Docs Urged to Help People With Diabetes Prepare for Hurricane

September 12, 2018

As several US states — including Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia — brace themselves for Hurricane Florence, physicians are being urged to help people with diabetes, particularly those who depend on insulin, ensure they have adequately prepared by putting together a diabetes kit and making a plan so that they can effectively manage their condition during the storm and in its aftermath.

The Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition (DDRC), comprised of the nation's leading diabetes organizations, has a patient preparedness plan that includes a checklist of supplies, information, and guidelines to best prepare a person with diabetes for an emergency or natural disaster. The plan can be found on the American Diabetes Association (ADA) hurricane relief webpage or downloaded here.

"We encourage all healthcare providers to reach out to their patients with diabetes and urge them to download this plan and put it into action," says Carol Atkinson, director of Insulin for Life USA and co-chair of the DDRC, in a press release.

The DDRC was formed in 2017 in response to a succession of devastating Atlantic hurricanes, including Harvey and Maria, that impacted the mainland United States and territories.

Be Prepared

Major storms may knock out electricity for hours, days, or longer, making it difficult to refrigerate or store lifesaving insulin. Medication and diabetes supplies may be lost, damaged, or run out, and drinking water and healthy food may be difficult to find, notes the DDRC.

"When life is in a crisis mode, diabetes adds even more obstacles," states Kelly Mueller, vice president of the ADA and co-chair of the DDRC.

"We know securing medication can be a challenge. Our goal, as a coalition, is to ensure that people with diabetes have swift and adequate access to healthcare, information, and supplies."

During an emergency it is critical for people with diabetes to have access to their medications and testing supplies to effectively maintain blood glucose control and prevent sudden serious complications such as hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, the DDRC states.

The patient preparedness plan recommends building a "diabetes kit" stored in an easy-to-carry waterproof bag or container that holds all the documents, information, and supplies needed. The kit should include details of the type of diabetes a patient has, current medications, doses and times they are taken, and the name, address, and phone number of a pharmacy, where possible.

An additional week's supply (or more) of any medications, including insulin and glucagon, should be included.

"If you lose power and you have unused insulin, don't throw it out! In an emergency, it is OK to use expired or nonrefrigerated insulin," the DDRC advises.

Extra testing strips, lancets, and batteries, and any supplies needed for insulin pumps or continuous glucose monitors should be included, as well as serial numbers of any such devices in case they need to be replaced.

Also include a recent letter from the diabetes care team, including recent laboratory results such as HbA1c, and the physician's name, address, and phone number, as well as contact information for family and friends, including those out-of-town. A copy of a patient's health insurance card and photo ID, as well as cash, should be included, where possible.

More details can be found on the preparedness plan page.

Additional resources, including phone lines for assistance, are available:

  • ADA Center for Information, 1-800-DIABETES  (800-342-2383), Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM ET, for individuals with diabetes care needs.

  • 1-314-INSULIN (314-467-8546), for physicians and healthcare providers to get connected to diabetes supplies.

  • Additional online resources, including state-specific contacts, are available here.

The DDRC (formerly known as DERC) is a national coalition of nonprofit and for-profit stakeholder organizations that have a direct interest in serving the needs of the diabetes community and/or a role in planning and executing supply chains, public awareness, and healthcare services during disasters.

DDRC members include the ADA, Insulin for Life USA, JDRF, American Association for Clinical Endocrinologists, American Association of Diabetes Educators, Beyond Type 1, Endocrine Society, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, and T1D Exchange, among many others.

The DDRC and patient preparedness plan can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Lisa Nainggolan on Twitter:  @lisanainggolan1. For more diabetes and endocrinology news, follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.


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