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How prepared is your SNF for emergencies?

January 13, 2016
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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Ohio’s nursing homes may have disaster plans on paper, but they aren’t as prepared for natural disasters and emergencies as they should be, according to a new survey data gathered by Ohio’s Miami University.

The university’s Scripps Geronotology Center asked the state’s nursing home administrators new questions about disaster preparedness in its Biennial Long-Term Care Survey.

Although all of the 890 responding skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) say they have an emergency plan on paper, 50 percent of them developed their plans without the coordination of local agencies.  At least 90 percent of respondents said their plans specifically addressed the risks of power loss, facility fire and tornadoes, but few had plans for flooding or impassible roads.

The gaps widened when it came to evacuation preparedness. “Evacuation requires significant planning and action,” the report noted. Ninety percent of responding facilities had arrangements for transporting residents, and 80 percent had a predetermined evacuation location. But only three in 10 nursing homes had practiced the evacuation plan in a community-wide emergency drill.

Eighty-two percent of the state has had at least one federally-declared disaster in the past 10 years. Floods, tornadoes, toxic spills, extended utility outages, fire—all have occurred. In 2012, a violent storm knocked out power to some areas of the state for almost a week.

The survey data also show interesting vulnerabilities when it comes to supplies for sheltering in place. Only about half of facilities reported having enough medical supplies, common medication stocks and nonperishable food to last a week or more. Only 32 percent had a week’s worth of water on hand.

But the lack of coordination with local services and absence of drills are the biggest concerns. “Most nursing homes have plans prepared for natural disasters, mechanical failures, and evacuations,” the survey brief states. “About half of nursing homes have not developed plans in coordination with local partners and 80% have not been contacted or are unsure about contact with Ohio’s seven regional healthcare coalitions. In times of emergencies these partners will be necessary, if not essential, allies. The more communication and practice, the more likely that what is written on paper will actually occur.”

Ohio’s nursing homes serve approximately 78,000 residents.