What you Need to Know about Preparing for Disasters if You are Diabetic

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This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

According to a new 2020 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 34.2 million Americans—just over 1 in 10—have diabetes.  If you or a family member are managing diabetes, you need to include specific supplies in your emergency kit. Another situation you should know about is a bug-out situation and a diabetic person needs to travel away from their home base.

I am not a medical professional so I thought it would be a good idea to get some information from a physician. William A. Forgey, M.D. is veteran outdoors author and full-time practitioner of family medicine wrote The Prepper’s Medical Handbook. It has a great section on managing diabetes which Dr. Forgey gave us permission to reprint here. Here are some highlights:

Managing Diabetes

Diabetic children and adults can have an active 0ff-grid life but learning to control their diabetes must first be worked on with their physicians.  The increased caloric requirement of significant exercise may range above an extra 2000 calories per day, yet insulin dosage requirements may drop as much as 50%.

Identify signs of low blood sugar

The diabetic, as well as the partners, must be able to identify signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia):

    • staggering gait
    • slurred speech
    • moist skin
    • clumsy movements

Know the proper treatment, for example, oral carbohydrates or sugar candies and, if the patient becomes unconscious, the use of injectable glucagon. The urine of diabetic outdoor travelers should be tested twice daily to confirm control of sugar.  This testing should preclude a gradual accumulation of too much sugar, which can result in unconsciousness in its advanced stage. This gradual accumulation would have resulted in a massive sugar spill in the urine and finally the spill of ketone bodies, providing the patient ample opportunity to increase insulin dosage, to prevent hyperglycemia (too high of a blood sugar level).  Battery powered, point-of-care blood sugar test devices (glucometers) must be included in the personal property of anyone taking insulin.


Storage of insulin off the grid, where it forgoes recommended refrigeration, is not a major problem as long as the supply is fresh and direct sunlight and excessive heat is avoided. Unopened insulin usually has an expiration date of one year.  With proper storage, this might be extended several years, but there is an unknown finite point when it will not be viable.  Biologicals such as insulin will not have long, extended storage times.  Syringes, alcohol prep pads, Keto-Diastix urine test strips, insulin, and glucagon are light additions to the Off-Grid Medical Kit.

The final word

Based on the information gathered from The Prepper’s Medical Handbook, diabetics should include the following in their survival kits:

See your doctor about making healthy lifestyle changes, implementing a weight loss program, and choosing the right foods.

The Prepper’s Medical Handbook includes a wealth of information you should have at your fingertips in case an emergency happens during a disaster, or if you are unable to get to a hospital due to overcrowding (such as the COVID-19 pandemic). I received a review copy and found it contains valuable “need to know” ideas. I recommend anyone who wants to be prepared (whether diabetic or not) should own this book.


We are an affiliate of Amazon.com, which means we received a small commission if you click through one of our Amazon links when you shop, at totally no cost to you. This helps keep the lights on at the blog. Thanks!

About the author:

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and Clark.com, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.

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  1. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1970. My father had just passed away from type 1 one year earlier. DKA, coma, dead. We were very poor. My granddad was very smart. He read the story of Eva Saxl and he wrote to her. I later spent time with her. The published accounts of Viktor having Banting’s book was a lie. They had glass jars. That was it. They did not produce their insulin in a lab. My granddad made homemade insulin for me for years. I am still alive and I make homemade insulin on occasion. I store it in the ground and I have lived on homemade insulin from hunted animals for 18 months.

    When I read the book, One Second After, I was angry. How could you let your kid die of DKA? It is very uncomfortable.

    Anyway, as a type 1 for 50 years, off the grid will not be as difficult as many think.

    PLEASE do not group type 1 and type 2 diabetes together. 1 is an auto immune disease. 2 is not even close.

  2. Hi,
    I was diagnosed with T1 at age 29…now 39 and have a 13yr old T1 (diagnosed at 8yrs old?).
    Living in flood & cyclone prone Northern Australia, we have always held preps for food shortages/extended power outages etc. My family and I are active outdoors men, boating, camping, shooting etc regularly. I work in the beef industry and extensively travel remote nth Australia. My vehicle is equipped with an ‘Engel’ brand fridge/freezer and car has a dual battery system. This setup runs constantly and I can easily do a few weeks remotely with correctly stored insulin (and nice cold beer?).
    We also have 2 spare Engels and we ensure that our second car (dual batteries also), camper trailer (dual batteries) and boat (3 batteries) all have well maintained batteries. Our plan is if needed, connect all batteries in a bank and run our 3 fridges off this. A 4 stroke portable generator and a good charger (also have on standby with some fuel reserves) will provide ability to charge. This system, whilst heavy, is somewhat portable in the event of having to bail out.
    We’re lucky in Australia to have a good public health system and my and my daughters insulin and supplies are very well subsidised. Due to our location and the nature of my work our medical team are more than happy to provide a 3-6 month prescription and we always have large supplies on hand. Also take great effort to rotate insulin and keep long dated stock.
    As for urine strips for ketone testing- that’s old school. We use a blood glucose monitor that can also test ketones- all through our regular finger prick (extract small amount of blood on finger tip and machine test blood glucose or ketone levels).
    Death by DKA would be excruciating, I would consider a bullet more appealing!
    Burying/submerging insulin would be our last method to keep insulin cool. I would be very nervous using expired insulin, particularly if not stored under ideal conditions.
    Good article and food for thought ??

    1. Hi Up Top Down Under, Nice to know I have readers in Australia! You gave some great ideas about storing insulin and equiping your car with fridge/freezer system that houses life-saving insulin. Also, great point about using the blood glucose monitor instead of urine strips. Storing insulin is an important topic and I appreciate your comment!

  3. My granddaughter is a type 1 and I am always worrying about what would happen if we couldn’t get her insulin. I would like to know how to make insulin in the event this should happen and I pray it never does. Thank you

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