Blackouts, Water Problems put Vulnerable Populations at Risk

Posted Jun 24, 2016

(TNS) - No one likes to lose power or to have to boil tap water. But for some residents, these infrastructure issues can pose major health risks with summer thunderstorms a real possibility.

Power outages

• National Grid customers who are older than age 62, blind or disabled, or whose health depends on machines run by electricity can sign up for warning robocalls if a major storm likely could cause a blackout in their area, said spokeswoman Virginia Limmiatis.

• These life support customers, who must fill out a form available online and provide medical documentation of their condition, might be on home oxygen machines, ventilators, home dialysis or use some other life-sustaining electronic medical equipment.

• National Grid will call life support customers and provide updates when the power goes out and at least once every 24 hours afterward until the blackout ends, when it will call to confirm that power has been restored, Limmiatis said.

• Life support customers also can call a special 1-800 number for updates.
• After 24 hours without power, if the company hasn’t reached a life support customer by phone, a company representative will stop by the house to check on the customer, Limmiatis said.

• Meters for these customers get a white tag and their accounts have a special code so that workers know not to turn off power, she said.

• If the power remains off too long for safety, customers are responsible for making their own arrangements to leave. National Grid recommends that these customers have a plan of action in place in case of a long-lasting outage and that they call 911 in case of emergency.

Home dialysis

• Some kidney-failure patients nowcan get their dialysis at home, although this is not common. Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare, the only dialysis provider in Oneida County, has about 11 home hemodialysis patients, said Cindy Christian, nurse manager for dialysis.

• These patients need to know if there’s a boil-water advisory because they purify water to make dialysate, the solution that removes impurities during dialysis. Purificationprobably would remove whatever contaminant caused the boil-water advisory, but to be safe, patients should use backup liquid dialysate, she said.

• Patients cannot perform home dialysis treatments without electricity. Patients are taught back up procedures in case the power goes out during a treatment, Christian said. Otherwise, treatment would wait until the power comes back on or, in the case of an extended blackout, the patient would have to come to a dialysis center for outpatient treatment, she said.

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