As hurricane season rages on, it is important for skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) to take steps to prepare for these potentially severe weather events. By taking certain precautions and having a plan in place, SNFs can minimize the impact of a tropical storm or hurricane on their patients, staff, and facility. Here are some key tips for preparing your SNF for a tropical storm or hurricane.
Prepare for a Hurricane Before Hurricane Season
Don't wait until a hurricane is on your doorstep to start preparing your SNF. Use these tips to get started now and ensure that your facility is as safe as possible when severe weather hits.
Find Your Point Person for Storm Preparedness
Start by designating a point person who will be responsible for coordinating your facility's hurricane preparedness efforts. This person should be someone who is level-headed and capable of making quick decisions in stressful situations.
Ensure that the person you choose is not already overloaded with other job duties and has a genuine interest in protecting the SNF. They may already be in a management or administrative position at your facility. Just be aware that, in some cases, hiring outside help will be the best choice.
Equip Your Facility With High-Quality Doors and Windows
One of the most important things you can do to protect your SNF is to get equipped with high-quality doors and windows. If your doors and windows are old and not up to code, they won't be able to withstand the high winds and battering rain that comes with a hurricane. You may need to invest in new doors and windows if reinforcing your existing ones isn’t an option. It could be costly, depending on the size of your facility and how many doors and windows it has. But it's a worthy investment, given how much safer your facility will be with them.
Obtain Emergency Supplies
Of course, you’ll also need emergency supplies on hand before a hurricane hits.
- Non-perishable food for 7-10 days
- Bottled water for 7-10 days (each resident will need a gallon of water per day)
- Portable generators
- First aid supplies
- Manual can opener
- Fire extinguisher
- Mobility equipment
Note: This is not an exhaustive list of emergency supplies your facility will need. There could be additional items your residents may need.
Train Your Staff
Your staff should be trained on what to do in the event of a tropical storm or hurricane. This includes things like how to secure your facility, how to evacuate residents, and how to provide basic medical care. Make sure they are familiar with your emergency plan and know what their role is in the event of a natural disaster. In the event of a hurricane, every minute counts, so it's important that everyone knows what to do and where to go.
The point person you choose may be the ideal person to do the training.
List Out Your Residents' Emergency Contacts
In the event of an evacuation (or a shelter-in-place situation), you'll need to be able to get in touch with your residents' emergency contacts. This is why it's important to have a condensed list of their information.
Make sure the list is stored in a safe place and that relevant staff members know where to find it. In the chaos of a hurricane, having this list readily available can make a huge difference.
Ensure The Facility Has Adequate Insurance
Since hurricanes and tropical storms can result in destruction to the facility and injury among residents, insurance is incredibly important. Property insurance will cover the cost of damage to your facility, while liability insurance will protect you in the event that someone is injured on your property. Make sure you have both types of insurance and that your coverage is always up to date.
Take Action When a Hurricane or Tropical Storm is Headed Your Way
If you've taken the steps outlined in the previous section, you're in a good spot. But there are some other steps you should take as a storm is approaching to further ensure the safety of your residents, staff, and facility:
- Locate and access emergency supplies. You want to have these items on hand - not in storage - so you can provide emergency care if needed.
- Take items down from walls. Wall decorations can fly off the walls and injure staff and residents.
- Secure any loose items outside. They could become airborne and break windows or cause injury.
- Unplug electrical devices. Doing so will prevent damage from a potential power surge.
- Board up windows and doors or use hurricane shutters. This helps to limit building damage from high winds and flying objects.
- Keep a close eye on the weather forecast. It's always helpful to know the path of the storm or hurricane.
- Save patient information in a digital location and store important paper documents in waterproof containers.
- Pack a bag for each resident with clothes, medications, and other essential items.
- Keep cash on hand. ATMs and banks may not be available during or immediately after a storm.
- Set up your generators in case of a power outage.
Tropical storms and hurricanes can be devastating. But with proper preparation, you can prevent damage to your facility and keep your residents safe. Use these tips to get started, and make sure you have a plan in place before the bad weather hits. If you have any questions about a topic not included in this guide, check out this easy-to-scan checklist from the Florida Health Care Association for what to do 1-5 days before a storm. You can also review this Hurricane Preparedness Guide from Florida's Office of the Attorney General for some general recommendations for hurricane prep. We hope that you found this article to be helpful, and we encourage you to start planning now for the next inevitable storm to ensure the continuity of your SNF and the safety of your residents and staff.