Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida is prone to natural disasters. A recent report shows that many health centers there are in need of backup power capabilities to ensure residents can receive needed healthcare services during these crises.
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Hurricane Ian hit southwest Florida on Sept. 28th, 2022, and caused several power outages that affected 3.28 million residents. Almost 150 people died, including some who died after power disruptions compromised their ability to utilize electricity-dependent medical equipment. And weather-related power outages increased by 78 percent from 2011-2021 (compared to 2000-2010).
The Florida Association of Community Health Centers (FACHC) partnered with Clean Energy Group to conduct a survey on emergency backup power capabilities at Florida’s 800-plus community health centers. FACHC aimed to assess which health centers had emergency power sources, evaluate the types of emergency power currently utilized by health centers, and build awareness of available options to increase resiliency.
“We needed to know that health centers had the ability to operate after an emergency like Hurricane Ian. This is the starting point. We need to gather further information and tie this research into emergency preparedness on all fronts. What are the current capabilities of the health centers in Florida, and what other resources are needed during power outage situations?”
— Sheila Zachow, director of public relations and communications at FACHC
FACHC created a survey that was shared with 50 health centers (representing over 800 sites), and received 32 responses. Survey results showed that over 60 percent of the health centers surveyed did not have a backup power system on site, and they cited cost and lack of technical knowledge as the biggest barriers to acquiring them.
The report also showed that power outages cost Florida health centers an average of $41,000 per day in lost revenue. It found that 83 percent of the health centers surveyed store temperature-regulated vaccines on site, but only 40 percent of those facilities have backup power to maintain refrigeration in the event of an outage.
The report included a techno-economic analysis for using solar energy storage for emergency backup power at seven of the health centers surveyed. FACHC will continue to conduct assessments for health centers that expressed interest in pursuing resilient power opportunities.
FACHC will continue to seek resources to support health centers in their efforts to develop and install backup power systems, Zachow said.
“There’s more work to be done. We learned that there are a number of health centers that need to put an emergency system in place. This lets us know that the health centers take this power topic seriously. They are looking for resources, whether it be a different type of power backup or funding, they’re looking for opportunities to make sure their sites have backup power systems.
And this is helping us find the resources and capabilities that can help them do that. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to move a larger percentage of health centers to a place where they have an emergency backup system.”