Emergency Preparedness for Power Outages for Caregivers of TBI

Posted on June 21, 2021

Preparing for a power outage or brownout well in advance and knowing how to handle an emergency can be especially important if you rely on electricity for assistive devices. And even more so, if you are a caregiver, you must prepare a checklist and be informed of the precautions required in such circumstances. Extended power outages can be a matter of life and death for the disabled and brain-injured victims, especially if they also happen to be on life-supporting equipment.

During a power brownout, it is necessary to reduce power consumption to prevent burnout. Having a backup power supply or a generator may be a luxury not everyone can afford, so it is always advisable to have an annual electrical walk-through or get a whole-home surge protector installed. A brain-injured victim, an elderly or a disabled person may not have the skills and senses to deal with an emergency. Hence, it is vital to take steps beforehand, such as 

  • Have a personal support network: Have your family, friends, and neighbors assist you during a power outage. Keep all emergency contact numbers of health care providers and emergency services, and electric utility companies handy to help you deal with a crisis. 
  • Easy access to all medical documents and information is crucial Prepare medical bracelets or alert tags to wear during an emergency. All medication should be clearly labeled, and your special needs must be mentioned and the best way to communicate with you.
  • Checklist of home medical equipment and assistive technology: Take an inventory of all appliances that rely on electricity. Plan for alternative power sources or extra batteries during power outages. A portable charger, power bank, generator, or backup power supply may help life-saving devices running until power is restored. If you are visually impaired, label your emergency supplies with Braille or large print texts. For people with hearing disabilities, have extra batteries handy. Alternatively, prepare cards with pictures, commonly used phrases, and pictograms so you can communicate with your support network. Keep a manual wheelchair or a mobility aid such as a cane, walker to help you move around. Keep your gas tank full in case you may need to move to a clinic or hospital. 
  • Using appliances during a power outage: Turn off or disconnect all devices, computers, and lights, leave only one light on to indicate when power is restored. Power may return with momentary spikes and surges that can damage electrical equipment. Keep refrigerators and freezers doors closed. Food and medicines that require refrigeration can last for several hours in an unopened fridge. A full freezer will maintain temperature for at least two days. Do not use an oven or gas stove to heat your home. Generators, charcoal grills, and camp stoves must be used outdoors at least 20 feet away from windows to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Cordless telephones and mobiles may not work for long, so have a landline phone service or check with your local phone company to have a 'warm line' or 'soft dial tone' to allow you to call 911 if you have disconnected from their services.
  • A 72-hour emergency kit: Must-haves include flashlights, non-perishable food items and water, all prescription and special needs medicines, extra batteries and power banks for assistive devices, extra warm clothing, and blankets, extra money as well as all documents and medical information. 
  • Register yourself to be included in a “life support priority list”- Contact your electric utility company in advance and inquire about a backup power source or immediate assistance for life-sustaining or breathing machines that depend on electricity. Talk with your health care provider and learn how to switch devices to an alternative power source during an outage. 

Plan in advance. It can go a long way to ensure that you or the person you care for are well taken of, and safe come what may. If you are organized and keep this list handy and act accordingly, you'll find that people are always willing to help you out in emergencies. However, you have to be prepared and do your part too.