When power outages are more than a nuisance

We all know what a power outage is like. We stumble through the dark to find our flashlights. We check how much power is left on our phone. We worry about the food in our fridge and wait for the power to come back on. A bit of a nuisance, but usually not a big deal.

Now imagine you use a medical device that depends on electricity. Losing power could mean life or death. In fact, 2.4 million Medicare recipients depend on electricity to run their medical and assistive equipment, which can include ventilators and wheelchairs. And while many of them have reserve batteries, such people may need help when the power goes out, especially if it’s for a long time.

Luckily, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just released a new tool to help. The HHS emPOWER map tells officials where the highest number of people on Medicare who use medical devices are in their communities. While the map doesn’t capture everyone who uses a device, it helps give planners an idea of how many people may be in need during a power outage. And that way they can plan ahead.

Emergency responders and community planners aren’t the only ones we need to plan ahead for disasters and emergencies. We all need to look out for our neighbors, and getting our communities ready starts with us. Check out what Ready.gov has to say about community preparedness and check out our resources for people with disabilities.

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