Storms, floods, wildfires, and terrorism can devastate communities overnight. Meeting basic needs for food, water, power, and shelter may be a struggle for many months after the disaster, and lives may be changed forever. Public health professionals who advocate for community residents with chronic diseases can ease the impact of a disaster by planning ahead.
Why Disaster Planning is Important
The special and ongoing needs of people with diabetes can be significantly impacted by a disaster. Access to care, medication, and diabetes supplies may be limited by damage to hospitals and pharmacies, roadways and vehicles, or by lack of a valid prescription.
After Hurricane Katrina, the plight of people with chronic conditions post disaster became apparent. Through her worksite wellness efforts, Pam Allweiss, MD, MPH, from the Division of Diabetes Translation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), became aware that businesses often had disaster plans addressing employees with disabilities, but not the needs of people with chronic medical conditions. Because more than 50 percent of U.S. adults live with one or more chronic diseases, Dr. Allweiss knew it was essential to look at the issue from a different perspective and to work on the development of coordinated plans to support those with diabetes in times of disaster.
Champions like Dr. Allweiss are making headway in linking chronic disease experts with emergency preparedness experts. The urgent need for insulin and other diabetes medication and supplies should be included in disaster policies, including “over-ride” policies to facilitate emergency medication refills. Representatives from public, private, and government sectors are working together to increase resiliency in the face of disasters. National organizations representing people with diabetes have developed information to specifically address the needs of those with diabetes during a disaster. In September 2016 the Federal Register posted the final rule Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare and Medicaid Participating Providers and Suppliers. In addition, many schools of public health offer classes on disaster preparedness. Two of note are Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Health Security and Berkeley School of Public Health.
How to Get Involved in Disaster Preparedness in Your State
The time to coordinate for a disaster is before it strikes. Does your state have a preparedness plan that includes plans for people with chronic conditions? Is the plan well known and readily accessible? Here are some ways you might get involved:
- Promote funding, program, and planning collaboration between preparedness and chronic disease programs within the health department.
- Provide data to plan for and support post-disaster efforts.
- Partner with and convene multi-sector stakeholders to solve problems identified in planning discussions.
- Provide emergency personnel, community groups, faith-based organizations, food banks, and urban planners with survivor skill training to assist people with diabetes.
- Develop and promote an online tool kit to implement planning, response, and recovery actions for your region and link to national, state, and local resources.
- Ensure that preparedness activities include a health hazard vulnerability assessment as a component for chronic medical condition
Kentucky’s Work in Preparedness
The Kentucky Diabetes Prevention and Control Program promotes emergency preparedness for people with diabetes in the following ways:
- Hosted a joint conference sponsored by the Kentucky Diabetes Educators and Medical Reserve Corps.
- Developed a diabetes and disaster preparedness flyer in an easy-to-reproduce format. It includes check lists to prepare an emergency kit and contacts for national and state organizations.
- Included emergency preparedness information within their Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support curriculum that is used by many diabetes educators across the state.
- Collaborated with Green River District Health Department and emergency preparedness personnel in seven counties to develop and train emergency preparedness volunteers about diabetes and prediabetes. An informational brochure and magnet were distributed. This work was supported by a grant from National Association of County and City Health Officials and presented in a poster session at the AADE 2017 national conference.
Resources to Help People Plan for a Disaster
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, My Diabetes Emergency Plan
American Diabetes Association Tips for Emergency Preparedness
American Association of Diabetes Educators, Diabetes Emergency Preparedness
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Be Prepared
Department of Homeland Security, Talk with your family
Preparedness Planning Partners and Tools
Medical Reserve Corps
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is a national network of volunteers, organized locally to improve the health and safety of their communities. The MRC network comprises approximately 190,000 volunteers in 900 community-based units located throughout the United States and its territories.
Healthcare Ready leverages unique relationships with government, nonprofit and medical supply chains to build and enhance the resiliency of communities before, during and after disasters.
Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response, a tool for health departments and public health professionals to assess community needs in real-time.
Preparedness Conference For Public Health Professionals
Preparedness Summit National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)
April 17-20, 2018, Atlanta, GA
The Preparedness Summit is the first and longest running national conference on public health preparedness.