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Disaster preparedness: Are you ready?

Posted by Earl Laing | Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Disaster preparedness: Are you ready? When you're responsible for the safety and well-being of your residents, it's crucial that you be prepared for the worst. Natural disasters are something you hope you'll never have to deal with, however that's not a good enough reason to be unprepared for one. Is your assisted living facility staff trained on the various disasters that could occur and up-to-date with the latest protocols in case of said emergency? The time to prepare is not right before a storm or disaster hits, but well in advance. 

Here's a quick run-through of the different types of disasters and steps you can take to make sure you're prepared for each one:

Floods

If your building is located near water, specifically on a low-lying ground and downstream from a major river or dam, you're at risk for a flood. According to Assisted Living Federation of America, this could take out power or contaminate water in your community. 

How to be prepared for a flood:

Floods don't always give you the most time to react, but you should still follow your evacuation plan with urgency and accuracy. Have seniors evacuated immediately into prearranged transportation and move residents to higher grounds. Should time allow, have staff shut off gas, electric and water mains to reduce damage to the building. 

Hurricanes/Tornadoes 

These are different however their safety protocols are relatively similar. Tornadoes will affect communities mostly in eastern states but will typically give you less time to react as they form quickly. Hurricanes tend to stick to coastal states and will give plenty notice in forecasts before they strike, reported ALFA. 

How to be prepared for a wind storm: 

Before the storm hits, make sure all residents are inside and accounted for. Also check outdoors for any loose debris and secure any objects that could get stirred up by the wind and create damage to your building, or even harm people inside. Close and lock all windows and doors. Once the storm hits, relocate all residents to a central area with the least doors and windows and supply them with blankets to protect them from any falling debris. Have a staff member shut off all electric, gas and water to the building and have flashlights and extra batteries handy for all residents. 

Snow Storms

You know if your community is susceptible to snow or not, so be prepared accordingly. Heavy snow storms will likely take out power and trap residents in their building if roads are in bad conditions. As you know, seniors can be negatively affected faster by cold temperatures, so getting power back on is relatively crucial to their survival. 

How to be prepared for a snow storm:

Be sure to have an ample stock of food and medical supplies stored in your assisted living facility just in case staff cannot get out to go on a grocery run. If the power goes out, all residents should be dressed in warm clothing and staff should supply them with extra blankets. Staff should also be vigilant with monitoring body temperatures to ensure no one is getting too cold, and should be encouraging residents to stay hydrated until power comes back on. Just in case it takes the town a while to get power going, have a generator that your staff is trained on how to use to hold you over. 

Wild fires

Fires can start in your building, but they also can be started outdoors. Know that wildfires can occur in communities that are settled in dry areas or near forests.

How to be prepared for a fire:

Should a fire break out in your area, there will normally be plenty of time to get everyone evacuated, however your staff needs to put together a proper evacuation plan to make sure everyone is accounted for before getting out of there. Of course, your building should be equipped with fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in every room. These need to be checked routinely to make sure they are working properly. Overall you want to remove your residents in a calm and efficient manner and close your building up to contain the fire by shutting all doors and windows and stuffing wet rags under doors, as well as turning off the gas and electric.