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Diabetes and Major Emergencies: How to Prepare

Joslin’s diabetes educators explain what people with diabetes should do to prepare for a major emergency.

The types of major emergencies that require advance preparation for people with diabetes are those where access to food, medicine, and communication is limited, according to Nora Saul, M.S, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E, of the Joslin Clinic.  These can include natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, tornados, and blizzards.

You should store three days worth of supplies in an easy-to-identify, waterproof and insulated emergency kit that’s kept in an accessible place.  It’s important to keep basic supplies at home, work, and in the car, since those are the three places where many people spend the most time.

Important items to keep on hand and in your emergency kit when you have diabetes can include the following:


  • Extra insulin and syringes or pens
  • Medicines to reduce fever
  • Anti-diarrhea agents
  • Cough/cold/flu medicines – preferably sugar-free


  • Canned/dry items
  • Water
  • Sugar-free and regular gelatin and popsicles
  • Diet and regular soda – preferably caffeine-free
  • Insta Glucose or glucose tabs


  • Contact numbers for medical team (both endocrinologist and primary care physician)
  • Contact numbers for family and close friends
  • A list of your medical problems and current medications
  • If you have a child, a list of physician’s orders on file in his or her school or daycare
  • Ketone strips (if needed)
  • Glucagon kit (if type 1)
  • Thermometer
  • Medical Alert Bracelet
  • Extra test strips and lancets for testing  
  • Cool pack or insulated bag for storing diabetes supplies (insulin, byetta, symelin)

For Pump Users

  • Keep a supply of extra reservoirs and infusion sets available
  • Keep vials of insulin and syringes in case your pump malfunctions
  • Keep extra batteries
  • Have an understanding of how to use your temporary basal program

People with diabetes face the same challenges as anyone else during an emergency, with the addition of lack of access to diabetes supplies and appropriate food, Saul says.

Related Links

Emergency Dos and Don'ts

Page last updated: November 07, 2019