Preparedness and Response

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This is another in a string of pre-loaded posts. I've got three weeks of work travel followed by about two weeks of personal travel, but since I'm just getting this warmed up I didn't want to drop off immediately. Most of these will be based on articles I've been saving to address at some point, and it looks like this is it.

About a month ago Arnold Bogis wrote about the HHS emPower Map over at Homeland Security Watch. It caught my eye because it touched on an issue we were trying to get our hands around when I was working in local public health - supporting the members of a community that use durable medical equipment. From the HLSWatch description, HHS has put together an online tool that maps people using "electric powered equipment for their health down to the zip code level."

Moving over the map itself we get this explanation:
Over 2.4 million Medicare beneficiaries rely upon electricity-dependent medical and assistive equipment, such as ventilators and wheel chairs, in our communities. Severe weather and disasters that cause power outages can be life threatening for these individuals.

How can we empower community and electricity-dependent Medicare beneficiary health resilience?

Every hospital, first responder, electric company, and community member can use the map to find the monthly total of Medicare beneficiaries with electricity-dependent equipment claims at the U.S. state, territory, county, and zip code level and turn on “real-time” NOAA severe weather tracking services to identify areas and populations that may be impacted and at risk for power outages.
 Together, we can all better anticipate potential access and functional needs, emergency plan for the whole community, and assist our at-risk community members before, during, and after an emergency.
And moving to the ASPR Blog, Kristen Finne from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response wrote:

Today we have a new tool, the HHS emPOWER Map, which anyone can use to see approximately how many people use electricity dependent medical equipment in their state, territory, county, or zip code and tracks severe weather events.

As many of the people who use electricity-dependent equipment are Medicare beneficiaries, the HHS emPOWER Map provides the total number of Medicare beneficiary claims for certain electricity-dependent medical and assistive equipment down to the zip-code level. It also provides National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “real-time” severe weather tracking to assist community members in identifying areas that may be at risk for weather-related power outages.
 So, not a creepy, "we know where you live" sort of map, a roll-up of zip code level data of Medicare beneficiary claims for certain types of equipment. Putting my public health emergency planner hat back on, especially for larger urban areas or states, this would be fantastic. Being able to get a rough idea of ares within a county that have a larger population of persons dependent on electricity-dependent equipment, at a minimum, can help prioritizing repowering operations following a disaster or system failure.

Taking a quick spin though the site, you start with the message I quoted above, a map of the U.S. and a list of the states and territories. When you select a state the map moves to that state, and the list changes to the counties. Selecting a county gets you a new list of zip codes. For each, the number of Medicare beneficiaries is listed along with the number of them that are electricity dependent. The map shows the same information graphically, along with the NOAA weather information referenced in the ASPR Blog post.

It's a nice way to provide some great info for local planners, and I hope that more folks have a chance to take a look at it.
Author: Joel Palmer
Posted: September 7, 2015, 1:30 pm

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