Law Firm of Garcia & Artigliere

How to Safely Evacuate Residents of a Nursing Home

Nursing homes sometimes have to evacuate all of their residents. This may happen because of natural disasters, such as severe hurricanes, that damage buildings, making it unsafe for residents to stay. Other times, residents have to be moved because their facility is closing down.

Safely moving frail elderly people is a challenge. Nursing homes that are certified by Medicare and Medicaid are legally required to have detailed written evacuation plans and to train their staff in emergency procedures. Some nursing homes fall short of meeting the legal standard.

The Need for an Organized Evacuation Plan

In an emergency situation, evacuation must take place quickly. Many decisions have to be made. Which residents will be evacuated first? What route will the rescuers take through the building? Evacuations will go more smoothly when evacuation plans have been made and written down in advance.

A difficult evacuation from a high-rise senior living facility in Chicago illustrates the problems caused by inadequate planning. In this facility, where temperatures were dangerously high because a storm damaged the air conditioning, lack of planning led to chaos. The elevators weren’t working, and the stairways became clogged because rescuers were using the same stairwells to go up and to carry people down.

There was a priority list of residents to be evacuated first, based on which residents were using oxygen tanks, or were sick, or couldn’t walk. However, in the middle of the evacuation, rescuers switched to removing residents from the top floor down. Also, some residents walked out on their own. The result was that staff couldn’t keep track of which residents had been evacuated and which were still inside.

Even after residents made it outside, there were more problems. The busses that were brought could not accommodate wheelchairs, so the nursing home had to get different busses, which took hours. Then the new busses didn’t have enough gas, causing more delays.

Is Your Loved One’s Nursing Home Providing Good Care?

Problems such as those described above should not have happened. After the evacuation of the high-rise facility, three frail residents died within a week, possibly because of the stress of the evacuation. More recently, after Hurricane Irma, 14 residents died after a delayed evacuation from a Florida nursing home.

If you have a loved one living in a nursing home, you should be aware that the nursing home must follow stringent legal standards. If you suspect that your loved one’s facility is not providing adequate care, you should talk to the experienced nursing home abuse lawyers at Garcia & Artigliere. Call (800) 281-8515 for a free consultation.