Long-term care communities around the nation certainly have put a great deal of focus on Emergency Preparedness the past few years. As CMS prepares to enforce more stringent regulations on licensed skilled nursing facilities (SNF) for this area of operations, many providers have ramped up their efforts to help ensure compliance. In addition to complying with regulations and best practices, providers must understand that enhanced emergency management capabilities will not only help comply with the regulations but also will pay off when handling real-world events.
Two incidents in the past several months illustrate the importance of training, practice and technology when managing emergencies. During each real-world incident, staff had to rely on their past experience with training, drills and exercises to successfully handle fast-moving, emergent scenarios.
Case 1: Lockdown
The first incident involved an emergency lockdown of a SNF where a home invasion with fatality occurred in a private residence (not associated with the facility) within two blocks of the nursing home. According to news reports, assailants had entered a private residence to perpetrate a crime. At some point during the home invasion, the homeowner, who was licensed to carry a firearm, shot and killed one intruder and shot and injured another. In addition to the intruders that were shot, three other assailants involved with this criminal act were able to flee the crime scene and escape into the area near the SNF. Once the on-duty staff at the SNF became aware of this situation from local police department sources, they immediately initiated their lockdown procedures and had residents secured in safe areas within a matter of minutes.
The irony involved with this incident revolves around the fact that facility had recently put a great deal of effort in training its staff for this exact scenario. In fact, this SNF had just completed a major training initiative that focused on the specific actions that need to be taken when violent acts occur within or near the facility. One training exercise involved a scenario where a shooting occurred in the administration office and another involved a situation where some type of violent act occurred within the surrounding community requiring the SNF to initiate a complete lockdown to prohibit ingress or egress. Both of these training modules provided staff with situational awareness and gave them the opportunity to practice the concepts that were taught subsequently translating into successful action when the real-world incident occurred.
Case 2: Wildfire
In the second incident, a nursing home provider with facilities in Northern Arizona’s high country faced a fast-moving wildfire that threatened two of their facilities. Pre-evacuation orders were issued by local authorities requiring the provider had to organize a response that included the potential evacuation and relocation of scores of residents; many with special needs.