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Oncor Promises New Policy To Help Hospitals Avoid Blackouts

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – If you’ve had enough of the blistering heat, think back to the first week of February. Not only is it a reminder that the grass is always greener, but it also brings back memories of rolling blackouts.

Hospitals in North Texas have not forgotten. Many lost power that day, even though hospital administrators thought they were exempt from mandatory outages. “That was an emergency situation where we reached a critical load,” recalled Oncor Spokeswoman, Jeamy Molina.

Nevertheless, local hospital officials were furious. At the time, Oncor sent e-mails, text messages and made phone calls warning of the impending blackouts. However, the energy company says it did not follow up to see if the messages were received. Oncor says it now has a new policy.

“There are hundreds of hospitals throughout the entire area that we have to be in communication with when this type of thing happens,” said Molina. “We set up a system where we can always be communicating with them and making sure that they’re aware of what’s going on.”

Oncor’s new policy is a promise to keep calling, texting and e-mailing until every hospital confirms that the message has been received.

“We’re hoping that conversation holds true,” said Chris Noah. Noah works for Parkland Hospital’s Emergency Management Department. “Taking a hospital down can be a very big problem,” he added.

Hospitals have back-up generators, but once medical equipment goes down, it takes seconds, even minutes to reboot the equipment. It could mean the difference between life and death.

Dallas Hospice nurse, Bobbie Langston knows that all too well. Many of her in-home patients are hooked up to life-saving machines and can’t afford an extended loss of power. “That’s why we have our patients categorized,” said Langston. “As soon as we find out that there is a power outage, the family is in close communication with us.”

In-home patients with urgent care needs are being urged to contact their local energy provider to ensure they’re on their provider’s “critical care list.” In most cases, it requires a doctor’s note and some paper work. Once patients have been listed, it can greatly reduce the odds that their power will be cut off.

However, Oncor maintains it can’t guarantee that critical care facilities and patients will not lose power during mandatory black outs.

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