Emergency Planning for Electricity-Dependent Medical Equipment Users

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Emergency Planning for Electricity-Dependent Medical Equipment Users

Many people with disabilities use durable medical equipment to help treat chronic conditions and disabilities, some of which may be electricity dependent. It’s important for these individuals to have a plan for emergency situations where electricity is not readily available.

Examples of electricity-dependent equipment include:

  • Power wheelchairs or mobility devices
  • Ventilators
  • Oxygen concentrators
  • Infusions, intravenous equipment, and feeding equipment
  • Chair lifts
  • Communication devices
  • Nebulizers
  • CPAP and other sleep apnea devices
  • Suction pumps used by individuals with difficulty swallowing
  • Dialysis machines

Many of these devices are life-saving, so the thought of being without is scary. There are several steps individuals can take to prepare for an emergency that could threaten the use of medical equipment:

  • For battery dependent devices
    1. Have extra batteries charged and ready to go for durable medical equipment that requires rechargeable batteries. Regularly check back up equipment to ensure it will function appropriately in an emergency.
    2. Have alternate ways to charge batteries (such as using a USB adapter to charge batteries via a car).
    3. Make sure all equipment is labeled and that caregivers or family know how to operate it.
    4. Individuals who use battery-dependent communication devices should have an alternate method for communication readily available.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider about non-electricity dependent alternatives for the equipment listed above or ways to conserve equipment. For example:
    1. Individuals who use ventilators should keep a resuscitation bag available.
    2. Individuals who use nebulizers may be able to use inhalers with spacers, which don’t require a power supply.
    3. A doctor may recommend an oxygen user set equipment to reduce flow in order to conserve the supply and extend the life of the system.

Talk to local electrical companies about programs available to help people with disabilities in emergency situations who are power-dependent. Many utility companies maintain a database of “priority people” who need power restored as soon as possible, and individuals with disabilities can sign up for this.

For additional information, read the Emergency Power Planning for People Who Use Electricity and Battery Dependent Assistive Technology and Medical Devices checklist and guide.

First responders can also use the US Department of Health and Human Services emPOWER website to locate individuals in the community who use electricity-dependent devices. This allows responders to identify priorities in recovery and response efforts.