Long Term Care Organizations Release Recommendations on Emergency Preparedness Following Experiences With Hurricane Harvey

Texas long term care providers entered the 2018 hurricane season better prepared than ever, battle-tested by Hurricane Harvey’s wrath.

Even before Harvey’s floodwaters receded, members of the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) were conferring with industry colleagues in Texas as well as other states to revise and improve their emergency response efforts. Recently, members of the THCA, Texas Assisted Living Association and Leading Age joined together to present post-Harvey recommendations to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. They were shared with the state’s top health oversight agency in hopes that rule changes can strengthen emergency preparedness for assisted living communities.

The workgroup’s recommendations to strengthen emergency preparedness regulations ranged from better coordination with a community’s local office of emergency management to registering with emergency networks.

“We hope our recommendations will quickly become industry-wide standard practices,” said Dorothy Crawford, director of policy and regulatory analysis for THCA. “Staff working in communities know the chaos that epic weather events can bring, and we believe these ideas will help reach our most important goal: keeping our residents safe.”

The workgroup’s other recommendations included:

  • A facility must evacuate if a mandatory evacuation order is given by the county judge of the county in which the facility is located or is given by the mayor of the municipality in which the facility is located;
  • In the event of an emergency, the facility must notify a resident’s emergency contact as soon as practical; notification can be through electronic messaging or website that is disclosed beforehand. Emergency contact information shall be obtained upon admission and updated annually;
  • Include in a resident’s initial and annual assessment any special emergency needs;
  • All staff must be trained in their duties and are responsible for implementing the emergency management plan; and
  • Emergency preparedness training shall be made available to residents and their families.

Crawford added, “When Hurricane Harvey’s historic floodwaters rose, thousands of assisted living and long term care providers faced the dangers in an extraordinary display of true grit and humanity. Despite fear of losing their own homes and worrying about their own families, they still came to work to care for the residents. They sheltered in place at their facilities, sleeping in hallways and on the floor, to ensure their residents were cared for. Caregivers lost their own possessions to the waters but still put their residents in their facilities first. Some even came to work in a boat.”

“When a region experiences 50 inches of rainfall and a 1,000-year flood, it is not difficult to find examples of what you might have done differently. Some of these recommendations reflect what we learned from last year’s tragic and challenging conditions,” stated Crawford.