When disaster strikes - how to soften the blow

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Jay Shelton
Jay Shelton

Senior living settings are at risk of a natural disaster, along with every other business across the country. The true problem is when you discover that only 25 percent of all businesses and facilities have a plan in place when disaster strikes.

Have you ever wondered: “What would we do if we had a disaster?” The problem is most long-term care administrators just think about it, rather than acting on a plan. When you're faced with a disaster, things get chaotic and emotions run high. Often, it's hard to recover from such an event without a plan. With the proper planning, the loss can be a bit less devastating.

So what does proper planning entail?

  1. Set goals for what you want to accomplish within your plan. For example, establish answers to questions like: “Where do we relocate?” and “Who should I partner with?” is a great start.
  2. Seek out a reputable disaster restoration company that offers disaster and continuity planning. Set up pre-arranged agreements that outline the priority of service and assessment of emergency equipment needed, so when the restoration company responds, they will have all the necessary equipment and personnel.
  3. Develop an action plan for each type of disaster, including a communication procedure that ensures employees, vendors and residents' families know how and when to reach you.
  4. Ensure everyone involved, from management to staffing to maintenance to residents, have some familiarity with and understanding of the plan that's been made, including where all emergency exits and supplies are located.
  5. Testing is essential to ensure that the disaster and continuity plan actually works and that it aligns with current operations and addresses all areas of response. The plan should be tested at least annually, although seasonally is recommended, as cold and hot weather present a wide variety of issues that could be missed.

No matter how well-prepared you may be for a disaster, the situation will be infinitely more complicated by the nature of assisted living conditions. Is evacuation necessary? What will it cost and what are the risks of staying? What are the risks of leaving? These are questions that will remain unique to each long-term care facility. All facilities differ greatly in population and location.

The most important thing to do during a disaster is remain flexible, even when following a plan. Understanding the nature of your plan and the disaster at hand will help all senior care facilities work through any disaster.

Jay Shelton is the senior vice president of Risk Management Services at Assurance. He can be reached at jshelton@assuranceagency.com.


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