HHS has developed an online tool that maps the number of people using electric powered equipment for their health down to the zip code level. This could include things such as ventilators, wheelchairs, and other devices required by some individuals to live independent lives but which also puts them at risk when the electricity goes out.
Kristen Finne, a Senior Policy Analyst with ASPR at HHS, explains in a blog post:
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.
What is this information good for? Back to Finne:
Beyond the total number of people who rely on electricity-dependent medical equipment, health officials also can collaborate with ASPR to obtain additional de-identified data that provides the totals for each type of equipment in their community. By working with health officials and using this important tool:
- Emergency managers can determine whether emergency shelters need a larger generator to accommodate an influx of electricity-dependent residents.
- Community organizations and businesses can plan with emergency managers and health departments and offer a place for some residents to plug in and recharge the batteries.
- Electric companies could prioritize power restoration based on the concentration of electricity-dependent residents in given areas.
- Hospitals could better anticipate local medical needs and be better prepared to handle a potential surge of patients in an emergency.
Basically, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) provides data without any personal identifying stuff about how many people down to the zip code get reimbursed for this equipment. ASPR then took this data and combined it with a zoomable map where one can search for these numbers for any community, and included a weather app as well. So good work by HHS, in general, and ASPR, in particular.
You can access this tool here: http://www.phe.gov/empowermap/Pages/default.aspx