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Power Outages Endanger the Elderly

By Linda Grigerek
President, Companions & Homemakers

 

The inexcusably slow response to outages caused by last week’s storm has provoked anger from residents long without power and from businesses forced to close.

In the homecare industry, the glaring failure of Eversource to prepare and respond properly to the storm was not simply an inconvenience, but a threat to the well-being of the people we care for.

Companions & Homemakers serves over 2500 clients throughout Connecticut.  In many cases, our clients simply can’t do without the help we provide—they depend on us for personal hygiene, for meals, and for transport to critical medical appointments.

We take that responsibility seriously.  One of the most challenging and important tasks for our care coordinators is making sure that all scheduled shifts are covered for essential clients, no matter what happens.  If a caregiver can’t keep an appointment, we do what it takes to find another employee willing and able to step in, regardless of the cost to us.  That’s our duty to our clients.

The service we provide is so important that Federal Communications Commission has included Companions & Homemakers in its Telecommunications Service Priority program, designating us alongside hospitals and other key services for power restoration in case of an emergency.  Yet our main office in Farmington was without electricity for more than five days after the storm.

A backup generator and several thousand dollars in special fuel deliveries kept the lights on, but our internet and phone service—essential to the operation–were both disrupted.  Only the dedication and ingenuity of our employees enabled us to meet our obligations and keep our clients safe.

Electricity may be the single most important commodity in our society; without it, virtually nothing else works.  Providing power is a public trust, which we recognize by guaranteeing the electric companies a profit at ratepayer expense.  In return, they must make sure that the power is there when we need it.

Occasional service interruptions are inevitable, but prolonged outages put people at risk, especially the elderly.  Between our main office and our nine regional offices, our electric bill is over $8,000 a month; we accept the expense, but we expect reliability.

We ask the Public Utility Regulatory Agency to hold the power companies to standards that meet the needs of our society and guarantee the safety of at-risk citizens.   Along with other private businesses, we meet that challenge every day; we must demand that regulated utilities, which are granted a monopoly and protected from the marketplace, do the same.

Originally Published 08/15/2020 on Rep-Am.com

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