Durable Medical Equipment and Disasters

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare®

Have you ever considered how you’ll manage medical equipment that relies on electricity before there’s a disaster or an emergency situation and there’s no electricity?

This ASPR TRACIE Fact Sheet provides “information on general durable medical equipment (DME) categories and focuses on electricity-dependent DME that may be affected by disasters and emergencies, including power failures. It also includes information to assist healthcare system preparedness stakeholders plan for medically vulnerable populations who rely on DME.”

“Millions of individuals rely on DME to meet their activities of daily living needs, manage their chronic medical conditions, or support other functional needs. Disasters or emergencies can result in disruptions to critical infrastructure systems (electricity, power, water) which adversely affect individuals who rely on electricity-dependent DME for activities for daily living and critical life support functions. These disruptions can result in individuals having to evacuate or relocate from their homes and seek assistance to ensure their continued access to their DME or DME suppliers. Lack of ability to use certain types of equipment due to loss of electricity (e.g., CPAP machines), can also impact Medicare coverage and reimbursement. Some DME have a daily minimum usage requirement for coverage.”

“Emergencies, particularly with prolonged power outages or that require evacuation, can quickly create life threatening situations for people who depend on DME. Some may seek assistance from local emergency medical services (EMS) or access to care and electricity from local hospitals, other healthcare providers, or available shelters. Others may shelter-in-place and put themselves at risk due to a lack of resources, transportation, and/or the ability to evacuate. Both situations can lead to significant increases in healthcare system stress and potential adverse outcomes for these at-risk populations. It is imperative that healthcare organizations have plans to meet the needs of the electricity-dependent DME populations within the communities they serve.”

This 12-page Fact Sheet is a must-read in order to start/audit emergency preparedness plans for persons whose life depends on this type of equipment. There are links to many resources for more information in the last several pages of the Fact Sheet.

ASPR TRACIE has developed a wealth of resources “to support healthcare system preparedness, public health preparedness, and disaster clinical professionals plan for, respond to, and recover from all hazards disasters and emergencies.” On this same page, you can subscribe to the listserv to receive important announcements and updates. (I’ve been receiving such information for nearly 2 years now and find each mailing to be extremely informational. I think you will as well. Take a look at The Express – July 2018 as an example of what the listserv shares.) Scan the entire Resources page and you’ll be amazed at all the materials that are available to you. You’ll want to bookmark this page and reference it frequently.


TRACIE (Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange) is an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and was “created (in 2015) to meet the information and technical assistance needs of regional ASPR staff, healthcare coalitions, healthcare entities, healthcare providers, emergency managers, public health practitioners, and others working in disaster medicine, healthcare system preparedness, and public health emergency preparedness.” Check out the video on their homepage to learn more about this invaluable resource. You can also subscribe to their listserv at this location.

ASPR is the acronym for the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. “In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). The office is charged with leading the nation in preventing, preparing for, and responding to the consequences of public health emergencies and disasters. ASPR TRACIE is a three-pronged information gateway for public health and medical professionals that allows each user to determine the best approach for connecting with top-level content about disaster preparation and recovery.”