No Time like the Present to Prepare for THE UNKNOWN

By Sarah Senn

We often think about disasters in terms of the seasons of the year and the regions affected. However, a disaster can happen on any day of the year, in any part of the country or world.

You might say, “I don’t live in Florida, so I don’t have to be prepared during hurricane season,” or “I don’t live in the north, so I can wait until after the winter to prepare my disaster kit.” But the truth is, no one knows when a disaster might strike. The best strategy is to always be prepared.

With 2011 underway, now is a great time for you to evaluate your disaster plan. Throughout the year, there are a variety of natural disasters that you may encounter, which could compromise your ability to manage your diabetes if not prepared.

Winter Storms / Ice Storms

There is often advance warning before a winter storm or ice storm; however, the severity of such a storm is frequently unknown until after the storm is over. During the winter months, simple space heaters can cause house fires that leave hundreds homeless each year. Snowstorm and blizzard conditions can make roads impassable. Ice packed on power lines can cause outages for days and even weeks. In 2009, Kentucky experienced one of the worst ice storms in history, crippling communication and transportation systems. In late 2010, much of the southeast US received record-breaking snowfall, shutting down roads and forcing businesses to close.

Severe Thunderstorms, Flooding and Tornadoes

Severe weather storms that produce torrential flooding, and in some cases tornadoes, are not limited by time or by region. Dangerous lightening from severe storms can start fires, and high gusts of wind can compromise structures and make driving nearly impossible. In 2010, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cited at least 50 major disaster declarations in the US due to flooding. According to the National Weather Service, in 2010, there were 1,180 confirmed tornadoes in the US.

Tropical Depressions, Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

Many patients think if they don’t live in a coastal state, they won’t be affected by a hurricane. However, this is often not the case. In 2010, Arkansas declared a state of emergency in the wake of Hurricane Gustav, due to severe storms and flooding. While many states may not experience the brunt force of a hurricane as it makes landfall, the storm system can cause excessive flooding and severe storms as it moves across land. A tropical depression or storm can be just as devastating as a hurricane, and can linger for days producing a greater threat for severe weather.


Wildfires can be a threat at almost any time of the year, especially in regions lacking rain and prone to excessive heat. While these fires would seem to be localized to certain regions or states, they can spread at a moment’s notice, destroying anything in their path, including homes. In October 2003, a wildfire in Cedar, CA destroyed 275,000 acres of land as well as 2,400 structures and claimed 15 lives. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there were nearly 72,000 wildfires in the US in 2010, burning nearly 3.5 million acres of land.


Earthquakes tend to be localized to areas near fault lines; however, the timing and severity of an earthquake and its aftershocks are virtually unknown. While some earthquakes may rattle walls and be considered minor, no one knows when a catastrophic earthquake like the event in Haiti could occur. Structural damage can limit accessibility to resources and compromise safety. Some fault lines are more active than others, and some have not been active in more than a hundred years. However, earthquakes are unpredictable and the potential for this type of disaster should not be overlooked.

According to FEMA, there are 9 US states at very high risk, 10 states at a high risk and an additional 21 states at a moderate risk of experiencing an earthquake. This means 80 percent of the US is at risk for an earthquake.

Unfortunately, as we know, we can’t always predict when the next disaster will strike. The best thing that we can do is to prepare and stay prepared. Whether it’s January or June, it’s never too late to prepare for disaster. The American College of Endocrinology developed a checklist of essential items that diabetes patients need to prepare before a disaster. This list is designed to help these patients “weather the storm” and avoid unnecessary consequences and complications. The checklist details items that every diabetes patient should include in his/her disaster kit, as well as other useful tips to help keep you safe.

The EmPower Diabetes Disaster Plan is just one of the many ACE resources available for patients. With a free magazine, website, school program and many other resources, including the disaster plan, the EmPower program is reaching patients coast to coast and around the world. EmPower is equipped to educate patients on the importance of primary and secondary prevention. These resources are available for free, and we hope that you feel empowered too with this information.

The EmPower Diabetes Disaster Plan is made possible through the generous support of Eli Lilly and Company.