufman prompt that you simply take out a contemporary bottle of the insulin you want (basal, prandial, or each) and hold it both in a pocket or a small pack subsequent to your pores and skin. This manner you already know that you simply’ll have insulin that received’t freeze.

Stress, each psychological and bodily, could make diabetes administration a nightmare. Holding my cellular phone charged for my CGM information was essential. Fortunately, my Subaru had loads of fuel, so as soon as a day I might sit within the automobile parked on the road simply exterior my casita, crank up the warmth and cost my cellphone.

However simply once I thought we may get again to regular, our space was notified the water was not secure to drink. I’ve by no means been in a state of affairs like this and was grateful to have the fuel range to boil water when wanted. Not an excellent state of affairs, however I managed.

This complete state of affairs made me assume deeply about what’s necessary when confronted with a pure catastrophe and what issues I can realistically do to organize upfront. Right here’s my guidelines:

  • HAVE THE EMERGENCY KIT READY TO GO means earlier than an emergency, with an inventory of all of the provides already in it and what that you must add earlier than you go – like your insulin
  • If you’ll shelter in place, put together by stocking up in your diabetes provides and issues like non-perishable meals, water, batteries, rest room paper, and so forth., when your price range permits.
  • STAY CALM. It’s okay to be scared and frightened, however having your wits about you’ll make it simpler to give attention to the gadgets that you must pack.
  • It’s okay to ask for assist whether or not it’s for emotional help or provides. Don’t be embarrassed to contact pals, household, neighbors, native shelters, meals pantries, church buildings, and affected person help applications. You may as well at all times go to an pressing care facility or hospital if wanted. Don’t hesitate in these conditions and do what’s greatest in your well being and security.

After some trial and error, I developed a system that makes chaotic conditions simpler for me to handle. I attempt to ask myself in these conditions, what is going to I have to survive for at the least the subsequent 30 days? Beneath is a guidelines that helps me keep centered.

  1. First, I stock my provides so I do know what I’ve and the place it’s positioned.
  2. Then I find a water-resistant tub or bag (bought properly upfront) that I can pack my provides into.
  3. Lastly, I begin packing my provides, together with:
    • Insulin in a refrigerated case – that is the very final thing I throw within the tub when I’m headed to an emergency shelter
    • Syringes for my remedy
    • A replica of all my prescriptions
    • Blood glucose meter and loads of check strips
    • Any CGM provides I’d want together with sensors, applicators, and my cellphone
    • Insulin pump provides
    • Low blood sugar snacks and glucose tablets
    • Different drugs I’d want (akin to an inhaler, blood stress tablets, glucagon pen, and so forth.)
    • My driver’s license, passport, money, and bank cards
    • My diabetes bracelet or incapacity jewellery
    • Emergency provides like a flashlight

Nobody needs to organize for a pure catastrophe, however for those who take the time now to ensure you have all the things you want, you received’t throw your diabetes below the bus when disaster strikes.

Beneath are just a few useful websites to make your pure catastrophe preparation simple:

And take a look at another articles you may need to go to for ideas and tips:

About Amber

Amber Clour was born and raised in Norman, Oklahoma. Twenty-one days after her eighth birthday, she was rushed to Youngsters’s Hospital the place she spent two weeks studying the right way to dwell her new life with kind 1 diabetes.

Since then, her life has been crammed pursuing her ardour for artwork, advocacy, non-profit ventures and journey. In 2015 she stepped down as Govt Director for a neighborhood artspace and gallery she based to co-found and the Actual Life Diabetes Podcast. Amber’s – no filter – strategy to sharing an trustworthy look into her day by day life resonates with many within the diabetes neighborhood. She hopes her story and people of podcast friends remind ALL folks residing diabetes – you’re NOT alone.


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