Half Moon Bay neighbors support the medically vulnerable during power shutoffs


Tom Devine attaches a backup battery to his CPAP device

Tom Devine, a Half Moon Bay resident impacted by latest power shutoffs, demonstrates how he can connect a backup battery to his CPAP machine on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019.

Tom Devine has a level in English — he by no means anticipated he’d must grow to be an skilled in backup batteries.

But since the power started going out in Canada Cove, the cell house neighborhood in Half Moon Bay the place he lives with about 700 different residents over 55, Devine says he’s “gotten familiar with all sorts of things [he] didn’t have to know before” — like what number of amps it takes to power a CPAP, a medical system that greater than 20 of his neighbors depend on.

Devine himself makes use of the system, which treats his sleep apnea and permits him to breath usually during the evening. When PG&E shut off the group’s power on Oct. 9 as a part of its ongoing “public safety power shutoffs,” he suffered significantly, he stated.

“I was battling a cold, and my nose was clogged up,” stated Devine. “My CPAP machine was not available to work that night, so I didn’t sleep. And so I was a zombie the next day.”

Many of his neighbors have it worse. One who makes use of a CPAP has beforehand suffered strokes as a consequence of lack of oxygen. Others want insulin, which requires refrigeration. Still others are on oxygen provides, which use a concentrator system that runs on electrical energy.

Devine is the chief of Canada Cove’s “Organized Plan for Emergencies” crew, or COPE. In response to the shutoffs — the neighborhood had its power switched off twice in October, with further outages threatened for the future — COPE has been working to prepare support for the vulnerable members of their group.

“We basically have been spreading information to our neighbors, checking on neighbors who are vulnerable, and trying to help where we can,” Devine stated. “There wasn’t an entire lot we
may do aside from unfold info during this time. But we’re networking, and extra persons are turning into conscious of the want to arrange for emergencies like this.”

One of their largest info wants is the way to get hold of backup power. For the residents with medical units, COPE members have been researching the viability of lead-acid batteries, like these used to jump-start vehicles, and lithium batteries like these used for tenting, to power their machines for temporary durations. The batteries are higher for the setting than fuel mills, and price between $50 to some hundred {dollars}, as a substitute of hundreds.

Devine’s neighbor, a retired electrical engineer, helps residents decide which batteries they want and the way to join them to their units. Devine and a number of other others now have rigs that enable them to run their machines for eight hours or extra utilizing batteries, he stated.

Other group members are additionally serving to reply to the shutoffs, together with a former physician, a former nurse and a former emergency response coordinator for San Mateo County.

“We’re lucky,” Devine stated. “We have a lot of people in the group who have experience in this.”

Still, he says, the group is restricted in what they will do.

“We need reliable power,” he stated. “I’ve grown up in a world where we assumed we’d always have electricity—now I’m beginning to question that.”

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