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Power Outage Preparedness Strategies for Seniors and Caregivers

electrical transformer on the ground with wires and a telephone pollThree days after tropical storm Isais swept through the tri-state area, 1.4 million homes are still left without power. Approximately 400,000 of that 1.4 million are New Jersey residents — many of whom are senior citizens.

Being without power for more than a day can uncomfortable, but for older adults the situation can become dangerous more quickly than one would expect. Whether planning for yourself or for elderly family members, friends and neighbors; here are a few tips that could make a huge difference in fairing the current (or future) power outage.

Know your needs
Proper powering of medical and assistive equipment can be just as essential to life as food, water, cooling and heating. Take an inventory of what devices may be essential to you or the older adult that you care for and make sure that they will be supported should an extended power outage occur.

A backup battery may suffice, but it is important to know the wattage requirements of each device that needs to be powered. Should a portable generator need to be used, it’s important to know that:

  • One should never use a generator indoors or in an enclosed space (garage, basement).
  • Carbon Monoxide buildup can still occur in enclosed spaces even if windows and doors are open.
  • Generators should not be placed outside near open windows or doors where carbon monoxide can enter the home and build-up.
  • If anyone shows signs of CO poisoning (headache, nausea, dizziness), they should immediately seek fresh air and medical attention.

Have important information readily available
Creating a book with all important phone numbers and instructions needed can make enduring a power outage much easier. It can take a few minutes to put together, but once it’s done, the time saved during an emergency situation will be much greater. Things to keep in the emergency book include:

  • Emergency numbers for:
    • Police and fire departments
    • Power gas and water company
    • Medical device company
    • Doctor or healthcare provider and pharmacy
    • Family members, friends or neighbors
  • Copies of insurance information
  • Location of batteries and flashlights in the home
  • Instructions for replacing batteries of medical devices and how to reset devices if needed
  • What to do if the power outage occurs in the middle of use of a device or treatment

Prepare an emergency kit that will last at least 72-hours
This can include:

  • Battery operated lighting (flashlights/lanterns)
  • Non-perishable food items, a can opener, and water
  • Readily available blankets/warm clothing or a battery-operated fan/ice chest with ice packs
  • Label emergency kit items properly according to any visual, cognitive or hearing impairments
  • Mobile chargers for phones and other necessary electronics

During the outage

  • Keep refrigerators and freezers closed as long as possible. A full freezer can keep food cold for about 48 hours (or 24 hours for a half-full freezer). A fridge will keep food cold for about 4 hours.
  • Unplug or disconnect all electronics and appliances as damage can occur as electric companies try to restore power
  • Keep in contact with a trusted person and check on older neighbors who may be in need (only if conditions are safe to do so)

After power is restored

  • Inspect food items that may have gotten spoiled during the outage. If there is doubt in the quality of food items, dispose of them
  • See if any medications require refrigeration. If so, contact a pharmacist for advice on next steps.
  • Take the time to check on the status of any electronics that could have been damaged
  • Review your emergency stock items and evaluate what can be improved should another outage occur in the future

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