When your health is dependent on being plugged in

For some, power outages are just an inconvenience, but for others who rely on medical equipment that must be plugged in, they can be a matter of life and death.

The only way to ensure continuous power for your dialysis machine, ventillator, or sleep apnea machine is to get a backup generator. In doing so, you'll ensure continuity of power to your medical devices regardless of the outage state of your home.

Most medical equipment can be broken down into the following four categories: treatment, respiratory, infant care, and telehealth.

Treatment equipment

Infusion pumps, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation systems (TENS), and dialysis machines all fall into the treatment equipment category.

Infusions pumps are used to deliver fluids and medications in controlled amounts into the patient’s body [1]. Infusion pumps are used in many hospitals, nursing homes, and in the home to give patients a specialized amount of medications such as antibiotics, pain relievers, insulin, and other treatments. These machines need to be plugged in to operate. To avoid having a situation where you need to deliver medication but are unable to in an outage, you need backup generators.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation systems (TENS) is a device that produces electrical currents to stimulate nerves intended to reduce pain [2]. This device is helpful for people with chronic pain. Some are battery powered, but if yours is not, you may want to consider a backup generator to ensure you can still use a TENS in a power outage.

Dialysis machines, at centers and for home use, are used to help patients with removing excess water and toxins from their blood. This is needed when patients’ kidneys are not able to accomplish these functions on their own. Dialysis machines are normally used on patients who are rapidly losing their kidney function and is often used while awaiting a kidney transplant. Dialysis machines can create a lot of harm if a power outage occurs. Most treatments are for 3 to 4 hours at a time. If during an outage, a dialysis machine stops, you have to blood pump by hand to prevent blood clotting [3]. Then you must finish treatment later when the power comes on. You shouldn’t go too long without treatment because your kidney needs to be flushed out. Being on dialysis already makes you more vulnerable and going without treatment can be a real threat to your health. If you are using an at home dialysis machine, it is important to have a backup generator to ensure you can continue treatment during a power outage.

Respiratory equipment

Respiratory equipment like ventilators, oxygen concentrators, and cough assist machines are important for breathing and healthy functioning. Ventilators are machines that are used to move breathable air in and out of the lungs. Oxygen concentrators help deliver oxygen to patients who have low levels of oxygen in their blood. Oxygen concentrators are different from oxygen tanks. A tank has a set amount of oxygen, while a concentrator filters the air, compresses it, and produces air that is continuous. Cough assist machines helps clear mucus from the lungs. These machines are mostly used by patients with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. This disease gives patients breathing difficulties [4]. If you use any of these machines you may want to consider a backup generator to ensure you can get the air you need, whether or not there is a power outage or scheduled power maintenance in your area.

Infant care

Sometimes infants are born prematurely or not 100% healthy and they need help and care grow healthy and strong. Some of the machines that assist in helping are incubators, radiant warmers, bilirubin lights, and apnea monitors. Incubators help with infants that are born prematurely, creating an environment that will help these babies survive outside of the womb [5]. Incubators also protect the infants from harsh temperatures, infections, and allergens until they are fully developed. Since most incubators are within a hospital setting, in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the baby will be protected. Hospitals have powerful backup generators that will kick in as soon as an outage occurs.

Radiant warmers are used to help newborn babies maintain their body temperatures. Bilirubin lights are a form of light therapy that help newborns with jaundice. Jaundice gives a yellow coloring to the skin and eyes. Apnea monitors help prevent SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome). These monitors track the baby’s breathing and heart rate, and an alarm will go off if the breathing stops briefly or the heart rate becomes unusually slow.

If you have any of these devices at home, you may want to look into a backup or portable generator to ensure there isn't a break in care for the ones that rely on you the most.

Tele-health equipment

Telehealth or telemedicine gives the opportunity for medical help to be available to everyone, no matter where you are. This is especially advantageous to people who live in remote areas where driving to the doctor would take hours. Telehealth equipment consists of cameras, sensors, data collection computers, and telephone or internet connections. These things are needed for a doctor or practitioner to provide health diagnoses accurately even from a remote site.

All of this medical equipment is important for people to stay healthy, especially during a power outage or natural disaster. This is why it’s important that hospitals have backup generators, but this is also vital for patients that need these types of equipment at home. Learn more and explore your backup generator options at

  1. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA): Infusion Pumps
  2. TENS Units: What is a Tens Unit?
  3. Life Options Rehabilitation Program: Kidney Q&A
  4. UW Health: Cough Assist Machine
  5. Very Well Family: How an Incubator Works in the Neonatal ICU, updated June 20, 2018

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