Last fall, one early November morning, I woke up to the heartbreaking news that there had been a shooting in my hometown of Thousand Oaks, California. It had happened just a few hours before in a local bar, and 13 people were dead, including the sheriff who had been one of the first responders.

We were shocked and confused as we tried to make sense of what happened. This was Thousand Oaks — literally named one of the safest cities of its size in the country! This bar was a family-friendly place where I used to go country dancing with friends in high school. We all hear about the tragedies that strike throughout the country, but this hit too close to home. Way too close. In fact, we later found out, the alleged shooter lived less than a mile from my house, and several of the people who died were connected in some close way to people we knew. We were so incredibly sad for our town and for all the people affected.

When we didn’t think things could possibly get any worse, they got worse. Within a few hours we started seeing smoke in the air above us. Two wildfires had started and were raging through the hills surrounding our city. News helicopters were replaced by firefighting aircraft as the sky above us turned orange, gray, and black. Schools and many homes in our area were evacuated. Finally, at 3 a.m., we got the call that we were under voluntary evacuation. My husband and I, hearing the wind whipping outside our windows, looked at each other and almost wordlessly started to pack. Only about 15 minutes later, we got another call that upgraded our status to mandatory evacuation. It was an eerie feeling as we woke up the kids and packed up our cars, searched for our cat, and headed to my parents’ house in the middle of the night.

The next few days passed in a blur. We watched the news showing homes being burned, and we watched as our own hill behind our house went up in flames. Our home was spared, but many of our friends and acquaintances were not so lucky. It was an experience that I hope we don’t have to go through again anytime soon. But I also feel it was a learning experience in many ways.

We’ve all probably done the mental exercise of planning what we would take with us in an emergency. But it was an even more eye-opening exercise to actually do it. We packed everything that would probably be on most people’s lists — memorabilia, heirlooms, family photo albums, important documents, computer hard drives. I wanted to take anything that couldn’t be replaced. But if you think about it, all we really need for survival is food, water, shelter… and diabetes supplies. When we evacuated our house, I packed enough food, clothes, and water for a couple days, but I packed enough syringes and test strips for probably a year.

What if we had to go far away to evacuate? What if we didn’t have access to Kaitlyn’s doctors or pharmacy? What if the world ended? Quickly I realized that most of our stuff didn’t matter, except for the stuff that really did.

Of course, I didn’t really think we’d end up in such dire straits. But once in a while, something like this reminds me that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Above all, I was reminded about what matters most — people, and how we care for one another. It was amazing to see our community come together and care for those who had lost houses and loved ones. People opened up their homes to those who were evacuated. Signs were strewn across town thanking our firefighters. Care centers were bursting with donations. Self-reliance and preparation are important, but seeing these things made me feel like we can get through anything if we stick together.

Find a packing checklist and more resources for creating a diabetes emergency plan from the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists here.

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.

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