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Preparing for weather-related emergencies, power outages
(See also the Emergency Checklist)

Being prepared for emergencies and unexpected power outages is one of the single most important things we can do for ourselves. Knowing what to do and where things are located can make an emergency a relatively easy and less stressful situation. Below are some ideas to get you started, please add your own ideas to fit your particular needs and circumstances.

  1. Make sure you have plenty of flashlights, extra batteries, a battery operated radio, a wind up, or battery operated clock. Keep the flashlights where you can easily find them. Keep one by your bedside. The new tap lights are an excellent idea to have around in case of power failures. It is also helpful for reasons of comfort to have a small battery-operated fan to help move the air around for ease of breathing.

  2. If you are on oxygen and normally use an electric concentrator, make sure you are familiar with your backup system. Have your backup system all ready by attaching a cannula ahead of time. Curl up the tubing and secure it in a zip lock bag or something similar to protect it from dirt and other unwanted intruders. All you will need to do is slip it out and turn it on. Being ready can help prevent unnecessary panic while making the switch. It can be very difficult to do this in the dark, in a hurry and hold a flashlight at the same time. Make sure your supplier has provided you with adequate compressed portables for emergencies if you normally use a concentrator as your oxygen source

  3. Notify beforehand your local police, fire, and EMS/rescue squads that you are on oxygen. This can be very helpful in an emergency if they know ahead of time.

  4. Notify your electric company if you use oxygen, use a ventilator of any type, invasive (permanent) as well as non-invasive, Bi-PAP or C-PAP and/or nebulizer. Some companies place you on a priority list for service in power emergencies.

  5. Know where emergency shelters are located in case of prolonged outages. Most fire or ambulance companies, senior centers and hospitals will accommodate you in a power failure and assist with oxygen needs. Call a friend or relative to provide transportation or stay with them until the emergency is over if you do not drive.

  6. Make friends with your neighbors. Most will be glad to help you out.

  7. A cell phone is always a helpful thing to have around, especially in power outages. However, if that is not an option, make sure at least one of your telephones is not electrically operated. You may be able to make calls out, however if your phone is in any way plugged in, you will not hear your phone ring. Someone may be trying to check on you and you would not know it. This is not difficult, they are relatively inexpensive and a simple phone jack splitter is all you need. Splitters can be found most anywhere; they just plug into your existing phone jack and no extra wiring is needed.

  8. If you live in an area where storms and power outages are common, you may have a generator. If so, use it with caution and be confident in how to use it. Consider having a professional install it to guarantee a safe hookup and transition.

  9. Use great care if you use fireplaces, propane or kerosene heaters as a heat source in an emergency. Make sure they are well vented and try to avoid the fumes if at all possible. Keep plenty of extra blankets handy just in case. Keep your gas grill close to your house, but never in the house. Have plenty of fuel on hand.

  10. For nebulizer users, there are many types of portable, battery-operated units available. However, if you do not have one, and you feel you cannot use your MDIs (metered dose inhalers), there is an alternative option if you are on oxygen. Simply connect your nebulizer tubing to your oxygen source and turn it up to 5 or 6 liters to do your treatment. It may take a bit longer, but it will work. Just remember to turn your liter flow back to normal when you are done.

  11. Always have some extra bottled water around for emergencies and taking medications.

  12. It is a good idea to keep some non-perishable easy to prepare food on hand for emergencies. Especially if your home is run on total electric. Have some foods that do not require cooking. If you suspect a power outage, boil some water and store it in thermos containers so you have some hot water. Make sure you have a manually operated can opener.

  13. Have some things handy to do while you wait. Craft projects, books, puzzles, deck of cards, anything that can help you pass the time.

  14. In the case of a power failure, it is a good idea to unplug your major appliances. Televisions, computers, etc., so they will not be damaged when power is restored.

  15. If you live in an area where it is difficult to get out, you hopefully already know that stocking up for bad weather emergencies is a must. But we all should be prepared for when the weather is nasty and it is hard breathing for us to go out. This also applies to the extremely hot days of summer when we are better off home in air conditioning.

Compiled by COPD-International Community Members

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Last modified: June 17, 2002