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Nursing Homes and Natural Disasters

evacuation plan

Senate Report Calls for U.S. Nursing Homes to Create Improved Response to Natural Disasters

When a nursing home or long-term care facility becomes vulnerable to an emergency, such as a natural disaster, all hands need to be prepared for safe resident evacuation, tracking and management of patients, backing up to an effective power and communication system, medication holding and climate control, and a plan for sanitation methods to prevent the spread of deadly infections or illnesses. Unfortunately, both Hurricane Harvey and Irma showed the world that many U.S. nursing homes are not prepared after more than a dozen seniors residing in nursing homes were perished. Months beyond these disastrous response outcomes, ranking members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance have called for more oversight to prevent tragedies with better planning and regulation of facilities, prompted by the release of an 84-page report highlighting the causes and consequences of facility failures related natural disasters.

Although the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) pushed out new nursing home and long-term care facility standards for natural disasters in 2017, lawmakers featured in this November 2018 report said that federal rules need to be “more robust and clear,” and until changes are made, seniors in America’s nursing homes will continue to be at risk when disaster strikes.”

Review of “Sheltering in Danger” Report

The committee’s report titled “Sheltering in Danger” offers 18 recommendations that officials can take to help nursing home and facility providers be better prepared. Levin & Perconti’s nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys identified these concerns in the scathing report.

  1. Temperature control is a basic safety issue for nursing homes
    residents. However, federal regulations don’t require emergency power to be capable of maintaining safe temperatures in nursing homes.
  2. Long-term care facilities are required to have some form of an emergency plan, but those plans are not subject to a thorough review- and-approval process by state or federal regulators.
  3. Greater preparation is needed when sheltering-in-place during natural disasters. There are risks associated with moving residents to an alternative facility ahead of an anticipated natural disaster.
  4. Federal temperature control rules are decades old and not based on modern science. Federal rules state that 71 to 81 degrees is a “safe and comfortable” temperature for long-term care facilities. Yet, this rule, in
    place since the 1980s, is based on standards developed by heating and air-conditioning industry engineers—not medical experts.
  5. Threats to at-risk populations were not accounted for in power restoration priority. The process for establishing power restoration priorities should be revisited to ensure that the loss of power does not lead to loss of life in nursing homes.

To review the report summary, visit the five lessons learned and eight key recommendations to better support nursing homes residents in a natural disaster here.

Nursing Home Emergency Preparedness Creates Safer Outcomes

Our Illinois nursing home attorneys know that many care facilities routinely ignore the safety and needs of those in their charge in the event of an emergency. If you suspect neglect of a loved one in a nursing home due to its lack of emergency preparedness, please contact us now for a FREE consultation with one of our attorneys. Call us toll free at 1-877-374-1417, in Chicago at (312) 332-2872, or complete our online case evaluation form.

Source: AN INVESTIGATIVE REPORT by the Minority Staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. (2018). Sheltering in Danger.