The New Diabetes Disaster Plan

By Corinna Cornejo

Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a decade ago, Corinna Cornejo is a patient advocate and blogger who focuses is on health policy and developments in digital healthcare without losing sight of their potential impact on real people's lives. Corinna blogs at  and can be found on Twitter and Facebook as @Type2Musings.  

The opinions presented in this blog post are those of the author and may not represent the opinions of Ascensia Diabetes Care. Ascensia have paid Corinna Cornejo an honorarium for her services as a contributor to this blog.

As I write this New South Wales and Queensland are experiencing the worst bushfires in their history. A month ago nearly 200,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Northern California because of the Kincade wildfire. Japan’s Kanto region was hit by Typhoon Higibis, its most devastating storm in 60 years. Also this year Cyclone Idai caused massive flooding in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. And Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm. Together these disasters affected hundreds of thousands of people.

Massive emergencies, natural and man-made, are becoming more and more common. Whether we want to think about it or not, we as people with diabetes need to get prepared for them so that can still take care of ourselves and our diabetes if we ever face such a situation.

It used to be enough to put aside a week or two worth of medication and supplies, some extra batteries, and water. Gather it all in a plastic tote that you can throw it in the back of your car, just in case you have to go to the local shelter.

These days preparing for an emergency requires much more forethought and planning. In addition to gathering medications and supplies, we need to have a backup plan for our diabetes devices and health apps. What will we do when the devices and apps we’ve become dependent on don’t work as expected because there’s no power or connectivity?

Preparing for emergencies requires more

Many of us now use medical devices and health apps to manage diabetes. Whether or not they function during an emergency is dependent on more than just if their batteries are drained. Consider what you will need to do if power is disrupted and you can’t easily recharge your devices. Consider the effect that losing Wi-Fi or cell connectivity will have on how these devices work and how you use them. Consider what might happen in these circumstances to the data your devices usually collect, store and share.  

If you use diabetes devices and apps, all these possibilities need to be taken into consideration as part of your planning for an emergency.

Consider what to do if your diabetes device simply doesn’t work

Think about what you would do if your device won’t work during an emergency.

If you can’t use your CGM do you have a trusted BG meter and supplies that you can use instead? If you’ve been using CGM for a while, do you still know how to effectively use your meter? How long would your supplies last for? Are the batteries fresh? If it’s a rechargeable CGM do you know where the charging cord is?

If you couldn’t use your insulin pump how easily could you switch over to MDI? Do you have a supply of insulin and syringes to do this? Can you calculate your dose by hand, if need be?

If you’re using a app to log readings what’s your backup plan for when it doesn’t work? Can you count on your BG meter to store its readings? For how long? Can you go back later and easily transfer the readings data? Should you switch to logging with a pen and paper?

Consider what to do if there’s no power for recharging

These days a lot of devices have built-in rechargeable batteries. What will you do if you can’t simply plug into the wall for electrical power to keep them charged up? Do you have standalone batteries you can use? Are they charged up? How many other devices do you need to keep charged? Can you take a charge off your car’s battery? Off a generator? Do you have the cables and connectors you need to do that?

Consider what to do if there’s no connectivity

Many of today’s diabetes devices are connected to the cloud. Normally, your diabetes data is auto-magically uploaded, stored, and shared. What happens if there’s no Wi-Fi or cell service? What happens if that connectivity is disrupted for hours, days, or even weeks?

Will your device store your diabetes data locally? Do you have a way to upload it later? Is it okay if some of that data is lost and there’s a gap in your records? Do you need to use some kind of backup system for recording your readings and doses?

If you’re a parent or caregiver who is keeping an eye on someone’s diabetes from afar what do you do when you can’t connect? Often, we come to rely on these devices and apps as a core part of diabetes management. Being disconnected can be especially anxiety-provoking. What’s your Plan B?

Consider the possibilities and plan for them

The best time to consider all these possibilities is before you’re faced with an emergency situation.

Deciding what you’ll do and gathering the tools and resources will take time and energy. You may need to buy supplies or cables. You don’t want to be trying to get prepared when stressed-out or while facing an evacuation order.

After riding out a couple of the most active hurricane seasons in the Pacific and seeing family members lose their homes in California’s wildfires, the need to prepare for the worst is now more real to me than ever. Normally, I review my emergency prep at the New Year. This year, I’ll be taking the extra time to make sure I know what changes I’ll need to make to my diabetes care if I find myself without power, Wi-Fi, or cell service.

Normally we enjoy the benefits and convenience of the diabetes devices and apps we use to manage diabetes. With advanced planning we just might be able to continue reaping their benefits even in an emergency.

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