Multiple media outlets are reporting that at least eight residents of a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida have died, possibly due to a combination of rising temperatures and a failure of the building’s air-conditioning system. News reports say that first responders were called to the facility at 4:00 AM this morning. A full evacuation has been under way to relocate residents to a safer environment.
This tragedy underscores the importance of an emergency preparedness (EP) rule being mandated by the federal government for all health care providers that will take effect on November 16th. The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been working to develop appropriate criteria, provide educational updates and establish online resources to help facilities create such a plan. While surviving the wind and water associated with Hurricane Irma was a first step, the ability to continue to function days after such a storm is critically important. An emergency preparedness plan needs to account for elements such as building heating and cooling, provisions for continuous care of residents, and considerations for maintaining adequate staffing levels. Formally known as the Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare and Medicaid Participating Providers and Suppliers rule, it is intended to provide an outline and process for developing a comprehensive plan that looks at the most challenging conditions and scenarios. Although the effective date is approximately two months away, many provider types affected by the rule have been planning for this day.
The new EP rule was also the topic of one of the sessions held this past June at the NFPA Conference and Expo. You can see the entirety of that presentation entitled “EMERGENCY! Preparedness, Planning, Generators: The New Rules Affecting Health Care”. NFPA has also established a CMS resource page which provides more information about the EP rule, and features a user’s guide to help navigate the requirements.