Flood, fire, tornadoes and hurricanes are just a few of the uncontrollable situations that can put long-term care residents—and staff—in harm’s way. Enough can’t be said about knowing what to do when the time comes because in dangerous situations, staff are not only caregivers but the first line of defense. But Mother Nature isn’t the only potential predator out there.
Unsavory people pose a threat to resident and staff safety, too. Recently, a person armed with a knife broke into an Illinois nursing home looking for drugs. This past November, three armed robbers broke into a North Carolina assisted living building seeking jewelry and other valuables.
These situations are becoming more and more frequent. Long-Term Living’s safety expert Steve Wilder recently wrote an article, “Preparedness protected residents, Village Shalom chief says,” which stressed the importance of staff readiness.
But preparing for potential emergencies can be problematic, too. The author of a letter published in the Aspen Times expressed anger and disgust that an active-shooter drill was held at a nearby nursing home. I believe the letter-writer happened into the wrong place at the right time. He seems to think that facilities that care for older adults are immune to crime. It might be a bit naïve, but he does make a point, however, when he speculates how drills could affect residents. Possibly the problem is whether residents and their families are informed and prepped about the process. Or possibly, he believes that an active-shooter event is too remote to care about.
Long-term care protects many types of residents—some are mobile, some not so much; some are mentally sharp, while others have cognitive challenges. What about residents who are tethered to oxygen supplies or other therapeutic devices?
If your staff practices evacuation, fire and, yes, active-shooter drills, what steps do you take to ensure that your residents are not frightened and that each drill is successful? A prepared staff can be a deterrent to a facility invader—natural or human.
I’ll bet the LTC facilities in Illinois, North Carolina and Kansas didn’t think an active-shooter, burglar or strong-arm robber would ever target their facilities either.