No part of the U.S. is safe from natural disasters – as we’ve seen in recent years. However, here in California, we must be prepared for wildfires, floods and earthquakes.
That means the nursing homes and other residential facilities where some of our most vulnerable residents live must be prepared, and staff must make their safety a priority.
Residents of two facilities in Northern California were abandoned
Sadly, that’s not always the case. Two senior care facilities in Santa Rosa settled a lawsuit in late 2020 stemming from the Oct. 2017 Tubbs wildfire during which residents were abandoned by staff. Fortunately, first responders saved those left behind.
The half-million-dollar settlement requirements included an enhanced disaster evacuation plan, additional training and the appointment of an independent monitor to ensure their compliance with the terms of the settlement.
Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in cases across the country, this isn’t the only time elderly residents were abandoned by caregivers who evacuated the facility and left them behind, sometimes with no electricity or water. In addition to natural disasters, nursing homes should be prepared for other potential emergencies, like a building fire, loss of electricity or an active shooter.
What can families do to protect loved ones?
If you’re looking at nursing homes or any kind of care facility or already have a loved one in a facility, it’s crucial to make sure they have an up-to-date emergency plan and that all staff members know their responsibilities. Here are just a few questions to ask:
- Do they have an emergency and evacuation plan? Ask for a copy.
- Where will they transport residents if they can’t return right away?
- Do they regularly conduct practice drills with staff and management?
- When was their last state inspection for emergency preparedness? Get a copy of the report.
While you have every right to rely on your loved one’s care facility to keep them safe, it’s wise to include them in your own emergency plan. Be sure you have the contact information for fire, police and other emergency personnel in that area in case you can’t get a hold of anyone at the facility.
If a loved one is harmed due to neglect or poor handling of an emergency situation, you can and should explore your legal options. However, don’t wait until the next disaster to find out whether their care facility is – or isn’t – prepared.