Emergency Preparedness for People on Supplemental Oxygen
Any time of the year, the power in your home can go out due to wild weather. Lightning strikes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and heavy ice/snow cause considerable damage and can leave you without electricity for hours, or even days! If you are someone who relies on oxygen therapy (supplemental oxygen) to aid in breathing, you need to be prepared for the type of weather events that leave you without electricity to operate your oxygen concentrator. There are two major steps you need to take to make sure you are prepared for a power outage.
1. Call your power company
Start by calling your power company and register with them so they know you are an oxygen patient who requires a constant electricity to keep your oxygen concentrator running so you can breathe properly. The power company will then be able to treat your area as a priority so you will not be without electricity long.
Also, make sure you know how the power company handles these responses. Ask them how much of a priority supplemental oxygen dependent patients are in a power outage, and especially in your area. See if they will provide a generator if the outage is over a certain number of hours. Know how they will respond when the outage occurs so you can better prepare to fend for yourself if it happens.
2. Contact your DME supplier
The next most important thing you need to do is to call your oxygen provider. Keep in mind that your provider is required to supply your oxygen when you need it, even in a weather emergency. Know how your location affects the delivery in either snow or down trees and power lines. Start by asking how much oxygen (in tank form) they think you will need in an outage until they can get to you with more.
Order these extra tanks and keep them somewhere for emergency use. Also, have the delivery person label the tanks with how much time of continuous oxygen flow on each tank. Do you receive liquid oxygen? If so, your provider can provide an extra reservoir for use when there is no power.
3. Be prepared
After you’ve followed these two vital steps, don’t forget other basic emergency preparedness. Make sure additional people (family, friends, caregivers, neighbors) know how to perate your equipment. Keep a record of your equipment’s serial number and model number and copies of your prescriptions, insurance plans, and doctors’ names. You’ll need this information if you have to get a replacement.
Now that you have a plan for your supplemental oxygen therapy, use should the power outage occur, make sure you also remember the basics.
- Find out what type of emergencies or disasters are likely to occur in your area and how you will be warned.
- Pack extra food for you and household members.
- Get a battery-powered radio.
- Register, if possible, for emergency assistance programs. Understand the emergency plans of local organizations you are associated with such as schools, churches, jobs, grocery stores and civic organizations.
- Discuss the plan with family and any caregivers.
- Designate safe zones or shelters and how to get to them. Routes should be visibly posted near a list of emergency contact numbers.