HHS Launches GIS Tool for Health Disasters

The interactive map helps people who use electricity-dependent medical equipment.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has developed the emPOWER Map, an interactive online tool to help community health agencies and emergency management officials in disaster preparedness as they plan ahead to meet the emergency needs of community residents who rely on electrically powered medical and assistive equipment to live independently at home. There are more than 1.6 million such Medicare Fee-for-Service beneficiaries.

"For people who rely on electricity-dependent medical equipment, prolonged power outages can mean life or death," explained Dr. Nicole Lurie, the HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response. "This tool helps communities better anticipate, plan for, and respond to these unique needs of this population and improve resilience for the entire community before and after disasters."

The map shows the monthly total of Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries' claims for electricity-dependent equipment at the national, state, territory, county, and zip code levels. The tool incorporates this information with real-time service weather tracking services in a GIS.

This allows health care professionals to help vulnerable residents after the events of a storm or disaster who need power.

"With the rise in home-based care, real-time awareness of population-level needs, and the ability to respond to them, is critical," Lurie noted. "Better planning helps communities respond better and recover faster, and that's where our emPOWER Map can provide the greatest benefit."

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