Winter storms throughout the central and eastern United States, from Texas through New England, have produced widespread power outages in several different areas. As of the morning of February 3, Texas recorded power outages to nearly 50,000 customers across over a dozen counties. Many of these outages have persisted throughout the day as temperatures hover around freezing.
People who use electricity-dependent durable medical equipment (DMEs), including wheelchairs, ventilators, insulin pumps, and other equipment, are at particular risk from power outages of varying durations. Devices which require continuous power may not be available, nor backed up to generators. Devices that require charging may become unavailable over time depending on the length of the outage.
Using data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s emPower program, which tracks durable medical equipment with power requirements for Medicare beneficiaries, and PowerOutages.us, which tracks outages at the county and city levels in real-time, the CrisisReady analytics team has identified six counties in Texas with relatively high numbers of electricity-dependent DME users which have been particularly affected by power outages.
Lamar, Delta and Fannin Counties in particular, along with the neighboring Hunt County, are part of a cluster of significant outages in northeastern Texas. In Lamar County in particular, with a population of just under 50,000 people, almost 2% of the entire population uses power-dependent medical devices. People in these areas are at higher risk for health complications during outage events.
Direct Relief and other members and supporters of the health care safety net will continue to monitor the exposure of medically vulnerable people to power outages throughout the ongoing winter storms.
This post was originally published on Direct Relief.