Are You Prepared For A Disaster?

A month or so ago, Jay in the Animas group on TuDiabetes brought up emergency planning in one of the discussions going on there. With what is happening in Japan now, I thought that would be a good topic to write about.


If you had to run out of your house right now because of an earthquake, would you be prepared? If you were at work like people were on 9/11 when the planes hit the World Trade Center, and although you were safe, there was no transportation to get home, would you be prepared? I have a feeling the answer would be no for most of us.


Although I like to be prepared for things, I don’t think it is possible to be 100% prepared for stuff like that. I also know that when there is an emergency and you have to get out fast, you aren’t going to be thinking about grabbing insulin. Last year, my kitchen started filling up with smoke. I thought it was the microwave because I had just used it to heat up water for tea, but I was not sure. After unplugging the microwave, I called 911 and went outside to wait for the firemen.


I was still using the Navigator then and I left that sitting on my desk, along with my meter and insulin pens. I just wanted to get outside and was not worried about diabetic supplies. If my house had burned down and it was not some kind of emergency that affected the whole town, I would have been able to get insulin and whatever else I needed easily – maybe not easily, but I would be able to either get it or go to the hospital. But if I had run out because of an earthquake and everything around was falling down, getting insulin might not be so easy.


Look at what is going on in Japan. First they had the earthquake hit. At 8.9 on the Richter scale, that was a pretty big earthquake. Then they had a Tsunami and are now dealing with problems at nuclear plants. They said that there was very little warning for the Tsunami so those that did manage to get out of harms way really did not have time to think about taking stuff with them. Now there are fires going on and reporters on CNN are calling it an Apocalyptic scene. What would you do if you were living there and did not have your supplies with you?


The people working in Tokyo did not have the major damage from the earthquake or Tsunami, but like people working in NYC on 9/11, they were not able to get home. What kind of supplies do you have with you at work if something happened and you could not get home?


I was on Lantus when I was working and although I would never think about leaving home without my Humalog or meter, I did not take my Lantus to work with me. When I started taking Levemir, I took that every 8 hours so I always took a pen with me wherever I went. Now that I am on the pump, I have a syringe in my purse just in case something happens to my pump and I would need to get insulin out of it to use for injections.


I am thinking that it probably would not hurt to have a bag near the door with some supplies in. I have a backup meter and could put that in the bag along with some test strips, syringes, glucose and pump supplies. Because every thing is dated, I would change them out every 3 months when I get new supplies. Of course that would not solve the problem of getting insulin out of the fridge, but it would still be better than not having anything. In an emergency, hospitals might be able to help with insulin, but they probably won’t be handing out test strips.


Do you have plans for what to do in case something happened where you live or work?

Carry my supplies with me at all times. I usually have all my syringes with me, but keep a marker in my bag to mark one(so I don’t mix) if I have to. I have a weeks worth of MRE type food in the car and most often have a day or 2 of food in the bag as well.

Having been through 9/11 (not NYC but Washington DC), and what I thought at the time were big earthquakes (I thought for sure I was gonna die in the 5.6 Sierra Madre earthquake of 1991 but then again I had never been in an earthquake before, and that one seemed tiny after the 6.7 Northridge Earthquake in 1994), I don’t think either can be compared to what happened in Japan. They just all seem so tiny, and limited in scope, in comparison.

I can’t say I have my supplies with me at all times. I usually have my meter in my pocket, and insulin in my backpack, but realistically if I had to evacuate the house at 3AM because of an oncoming tsunami wave I would probably not worry much about stuff like my supplies. After 9/11 I made some effort at a “go bag” and today my backpack is usually nearby but it’s not always “on me” often elsewhere in the building with work… but I do not travel around with my go bag in quite the same way the president goes around with the Nuclear Football.

Jim, I really didn’t think about having food but I think about glucose.

Tim, I feel the same way about leaving the house at 3 AM - I doubt I would take anything.

The link for your nuclear football doesn’t work - there are 2 HTTPs in it. I was able to get it open but deleting one. I am glad I don’t have to carry one of those around.

Ever since I have experienced massive flooding submerging my city 2 years ago…rendering us without power for a week, I’ve had become a worry wart when it comes to supplies: 30 days worth of med supplies, from test strips to batteries, etc. But with such a horrible destruction such as in Japan? Im not sure if anybody can really be prepared. It is just so so sad…

Teena, I don’t blame you for being a worry wart. I try not to get down to the last drop of insulin because of snow in the NE and roads being bad, but I have never been without power for a week. You are right, what is happening in Japan is very sad.

At work I have both a vail of novalog and levimir in the fridge–switch it out every 6 months. In my desk drawer I have a backup meter, syringes, pen needles, spare infusion sets, iv 3000, glucagon, epi-pens. I keep a jar of peanut butter, crackers, can cheese, almonds in my desk…a few cans of soup

In my purse I always have the vail of insulin I am using, spare infusion sets, spare cartridges, meter, glucagon, epi pens, glucose gel/tabs, a few syringes.

Denise, it sounds like you are pretty prepared. Like I told Jim, I didn’t even think about the food part.

Hi all, how do you keep the insulin near you? unrefrigerated?

Don’t refrigerate open vials. The unopened vials are in the fridge next to the real bug out bag.

Thanks, Kelly, I have been battling flu B for the past two weeks.

I like the thought of being prepared and thank you Kelly for a nice article. I have learned one thing in the past year or so, just wanted to share with all of you. Whatever happens - “KEEP BREATHING” - Take a deep breath slowly, hold, then breathe out slowly. Repeat procedure - this has helped me calm down and not panicking. Thank you.

One trick in our house for easy access to the refrigerated insulin is that all of my daughters medicine is in the butter thingy in the door. Because it’s clear even a guest or babysitter that needed to grab it wouldn’t be confused. Everyone knows that NOTHING but her meds go there. (even her glucagon is in there so no siblings or sitters are confused in an emergency) We have emergency 72 hr kits for every family member including food and water and my diabetic daughters includes batteries,syringes,pump supplies and her other dry pills in a little pill box. All we have to do is grab the fridge meds and her kit on the way out. (I live in Hawaii and we had to evacuate on Friday morning at 1am. made it easy)

My wife and I were talking about this yesterday. We are going to southern California for vacation in April so the effect of the tsunamis in Japan became a concern. We were also there during the California fires and kept an emergency supply of insulin and testing supplies with us in case we couldn’t get back to the hotel. So, this time, also, I plan to keep extra pens of lantus and humalog and extra test strips with me. I keep an extra glucometer in my knapsack all the time - both good to have when I take it to work and easy to grab if you need to run out the door. We also talked of keeping a good supply of glucose tablets just in case food became an issue. At least they would keep the blood sugar at an acceptable level if no food were available for a while. Thankfully, the peak insulins are no longer an issue. Just take lower doses of lantus. This threat was always in the back of my mind, but the tsunami brought it to the front; it’s good to prepare.

Thanks everyone! Like everything else related to diabetes, I think it is good to get different ideas about how people handle things. I didn’t even think about having food until it was mentioned here.

Jay, I hope you are feeling better!

Thanks Danny! Yes, your mother would be proud of you. I actually have a box of Levemir & Aprida pens as backup in case something happens to my pump, so I would at least have a months supply of insulin as long as I could get to the fridge to get it.

I dont even know how to go about stashing insulin, except to save the little bit that’s left when I use up a vial.
If novolog is $100 per bottle and my insurance only gives me enough for month, what then?
How much is a vial of long acting insulin?
What do other people do?
At one time my CDE gave me pens and insulin for free. Now the economy has halted that practice (and I dont see her enought to even be eligible).
I have no clue what to do except to pull out all the extra leftovers and combine them into a vial or two…

Even on a good day, I might forget my insulin or meter, lancets and needles! In a dire situation like that, I think I’d be more preoccupied with my immediate survival.

Laura, if you head to Vegas, Danny will be running around with pens in his pocket!

When I was using vials, I had my doctor write the script for more than what I really needed per month so I could have some extra. It has to be done in a way that you will get 2 vials though.

Pens are easier to build up because you get 5 pens in a box. If you like syringes better, alot of people get the pens but use a syringe to take the insulin.