Planning for power outages and health needs

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - When the power goes out and there's no generator, people with respiratory conditions and chronic health problems think about how they will take their next breath. We want to help you prepare for the next severe weather, from a medical emergency perspective.

Emergency room doctors have heightened concern for people with special medical needs who wind up in the E.R. when the power goes out at home. They see an uptick in the number of patients with chronic respiratory illnesses exacerbated by extreme heat and loss of air conditioning.

Traumatic emergencies can occur, says Dr. Niraj Patel, severely affecting people on oxygen therapy and other life saving machines.

"In that situation, the right answer is to come to the hospital if you're depending on something like a nebulizer machine it needs electricity to work," he said.

Plan before the storm for a better outcome.

"You really need to have some sort of portable devices ready to go and they are available. You can have a home based oxygen tank and you can have your portable oxygen tank," Dr. Patel said. "If you have medicines that require refrigeration, you might want to have a back for that fridge."

Packing ice in a cooler is your backup for the fridge once you know severe weather is near. You can get advance severe, weather, warnings, just by watching NBC12. You can also sign up for a telephone alert from Dominion Virginia Power.

Customers with breathing devices powered by electricity must fill out a form and have a doctor certify their condition. Return the form to Dominion and your name gets on a list to receive a call any time Dominion is aware of a major storm that could cause extensive outages.

The advance call gives you time to prepare backup systems or contact a friend or family for emergency arrangements during the power outage. You can find the form on Dominion's website. So far, 7,289 people are on the list.

"You want to have your numbers in line, who you would reach out to in an emergency situation. You don't want to wait until the emergency situation occurs. You should have already gone through those steps," said Patel.

You can also call to get the form which has to filled out by the customer and their doctor. The number is 1-866-DOM-HELP. The special medical list will not get your lights turned on quicker. Power is restored to hospitals and public safety facilities first, then grids with the largest number of customers.

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