Does Someone in Your Home Use a Ventilator? Three Ways to Prepare for Power Outages

If someone in your home needs a ventilator, you may have concerns about how to keep this lifesaving equipment running during a power outage. It’s wise to plan ahead for interruptions in your power service. Follow the three tips below to ensure that your loved one has continuous respiratory support.

  1. Pay Attention to the Instructions

Nearly every ventilator has some type of built-in system to keep the equipment running in the event of a power outage. When your ventilator is delivered to your home, the home medical equipment supplier will teach you how your particular system works. The respiratory therapist will show you how the auxiliary power works, too, so you know how to cope with alternative power sources when necessary.

Listen carefully to the instructions given about the power supply and the ventilator used in your home. If there are several batteries included in the ventilator, know which one is the primary battery and which is the backup battery. Learn how to manage for trips outside of the home.

You should understand how to install and remove batteries correctly and how the warning lights and alarms work, so you know which battery is powering the system. Lights and alarms also let you know when the batteries are close to losing power. Ask all of the questions you need to ask in order to feel confident in working with the batteries.

Take the time to study the manuals and other literature that came with your ventilator. The contact number of your medical equipment supplier will be on the literature. Don’t hesitate to call when you need help with the batteries or there’s an emergency.

  1. Set Up the Ventilator to Be Safe

Your ventilator should be set up in a place that is shaded from the sun. It should also be as close to the electrical outlet as possible to avoid the cord being accidentally pulled from the wall. No other appliances or devices should be plugged into that outlet. There should also be an easy route from the patient and ventilator to the closest exit door in case of emergency.

Don’t store backup batteries close to the ventilator. Keep them in a cool, dry place that is easy to access. Keep enough chargers for the number of batteries you own. If you have one battery for the wheelchair and two for the ventilator, have three chargers to keep all three batteries at full capacity.

You need to know exactly how long the batteries will last when the power goes out. Batteries can power a ventilator for as short a period as a half an hour to as long a stretch as nine hours on one charge. A lot of factors determine how long the battery lasts. If the patient is struggling against the ventilator or the ventilator is delivering more frequent breaths per minute, the battery will be drained sooner.

Your respiratory therapist or equipment tech will give you a general idea of how long the batteries will last for excursions and power interruptions. The best way to check the running time you have available is to test the backup batteries yourself. Once you know how to use the backup batteries, run the ventilator off of the batteries alone and time how long they last before they lose power.

When you know how long the batteries last, you know how long you can spend unplugged in the event of a power outage. This helps you plan for outings, doctors’ visits and in-home patient transport, too.

  1. Understand Your Alternate Power Options

Many medical equipment suppliers provide you with battery backup capable of getting you through most short-term power outages. If you’re involved in a natural disaster and help can’t get to you immediately, you can use several other methods to keep your loved one supplied with breaths.

You can power your ventilator off of a deep-cycle 12-volt marine battery for a few hours of run time. However, you need to know how to clamp the DC cables properly. Marine batteries also lose power all at once with no warning, so you must be ready with another power source when that happens.

Your car’s 12-volt battery can also power the ventilator if you have the proper inverter and enough gas in the car. If you plan to use this method, the car must be running a good distance away from the home or ventilator. To get a few hours from the battery, your tank must be at least half full of gas. Also make sure your vehicle is NOT in an enclosed garage.

Backup generators are another option to provide power to the ventilator. You should not wait until a power outage to take the generator out of the box. Run the generator and practice setting it up and using it. See how long it will power the ventilator when the ventilator is unplugged, and make sure you have a secured source of fuel to keep the generator going.

Your medical equipment supplier may have other items available to help you keep the ventilator going in emergencies. Ask about items like surge suppressors, backup ventilators and additional equipment to prepare for electrical storms and other power losses.

In a future blog article, we can discuss other items that may need to be considered, including at what point you should consider transporting your patient or family member because other essential items may not be operational for long, such as refrigeration for medications or the heating or cooling (air conditioning) systems. Other medical equipment such as a suction machine, monitoring devices, electric bed, a feeding pump or oxygen equipment, will all need back up power or batteries as well.

The experienced staff at Corner Home Medical are always happy to give you tips and tutorials on emergency procedures during power losses. Call us today to learn more about the ventilators and in-home ventilation support we offer.