How to Prepare for a Disaster at Your Assisted Living Community

Just a few weeks ago, nearly 250,000 homes and businesses lost power when a massive blizzard blanketed the East Coast. For some, this imposed only minor challenges–candles instead of lamps, scrabble instead of Words With Friends. For those in the assisted living industry, a power outage presents a true crisis. Responsible for the safety and well-being of their residents, ALF owners and operators must be trained and prepared for any natural disaster. Emergency protocol for assisted living and senior care facilities differs from state-to-state, and it’s crucial to know your state-specific regulations. That said, here are some key things to keep in mind as you craft your disaster preparedness strategy.

Evacuation or Shelter-In-Place

In the event of a disaster, one of the first decisions that will need to made is whether to relocate your residents or to shelter-in-place. In actuality, you should be prepared for either scenario, and your decision will be dependent on the specifics of the emergency. It is important to note here that evacuation is often regulated by state and local laws. A great way to prepare for natural disasters (or site-specific events) is to communicate a plan with other ‘like’ communities in your area. A plan for relocation should absolutely be in place at all times. If the severity of the disaster dictates that you provide shelter-in-place, it’s crucial to have properly trained staff and prepared residents. This means conducting regular emergency drills, hiring a sufficient amount of caregivers (and having the ability to call on extra staff as needed), and delegating responsibilities so that your crisis response is programmed, confident, and effective. Every community should be prepared for up to 72 hours without access to power. Depending on the size of your home, you may be required to also have access to a back-up generator. This of course may depend on your state, and also the specific needs of your residents.

Maintaining the Physical Integrity of Your ALF

It is hugely important to form a disaster plan around your particular physical environment. This is where state-specific guidelines can be extra helpful. CALA has detailed advice for earthquake, fire, and flooding protocol for California facilities. If you’re located in the midwest, you may want to devote extra time to tornado preparedness–meeting all regulations for fallout shelters, planning for power outages, etc. The physical integrity of your community must be tailored to your environment. Then, in the event of any disaster, you’ll be able to devote your time and attention to your residents.

Seamless Continuation of Care

Once all immediate dangers and concerns are resolved, your top priority should be a seamless continuation of care. Your residents need to feel the support of your staff, and their trepidation will subside when they realize their lives are resuming normal functions and routines. In particular, the passing of meds needs to continue without interruption or confusion. MAR documentation is a huge part of state and federal regulations, even during a natural disaster. Simply put, there are no extenuating circumstances when it comes to the health of your residents. To ensure proper documentation, every community needs to be backing up their residents’ MAR. If you’re using an eMAR software, work with your provider to create a schedule for maintaining regular paper backups. Paperwork cannot fall into negligence, even during an emergency–your community needs to maintain compliance at all times. For this reason, it is wise to have a consistent and reliable method for tracking compliance.

Using a Web-Based Software

This may seem like an oddly specific topic for emergency planning, but the key to efficient and effective crisis-response is flexibility. As the operator of an assisted living community, you need to be able to deal with any obstacles in your way so that your residents receive top-notch care. After your staff finishes charting on any mobile device, like a tablet or even a laptop, make sure they’re plugged back in and maintaining a good charge, as you’ll want full battery life to get you through any loss of power.

One of the great benefits of using a web-based software is that your daily operations are not tied to one-specific site. Your community’s computers might be damaged or destroyed during a disaster. Paper documents are always vulnerable to the elements. With web-based software you have access anywhere.

To find out more information on how the ALIS team can help prepare your community to deal with a disaster, click here.