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Protecting Home Medical Equipment From Summer Storm Power Outages

Lightning, thunder, dark skies and sirens during summer storms are upsetting. Yet power outages from thunderstorms and tornadoes can be very dangerous for kids who depend on home health care equipment.

When storms hit, children may become upset and clingy. You may become anxious at the possibility of losing power for your child’s medical equipment.


Be prepared to weather summer storms

Here are some steps you can take now to keep your children calm during storms, and to weather power outages without interrupting your child’s home health care equipment and its functions.

How to calm kids during summer storms

  • Stay near children during the storm, comforting them and getting their minds off the storm with games, stories, snacks, books and songs
  • Keep flashlights and batteries handy
  • Be attentive, but not glued to news sources about approaching weather; Avoid having children listen to or watch weather coverage nonstop
  • Tornado watch or warning? Go to a basement, windowless room or storm shelter with:
    • Essential medical equipment and supplies
    • Backup batteries
    • Flashlight and batteries
    • Battery-operated radio

Emergency backup plans for kids’ home care equipment

PHS helps families prepare emergency backup plans for their child’s overall care, which includes arrangements for generators, batteries or transport to a medical facility. Special considerations:

  • Respiratory needs: Many pieces of equipment require constant supply of electricity; Have alternative sources of power available such as extra, fully-charged batteries or a generator.
  • IV and pharmacy needs: Medicines often require refrigeration, so when power goes out, refrigerators stop running. Keep a cooler and ice on hand to keep medication properly chilled.
    • Curlin pumps: Use C-cell batteries to keep the pump running. Keep a supply of extra, fully-charged batteries on hand.
  • Food pump and formula needs: When a food pump is not in use, PHS recommends charging it so it is fully charged in case of a power outage. If power is lost and your food pump does not have a charged battery, you may use a gravity bag. If you are uncertain how to use a gravity bag, contact PHS.
    • Keep mixed formulas in a refrigerator when the power goes out until the refrigerator can no longer keep items cold. If the refrigerator cannot keep formula cold during a power outage, discard the formula and mix smaller amounts as needed.

How do you keep your children calm during storms? What’s your backup plan for medical equipment in case of a power outage? Do you have tips to prepare for severe weather and its impact?

We’d love to hear from you.

Originally published: August 6, 2010
Showing 8 comments
  • Hospitality Equipment
    Reply to Hospitality EquipmentComment ID#: 237

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    • danama
      Reply to danamaComment ID#: 238

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  • Ted Stockwell
    Reply to Ted StockwellComment ID#: 239

    We experienced several power outages while we had home care for our
    son. Here are a few lessons that we learned:

    It is hard to work in the dark, especially for a nurse who is less
    familiar with your home. A couple of flashlights should always be
    sitting out in obvious places, so everyone automatically knows where
    to find them when the lights go out.

    Lost in the dark.
    One of the best things we found were small rechargeable lights that
    plugged into electrical outlets and turned on automatically when power
    failed. A few of these in key areas ensured that no matter where
    people were when the power went out, the caregivers could safely and
    quickly stop what they were doing and start switching over to oxygen
    tanks. No stumbling or fumbling in the dark. (you can find these
    lights at places like Home Depot or Lowes).

    You need both hands.
    All sorts of cares are best done using both hands under good light.
    Everything is harder if you are holding a flashlight that shines a
    narrow beam. A flashlight is often not as useful as a small battery
    powered lantern. A cheap LED lantern can offer a lot of light for a
    low price, and keeps your hands free. ($10 for a 24-LED lantern at
    Target. More rugged camping lanterns cost more.)

    Where do you need extra light?
    I rigged some extra light near the head of my son’s crib by simply
    taking a spare power strip, hanging it on the wall, and plugging in
    three of the rechargeable power failure lights. When the power
    failed, we always had light where it mattered.

    When the power went off, it was often on the night shift and with a
    nurse that did not normally have any need to switch from the regular
    oxygen setup to a portable tank. My wife or I would usually lead the
    switchover simply because we knew where everything was and could do it
    quickly. Sometimes we would arrive at the bedside even before the
    nurse fully realized that the power was out.

    You never know when the power will fail, so every caregiver must be
    able to do the switchover on the spur of the moment, and know where
    everything is. (where is that little wrench for the tanks?)

    (One small, but wonderful, discovery was when we found an adapter that
    enabled us to use the same cannula with both the oxygen tank and the
    MR-850. Then, we only needed to move the connection over to the tank,
    and avoided the trouble and discomfort of changing cannulas.)

    A little more expensive
    I had a spare computer UPS. This can be expensive, but helpful if you
    can manage to get one. A UPS be used to provide extra power for any
    small device like a feeding pump, or pulse ox, or lamp. It cannot power
    anything like a concentrator or refrigerator. However, I was able to
    plug a regular fluorescent light into it. This gave good light for
    about an hour, sparing us lots of batteries, while I worked on getting
    the generator running.

    Keeping cold
    There were three things we did to help with refrigeration during
    power outages. We were using a using a small “dorm” fridge for
    medications (and the nurse’s lunch), but these will work with a
    larger refrigerator as well:

    First, try to keep the empty space in your refrigerator filled up
    with bottles of water. You can just use water or soda bottles and
    fill them with tap water. Why? When the power goes out, your
    refrigerator will be full of cold water. It takes much more heat
    to warm up all of that cold water than a fridge with just empty air.
    Your medications and formula will stay cool for a lot longer.

    Second, when the power goes out, after handling urgent problems like
    switching oxygen tanks, throw some old blankets, quilts, or sleeping
    bags over the refrigerator. This adds insulation and helps preserve
    the cold.

    Finally, it can be impossible to go to a store for ice in the hours
    immediately following a power outage. If you have a separate freezer,
    keep a bunch of ice packs, bags of ice, or even frozen water bottles
    in there. When the power goes out, these can be moved over to the
    refrigerator to protect medicine, milk, and formula.

    • PHS
      Reply to PHSComment ID#: 240

      Ted- Thank you so much for this valuable information. I’m sure it will be helpful for many PHS families when preparing for storm power outages.

  • wellness in india
    Reply to wellness in indiaComment ID#: 241

    Providing care for children from infancy to adolescence is the main task of a pediatrician. And dealing with these children of various ages requires a lot of equipment and supplies. The products are kid-friendly and child-themed.

  • home medical equipment
    Reply to home medical equipmentComment ID#: 243

    During storm you should turn off all your home equipment devices to prevent destruction.

  • Pharmacy Fridges
    Reply to Pharmacy FridgesComment ID#: 244

    I think during storm you should be very careful and when thunder or lighting turns off all the equipments. At that time always stay with your kids and don’t leave them alone.

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