Seniors at risk during outages

Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed his famous “hierarchy of needs” theory in 1942. At the time, he saw food, water, sleep and shelter as the most basic of all human needs.

I would contend electricity has now become a basic human need.

Without electricity, it would be extremely difficult to lead our daily lives: We wouldn’t have power to light our homes, communicate by telephone, access our computers, get news updates from our TVs, power medical devices, get hot water and refrigerate our foods and medicines. The list goes on.

Since its invention, electricity use has dramatically changed daily life. Like air and water, we now take electricity for granted.

So much so that proposed Public Safety Power Shutoffs feel like a threat to our basic human needs. A PSPS is an operational practice that SCE has used to preemptively shut off power in high-fire-risk areas to reduce fire risk during extreme and potentially dangerous weather conditions.

As we’ve learned from the loss of lives during the Paradise fires, seniors—especially those who are homebound—are at major risk during fires.

If power shuts-offs can help mitigate the loss of life, it’s a solution worth using until other solutions can take hold. However, for seniors these power shut-offs take on significant implications.

Seniors and the disabled may have physical, medical or cognitive limitations. They’re the most at-risk population when power shut-offs occur because they rely heavily on devices powered by energy. This population is most likely to use home medical devices. They’re most likely to rely on communications from their home phone or television versus cellphones, laptop computers or tablets, which may have stored power.

They’re also most at risk for falls due to lack of lighting, heat-related illness when temperatures soar and food-borne illness from food lacking proper refrigeration.

And they may be unable to contact Dial-A-Ride for transportation to a safe location to seek respite.

A new hotline has been established to help the state’s most vulnerable during power shut-offs: (833) 284-3473. It will provide information and resources available during public safety power shut-offs.

This solution may be challenging for those who don’t have cellphones and are using their home phone to access the hotline. During a power outage their phone may not work.

As with most things, preparation works best.

Southern California Edison can provide customers with warnings of planned power outages starting 48 hours in advance. To sign up for SCE alerts go to I’ve signed up for alerts and it is a multistep process.

If you have not established an online account with SCE, you will be asked to create a username and password. You will then be expected to verify your account from the email address you supplied. And lastly, you will be sent a code to enter to complete your registration.

Because this sign-up takes so many steps, I’m concerned that many seniors will be unwilling or unable to establish this notification.

Ventura County Public Health has published a 10-step plan for preparing for a power outage at for-power-outage.

Recently, my car charger for my cellphone broke, so I made sure to get another in case we had a power outage and my phone was not charged. Being sure you have a car charger is one of the suggestions on the 10-step list.

Another step is to sign up for notifications about fire and earthquake activity at

None of us likes to be without power, as it is so vital to our everyday life, but for seniors, having power may be the difference between life and death. If you know a senior, or group of seniors, ask them if they have a power outage plan, and if they do not, help them establish one.


Categories: Elder HealthNumber of views: 1240

Tags: safety power outages

Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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