Vulnerable people who rely on electricity to power medical equipment are set to receive battery packs in the rare event of an extended power cut.
Around 120,000 people on UK Power Networks’ priority register rely daily on life-saving medical equipment, such as ventilators, feeding pumps, nebulisers and oxygen saturation monitors.
A visionary trial called Power Protect has begun exploring how this will be rolled out when the full service is launched in the coming months.
Portable battery packs, which can power a standard feed pump for over 17 hours, will be loaned to these customers for free if they ever have a power cut over four hours. UK Power Networks staff will be on hand to deliver, install and remove the units once power is restored.
This new safety net marks a huge step forward for the utility industry and is the first time that a UK electricity network operator has gone to such lengths to provide support to vulnerable customers during unplanned power cuts.
There are currently over two million customers across the East, South East and London, signed up to UK Power Networks’ Priority Services Register which provides free additional support to those who need it during unplanned power cuts. The trial is taking place in London, Maidstone, Canterbury and Bury St Edmunds.
Boris Yazadzhiyan, innovation programme manager at UK Power Networks said: “Our electricity network is 99.9% reliable, however with enough cables to stretch four times around the world, there is always a slim possibility of them being damaged or developing a fault.
“For people who depend on potentially-lifesaving medical equipment, they need the confidence they’ll be safe on those very rare occasions when power is temporarily unavailable, and this new scheme is doing just that.
“Our teams work around the clock to restore power, and we’re going further than any network has before to reduce any anxiety for our most vulnerable customers and make sure they feel as comfortable as possible. Our team will deliver and collect the kit to their home and make sure they are ok.”
Customers have already welcomed the battery packs. A sleep apnoea sufferer from Chatham, Kent who took part in an early stage of the trial, said: “It was fantastic. I spoke to someone, and within half an hour I was receiving a powerful battery. I have to use my sleep apnoea machine at night otherwise I will stop breathing. I can’t fault what UK Power Networks has done for us.”
Another customer said: “My daughter uses a feeding pump and without that being charged up she wouldn’t be able to be fed. I can’t fault the service at all, we were called every hour to make sure we were okay, it was brilliant.”