Experts offer advice on preparing for planned power outages for elderly, disabled

Denise Dador Image
Monday, October 28, 2019
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The elderly, sick and disabled could be more than just inconvenienced during a power outage. Their lives could be in danger.

Planned power outages to prevent more wildfires could affect up to a million Californians.

Residents worry about spoiling food, lack of Wi-Fi and no air conditioning, but those who are elderly, sick and disabled could be more than just inconvenienced. Their lives could be in danger.

People who are vulnerable need to be prepared.

During the 2017 Creek Fire, Gail Thackray remembers seeing power lines arc before flames destroyed her Lake View Terrace ranch.

"We were running for our life during the fire. This thing was just spewing electricity," she said.

While emergency power outages may be a nuisance, "we understand why they're doing this," Thackray said.

When the electricity shuts off, she has to be prepared. The elderly clients at her La Canada senior boarding home, Three Sycamores, depend on her.

"They'll have oxygen or other equipment that needs continual 24 hours of electricity," Thackray said. "If you've got a bed that's got a lift, what's going to happen if that electricity goes out?"

Motorized wheelchairs, at-home dialysis units and refrigeration for life-saving medicines such as insulin all need power.

At Flintridge Pharmacy, staffers are prepared to bring their hundreds of vials of flu vaccines, insulin and other prescription medications to off-site refrigerators. Flu shots can stay at room temperature for up to 24 hours, insulin can stay out for four weeks.

"Meaning like at 70 degrees, not with the weather we are having now in the 90s," Michael Stempfel with Flintridge Pharmacy said.

"We probably have 10 times the amount of refrigerated items in our refrigerators right now compared to other times of the year," Stempfel said.

At Thackray's senior care home, she's prepared for the worst.

"We've got a backup generator," she said.

But what do you do if you don't have a generator?

Experts say to have a plan. Make sure all your batteries are charged.

"Do this now before the electricity turns off," Thackray said. "Realize that your elderly parents are not as agile. They're going to be more confused. So just have everything set up for them so it's as easy as possible."