Emergency Planning for Home Dialyzors
Nearly every day, it seems as if some part of the U.S. is having an emergency – an event that requires help or relief, often due to something unexpected. Safe dialysis treatment requires power, water, equipment and supplies, at the very least. Any of these can be interrupted by a local or regional emergency. It is vital that you be prepared.
Emergencies largely fall into 2 main groups:
Natural disasters – such as earthquakes or mudslides; snow, ice, or rain storms; tornados, hurricanes, floods.
Man-made disasters – such as fire, a burst dam, an act of terrorism or workplace violence, an outbreak of disease, an airplane crash, biological warfare.
We purchased the generator from a friend of ours, with a backup plan in case of emergency. You don’t know when an emergency is going to strike, but what I did know that if one took place, I would need access to dialysis. Due to limited resources, all of our neighbors evacuated, and we did not see some of them return for over a week. We were the only ones who stood at our house while the tree and power company worked together to restore the electricity. I think about it now and it was a process and kind of risky, but it was certainly better than trying to get to a dialysis unit that was probably not functioning very well due to all the snow on the ground.
I am a home hemodialysis patient. One year we had three snowstorms in a row and lost power because two trees down the block fell over and knocked down the power lines. Even being on the priority list for restoration, the power company would not touch the lines until the trees had been removed by a contracted tree company. The whole process took about 5 days, and it was very cold with no electricity. We were fortunate to have a generator, a gas fire place, gas hot water, and a gas stove. The generator had just enough power for my dialysis machine (while I did a treatment), a refrigerator and a couple of lights. Luckily, I was able to dialyze 4 out of the 5 days without any complications.
If you are prepared, you can handle emergencies that come your way. I was very proud to be self-sufficient during a time of emergency and encourage more dialysis patients to be proactive in planning for the unexpected.
You may need to be self-sufficient in an emergency. Possible barriers could include closed roads, no power or water, and limited or no communication. The disruption could last for days. Talk with your dialysis staff about your clinic’s plan for emergencies.
One key part in your personal emergency plan is communication. Keep your clinic informed of your current phone number, street address, and emergency contact phone numbers. If you have to evacuate during an emergency, let your clinic know your temporary location. If at all possible, take your dialysis machine/supplies with you (at least for a couple of days) when you evacuate. As soon as you are able, contact your clinic to let them know you are safe, and if you have any unmet needs.
Here are some additional tips for patients who perform home dialysis:
Contact your water and power companies to register for special priority to restore lost services. Keep their phone numbers up-to-date and in your emergency kit.
Keep a flashlight and batteries near your dialysis machine.
Contact your local dialysis facility about back-up treatment locations both near to and far from your home.
Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD):
Keep the battery charged at all times if you use an ultraviolet device. [NOTE: The charge should last for 3 days].
As directed by your dialysis team, keep a 5-7 day supply of PD supplies at home. Check expiration dates and replace as needed, or every 6 months.
Continuous Cycling Peritoneal Dialysis (CCPD):
Learn and practice manual CAPD, so if you lose power, you can switch from CCPD to manual CAPD.
As directed by your dialysis team, keep a 5-7 day supply of CCPD (and CAPD if you have learned to do manual CAPD) supplies available. Check the expiration dates, and replace as needed.
Contact your water and power companies ahead of time to register for special priority to restore your lost services. Keep their phone numbers up to date with your emergency contact information in your emergency kit.
The Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) Coalition, formed in 2006, helps kidney patients to prepare for response to and recovery from disasters. A couple of resources on the KCER Coalition website can help you to know what things to have on hand when sheltering at home, and about your emergency diet to limit your food and fluid intake. Visit this web page for an Emergency Preparedness Checklist and Tips, and Preparing for Emergencies: A Guide for People on Dialysis. https://www.kcercoalition.com/en/resources/patient-resources/emergency-preparedness/
We cannot always prevent a disaster, but when we plan ahead and are ready, we can help reduce the danger.