• By Albert Depew

Tips for People Using Life Support Systems

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Secure Equipment

Secure any life support equipment to prevent damage from falling. If you use a chain to secure equipment, make sure it is a welded (not bent) chain.

Alternate Providers

Determine which facilities/providers would serve you in the event that your home system becomes inoperable or your provider is unable to provide you service.

Alternate Power

  • Discuss with your vendor alternative power sources that will provide you with support for up to five to seven days.
  • Could you use a generator? What type?
  • Could you use manually operated equipment?
  • Can your equipment be powered from a vehicle battery? If yes, obtain necessary hardware for the hook-up.

Obtain a Generator

  • Obtain a generator, if appropriate and feasible. To run generators in an emergency, fuel must be safely stored. Generators need to be operated in an open area to ensure good ventilation. A 2,000 to 2,500-watt gas-powered portable generator can power a refrigerator and several lamps. (A refrigerator needs to run only 15 minutes an hour to stay cool if you keep the door closed. So, you could unplug it to operate a microwave or other appliance.)
  • For 24-hour use over several days, a gasoline-powered generator is probably the preferred alternative power source. A generator does not take the same vigilance as storing batteries, although it still needs to be tested periodically to make sure it will be operable when needed. The challenge with generators comes when you live in an apartment and have to figure out how to store an adequate gasoline supply safely. Store a siphon kit if you need to obtain gasoline directly from a vehicle.
  • Some generators can be plugged into house wiring systems. It is important to first consult your utility company before you plug a generator into house wiring.

Oxygen Users

  • Check with your provider to determine whether a reduced flow rate may be used in the event of a disaster to prolong the fife of the system. Record on your equipment the reduced flow numbers so that you can easily refer to them.
  • Be keenly aware of oxygen safety; avoid areas where gas leaks or open flames may be present.
  • Post "Oxygen in Use" signs.
  • Keep the shut-off switch for oxygen equipment near you so you can get to it quickly in case of emergency.

Regular Test Backup

  • If your power backup system relies on storing batteries, be aware of the disadvantage. Stored batteries require periodic charging even when they are unused. So, if your survival strategy depends on storing batteries, a battery charging routine will have to be strictly followed.
  • Regularly check back-up or alternative power equipment to ensure it will function during an emergency.
  • Know the working duration of any batteries that support your system.
  • Discuss with your power company the type of back up power you plan to use; get their advice.

Utility Company Registry

  • Register with your local utility company(ies) if this service is available in your community. Many utility companies maintain a list and map of your location in the event of an emergency. Contact the customer service department for additional information.
  • In order to restore power as soon as possible to those who need it most when there are power outages, many power utility companies keep a list of names of people dependent on powered life support systems and tag their meters. In some instances, this list is prioritized by the time a person is able to tolerate being off a life support system. Information is given to local power stations. Registering for this service may also qualify you for a discount rate. NEVER COUNT ON YOUR POWER BEING QUICKLY RESTORED. Utility personnel may not be able to get to you after a major earthquake.

Personal Support Network

  • Inform your personal support network how to operate and safely move your equipment if necessary.
  • Label equipment, add instruction cards, laminate instruction cards for added durability, attach to equipment.