Washington, D.C. Emergency planners are struggling to identify growing millions who need fast rescue when the lights go out: A power outage also shuts down their life-supporting home medical equipment.
It’s an issue that sneaked up on emergency officials as better medical treatments over the past decade have helped more critically ill people not only survive but also move out of nursing homes.
The Associated Press found that where these people live determines how invisible they are to rescuers, starting with whether they even know to sign up for critical-care lists operated by utilities in every state.
An AP survey found huge state-to-state variations in utilities’ “medical priority lists” designed to track who depends on power for life, suggesting only a fraction of patients know they’re available. Illinois’ biggest utilities together report 10,000 patients on critical-care lists, for example. Neighboring Indiana’s biggest list carries just 2,000 names.
Even if patients did sign up, the lists may offer false hope. In large outages, companies don’t have the ability to restore power to one home before another down the street.