- Written by Lynne Feldman, Director of Community Services, LifePath
- Published: 07 November 2019
A powerful Nor’easter tore through New England on the evening of Wednesday, October 16, 2019, creating power outages for many in our area. At LifePath, staff and volunteers came in on Thursday, October 17, with stories of clearing fallen limbs from driveways and being detoured many miles as some roads were impassable due to fallen trees and power lines. By mid-afternoon, the local power companies were providing estimates of power returning as late as 11 p.m. Saturday evening for some residents, still more than two full days away. At that point, we initiated our emergency plans and began to try to identify those people who were more at risk due to the potentially extended power outage.
LifePath serves over 4,000 individuals each year through many different programs. Some of the people we serve do not have many other people they can rely on for help. For example, 36% of people who receive Meals on Wheels live alone with no one else to check on them. It’s these people that we turn our attention to when the power goes out.
The greatest risk of power outages is experienced by people who:
- Use oxygen or other medical equipment which requires electricity to recharge the unit batteries
- Rely on microwaves or electric stoves for meals, don’t have pantry food on hand, and can’t get to a location where meals are served
- Use medication that needs to be kept refrigerated
- Use electricity to heat their homes and can’t get to a warm location, if temperatures are expected to be cold
Thursday afternoon, LifePath staff began to pull together lists of people who, because they met the criteria above, needed a wellness check. Those people were called by staff or visited by Meals on Wheels drivers to ask if they were OK. If someone needed help, we problem-solved to provide the needed assistance. In a few cases, we worked with the providers of oxygen equipment to make sure they were able to get to the people who needed backup battery supplies. We also sent extra shelf-stable meals out with the Meals on Wheels volunteer drivers who were delivering that day to the areas affected by the power outage. The shelf-stable meals, such as a tuna fish sandwich meal, come in a package with a drink and a fruit or vegetable. After power had been restored for most people over the weekend, we heard that some really welcomed the shelf-stable meals. One person said, "It was very much appreciated."
We also responded to community requests for help. For example, in response to a call from a local fire chief, LifePath staff coordinated a short-term stay at a local nursing facility for a person with a disability who needed an accessible accommodation.
If someone needed help, we problem-solved to provide the needed assistance.
“For us, the most important part is making sure that everyone is safe, especially people for whom electricity is a life-sustaining necessity. Our dedicated staff contact those we serve who are isolated, with limited or no family or neighbor support, and have the greatest medical needs,” said Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director of LifePath. “We drop everything in emergency situations like this to help those who are most at risk. This is truly a collaborative effort with first responders, emergency town managers, hospitals and nursing facilities all working together to ensure the well-being of the community.”