KANSAS CITY, MO. – Dirk Mason woke up Tuesday morning and gasped when his BiPAP device stopped working.
“I took off my mask and tried to gasp and I said, ‘What’s up?'” Said Mason of Shawnee.
The device helps with his heart disease and sleep apnea. The condition causes him to stop breathing nearly 100 times an hour.
Mason was one of several Kansas City subway residents to experience power outages in response to freezing temperatures across the country. However, these outages serve as a reminder to enroll in Evergy’s life support program for people who rely on medical devices to breathe at night.
The program includes customers with critical electricity needs. Spokeswoman Gina Penzig said the company has a team that proactively calls these customers.
“Customers with medical devices that need power are encouraged to have backup power or some other plan in the event of a failure,” said Penzig.
Mason said he didn’t have backup power for the machine. He assumed that his apartment complex would have a backup generator.
He was also unaware of the need to inform Evergy of his critical need for power, but said he would call about it. Still, he wished he’d had a note.
“I can understand if it’s a power outage, but just to save electricity. You need to show the public a little more concern,” Mason said. “I mean, we’ll pay you on time and deserve this notice.”
Evergy executives said the company was unable to advance notice of the rolling outages to customers because it only had a few minutes to turn off power once it received the notification from the Southwest Power Pool.
Kansas City, Missouri-based Courtney Hall, who uses a CPAP machine, had a similar start to their day. She woke up around 1:15 a.m. on Tuesday and gasped.
“It wakes you up and it’s like you’re suffocating,” Hall said.
Hall said she had been trying to join Evergy’s life support program for a few months but hadn’t heard from the company. She is frustrated with the nightly outages when non-program customers may be using critical equipment.
“I understand if you have to, just don’t do it at night when people like me need a CPAP or assisted device at night,” Hall said.
Chuck Caisley, Evergy’s chief customer officer, said that people required to participate in the program can sign up on Evergy’s website or call. But remember that the representatives are very thin right now.