What to do should you do when you depend on electrically operated medical equipment during a power outage?
Recently, there have been many power outages across our country. Many people were unable to cook meals, shower with hot water, charge their phones, or watch TV. However, all these situations are simple inconveniences.
For many, a power outage can be life-threatening. I am talking about those who use oxygen or rely on life-sustaining equipment. If you or someone in your home is dependent on oxygen or any ventilatory support, you can call the PUD and complete a medical electric needs registry at 360-374-6201. During power outages, the PUD will attempt to restore service to those with special medical equipment needs as quickly as possible. You should have a power outage preparedness plan because the PUD cannot guarantee uninterrupted utility services. The first thing you must remember is not to panic. Ensure you have backup tanks in your home and stored properly. Make sure you know how much oxygen is in the tank and how to use it. Oxygen tanks can have slow leaks, so it is a good practice to check the level of oxygen in the tank often. Typically, an E cylinder that is full (2000psi) with a regulator and standard nasal cannula will last roughly as follows:
1 LPM = 11.3 hours
2 LPM = 5.7 hours
3 LPM= 3.8 hours
4 LPM= 2.8 hours
5 LPM= 2.3 hours
If you have a portable oxygen concentrator and your device runs on battery power, make sure always to have a supply of freshly charged batteries. Another consideration for a battery-operated concentrator or a standard concentrator is to consider an emergency generator, especially if you live in a remote location. Make sure you know how to use your generator as some generators turn on automatically while some need to be switched on manually. It is a good idea to test them on a routine basis to ensure everything works. Make sure the generator is in an easily and quickly accessible area if needed. Arranging emergency assistance with friends, family, and your neighbors is also a good idea. Make sure they, too, are trained on how to use the oxygen tanks and the generator. Having an alternative place to go until your power is restored is an excellent plan for extended power outages as well.
Lincare asks that you contact their office first when the power goes out. For the Port Angeles office, call 360-452-4724. The Aberdeen office can be reached at 360-532-5287. They will work to get oxygen tanks to our community as quickly as possible, or you may pick up tanks at their office. With that said, there may be times when it is not easy to deliver oxygen to your home or for you to pick up tanks at the Lincare office due to snow, ice, flooding, downed trees, or washed-out roads. If you cannot get oxygen, you may call 911 for additional assistance. Be sure to keep your radio on for information and updates from PUD, Forks Community Hospital, and other helpful, informative resources.
Amy Bloodworth RRT, MBA
Director of Cardio Pulmonary Services
Disclaimer: This Column is not intended as a diagnosis or recommended treatment of a specific condition. Answers are not a replacement for an individual medical evaluation. Individual health concerns should be evaluated by a licensed clinician.