On Saturday, September 16, Florida Governor Rick Scott issued an Emergency Action requiring all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have an emergency power plan. This directive follows the death of 10 residents in a Hollywood, Florida nursing home as a result of Hurricane Irma. These needless deaths occurred days after the hurricane had passed the region and appear to be the result of heat-related health problems that ensued as a result of the facility air-conditioning system not being functional.
Legislators, nursing home owners, state health care agencies, and emergency management authorities discussed the need for backup power and general natural disaster care for residents at a Nursing Center Emergency Preparedness Summit in Tallahassee today. A part of the emergency action includes:
- Acquisition of generator capacity to ensure ambient temperatures will be maintained at 80° or less for a four-day period as a result of the loss of electrical power
- Acquisition of fuel for the generators for a four-day period
Most striking, perhaps, is the directive that the rule be implemented by facilities within 60 days, which puts the deadline at November 15, 2017. A New York Times article on the rule noted the need to address the problem but raised concerns about the proposed time line. This fast-track schedule and deadline will require an immense coordination between the design community, facility operators, manufacturers of generator equipment, and the contracting companies who will ultimately be responsible for the installation. Several state agencies will have oversight, review and approval of the proposed installation solutions including the Agency for Healthcare Administration, Department of Elder Affairs and the State Fire Marshal’s office.
With an estimated 680 nursing homes and 3,100 assisted living facilities in the state, Governor Scott’s 60-day proposal is certain to challenge inspection and enforcement authorities, as well as nursing home administrators who may still be recovering from the hurricane. NFPA offers a range of resources that can be used to assist in this effort, predominantly involving NFPA 110, Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems. Related training and certification programs surrounding this life-saving element also include NFPA 110 and NFPA 111 (2016) Online Training Series and Certified Emergency Power Systems Specialist (CEPSS-HC) for Health Care Facility Managers.
While the actions being taken in Florida are consistent with the ultimate goal of the CMS Emergency Preparedness rule that goes into effect this November, it will be important for the state to not cut any corners with respect to the design and installation upgrades for emergency power during this accelerated phase in. More information on the federal rule can be found on the NFPA CMS resource page.