Safety

Power failure puts home life support patients in jeopardy

Emergency Management Alert, January 13, 2009

Power outages usually mean a period of discomfort for most people. But for those on home medical equipment, the loss of electricity could be life or death.

Despite the seriousness of this issue, a survey conducted by The Associated Press found that although utility companies have “medical priority lists,” protocols vary from state-to-state, and many patients do not know how to sign up. Also, power companies cannot restore power to just one house at a time.

In Louisiana, during Hurricane Gustav, dozens of people evacuated to government medical shelters with oxygen machines. When backup generators failed, officials had to scramble to find old-fashioned oxygen tanks.

Some states are becoming more proactive. Ohio is passing out signs for the power dependent to hang in their windows, signaling if they need help. San Diego Gas and Electric, recently met with each of the 700 power dependent customers to discuss emergency backup plans.

In the spring, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to release a checklist for those who use powered devices.

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