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Making Arrangements for Power Burnouts What Should a Caregiver Do by Charles Watson


Posted on June 14, 2021

For persons with disabilities, emergency preparedness in case of power outages is vital. Without power, due to factors such as rolling brownouts or blackouts, natural disasters, or accidents leading to power failure, life for the elderly or those caring for people with brain injury or disabilities can be crippled. For example, wheelchair batteries cannot be charged, assistive devices that work on electrical power cannot operate, and life-sustaining equipment such as respirators and ventilators cannot function. 

Creating a personal emergency preparedness plan – Caregiver guidelines: 

Emergency preparedness involves steps such as knowing the risks, making a plan, and getting an emergency kit.

First and foremost, an emergency plan must include assessing a caregiver's capabilities, limitations, and needs during an emergency. An emergency contact list, emergency service contacts at power companies, and medical information must also be included in the kit.

Furthermore, caregivers must have a floorplan of the TBI patient's home to identify emergency supply kits (food, blankets, water, non-perishables, etc.), spare batteries, gas valves, and other essential equipment. 

During a power breakdown, emergency response experts typically recommend that caregivers' of people with disabilities due to TBI, ABI, or stroke must have

  • A backup telephone that does not work on electricity
  • Phone numbers of emergency response organizations such as 911, fire and police departments, hospitals, etc. in a convenient location
  • A battery-operated radio available with a supply of batteries to access information in case of an emergency
  • An alternate backup plan to assure continuity of power to operate critical assistive technology. 
  • A support network contact who is unlikely to be affected by the same emergency. 

For people using battery-powered breathing or mobility equipment, ensure the batteries are always fully charged. Turn off electronic devices that were on before the outage, and extra blankets or warm clothing must be easily reachable. Leave a light on to know when power is restored. 

A caregiver must have a personal support network- a group of people that can be trusted to help during an emergency. Neighbors or family members and friends, who live nearby can help. Keep these support people informed about where the emergency kit is kept, a key to the home, and how the special needs equipment works. 

Basic Emergency Kit Checklist:

A caregiver should have an emergency kit ready so that the brain-injured victim does not panic and get anxious. An emergency kit should contain supplies for 72 hours and include basic supplies in case evacuation is required.

 It should include:

  • Food: Non-perishables, canned and dried foods, energy bars, food supply appropriate to your dietary restrictions
  • Water: At least 2 liters per person, in small bottles 
  • Medications: All prescription medicines and special needs (for people with diabetes: syringe, testing kit) duly labeled.
  • Flashlight: Battery-operated or Wind-up (and extra batteries)
  • Manual can opener
  • First Aid kit
  • Additional house and car keys
  • Cash in small bills ($10) and change for payphones
  • Special needs items or equipment: Hearing aids, mobility devices, and vision and speech defect devices.  
  • Essential tools: hammer, pliers, work gloves, dust mask, screwdrivers, pocket knife, etc., must be included.
  • A whistle or personal alarm
  • Duct tape
  • Writing material: Keep a pen and paper handy for communication. Label your assistive devices like wheelchairs and equipment in large print or Braille with your name, contact numbers, and address. 

A caregiver should have a personal assessment and checklist ready to be able to handle an emergency effectively. It can include a detailed list of what the TBI or ABI victim can and cannot do independently, specific needs help, important personal information such as names and purpose of each prescription medicine, and personal support contact numbers (neighbors, family members, attendants, etc.) 

Power burnouts can cause havoc, especially if you have a brain injury patient at home. However, being savvy and prepared about what to do during a brownout or a burnout can protect you and your loved ones until the power is restored.