After Hurricane Irma devastated Florida, around 160 nursing homes were still without power several days later. The heat, endured without air conditioning, took its toll on nursing home patients, with 11 deaths reported in Irma’s wake. It has come to light that many nursing homes across the United States are, to put it mildly, unprepared for disasters.
Shortly after the deaths occurred in Hollywood, Florida, SC Rep. Wendell Gilliard decided to shine a light on the preparedness of our own state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. He accomplished this by sending a letter dated September 14, 2017 to the acting director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). In it, Rep. Gilliard asked, “In the wake of what happened in Florida, would you please inform me of our state’s policies and guidelines specific to the usage of power generators when a normal power outage occurs?”
David Wilson, the acting director of DHEC, communicated that, in light of the events in Florida, SC’s storm preparations were under review. During Irma, using a computer application developed after the lessons of 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, DHEC staff collected information regarding the locations to which nursing home patients were being evacuated, the details of their transport, and whether the facilities had enough water, food, and other supplies on hand to both move and care for patients. In the cases of four locations where phone calls did not reach anyone, emergency personnel were dispatched to check that all persons had been evacuated from the buildings.