In response to the unfortunate and tragic events that have occurred in some long-term care communities as a result of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, legislators are turning their focus to emergency preparedness and disaster planning for older Americans.
On September 16, Florida Governor Rick Scott directed the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Elder Affairs to issue an emergency rule for assisted living communities and nursing homes. The rule is based on standards already in place at Florida hospitals. It directs communities to obtain resources such as a generator and fuel to support and sustain operations for at least 96 hours following a power loss. Argentum is working closely with Florida Argentum, the Argentum Board of Directors, and Florida provider members to address issues surrounding the rule and its requirements.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) also introduced legislation on September 19 to amend the Public Health Service Act to establish a 15-member National Advisory Committee on Seniors and Disasters to assist with ways to support and care for older Americans during a disaster. The bill, co-sponsored by fellow Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) among other senators, would require that a panel of federal and local agency officials and health care professionals be appointed to the committee by the Health & Human Services Department. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will be the first committee to review the legislation.
Additionally, the U.S. Special Committee on Aging (SCOA) held a hearing, “Disaster Preparedness and Response: The Special Needs of Older Americans” on Wednesday, September 20. According to a SCOA release issued on September 13, the goal of the hearing was to examine policies and plans for sheltering in place and evacuating seniors at times of disaster to ensure their health and safety. At the hearing, testimony was provided by experts in areas including health care, disaster planning, emergency management, and aging research. Argentum also submitted testimony in advance of the hearing and will be providing final comments for the public record within the next week including positive stories from impacted senior living communities, employees, and residents.
While a major component of the hearing focused on addressing concerns about older Americans who live alone in their own homes during disasters, witness Dr. Kathryn Hyer, a professor at the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida, made several recommendations for assisted living communities and nursing homes on page 4 of her testimony. Other expert witnesses covered a variety of issues relevant to the senior living industry, including evacuation procedures, generator requirements and fuel storage, and lessons learned from past destructive hurricanes.
Fire Chief/Emergency Management Coordinator, City of Wilkes-Barre – Bureau of Fire
Karen DeSalvo, M.D., M.P.H.
Former Health Commissioner, City of New Orleans
Kathryn Hyer, Ph.D., M.P.P.
Professor/Director Policy Center, School of Aging Studies/Florida Policy Exchange Center on Aging, University of South Florida
Paul Timmons, Jr.
CEO/President, Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies
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