As parents, you know that diabetes management is 24/7. The safety and health of your child at school depends on access to care, diabetes supplies and equipment. While no one wants the need for a school emergency plan to ever be put into action, it is important to work with your child's school to develop a plan for how your child's diabetes needs will be managed in the rare, horrific event of a school emergency or lockdown. Practice emergency drills are becoming the norm in schools.
However, in the unlikely event of a lockdown situation where students need to stay in place in the gym, playground, library, classroom or other area of the school, it is important to take a few steps to make sure your child will have access to needed supplies and food. Schools must provide access to care, even in the event of an emergency. While there is no way to perfectly and completely prepare for every situation, proper and practical planning can help to make sure your child is safe as possible.
Do your homework. Find out if your child's school or school district has a policy for lock-down and emergency evacuations and what provisions have been included for addressing the needs of students with chronic illness. Knowing this policy will enable you to better prepare for a practice drill or a real-life emergency situation. Where are your child's supplies kept so that your child will always have access? Will your child need to stay in place or will all the children be sent to a central location? What happens if your child is enroute to the restroom, the clinic or in another area away from diabetes supplies?
Identification. It is important that your child wear medical jewelry or some other item so that first responders and emergency workers can identify your child as having diabetes. Having visible identification will increase the chance of your child getting the care he or she needs as quickly as possible.
Education and awareness for teachers and school staff. All school staff who have responsibility for your child should understand diabetes – including knowing signs of hypoglycemia and how to get help. In addition, these school staff should know where your child's supplies and food are kept and know how to access in the event of an emergency or lockdown.
Possible considerations for supplies. Ideally, your child should always have access to his or meter, insulin, food, water and the restroom. Unfortunately, even the best made plans may be altered in the event of a school emergency. Parents should make sure a carbohydrate containing food and water is available to the child at all times. Water is important to prevent dehydration that can occur with hyperglycemia. This may mean that arrangements are made with the school to make sure food and water are kept in the classroom and other areas of the school the child may frequent to the best of the school's ability in any given emergency situation. If your child is independent in his or her management, a meter may be kept with your child at all times or in the teacher's desk or somewhere else in the classroom.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). A quick-acting carbohydrate such as glucose tabs or a juice box should be always kept in the classroom or kept with the student at all times to swiftly treat hypoglycemia.
Insulin. Children with type 1 diabetes and some children with type 2 need access to their insulin. While the safest practice would be to have insulin always accessible, this may be difficult in a lockdown situation. If insulin is not available, the plan should be to reduce food intake and increase intake of water or non-carbohydrate containing liquids. It is important to know the school's plan for accessing medication in the event of a rare lockdown or evacuation.
Written plans and school protocols. It is important to include a lockdown/emergency provision in your child's Section 504 Plan or Individualized Education Program (IEP). Work with your child's school or school district to come up with a safe and practical plan that can be incorporated in its lockdown/emergency evacuations protocols and easily implemented in the event it is needed.