Senior living operators were preparing for the worst on Tuesday as the National Hurricane Center said that Hurricane Florence, currently a Category 4 hurricane, was expected to approach the coast of North Carolina or South Carolina on Thursday and Friday.

Tuesday evening, the center was describing Hurricane Florence as “dangerous” and said the hurricane was “expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to portions of the Carolina and Mid-Atlantic states.” Water could reach heights of two to 13 feet in some areas, the center said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar declared public health emergencies in North and South Carolina on Tuesday, which he said would give Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ beneficiaries and their healthcare providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs.

Holiday Retirement has been making plans for several days, Lee Young, district vice president of operation, East, told McKnight’s Senior Living.

“We’ve been in business for 50 years, so it’s not the first situation like this we’ve been through,” he said, adding, however, that “[Hurricane] Irma last year really caused us to bring all of those resources together probably more than we ever have.”

Home office employees in Winter Park, FL, are working to support community-level employees, Young said.

“We pull them into a call twice a day, giving the general manager or executive director direct access. Dining, facilities, communications, fire and life safety, resident experience, procurement are all on the same call to help expedite any of the needs from the community,” he said. “But we start with a baseline guide. For instance, we leverage our partners from Sysco to create automatic orders so we have what we need both for communities that would shelter in place or potentially communities that would be involved in evacuations — both evacuees and the receiving communities.”

Eight of Holiday’s coastal communities appear to be in the path of the storm, Young said, with another 19 inland communities expected to be affected to a lesser degree. The communities are home to approximately 2,700 residents, he said.

Residents of two communities were evacuated to other Holiday properties on Tuesday due to mandatory evacuation orders. Ashley Park in Charleston, SC, was evacuated to Deepwood Estates in Lexington, SC. Eagle Crest in Myrtle Beach, SC, was evacuated to Forest Pines in Columbia, SC.

All residents arrived at their destinations Tuesday afternoon, Young said. “They’re still going to see some impact from the storm, but they’re further inland, so our residents will be safe there,” he said.

Per the Holiday playbook, efforts to keep families informed start when plans are put into action, Young said.

“Our general managers start making calls to families as soon as things start to come into play,” he said. “As we go through this process, we post updates to the website and to our Facebook page. Our general managers’ cell phone numbers are posted to those pages as well, so if a family member does need to get in contact with their family member, then they have access in that way. We’ve also had several communities that, as they’ve evacuated and arrived at the receiving community, we’ve had our resident experience coordinators set up times for evacuated residents to Facetime or Skype with their family member to let them know that they’re OK, that they’ve arrived safely.”

Teamwork appears to be the secret to success, Young said.

“It never ceases to amaze me how well our teams work together in these types of crises,” he said. “We have a large organization, so we have a lot of resources to leverage to best help our residents, but the biggest resource we have are those teams — the general managers, the chefs, the housekeepers, you name it. Those folks right at the community level who are really, really engaged and focused on helping our residents.”

Teams activated at Erickson

Catonsville, MD-based Erickson Living is taking proactive steps similar to the ones it took before Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in 2017, Jeffrey Getek, senior regional communications manager, told McKnight’s Senior Living on Tuesday. That means teamwork, too.

The company, he said, has activated its “Enterprise Emergency and Business Continuity Team” to work with communities in contacting vendors, reviewing best practices and providing communications support.

One North Carolina continuing care retirement community, Windsor Run in Matthews, southeast of Charlotte, is neither on the immediate coastline nor in the current mandatory evacuation area, but it is preparing for Hurricane Florence in several ways, Getek said.

“The executive team at Windsor Run is working with its corporate partners at Erickson Living to track the storm, contact vendors to maintain strong supply levels and create a schedule to ensure a 24/7 staffing presence during the storm,” he said. “Communication has already been sent to residents to make them aware of these preparations and provide contact information for various needs.”

Beyond North Carolina, Erickson Living manages three communities in the Washington, D.C., market (Ashby Ponds and Greenspring in northern Virginia and Riderwood in Silver Spring, MD) and two communities in Baltimore County, MD (Charlestown and Oak Crest), Getek said.

“While none of these campuses are located along the coastline, these communities are taking similar precautionary steps to bolster supply levels and communicate with residents and employees about any potential weather-related issues associated with Hurricane Florence,” he added.

Plans in place at Brookdale, too

Brookdale, headquartered in Brentwood, TN, said it was undertaking similar actions.

“Our coastal communities have a storm preparedness plan in place and are equipped with water, food, permanent or ready-to-deploy temporary generators and supplies to care for residents,” the company posted on part of its website dedicated to Hurricane Florence plans. “We are taking appropriate actions to keep them safe throughout the storm, watching the storm closely and we will follow the directions of authorities.”

The country’s largest senior living owner and operator evacuated Brookdale Charleston in Charleston, SC, on Tuesday morning. Assisted living residents were relocated to the Lexington Hotel & Conference Center – Jacksonville Riverwalk in Jacksonville, FL, arriving Tuesday evening. Memory care residents were relocated to the Brookdale Atrium Way in Jacksonville, FL.

Due to updated predictions from the National Hurricane Center, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster lifted a previous mandatory evacuation order that would have affected Brookdale Hilton Head, Brookdale Hilton Head Village and Brookdale Hilton Head Court, so residents there remained in place.

As of Tuesday evening, Brookdale said it was planning to evacuate three communities on Wednesday in North Carolina due to mandatory evacuation orders from Gov. Roy Cooper.

“We have detailed plans in place that include moving residents to a safer area with accompanying care associates, providing temporary accommodations as well as food, beverages and personal belongings,” Brookdale said.

Residents of Brookdale Morehead City in Morehead City, NC, will be evacuated to Brookdale Country Day Road in Goldsboro, NC; residents of Brookdale Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, will be taken to Brookdale Wake Forest in Wake Forest, NC; and residents of Brookdale New Bern, New Bern, NC, will be moved to Brookdale Durham in Durham, NC.

Brookdale is keeping resident families informed of its actions via the corporate website and community Facebook pages and also is encouraging families to contact communities directly with questions.

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