2017 was a year filled with natural disasters. While many people lost homes, businesses, and even their lives, policies and procedures for evacuation and emergency management preparedness saved numerous lives and mitigated the potential for even more significant damage. However, nursing homes and other LTPAC facilities were woefully underprepared, as evidenced in several anecdotes of failures to evacuate. Perhaps most famously is the story of La Vita Bella Nursing Home, in which the nation saw elderly patients sitting in waist-deep water during Hurricane Harvey with no option to go elsewhere.
Unlike the general population, which is highly mobile, technologically-savvy, and far more cognizant of imminent weather threats, the LTPAC population, which largely consists of the elderly and disabled, is often completely dependent upon the staff at their facilities.
For this reason, it is vital that every LTPAC facility develops a comprehensive emergency management plan for a variety of natural scenarios. This blog is the first in a four-part series that will identify risks, steps for disaster preparedness, courses of action, and staff training requirements, as well as provide solutions for data and information backup.
Hurricanes are clearly the most newsworthy event, but they are actually one of the easiest to prepare for as weather systems can detect them up to a week in advance, unlike tornados or earthquakes, which can strike without warning. The following are crucial points to bear in mind when developing a hurricane preparedness plan:
Even if the hurricane seems to be low-risk, it is better to be safe rather than sorry. Every LTPAC facility should have an evacuation plan in place (contracting with local EMS services for transportation). When developing an evacuation plan, keep the following in mind:
- Have a predetermined point of evacuation
- In the event of an evacuation, print out medical records for each patient and put them in a secure, waterproof container.
- Regularly practice evacuation drills with staff
Stocking up on Supplies
If you are unable to evacuate, make sure that your facility has an adequate amount of supplies. This includes medical supplies, food, bottled water, extra wheelchairs, walkers and canes (this will be useful if patients need to be moved), back up oxygen tanks, Flashlights and spare batteries, applicable batteries for medical devices, and if possible, a satellite phone.
Investing in Backup Generators
Hurricanes are well-known for disrupting the power grid, so it is vital that your facility have at least one backup generator as many medical devices and machines rely on electricity. To best take care of your generators, make sure they are safe and away from water and routinely check your generators to make sure that they are in working order.
Knowing Your Power Company
After a storm, everyone will be clamoring to get their power restored. However, your facility does have priority as nursing facilities and assisted living residences are now considered a priority for rapid restoration of utility service. Hence, be sure to have your utility company’s information readily available so that you can contact them quickly.
Keeping Track of Patients
During a crisis, your facility needs to have a system to track and label patients (medical wristbands will help) especially if patients are moved to another facility. Most importantly, be proactive in ensuring that patient records are backed up offsite and the continuum of care is interrupted as little as possible. If patients are evacuated, you need to be able to access their medical records quickly and/or send them to other providers or facilities.
For this reason, it is vital that you have a quality patient management software solution that will allow those who need it to readily access patients’ most current health charts, medication lists, and emergency contact numbers. LINTECH’s COMET™ software would allow users to retrieve the patient documentation as needed in such extreme situations.
Our next blog will focus on another type of natural disaster: earthquakes.