Assisted Living, News, Skilled Nursing Facility

What we can learn about the floods in Texas

Many long-term care and senior living facilities are putting their disaster preparedness plans to the test this week as Hurricane Harvey causes what’s being referred to as severe, never-before-experienced flooding in Texas. One skilled nursing facility (SNF) is being recognized in the news for their life-saving evacuation plan. Last Thursday, 90 seniors from Gulf Point Plaza nursing home located in Rockport were evacuated to their sister nursing home, Park Manor, located in Bee Cave. Park Manor normally holds 80 residents. Now, staff must care for 150 seniors, some of who have doubled up in their bedrooms while others take shelter in the SNF’s former-therapy-gym turned bedroom.

Park Manor’s administrator Cory Hawkins told Austin’s KXAN that the SNF “had a plan that we were able to execute to get those folks out of harm’s way and weather the storm.” Hawkins’ staff put in overtime this weekend to ensure that all residents were cared for, with the hope that they could be returned to their nursing home today, pending damages.

While these Texas long-term care facilities have been successful in using their disaster plans to keep their seniors safe during the flood, another nearby facility turned to social media for assistance. Yesterday, residents of La Vita Bella nursing home in Galveston, Texas were caught in waist-deep water. A photo of the residents, many of whom are wheelchair and oxygen tank dependent, can be seen sitting or standing inside their facility with flood water rising above their waists. The nursing home owner’s son tweeted the photo, urging emergency services to save the residents. The owner’s daughter told NY Daily News that her mother was never asked to evacuate the facility, and that the facility had never flooded before, but that she had evacuation plans in place. Following the tweet, residents were airlifted to safety by the National Guard and the Galveston County Office of Emergency Management.

“It is well known that the elderly are among the most vulnerable populations to extreme weather,” says Karen T. Stratoti, RN, BSN, LNHA, CALA, CEO of Excellence in Caring, LLC. “All administrators and owners must evacuate their residents when a disaster such as a Category 4 tornado is coming their way. Why this was not done causes many questions to other administrators in the senior care field.”

Hurricane Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm since the weekend, but authorities have not confirmed when the storm or catastrophic flooding will end.

“For the sake of our residents we must do better. We cannot depend on FEMA to make decisions regarding evacuations. Using common sense is my advice. If administrators and staff are being told to evacuate their families, they must also determine the need to evacuate their residents,” says Stratoti.

In her upcoming book, OSHA Compliance, Environmental Safety, and Disaster Planning: A Toolkit for Senior Living Communities, Stratoti provides the following FEMA guidelines to follow during and after a flood.

During a flood

If a flood is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or television for information.
  • Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash
    flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to
  • Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons, and other areas known to
    flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such
    typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.If you must prepare to evacuate, you should do the following:
  • Secure your facility. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential
    items to an upper floor.
  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect
    electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or
    standing in water.
    If you have to leave your facility, remember these evacuation tips:
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make
    you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving.
    Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon
    the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the
    vehicle can be quickly swept away. 

After a Flood

The following are guidelines for the period following a flood:

  • Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe
    to drink.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage.
  • Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed
    power lines.
  • Avoid moving water.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened
    and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  • Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
  • Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage,
    particularly in foundations.
  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as
    possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can
    contain sewage and chemicals.

Keep an eye out on HCPro’s marketplace for this new title, which includes sample policies and procedures, checklists, and over a dozen in-services, scheduled to publish December 2017!

You can help families impacted by Hurricane Harvey by donating to the Red Cross.