Program helps prepare for hurricanes

LIPA meter with tag shows resident is enrolled

LIPA meter with tag shows resident is enrolled in Critical Care Program. (Credit: Handout)

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The summer wind has returned for its annual gentle caress of Long Island. So it's a perfect time to prepare for the late summer wind that can be more like a sucker punch.

Early summer hurricanes in New York are rare, but keep in mind the Atlantic hurricane season started this year on June 1. And while September is the prime month for hurricanes, remember that Hurricane Irene walloped the Island Aug. 27-28 last year.

LIPA encourages those with severe health problems that require life-support equipment and medical devices to sign up for the utility's Critical Care Program. Customers enrolled in the program get a special tag on their meter and will be contacted before events that could knock out power.

"We call them in the advance of a major storm like a hurricane," says Bruce Germano, LIPA's vice president of customer services. LIPA also will call Critical Care customers before planned outages. Germano says about 4,500 customers are currently enrolled in the program.

In a best-case scenario, LIPA says it "will make every effort to restore electric service" to Critical Care customers quickly. But best-case scenarios often are blown away by worst-case events. "We'll do everything we can, but the reality is when you get something like Irene and you have half a million customers out, the whole focus is trying to get as many customers back on as quickly as possible," Germano says.

Instead, LIPA urges Critical Care customers to make plans long before the arrival of storms that could cause multiday outages. Possible preparations are installing a backup generator or setting up plans for an evacuation to a care facility or hospital. While many medical devices have built-in battery backup systems, the amount of time they operate without electricity varies considerably.

Customers who want to be in the Critical Care Program must provide LIPA with a medical certificate from a doctor or their county health department showing they have life-sustaining medical devices in their homes. Among the devices that meet the criteria are IV feeding machines, respirators, ventilators and apnea monitors.

For more information, call 800-490-0025 or go to

bit.ly/LIPA-care. And for all customers who want to be better informed both before and after storms hit, LIPA has rolled out notification services where you can report problems and receive personalized outage information on mobile devices. Go to lipower.org/mylipa for more information.

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