We usually can’t control when we, or a loved one, become ill and need care from a nursing home or other long-term care facility. But, by admitting loved ones to such a facility, you hope to protect their safety, especially when emergencies occur.
An Ongoing Problem
In the wake of the eight deaths at a Florida nursing home following Hurricane Irma, heightened attention has been placed on disaster planning rules, to which nursing homes must legally comply. Guidelines were put into place after the nursing home and hospital deaths that occurred during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When a natural disaster hits, a system must be in place for evacuation or sheltering in place that protects residents from harm. As we know from the incident in Florida, the danger of high temperatures for elderly residents can be disastrous.
In the past four years, nursing home inspectors have issued 2,300 violations of emergency planning rules. Specifically, 536 facilities were cited for failing to maintain comfortable and safe temperature levels for residents. In addition, a third of U.S. nursing homes have been cited for failing to inspect their generators each week or to test them monthly. Even if a quality plan is in place, there’s no guarantee it will sufficiently protect residents.
Nursing Home Emergency Plans
In a facility full of vulnerable people, more than the outline of a plan needs to be in place. Long-term care inspectors or surveyors must observe nursing home staff actually demonstrating their emergency plans, rather than just checking what may have been written down.
A nursing home emergency plan should at minimum include:
- A plan for coordinating with local emergency authorities to determine if they should evacuate or shelter in place.
- A seven-day supply of drinking water if residents must shelter in place and their regular source of water was unsafe or unavailable.
- A backup plan to replace staff members who are unable to get to work during the disaster.
- A plan that details how to handle a resident’s illness or death during an evacuation.
- Easily available information about the individual medical needs of residents, such as medication, feeding tubes or breathing equipment.
- A provision how to identify residents in an evacuation, such as wristbands.
- A plan for transporting residents in wheelchairs in the event of an evacuation.
- A plan for the delivery of food and water to evacuated residents.
When a long-term care facility fails to have a solid emergency plan, they are not only in violation of the law but can be found negligent for failing to protect residents should an emergency arise. Not only must there be a plan in place, but the facility must be able to realistically carry out said plan.
If you believe a facility that you, or a loved one, reside in may not be prepared for an emergency, you should contact your local nursing home ombudsman, an experienced nursing home neglect advocate who helps residents address complaints and seek out state agencies for enforcement of best practices if facilities fail to comply. If the time for prevention has passed, please contact a nursing home abuse and neglect attorney at Hupy and Abraham today. Contact us online or call us directly at 800-800-5678.