Oxygen Emergency Tips for People with COPD

How to Keep Oxygen Flowing During a Power Outage

elderly woman testing oxygen levels
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For most people, power outages are merely inconvenient. But if you are oxygen-dependent via nasal cannula, non-invasive or mechanical ventilation due to COPD or another chronic illness, and you rely on electricity to power your oxygen supply, a power outage can actually be life-threatening.

To guard against that possibility, you should create an emergency response plan so that you'll be better prepared in case of an unexpected loss of power.

Here are some helpful oxygen emergency tips to guide you.

Preparing for a Possible Oxygen Emergency

Make sure your power company, the local authorities, and your oxygen supply company understand your situation. That way, if there's an emergency, you may get help sooner. Specifically, you should:

  • Inform your power company that you are oxygen-dependent. Many companies offer oxygen-dependent patients priority service or even a generator when their power goes out. Find out what steps you need to take to get this type of service, and then make arrangements for the service before a power outage threatens.
  • Collaborate with your oxygen supply company. Ask them to help you determine exactly how much oxygen you will need in case of an emergency power outage. This is particularly important if your home is hard to reach when roads are bad and delivery is impossible. Your oxygen supply company may even provide you with one or more compressed oxygen cylinders to keep on hand for use during an emergency. Make sure you ask them to label the cylinders so you know how many minutes of oxygen are available in each.
  • Contact your local police and fire departments to let them know that you are oxygen-dependent. If your own emergency plan fails, you may be able to use them as a backup power source.

Planning Ahead for Outages

Even if the power grid rarely fails in your area, you may want to consider taking some additional steps that could protect your health in the event of that unlikely power outage:

  • Talk to your doctor about reducing your oxygen flow rate during an emergency. This may help buy you some time and extend the life of your oxygen supply.
  • Consider installing your own emergency generator, especially if you live in a remote location. It may be a bit costly, but the safety and security it will provide is priceless.
  • Organize a support team whom you can call in case of an emergency. This may include friends, neighbors, co-workers, church members, or other people who live in close proximity to you who are willing to lend a hand.

Being prepared in case of an emergency is vital to COPD patients who must use supplemental oxygen. Learn more about oxygen therapy and recommended oxygen safety tips.


COPD International. Oxygen - Emergency Tips During Power Outages. http://www.copd-international.com/Library/oxygen_emergency_tips.htm.

Kailes, June Isaacson. Emergency Safety Tips for People Who Use Electricity and Battery-Dependent Devices. 2006. Published and distributed by the Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center and June Isaacson Kailes, Disability Policy Consultant.

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