Life threatening loss of power
KITTERY, Maine — During a terrible storm, power outages can become a nuisance for many. But for some, losing power can mean the difference between breathing or not.
By Jesse Scardina
NH_Portsmouth_Herald KITTERY, Maine — During a terrible storm, power outages can become a nuisance for many. But for some, losing power can mean the difference between breathing or not.
Kittery Fire Chief Dave O’Brien, with help from the Kittery Police Department and the town’s emergency medical services is hoping to identify and offer help for those residents vulnerable during power outages or extended periods of treacherous weather.
O’Brien created a form residents can voluntarily fill out if they would like to receive a welfare call from a member of the town’s emergency personnel if there’s an impending storm to make sure they are OK, and, if there is a significant power outage, have the opportunity to be checked on by emergency personnel and be transported to the fire station, which would act as a temporary shelter equipped with backup generators.
The idea for the Inclement Weather Special Needs form was spurred from a conversation O’Brien had with longtime Kittery residents Curtis Chapman and his wife Betty, who are worried for their well-being and those in a similar position to theirs during extended power outages.
“We have three neighbors here, all over 80 years old,” Curtis Chapman said from the living room of his home on Page Street. “These elderly people are very concerned that if they lose their power they lose their heat. Where do you go? What do you do? There’s a concern.”
After speaking with the Chapmans, O’Brien agreed that something like this needed to be implemented.
“We talked about this idea and I told them that we’d get it done because it really needed to be done,” O’Brien said. “We have several people in our community that are on some sort of electric requirement, whether its oxygen, or some other need where they require electricity.”
O’Brien addressed the Town Council in late September about the implementation of this service, which garnered positive comments from the board.
O’Brien stressed that no one is obligated to sign up for the service, but it could be helpful for those in times of need.
“I’m not mandating anyone fill it out,” he said. “But if you’re interested in filling it out, it’s a simple form and it gives us enough information so that if there are people we need to check on, we can check on. If we get 10 people, that’s wonderful. If we get 60, that’s wonderful. If it becomes more than that, it becomes difficult, but we’ll do it.”
The form, which can be found at the fire department’s website or as hard copies at Town Hall, asks for the typical identifiers, like name, gender, telephone number and street address. It also asks for an emergency contact, a primary care physician’s name, and any medical conditions that may be useful for emergency personnel to know, such as a nebulizer, oxygen, Alzheimer’s disease or autism.
Despite some people’s unwillingness to voluntarily give up personal information, it’s something the Chapmans, who have signed up for the service, feel is better to do too early rather than too late.
“Many people today when they lose power they lose their phones too, so you can’t contact someone,” said the 89-year-old Curtis. “So you should make this information available to those who need it before you lose power.”
“You can’t be proud,” added Betty, who is also 89. “You have to be honest about the whole thing.”
Betty needs oxygen, and the couple, who’ve been married since 1947, have an electric generator accompanying them in the living room. In the other room there’s a backup oxygen generator that is battery powered, and lasts about three hours, Curtis said.
“We also have an ‘Oh My God’ tank in the back room,” he said, adding he also has an automatic generator to take care of keeping the heat on during power outages. “We try to take care of ourselves. We’re more concerned about the others who can’t.”
O’Brien said only a small number of signees have trickled in for the service, but he expects more as winter approaches.
“This just gives us a way to know who these people are that we really need to help,” he said.