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Spring storms, power failures and the facility generator

April 11, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
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When I moved here, I did not know what would happen if the power went out. If anything I probably thought like a hospital, the facility's generator would take over and we residents would not know the difference. However, during that first spring storm's power outage, I found out that was not the case. I was surprised that the generator did not light one light in my room or bathroom. I had to head for the hallway in order to see.

The hallways and nurses' stations were adequately lit by the generator which powered every other ceiling light. The kitchen had sparse light and a gas range was available when the power was out. The dining rooms were lit sporadically and there was no light at all in the shower rooms. There were three generator plugs on each unit where necessary medical equipment could be powered.

The aides had a tougher job taking care of us in very little or no light. For reasons unknown, there were few batteries, flashlights, and no battery operated lanterns available for use during a power outage. The aides had to be frustrated. I have a manual crank for my power bed which I offered to other residents. However, I seldom had any takers. The residents must end up sleeping in whatever position their beds happen to be in.

Today our residents have air beds, oxygen concentrators, infusion IV pumps, nebulizers, and other equipment that they need to use even when the power is out. It is quite difficult to move residents to the generator plugs so their air beds will work. For many it is impossible and extension cords have to be plugged into the hallway generator plugs so that power can be brought to their rooms.

If the power goes out at night, younger residents or those who are bedfast complain that there is nothing for them to do in their rooms. The facility could make battery-operated radios available. But there are not many of those. During a daytime power outage, when the sun's light illuminates the building, it is much easier to maneuver in our rooms. However, opening the draperies during the day does not allow the residents much privacy.

The facility generator is probably what is required by the regulations, yet I do not think that the generator is adequate. It would not heat or cool this facility if a power outage were prolonged. In February 2007, we had a bad snowstorm and power outage. The power company said that it might be four to five days before the power would be back on. The facility leased a generator for a few days and it provided total power to the building. We were very grateful that we had it since it was very cold, then we heard rumors that the facility might purchase a larger generator. But that did not happen.

Since we are on the brink of spring and summer storms, we hope the power will not be out too often or for very long.

Kathleen Mears



Kathleen Mears is a long-time blogger who has been a nursing home resident for 21 years. She is...