At the Atlantic hurricane season begins, now is the time for nursing homes to review their emergency plans to ensure the safety of their residents and staff.
Previous reviews on nursing homes’ emergency preparedness plans haven’t always been positive. Federal regulations require that Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes have written emergency plans and that all employees have emergency preparedness training. However, in a sample study, plans often lacked information suggested by experts and nursing home administrators.
In the study, administrators from five of 20 facilities reported they deviated from their emergency plans during hurricanes, either because the plans were not updated or plans did not include instructions for particular circumstances. What’s more, many plans did not have the correct provisions. For example, more than a quarter of emergency plans did not have instructions for evacuating to an alternative site, and almost half did not have instructions or guidance when deciding whether to evacuate or shelter in place.
The studies also noted a lack of collaboration between state and local emergency organizations and nursing homes. In general, nursing homes managed evacuation or sheltered in place without guidance or assistances from local emergency entities. In the future, plans should ideally include coordinate efforts between nursing home facilities and local emergency response organizations.
Nursing homes are particularly vulnerable in natural disasters. Residents in many cases are unable to take care of themselves- they also require medication and various medical equipment that makes it difficult to evacuate facilities quickly. As a result it is essential that nursing home facilities develop comprehensive emergency response plans that put the health and safety of the residents first.
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