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9 Emergency Preparedness Tips for People with POCs

hurricane, hurricane irma, portable oxygen, be prepared, oxygen tipsHurricane Irma has been deemed the most intense hurricane to hit the Atlantic since Dean in 2007. Although it may have been downgraded to a tropical storm earlier this week, it left an estimated 16 million Floridians without power, some indefinitely. For most people, power outages are a mere inconvenience. But for people who are oxygen dependent, power outages can be life-threatening. This makes avoiding treatment disruption during a disaster a top priority.[1]

Despite the destruction that Hurricane Irma and similar disasters have left in their aftermath, a recent Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) survey found that nearly 60% of all Americans haven’t practiced what to do in an emergency. What’s more, only 39% of Americans have developed an emergency preparedness plan and discussed it with other household members.[2]

Because September is National Preparedness Month, the Red Cross is encouraging families across the globe to create a disaster preparedness plan. If you or someone you love requires oxygen therapy, disaster preparedness is even more important. To help you get started on your plan today, consider the following tips:[3]

  • Stay connected – downloading a Red Cross emergency preparedness app on your phone will keep you updated and connected to others in the event of an emergency.
  • Resolve to recharge – creating a plan for how to recharge your batteries during extended power outages and keeping extra batteries recharged at all times will help keep you from becoming stranded without oxygen.
  • Be informed – knowing the working time of each battery that supports your POC will help you prevent unexpected treatment interruptions.
  • Don’t wait – developing and practicing an emergency game plan with members of your household before an emergency occurs will ensure you’re well-prepared for an upcoming catastrophic event.
  • Inform others – some power companies offer priority re-connect services or emergency generators when power outages are inevitable. Police and fire departments may also offer emergency services specific to oxygen users. Notifying them in advance that you’re oxygen dependent will help you set up these types of services, if they’re available in your area.
  • Don’t elaborate, collaborate – working with your oxygen supply company to find out precisely how much oxygen you’ll need in case of a power outage is particularly important, especially if your home is difficult to access when roads have been destroyed and oxygen delivery, impossible. They may be also able to provide you with one or more compressed air cylinders to keep on hand for use during an emergency. Be sure to ask that they label the cylinders for you so you know exactly how much oxygen is in each of them.
  • Have a chat with your doc – reducing your oxygen flow rate during an emergency may help you extend the life of your oxygen supply. Remember, though, this should only be done under the instruction and supervision of your doctor.
  • Install an emergency generator – purchasing an emergency generator, especially if you live in a remote area, is an excellent way to connect to an alternative power source when disaster strikes. They may be costly, but the safety and security they offer are priceless.
  • Organize a support team – establishing a support team that you can call during an emergency will help you stay connected and safe. This can include friends, neighbors, family members, church members, co-workers – anyone who lives nearby and would be willing to lend a hand.

For more information on how to create an emergency preparedness plan, visit the American Red Cross.


[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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