Texas is officially in tornado season and severe spring weather can mean temporary or long-term power outages for Houston residents. Home caregivers and their loved ones are especially vulnerable to the inconveniences of losing power from damage caused by high winds or fallen trees. Here are some tips that you can use to make sure you’re prepared in the event of an outage.
- Have a cooler nearby. If your power is out for an extended period of time, food in the refrigerator and freezer may become unsafe to eat. If your power goes out, pack a cooler with ice and fill it with perishables such as dairy products and meat. You don’t need an expensive cooler; a basic Styrofoam model will work fine.
- Stock up on water beforehand. It’s good to always have a supply of bottled water on hand for emergency situations such as power outages, especially if you’re water system or residential well relies on electricity for pumping. A general rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day; having three gallons per person on hand means having a three-day supply.
- Stock up on food. Keep plenty of non-perishable items in the house, especially items that do not require cooking or baking.
- Keep plenty of flashlights and spare batteries on hand. Lighting is so important for those with limited vision and keeping a supply of battery-operated lights on hand is essential. Many outdoor supply stores offer a wide variety of table top lighting options.
- Consider purchasing a back-up generator. Home caregivers with patients who require treatments that depend upon electricity should consider purchasing a back-up generator; consult with a doctor to see whether this is an item you need.
- Talk to the power company beforehand. A recent article in Clinical Geriatrics lists three important steps that home caregivers should take in advance of a power outage. Talking to the power company and seeing if it has a system for registering special needs customers is crucial. This lets the company know that it should give special priority to your household in terms of restoring power as quickly as possible. Gaining such status usually involves completing some paperwork and getting a doctor’s signature.
- Look into “211.” Another hint from Clinical Geriatrics: many areas have a 211 number that’s similar to the emergency 911, but is geared toward providing information about important community services. Before an emergency, contact 2-1-1 Texas/United Way Helpline for information about emergency-related services it offers in Houston; you may also fine some non-emergency services that can benefit you or your loved one.
- Investigate a health department registration. The third suggestion from Clinical Geriatrics is to contact your local health department to see whether it has a special needs or vulnerable needs registration system. Such systems alert the health department that registered individuals may need special assistance in the event of an emergency; this practice may not apply during short power outages, but check to see under what circumstances assistance may be available for your loved one.
Extended power outages are challenging and inconvenient. Planning ahead and having a strategy is key for home caregivers.