LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - When we’re in the crosshairs of a hurricane, we’re naturally concerned about keeping our loved ones safe — especially those unable to take care of themselves.
In Florida after Hurricane Irma in 2017, a dozen nursing home residents died in extreme heat. Now, four people who worked at the facility each face 12 counts of aggravated manslaughter.
So, how should Louisiana nursing homes prepare for hurricanes and other emergencies?
First and foremost, Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh, the Department of Health medical director for region five, said each nursing home should have an emergency plan.
“They should have plans for if we get, for example, a hurricane, to have to evacuate. But, they should also have plans for all hazards. So, say there was an explosion or a mass outbreak of flu, they should have plans for those things as well," Cavanaugh said.
Once a plan is created, each nursing home must get that approved by the Department of Health and the Office of Emergency Preparedness. Something Bart Pugh, administrator for Landmark of Lake Charles, says they take very seriously.
“We have to get all of that approved once a year, we go over the plan twice a year, we have drills two times a year as well, in preparation in case we do have to evacuate for an emergency— not just a hurricane," Pugh said.
However, in the case of a hurricane, Pugh said they have not only a plan but a backup plan.
“We go to Alexandria, we notify family members and residents and staff 72 hours ahead of time. We have contracts with all of our vendors in the event where we have to shelter in place, for anything like that. The most recent was Hurricane Harvey when we had to shelter in place," Pugh said. “The backup plan—depending on the cone of unpredictability, depending on that, we have another plan where we would go to Ville Platte.”
Cavanaugh said going straight to the source is the best way to learn more.
“If an individual family member wants to know so, ‘what’s the plan for my loved one who’s in nursing home XYZ?’ The best conversation to have is with administrators and the leads of that nursing home. Because every nursing home’s plan is different," Cavanaugh said.
If a nursing home’s conditions may cause an imminent threat to residents during an emergency, Cavanaugh said the first step would be to report it to administrators there.
If administrators don’t fix the issue, the next best step would be to report it to your local OEP.