AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Austin Energy crews on the ground worked to restore power outages during the recent ice storm, other city employees tracked their most at-risk customers.
The City of Austin maintains a registry of utility customers with long-term illness, serious illness or disease. This does not include nursing home residents or hospitalized patients, but rather residential customers at their homes.
Eligible program customers enjoy extra time to pay their bills and extra attention from city staff and partner social service agencies, especially during storms and disasters. The city’s website stresses that the sole purpose of the registry is to provide services to people who may need them. Customers are not guaranteed to be supplied in the event of a crisis.
As of January 2022, the city of Austin had 190 enrolled in its Medically Vulnerable Persons Registry.
A year ago, when freezing temperatures left thousands of Austinites in the dark and cold for days during the February 2021 winter storm, the city served 365 people. Of those, 220 were recorded as medically vulnerable in Austin Energy’s service area. Its customer care program staff then contacted 145 additional customers who had inquired about the registry but had not been approved, and customers who had already been registered but had not submitted documentation. medical.
An Austin Energy spokesperson told KXAN that its staff are working with eligible customers to create a contingency plan, including backup power sources or a safe location to relocate, as well as a contact person. emergency.
“We provided customers with information about heated shelters and transportation options, as well as emergency services,” the spokesperson said in an email during the 2021 storm. “In some cases where we have been unable to reach a client or are concerned for their well-being, we have contacted 9-1-1 on their behalf to request a health check.”
Due to the emergency services load at the time, Austin Energy said it deployed personnel to the field to perform a small number of wellness checks. A report after action of this stormreleased in October 2021, said field staff conducted 21 health checks and referred nine clients to EMS.
This after action report suggested to Austin Energy:
- Work with other city departments to establish a coordinated communication process to assist customers on this registry
- Refine the existing process to update contact details more regularly
So far, Austin Energy said it is working with the city’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management on those efforts. It has also developed an internal triage and communication process to determine when wellness checks are needed, if Austin Energy personnel can perform them, or if emergency services are needed.
Am I eligible?
To qualify for the Medically Vulnerable Persons Registry, the city says customers must meet one of the following criteria:
- On a life support system requiring uninterrupted electrical or water service, such as an iron lung, ventilator, feed pump, kidney dialysis machine, aerosol tent, apnea monitor, blood pump, compressor/concentrator, electrical nerve stimulator, extremity pump, hospital bed, hemodialysis machine, oxygen concentrator, pressure pump, pressure cushion, or ventilator
- Treated by a licensed physician for a serious illness such as paraplegia, quadriplegia, hemiplegia, multiple sclerosis or scleroderma
- Treated by a licensed physician for a serious illness affected by temperature changes
These qualification criteria must be continually recertified. For more details, Click here.
How to register
To register, call customer service at 512-494-9400. Austin Energy asks for the name and number of the customer’s physician, as well as the type of medical equipment in the customer’s household.