This recent tragedy at the assisted living centre in L’Isle-Verte, Que re-opened an old concern of mine and one I have raised often. In fact I raised this with the Cowichan Valley Emergency Preparedness Committee in the late 90’s following an extreme storm and major power outage (some places for four days) on Vancouver Island. Those power outages were not uncommon on many of the smaller islands. I raised it again with the Alberta Ministry of Municipal Affairs Emergency Preparedness group following the massive fires in Slave Lake. And I raised it directly with the Minister responsible for Municipal Affairs following the Calgary floods.
I thought my concern was pretty straight forward and didn’t need a lot of explanation. I thought wrong! My concern, were the various emergency preparedness organizations aware of individuals with disabilities using life sustaining equipment at home? Equipment dependent on electricity like power wheelchairs, lift systems including stair lifts, breathing apparatuses (like night time ventilators), home dialysis machines (yes there are such things), etc. There are many people living very independently with the assistance of equipment. You lose your power you lose the use of the equipment.
Much of this equipment has back-up power capabilities but it is time limited. I have a good friend in Mill Bay who needs to use a respirator to sleep. He is what they refer to as a gulp breather and when he is laying down he needs the assistance of a respirator. His equipment has a six hour back-up battery so if the power goes out in the middle of the night the alarm goes off to wake him and he can use his lift system to get sitting back up. His lift system is ceiling track and the battery will hold a charge for up to 24 hours dependant on how much usage.
In some of the more remote areas of our country (and that doesn’t necessarily translate into far north) there are numerous life extending events that go on in ones home. Home dialysis comes to mind but some paediatric cardiac equipment also jumps out at me. The amount of individuals with COPD concerns are also using oxygen at home which is something I think any first response rescuers should be aware of. If I’m going to ask a bunch of volunteer fire fighters to head into a burning building, knowing there was a tank of compressed oxygen on the premise would be a good thing to know.
During the floods in Calgary many people were without power for days. Longer than any battery life that I am aware of. This scooter was in an underground parking lot of a seniors high-rise and it will never be usable again. Slave Lake was without power for days leaving anyone needing power for their equipment cut off. It was after the Slave Lake fire that I contacted the provincial emergency preparedness office to see how issues like this were treated.
I received the same type of response that I had received ten years earlier from their BC equivalent. I was told that due to “confidentiality” this information couldn’t be collected. I find that answer to be very weak and the whole protection of privacy an excuse for government to ignore some of the most vulnerable members of the community. They not only jeopardize the vulnerable, they put many of our first responders at risk. As I mentioned earlier a container of compressed oxygen should be something those first responders should be aware of.
It strikes me as odd that I can type “oxygen supply house, Calgary” into my Google search bar and be bombarded later by related ads for the Calgary area. And yet governments don’t want to create vulnerable people registries for emergency respond purposes. It’s not even information that is hard to retrieve. It is not like you are heading down to the corner Mac’s to get your equipment. Every medical and oxygen supply house has a database of their customers. This would not be hard to coordinate but so far I am aware of no one stepping forward to tackle this problem.
As these natural disasters seem to be happening with greater frequency maybe it is time some forward thinking non-profit stepped forward with a revenue generating program. You know a “here’s a market, here’s a service” type of thing.
Of course government goes on about protecting the information rights of the individual while ignoring the safety factor. And yet when, say, the Children’s Hospital Foundation wants a poster child for their annual $100 a ticket new home raffle, confidentiality goes out the window. As a side note have you ever noticed that none of these raffled million dollar homes are ever wheelchair accessible. To me that really muddies the water around the whole “understanding” issue.
So with this said, does it ring a chord with you? Do you feel your protection or the protection of your loved ones is better served by NOT having the need for power to their residence identified? If this is an issue that concerns you contact your political representative on every level. Start making your voice heard!
Just one man’s opinion!