September 6, 2017 – Powered for Patients has urged those in Hurricane Irma’s path to heed the tragic lesson from a Hurricane Harvey-related death attributed to power loss.
According to a September 4th article in the Houston Chronicle, an elderly woman died in her Santa Fe home on Saturday, August 26, after her oxygen tank failed when the electricity went out. The Chronicle reported that another woman died in Texas City after she was unable to get dialysis during the storm and flooding. The article citied reports from Orange County officials who said four of the county’s nine deaths were elderly people and possibly related to a power outage.
“The tragic death in Texas of an at-risk citizen who lost the use of her electric-powered medical device when the power went down is a sad reminder for other patients of the critical importance of addressing emergency power needs before disaster strikes,” said Eric Cote, project director for Powered for Patients. “As Hurricane Irma threatens Florida, it’s vitally important for citizens dependent on life sustaining, electric-powered medical equipment to prepare now.”
Among Powered for Patients’ recommendations for at-risk citizens in Irma’s path relying on electric-powered medical equipment in their homes:
• Fully charging the equipment’s batteries before power is lost.
• If you don’t have a backup battery and can secure one or more, do so and ensure that they remain fully charged.
• Identify a source of emergency power where equipment could be plugged in or backup batteries can be recharged. Possible sources of emergency power include neighbors with generators, local public safety facilities, businesses or shelters.
Powered for Patients also called upon citizens with home generators to help neighbors relying on electric-powered medical equipment. “Citizens with home generators can literally save a life if they can help ensure access to power for a neighbor who relies on life-sustaining medical equipment until power can be restored,” said Cote.
For dialysis patients who routinely use dialysis centers, Powered for Patients urges these patients to contact their facility now to discuss options that may include arranging dialysis ahead of schedule.
Powered for Patients is also recommending that public officials, hospitals and utilities use the federal government’s emPOWER map ahead of Irma’s landfall to better anticipate the needs of electricity dependent citizens. The emPOWER tool was developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide officials with a better understanding of the number of at-risk citizens in a community who rely on electric-powered medical equipment. The emPOWER tool helps officials better understand the types of emergency resources that may be needed in an emergency and enables hospitals, healthcare coalitions and first responders to anticipate and plan for a surge in assistance requests and demands for care during a prolonged power outage or other emergency.
The emPOWER tool can also help local electric companies identify the areas that will require prioritized power restoration to protect health and save lives. Community businesses and civic organizations can use the data to identify ways to provide support to the community in an emergency, such as providing access to power to help individuals recharge their batteries.
Online Powered for Patients Playbook Can Help Facility Managers at Hospitals and Other Critical Healthcare Facilities Better Safeguard Emergency Power in Advance of Irma
To help facility managers at hospitals and other critical healthcare facilities safeguard emergency power systems in advance of Irma, Powered for Patients has posted Protecting Patients When Disaster Strikes on its website. The playbook includes a detailed checklist in its appendix that facility managers can use before, during and after disaster to safeguard emergency power.
The playbook was developed with Department of Homeland Security funding in conjunction with the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency. While the existing version of the Playbook was developed for Rhode Island, much of the content of the playbook, including the checklists for safeguarding emergency power systems, is applicable anywhere in the country.