Power Outages

Maintaining Lung Health

A power outage is when the electrical power goes out. While there are several reasons for power outages, severe weather events like high winds, wildfires, and winter storms are common reasons for power outages. Planned grid outages may be used for maintenance purposes or as a safety precaution during wildfire season. During wildfire season, electric providers may turn off electricity in wildfire high risk areas during a severe weather event.  

While power outages can happen unexpectedly, preparation is key. A power outage could last a few hours to a few days, or longer. 

Prepare for a Power Outage

  • Stay informed. Update your contact information with your electricity provider to receive notifications during an emergency or when a planned grid outage is scheduled.
  • Gather an emergency preparedness kit. The kit should be stored in a location that is easy to access. Ready.gov has a full list of recommended supplies.  
  • Create a Lung Disease Travel Pack to ensure you have the medication and instructions in one place if you need to relocate. Consider adding to the travel pack:
    • Copies of your Asthma Action Plan or COPD Action Plan.
    • Medications and medical supplies you will need for at least three days.
    • Extra written prescription in case medication is lost or destroyed.
    • Insurance card, healthcare provider, and durable medical supplier contact information. 
  • Develop an emergency plan. Keep phone numbers of your support network nearby in case you need to evacuate. Create a plan for any pets or livestock. Share your plans with close family and friends and share with them any help you may anticipate needing.
  • Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. Test alarms monthly and replace batteries at least twice a year.  
  • 10 Tips to Prepare for a Natural Disaster

During a Power Outage

  • Notify your electric company about the power outage.
  • Exercise caution when using alternatives to electric power:
    • Heating: Use woodstoves, gas heating stoves, and fireplaces to heat your home, but only if they are vented properly to the outside. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Do NOT use a kitchen gas range, oven, portable camping stove, gasoline, or diesel- powered generator to heat your home. Burning gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal produces carbon monoxide and other air hazardous pollutants that quickly build up inside buildings. 
    • Cooking: Outdoors is the only safe place to use generators, grills, camp stoves or any gasoline or diesel-powered engines.
    • Watch for symptoms: Wheezing, shortness of breath, or difficulty taking a full breath, dizziness, nausea, confusion, disorientation are signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Leave the area and seek medical attention immediately.
  • Keep the gas tank full in your car for if you must evacuate.  Listen to your local or state officials and leave if you are advised to do so.

Durable Medical Equipment and Power Outages

  • Contact your local electric company, fire, and police departments and let them know you are using supplemental oxygen, a CPAP, or nebulizer for lung disease management. 
  • Register for a Special Needs Shelter or find out which community shelter can handle your medical needs for prolonged outages.
  • If you use supplemental oxygendiscuss with your healthcare provider and oxygen supply company your oxygen needs during a power outage. Do not reduce your oxygen flow rate to extend the life of your battery or oxygen supply without talking to your healthcare provider.  
  • Have extra batteries and car charger for your portable oxygen concentrator (POC). Talk to your oxygen supply company about a back-up emergency supply that does not require electricity such as oxygen tanks and cylinders. Make sure you know how to set up and use your back up emergency oxygen supply. Share this information with a friend or neighbor who lives nearby and can check on you during an emergency.
  • If you use a nebulizer or CPAP or BiPAP machine, check if you have battery powered back up or a car adaptor. Ask your healthcare provider if there is a similar medication that you can use during a power outage.
  • Consider purchasing a back-up power generator to provide emergency electricity during a power outage. 

  • Power Outage Safety | American Red Cross (Power Outage Safety Checklist downloadable in multiple languages)


Page last updated: August 10, 2021

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