Post Harvey-Irma Wake Up Call: Is Your Disaster Plan Ready to Roll?

You don’t have to live in the hurricane belt to be prepared for extreme emergency scenarios and have a plan in place to overcome them. Disasters come in many forms – natural and man-made – and can strike with little or no notice to you and your residents.

Tornadoes, freezing rain, power grid outages, wildfires, flash floods and trucks overturning with toxic chemicals are just a few of the many disaster events that can affect wide geographic areas and their senior living providers.

Natural disasters such a Hurricane Harvey and Irma remind us of just how important it is to have an up-to-date disaster plan in place that’s ready to implement at a moment’s notice. An effectively prepared and practiced disaster plan can save lives, minimize injury and illness and also reduce the potential for a public relations nightmare – the type from which you might never recover.

Update and Test Your Disaster Preparedness NOW

Fortunately, there are many useful tools available to senior living and senior care providers today that can help you to strengthen your disaster preparedness. For example:

  • As noted by ARGENTUM®, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness & Response has unveiled an interactive online tool to aid community health agencies and emergency management officials in disaster preparedness as they plan ahead to meet the emergency needs of community residents who rely on medical and assistive equipment powered by electricity.

“For people who rely on electricity-dependent medical equipment, prolonged power outages can mean life or death,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness & Response. “…Real-time awareness of population-level needs and the ability to respond to them is critical.”

More than 1.6 million Medicare beneficiaries rely on this type of equipment such as wheelchairs, ventilators and oxygen concentrators. The HHS emPOWER map shows the monthly total number of Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries’ claims for electrically powered equipment at the national, state, territory, county and zip code levels. The tool meshes this data with real-time severe weather tracking services. The data through the emPOWER map is designed to help community organizations, including hospitals, senior living communities, first responders, and electric utility officials to work with health officials to prevent health impacts of prolonged power outages due to storms and other natural disasters.

  • A related article highlights the importance of connectedness among older adults in disaster preparations.

“After a disaster, it’s common for families and individuals to feel stress and anxiety over their health and safety and this affects people in many different ways,” according to Dr. Dan Dodgen with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness & Response, in a blog post “Older Adults: Include Connectedness in Your Hurricane Plan.

Dodgen says caregivers, families and older adults can benefit from taking a look at a recent study showing that maintaining meaningful relationships and connecting with friends, family and community before a disaster strikes can help those experiencing a disaster such as a hurricane.

These findings are important for preparedness efforts because they suggest that those who feel more connected to friends, family and community are more likely to stay healthy or feel increased life satisfaction, according to Dodgen. “As communities, public health efforts need to focus on ways to increase support networks to promote disaster resilience,” he said. “Participating in activities to foster civic engagement and social cohesion before and after a hurricane are just a few ways to take action and prevent post-traumatic stress in individuals.”

Several other basic disaster preparedness tools and resources are available to assist senior living and senior care providers with their planning activities. Examples include:

Communicate Your Disaster Preparedness to Boost Your Brand

These days personal safety and protection in severe weather and other emergency situations is getting a lot more attention. After a major disaster such as Hurricane Harvey, it’s on the news and on people’s minds. Who can forget the graphic scenes of assisted living residents sitting in waist-deep water in Houston.

Suddenly, disaster plans have become a major checklist item to families in measuring the quality and reputation of your residence or community.

In addition to its obvious lifesaving value, disaster preparedness can also be a valuable marketing tool as a point of differentiation for families who want to know their loved ones will always be safe even under the worst of circumstances. By communicating and publicizing your plan in various ways – such as on your website, in your blog, on social media and in your literature – you can provide the spouses, adult children and other family members of current residents with an important measure of comfort and confidence. This is doubly true for family members who might live some distance away.

And consumers who are now considering senior care and senior living options will appreciate the value-added factor of a new home for their loved one that is well prepared to keep them safe and secure even under the most challenging circumstances.

One note of caution: Before you publicize your disaster preparedness plan to the world, make sure it has been tested and communicated effectively to all managers, staff, residents and their families so there is no confusion as to what to do and when in the event of an emergency. With major disasters in the news, you can probably expect visiting families of current residents as well as new prospects on tour to ask about your plan, and you’ll want all of your team to be on the same page.

Sage Age Strategies: Leaders in Integrated Digital & Traditional Growth Strategies

At Sage Age Strategies, our marketing and lead generation professionals excel in the latest digital and traditional best practices that increase quality leads and grow your occupancy. If you need assistance in any areas of integrated growth strategy to improve your results, we invite you to contact us today to learn more.

Sage Age Strategies is a multiple award-winning, strategic growth, marketing and consulting organization that operates exclusively in the unique senior living industry. For more information, please call or email Adrienne Mansfield Straub at 570-601-1720 ext.100 / adrienne@sageagestrategies.com.

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