As hurricane Sandy moved into the New York area I was closely watching Twitter in hope of any sign that the devastation would not be as bad as predicted. As the full force of the storm passed over the area and power began to fail it wasn't long before I saw a tweet asking for a very specific type of help. A person that required electricity to power the medical device that helped to keep them alive was now relying on battery power and time was ticking.
My friend has only so many hours left on his ventilator battery, at Broadway and Duane in Manhattan, anyone nearby have a generator?— Liz Henry (@lizhenry) October 30, 2012
Amid all the problems, the elderly and physically disabled face special challenges. Many remain stranded in cold, dark high rises, in nursing homes, adult care facilities, worried about food and medicine and water. Some rely on electricity to power ventilators or recharge wheelchairs.
I have also read about heroic attempts to carry diesel fuel up many flights of stairs in hospitals to try to keep power flowing.
Officials rushed to move the most critically ill patients closer to an emergency generator. After midnight, doctors heard shouts in the hallway. The basement fuel pumps had stopped working, and medical residents, nurses and administrators formed a bucket brigade to ferry fuel up 13 flights to the main backup generators.
In processing these events I've decided to do the best I can to help protect people in danger of suffering serious medical complications or death from a sustained lack of power.
Generators to the Rescue
My plan is to start a non-profit volunteer organization to bring generators to those in need during times of crisis. The group would raise money to purchase the equipment and fuel needed to make this charge a reality. The group would also seek out volunteers that already own their own generators and are willing to use them to help others.
Over the next few weeks I plan to talk to a number of local first-responders and doctors to see if this type of service would be of value. If this seems to be an idea worth pursuing I will move forward with assembling a board of directors and formalizing the status of the organization. Long term I plan on publishing everything about the organization to the web so that, if successful, the idea can be easily copied in other areas of the country.
If you know anybody that would be in need of this service or anybody that might be in a position to volunteer with or advise the organization please don't hesitate to contact me. I need as much input as possible. I have never done anything like this before in my life.
Although it is too early to know exactly how things will operate I have included the following two lists that I brainstormed to get an idea of the organization's fundraising and operational needs.
- Honda mini-generators
- Extension cords
- Fuel canisters
- Covers for the generators so they can safely operate outside in inclement weather
- Locks so the generators cannot be easily stolen while in use
- Places to store the generators and other equipment when not in use
- Insurance to cover liability and equipment.
- Promotional materials
- System to track people in need, generator usage, maintenance, and volunteers
- Drivers to deliver, install, fuel, and pick-up generators
- Mechanics to service the generators
- Board of directors to advise on operations
- Various positions to register those to be served by the organization, promote the service, fundraise, etc.
My idea is still in the very early stage but I want to try and move as quickly as possibly to get the ball rolling. I'll be sure to post updates as things progress.