Winter Storms & Home Oxygen

Winter is well on its way and that means winter storms are too! For many of us, being storm ready consists of having extra water and food on hand, gassing up our snowblowers and ensuring we have batteries and a flashlight in case of a power outage. For home oxygen users who rely on oxygen as a lifeline, impending storms can sometimes feel a little daunting.

Karen Hamilton McNutt RRT and Medical Services Manager with Family 1st Medical for over 25 years says,

“If you are properly prepared and know what to expect you can feel confident about dealing with storm situations.”

In an effort to provide peace of mind and help clients properly prepare she answers some of the most common questions and concerns that arise when a winter storm is headed our way.

How does Family 1st Medical help to protect its home oxygen clients in the event of a winter power outage?

KHM: Each of our home oxygen clients is provided with an emergency backup system based on their oxygen requirements, location and individual situation. Most clients have 8 to 14 hours of emergency oxygen.

What preparations are made at Family 1st Medical when storms and outages are in the forecast?

KHM: Family 1st has a 24-hour, 7 days a week oxygen equipment support line and providing this service during a winter storm is no exception. When we know a storm is on its way, we prepare additional teams of on-call staff throughout the province who are able to answer calls or deliver backup oxygen cylinders. Personally, I take on a coordination role, fielding incoming calls from clients as well as staff who are on the road making deliveries of replacement backup cylinders.

How can home oxygen users prepare for a winter storm or power outage?

KHM: The best thing they can do is ensure their emergency backup cylinder is easily accessible; they should have a flashlight handy as well. We also encourage clients to keep us informed about their power situation: although we monitor Nova Scotia Power outage reports during storms, we still depend on clients to notify us as soon as their power goes out. Of course, we also recommend having a family member, neighbour, or friend check in with them in storm situations.

In addition, many people don’t realize that when the power goes out their oxygen concentrator can be plugged into an outlet that is being powered by a backup generator. If you need help setting up your generator outside or running it, it’s a good idea to identify someone who can assist you before a storm arrives.  If you don’t have a generator yourself but your neighbour or family member does, consider making a plan to go stay with them if a disruption in power occurs.

What additional words of advice would you give to a home oxygen client who is anxious about impending winter storms?

KHM: If you need to call us, please don’t hesitate. Nova Scotian’s are very polite and often don’t want to call us during the overnight hours. But with home oxygen, time is of the essence. I would much rather somebody call at 2:00am letting me know they’ve lost power and that they’re using their back-up oxygen cylinder, than a panicked call the next morning telling me they’ve been using their back-up all night and it’s almost empty.

For more information about Family 1st Medical’s home oxygen services, please call us at 1-800-565-2021. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have.