Being prepared for unexpected events is part of managing COPD

Power outages, bad weather, and a host of other issues can pose challenges

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by Caroline Gainer |

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Those of us with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease need to be prepared for unexpected challenges like inclement weather or power outages.

A few days ago, I was happy that I had an emergency preparedness plan for when the power goes out. We were experiencing high winds, which caused a tree to fall on some power lines. I heard a pop and saw a flash of light as a nearby power transformer blew. I wasn’t concerned, though, because I had an alternate source of power and heat.

Oh, wait — no, I didn’t have backup power. My solar backup was totally dead.

I checked the connection to the solar panels, but a blue light indicated that the panels weren’t the problem. I inspected the battery with a voltage meter and discovered it had died.

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Putting a plan into action

While I was checking the battery, my neighbor called to ask if I was OK with my supplemental oxygen. I explained the situation. She replied that if I could keep us warm, she could keep my batteries charged with her portable generator. Disaster averted.

I told her I’d start the fireplace while she called the power company. They said it might be two days before they got to us, because several power lines were down, and only nine customers were on our little branch of the grid.

Another neighbor called and discovered that I had previously registered with the power company as a person with medical needs, so we actually were a priority, even though few people were on this part of the grid. This is why, if you are on supplemental oxygen, it’s important that you notify your utilities provider in advance of outages.

You should also notify the local fire department, which has the means to transport you somewhere if it becomes necessary.

I had about eight hours of battery life left when the power came back on, so I didn’t need my neighbor’s generator, and she had turned on her propane heater. We were warm and safe, and I was incredibly grateful for such a great group of neighbors.

We’ve been snowed in for the past few days, and I haven’t been able to get to the local Harbor Freight hardware store for another solar storage battery. I plan to do that as soon as possible, because my little backup system has worked for me in the past.

We all need an emergency backup plan or system. Those of us on oxygen need to have a means to keep our oxygen supply running through inclement weather.

Your durable medical equipment company can supply a large tank that lasts for at least 24 hours. You can stock up on a supply of batteries for your portable oxygen device. And you’ll need a plan in case the power is out for more than 24 hours.

Local emergency management agencies or the fire department can help with additional resources in case of extended power outages. Make sure to register with them and find an appropriate shelter in your area, should you need one.

I need to make a note to myself that batteries do not last forever.


Note: COPD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of COPD News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.