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9 Emergency Preparedness Tips for People with POCs

COPD Emergency Preparedness

Around the world, we have seen an increase in the frequency of natural disasters in the last few years. From hurricanes and tornadoes to flooding and earthquakes to the increase in widespread wildfires, each of these emergency situations comes with the risk of extended power outages and potential displacement. For most people, power outages are a mere inconvenience. However, for people who are dependent on supplemental oxygen, power outages and other emergency situations can be life-threatening. In order to avoid running out of oxygen, supplemental oxygen users must plan ahead and prepare for emergency situations. For people who rely on medical oxygen, avoiding treatment disruption during a disaster must be a top priority.[1]

Perhaps because of the destruction that recent natural disasters have left in their aftermath, a recent National Household Survey released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) survey estimates that approximately 57% of the American public have taken three or more basic actions to prepare for an emergency and 94% have taken at least one action to prepare.[2] Generally speaking, people living in areas with a higher risk of certain disasters are better prepared. If you require oxygen therapy, your risk is automatically higher, so it is smart to prepare now. 

FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security are encouraging families across the country to create a disaster preparedness plan. If you or someone you love requires oxygen therapy, disaster preparedness is vital. You should have an emergency supply of oxygen on hand, as well as a plan to access additional oxygen if and when you need it. To help you begin your plan today, you can visit www.Ready.gov for tips on making your emergency plan. To get you started, consider the following tips:[3]

  • Stay connectedSign up for emergency alerts, including Wireless Emergency Alerts, the Emergency Alert System and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to keep you updated about various emergencies. Make sure you have a battery-powered radio in case your phone runs out of battery power.
  • Recharge regularly – Create a plan for recharging portable oxygen concentrator (POC) batteries during extended power outages and keep an external battery charger available to help keep you from becoming stranded without oxygen.
  • Be informedKnow the battery life for each battery that supports your POC to help you prevent unexpected treatment interruptions.
  • Don’t waitDevelop and practice an emergency plan with members of your household before an emergency occurs so you are well-prepared for any catastrophic event.
  • Plan ahead – Make sure you have an emergency kit with supplies including a flashlight, battery-powered radio and phone with extra fresh batteries, any medications, copies of prescriptions and additional oxygen supplies.
  • Inform others – Notify your local power company and police or fire station that there is a supplemental oxygen user in your home so that you are eligible for any priority reconnect services, emergency generators or other services offered in your area.
  • Collaborate Ask your oxygen supply company precisely how much oxygen you will need in case of a power outage. Then, make sure you have a compressed oxygen cylinder with that amount of oxygen easily accessible in your home for emergencies. Label it clearly, ask how to prepare it and make sure you know how to use it properly. This is especially important in case your home is difficult to access or roads are unusable, making oxygen supply delivery difficult
  • Talk to your doc – Reducing your oxygen flow rate during an emergency may help extend the life of your battery or oxygen supply. However, this should only be done under the instruction and supervision of your doctor.
  • Install an emergency generator – Purchase an emergency generator, especially if you live in a remote area, so you have an alternative power source when disaster strikes. They may be costly, but the safety and security they offer are priceless.
  • Organize – Establish a support team to call on during an emergency, including friends, neighbors, family members, church members, co-workers or anyone who lives nearby and would be willing to lend a hand.

Making a plan for emergencies and natural disasters can save your life, but for people who require medical oxygen, making an emergency plan is essential. For more information on how to create an emergency preparedness plan, visit the American Red Cross or Ready.gov. You can get help creating your emergency plan, gathering necessary supplies and more. 


[1] Kobayashi, M. Hanagama, S. Yamanda, M. Yanai. Home oxygen therapy during natural disasters: lessons from the great East Japan earthquake. European Respiratory Journal Apr 2012, 39 (4) 1047-1048; DOI: 10.1183/09031936.00149111.
[2] FEMA.gov.Sixty Percent of Americans Not Practicing for Disaster: FEMA urges everyone to prepare by participating in National PrepareAthon! Day on April 30. Released April 28, 2015.
[3] Kailes, June Isaacson. Emergency Safety Tips for People Who Use Electricity and Battery-Dependent Devices. 2006. Published and distributed by the Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center and June Isaacson Kailes, Disability Policy Consultant.




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