Insulin Preparedness and Storage During a Catastrophe

My husband and I retired to Tiburon (Marin County), California from Florida this past May to be close to our only son and his wife and our 3 grandchildren. Tiburon is across the bay from San Francisco, and right in the middle of that infamous earthquake zone, the San Andreas Fault. I was born and raised in Florida and have survived and evacuated from many hurricanes. However earthquakes really frighten me because there is no warning. I have been Type 1, insulin dependent for 62 years and on a pump since 2014. I am now preparing and outfitting our home and car for an earthquake. This is what I have come up with regarding my insulin vials, their safekeeping and keeping them cold. Please jump in with your suggestions. Our climate has changed so drastically worldwide with so many natural catastrophes that I would truly appreciate what you have to offer. Perhaps you have been through a natural disaster and will share your experiences with protecting your insulin and supplies.

I have purchased an extra large Frio wallet to soak, unbox and store my vials in the refrigerator constantly. I realize they will have to be soaked periodically to prevent them from drying out. Does this sound logical, to keep Frio bags continually in use in the refrigerator? I’m assuming that the moment an earthquake hits I will be able to grab the Frio bag along with my backpack that contains. my insulin pump supplies, syringes, CGM., other meds. I have stockpiled, water and Welch’s Fruit Snacks for lows and run outside. Of course, I have no way of consistently maintaining a Frio bag in the car. In addition I have stored food and other survival gear in dry wall buckets from Home Depot.

Your input and experiences with insulin in a disaster would be greatly appreciated.

1 Like

A Frio will not keep insulin at a refrigerator temperature. It will only keep it from getting too hot, but it’ll stay at room temperature or above.

I live in an earthquake zone as well, and don’t really have any good plan for insulin that I keep in my fridge. I’m not even sure a kitchen would be accessible after an earthquake due to glass being everywhere.

I do carry a kit with me everywhere (I have a backpack so it’s not an inconvenience) that has about three penfills of insulin in it (equivalent to about a vial) plus a pen and pen needles. It also has backup pump supplies, meter and ketone strips, and medications. That way, if an earthquake strikes while I’m at work or on the bus, I have about a week’s worth at least to tide me over until I can get to more. I don’t refrigerate this insulin, I just use it to fill my pump, so it’s continuously rotated out.

1 Like

I guess I am way too slack when it comes to quake preparedness, I do live close enough to the New Madrid fault to be affected by a major quake. Fortunately it hasn’t happened in well over 100 years but they keep telling us one of these days.

Tornado are our biggest threat. Tennessee is a side road off of Tornado alley.

Oh Well, I ramble, Welcome to our community @Kathlyn1

1 Like

Even this is a best case scenario. As I’ve elaborated on before on FUD the frios effectiveness is entirely dependent on the relative humidity and even in the perfect circumstances will only lower its contents a few degrees.

That said, insulin is tougher than we give it credit for and spending a few days outside of optimal temperatures isn’t really going to make much difference.

In my opinion diabetics would be well served to have an inexpensive cooler to transport their insulin that they could add ice to when they get around to it… a little bit of common sense goes a long way… don’t let it get boiling hot, don’t leave it in a hot car in the blazing sun, etc

1 Like

How much insulin are you trying to keep cool during an earthquake and it’s consequences? Insulin is much hardier than we are led to believe and unless you leave it in a hot car all day you shouldn’t have any worries about it going bad before semi-normal conditions are restored. I’m a native Floridian and we moved away after hurricane Andrew destroyed our farm. My insulin was in the fridge and even though the fridge was knocked over the vials were fine. We got ice from the red cross to keep it cool.

I’ve lived in California for 20 years and have yet to experience a major earthquake but even the Northridge quakes didn’t have the same sort of sustained effect of most larger hurricanes. If you have lived through hurricanes then preparing for earthquakes is IMO easier than preparing for hurricanes. BTW, Living in Marin county the temperatures rarely get above the 80’s and insulin is officially good for a month out of the fridge. As long as you have a small bag (I just have a makeup bag in my purse with my supplies and rotate out) with you when you leave the house that keeps about a weeks worth of medical supplies you shouldn’t ever be in serious danger from running out before you can replace your supplies.


It might be helpful to store some insulin stuff at a friends/relatives house where you could get to in an emergency. Somewhere not super close to your house. But, close enough that you could walk if you had to, given some effort, like 3 miles away.

1 Like

I live in Southern California and I do have an emergency diabetes kit and a household emergency kit.
My diabetes kit has pump supplies, CGM sensors, meters and strips that I rotate every few months so nothing goes out of date. Also have ketone blood strips/meter for any emergency. As far as the insulin goes, it is not in the kit and I can only hope and pray I could get to the refrigerator in the event of an earthquake. Been here for over 30 years and have experienced a few good size ones (Northridge scared the you know what out of me) and I have never needed to grab the kit. But I will say wildfires have been another nightmare. We have been on evacuation notice a number of times of the years and have been in an evacuation center when our city was on fire. (Hard to believe when you live on the coast). My kit is easy to grab, just a plastic file like box with handles.
I am not paranoid just, as many people with chronic conditions should be, prepared. Nothing wrong with being prepared.
I know sitting in that evacuation center wondering if you house would be there when you went back, I knew at least I would have enough supplies to keep me alive and managing my diabetes as well as I could during that crisis.
There have been chats about what things keep in their kits. Might want to check it out! And welcome to California!


Same here, I used to live in the bay area but now I live in the middle of a national forest and believe me we are all terrified in the summer whenever a thunderstorm hits. But that has always left time enough to prepare and we haven’t ever been under direct evacuation orders yet so didn’t have to actually leave.

I live in the Bay Area. The last thing in my life I’m concerned about is an earthquake. I’m more concerned about:

  1. cancer coming back and killing me.
  2. getting killed in a car wreck
  3. choking on a donut (I nearly choked to death on a powdered donut when I was 11).

Dying from anything related to an earthquake is around number 372 on my list of dangers. So few people have died in Calif since AFTER the 1906 quake. I have more to worry about.

1 Like

I feel the same way. Grew up in San Francisco, live in Los Angeles now. Not even concerned with earthquakes. Wasn’t it 1906?

1 Like

Yes, I may be old but not that old. Corrected. thanks.

1 Like

It wasn’t the quake that caused most of the damage. It was the fires that raged through the city.

I’ve seen the photos many times. Quite tragic. Fire is more of a concern to me than an earthquake per se, as I’ve had a few electrical problems in our house, my wife’s prior house burned to the ground (electrical issue), so the possibility of having a devastating fire at home are not lost on me. I also remember the Oakland Hills fire. I try to contain my fires to inside of my outdoor grill and smoker.

1 Like

Fire is definitely more of a concern. We were in the Oakland hills a few weeks after the fires taking photographs. The devastation was heartbreaking.

Hi @Kathlyn1 . I am in your area, and I have a higher end survival cooler that is RTG with ice packs in the freezer, a basket to keep my insulin above the fray, and newspaper for added insulation. I also have a small generator, fuel and a small portable camping fridge just in case the emergency lasts longer than 5 or 6 days. Add to that 2 bags that contain everything from cash to clothes, to food, to med supplies, incl hygiene products that 2 humans and 2 dogs could need for a week. I have no faith in our local power utility, especially while they are in bankruptcy and trying to pay the executive circle $16M in bonuses. They have proven themselves to be corrupt while endangering the lives of everyone in their service area.

1 Like

I also don’t worry about dying in an earthquake. All these years in California, I feel pretty confident that my house will hold up. And most of the buildings in the area are newer and not a worry. (Bridges are another thing!)
My concern is how long I might be stuck in an evacuation center. Some people are weeks in shelters after a disaster. I always feel better safe than sorry.

1 Like

My concern is not actually “the big one” in terms of a natural disaster itself as much as it is the breakdown of society afterward…


Society has already broken down, I’m afraid. Just when I think things can’t get worse, they do.

1 Like

Hi, I am a Napa, CA/Sonoma, CA native (I lived most of my life on the county line but was born in Napa.

My daughter was born a few months before the 1989 earthquake—honestly, it was very noticeable, but did not terrify me. At first I thought she was REALLY shaking her crib—as she was standing in it holding onto the rails at the time.

I now live in the PNW and would do ANYTHING to move back to the Bay Area. My son lives in Santa Rosa and my daughter lives in Oakland and works in Marin. It is a wonderful place. I had learned how to navigate it at the least busy times for most errands. Kaiser was my healthcare provider and they were amazing.

Anyway, I hope you become super-comfortable there—Marin County is primo as I’m sure you know. I had my first jobs there in Larkspur and Novato. There is a palpable feeling in the ethers there of joy and abundance.

I’m finally only just learning about managing diabetes for myself—and hadn’t even thought of catastrophic events and how that might play out wrt medicine. I should probably start.

My heart filled with joy for you when I read about your relocation to Marin County. Best wishes to you!

I used to live in Marin County. LOVED it. If I could afford to move back there I would. So much nicer than SJ.

1 Like