When you find a residential care facility you’re confident will give an aging loved one a safe, happy place to live, you might assume they’re prepared to protect their residents should an emergency or disaster occur.
Certainly, California has plenty of natural (and man-made) disasters – from earthquakes to wildfires to floods. There are other potential emergency situations like gas leaks, structure fires and active shooters. However, sadly, not all facilities and their staffs are prepared or willing to do what’s needed to keep their residents safe.
Facilities from coast to coast have shown that they’re unprepared
We’ve talked here about an incident in Sonoma County in 2017 where staff at an assisted living facility got out but failed to evacuate residents as a wildfire approached. Fortunately, none of the residents perished, but that was because others rescued them.
On the other side of the country, we’ve seen vulnerable seniors evacuated from their facilities and then left in unsafe conditions with no heat, shelter or medical care. People have died because facilities failed to have a plan in place to get their residents to other care facilities or hospitals.
Unfortunately, it’s taken tragic circumstances like these for states to take action to mandate emergency protocols for care facilities if any kind of disaster makes the facility unsafe. That includes anything from loss of electricity in a storm that could make ventilators, heating/air conditioning and other equipment unusable to tornadoes, fires and earthquakes that could destroy an entire structure.
You have a right to know how prepared a facility is for an emergency
If you have a loved one in a nursing home or other facility or you’re looking for the best place for them, you should ask questions – and they should be prepared to give you answers backed up by documentation, including their evacuation plan and their most recent emergency preparedness inspection results.
Here are just a few questions to ask:
- What’s their backup system if they lose electricity?
- How often do they conduct emergency drills with new and current staff?
- How can loved ones contact them if there’s an evacuation or if their phones are down?
- Which county or city agencies are their first responders?
If a loved one has suffered harm because their care facility wasn’t prepared for an emergency, find out what your options are for seeking justice and compensation.