You may be used to dealing with diabetes. But are you prepared to manage your condition in a crisis? Here are five rules that will help you cope with everything from a natural disaster to the zombie apocalypse.

Rule #1: Have a Plan

Diabetes patients know that developing and following a routine is a large part of managing the condition. However, if disaster strikes, your routine may be interrupted. A written plan that provides guidelines for managing your diabetes during a crisis will help you make sure you’ll have access to the foods and medications crucial to keeping blood sugar levels stabilized.

Your written plan might include information such as a list of foods and tools you’ll need, people you will contact, and other steps you’ll take in an emergency. For help putting a plan together, "Talk to your diabetes educator or dietitian about what to do if you’re in an unfamiliar situation," advises Amber Taylor, MD, director of the Diabetes Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Ask questions like, "How do I make the best choice if I’m stuck eating fast food? What do I do with my insulin when I travel? What if I get sick when I’m away? Or I drop my insulin vial and I’m completely out?"

Rule #2: Stock Up

The American Diabetes Association recommends storing three days worth of diabetes supplies in case of emergency. These supplies include but are not limited to "oral medication, insulin, insulin delivery supplies, lancets, extra batteries for your meter and/or pump, and a quick-acting source of glucose."

Other items you may want to keep in your kit include:

  • Glucagon Emergency Kit
  • Alcohol swabs and cotton balls
  • Long-lasting carbohydrates, such as crackers or cheese
  • Water
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight

Rule #3: Keep Personal Information on Hand

Having your personal information readily available is critical in a crisis situation. In order to help emergency staff better assist you, prepare the following materials:

  • Current insurance information, including the names and phone numbers of your providers, and your policy number(s).
  • A list of any important medical information, such as any allergies you have or medications you take.
  • Extra copies of prescriptions.
  • A list of emergency contacts.

Taylor adds, "EMTs find it really helpful to have [your information] centrally located in a folder that [they] can find easily. … Also, have a plan on how the EMTs will get in if you aren’t able to answer the door."

Rule #4: Stay on Top of Your Supplies

Medical supplies and emergency food items do expire. Be sure to check the expiration dates every month, and try to do this at the same time each month, so it will become part of your routine. You may also want to periodically go through your supplies and consider if there’s something helpful you could add.

Rule #5: Mind Your Health

If you find yourself in an emergency situation, do not neglect your unique needs: Eat at regular intervals and try to stay calm, as stress can raise your blood sugar. Check your feet regularly to prevent infection. Avoid heavy work if possible. Because you have special concerns, Taylor says you should "Take care of your own needs before attending to your loved ones. If you neglect yourself, soon you won’t be any help to others."

But the best way to prepare for the worst is by being healthy before disaster strikes. Exercise often and eat well. The better your take care of your body before an emergency, the more likely you are to survive it.

Amber Taylor, MD, reviewed this article.


"American Diabetes Association Statement on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness: A Report of the Disaster Response Task Force." Diabetes Care Vol. 30 No. 9 September 2007.