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Emergencies & Your Health: Power outages

If the power will be out for awhile

In general:

  • Keep freezers and refrigerators closed (as much as possible)
  • Use a generator, but ONLY outdoors and away from windows.
  • Do not use a gas stove or oven, a gas or charcoal grill, or an open fire to heat your home.
  • Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges.
  • Have alternate plans for refrigerating medicines or using electricity-dependent medical devices.
  • Check with local officials about locations of open warm-up shelters or cooling centers near you.

What about medical electrical devices?

Emergency planning for those who need electric medical devices can be complicated. Some additional tips for medical device users, in general:

  1. Ask your DME provider for a portable version of your device, if there is one (for example, a portable tank of oxygen, a hand-powered wheelchair, a battery-powered nebulizer)  to have on hand in preparation for a possible disaster.
  2. Regularly check the batteries, oxygen gauge, water levels, etc. on your equipment to ensure you have enough in case of an emergency.
  3. Tell your friends, family members and loved ones about your medical device use so that they can assist you during power outages and other emergencies.
  4. Maintain a mini go-bag at all times with a small supply of extra disposable parts (for example, cannula).
  5. Evacuate early, ideally before the power goes out. Shelters, hotels and family members may have people and backup power to assist you.

The following resources may help:

 

PG&E's Medical Baseline program offers more advance notice about upcoming power shutoffs, brown-outs, black-outs, and known power outages to people who need electrical medical devices. People need to sign up in advance. PG&E states that those on the Medical Baseline registry will "receive extra notifications as part of this outreach, which may include additional phone calls or a door-bell ring to ensure they're aware and can prepare to stay safe. It is important that Medical Baseline customers acknowledge receipt of a notification by answering the phone and speaking or replying to the text message."

 

CA Health & Human Services Agency has a hotline to help medical device users find the resources they need during power outages, rolling blackouts, This is not an emergency hotline. Instead use this phone service to plan ahead when an emergency warning has been announced for your area (whether it's a fire alert, severe weather warning, flood warning, etc.) Chances are when disaster happens, electrical power will go out. The hotline number is (833) 284-3473 . During power shutoffs or potential power shutoffs, hotline assistance will be available 9:00am-9:00pm. Assistance is available in many languages. 711 Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) are available for individuals with hearing or speech related disabilities. 

Individuals who have a problem getting services or assistance from their health care can contact the Department of Managed Health Care’s Help Center at (888) 466-2219 or www.HealthHelp.ca.gov.

 

During emergency events, California's network of Independent Living Centers (ILCs)  "can coordinate emergency preparedness, emergency assistive technology, and transition from temporary shelter" for people with disabilities who have already registered with them. The ILC for Santa Clara County is the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center in downtown San José, with a satellite office in Gilroy; for information on how to register, see their website:

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