Assisted living communities not prioritized for power restoration as hurricane season underway

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NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime infrared image of Hurricane Irma on Sept. 11 at 3:21 a.m. EDT located over central Florida. (Credit: NOAA/NASA Goddard Rapid Response Team).
NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime infrared image of Hurricane Irma on Sept. 11 at 3:21 a.m. EDT located over central Florida. (Credit: NOAA/NASA Goddard Rapid Response Team).

Assisted living communities and nursing homes in two South Florida counties frequently targeted by hurricanes have not been added to the lists that Florida Power & Light Co. uses to prioritize the restoration of power in emergencies, according to the Sun Sentinel.

The power company said it rejected requests submitted by the Broward and Miami-Dade county governments because they did not meet the utility's requirements, the media outlet reported.

Those requirements specify that “critical institutions” must be within range of certain main power lines that provide electricity to their areas, and counties can specify to the utility a maximum of 20% of the main power lines to prioritize. Hospitals and 911 dispatch centers automatically are on the priority list, but assisted living communities and nursing homes are not.

Broward County is where the now-closed Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills was located. Twelve of the facility's residents died from environmental heat exposure after a power outage related to Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility's air conditioning.

The deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills spurred Florida Gov. Rick Scott in September to give all assisted living communities and nursing homes in the state 60 days to obtain generators and enough fuel to enable them “to sustain operations and maintain comfortable temperatures” — defined as at or below 80 degrees — for at least 96 hours following a power outage.

After legal challenges to Scott's orders, the Florida legislature passed a bill in March, and Scott signed it into law, requiring each assisted living community to have a backup power source that can maintain an air conditioning system during a power outage. The law details additional requirements related to generators and fuel.

Compliance with generator rules

As of July 3, 40% of licensed assisted living facilities in the state (1,239 of 3,097 facilities) were not in compliance with the state's generator requirements, according to an online map regularly updated by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

Florida AHCA said that 794 assisted living facilities have implemented generator requirements and an additional 1,064 have asked for more time to meet the requirements. All of them are considered to be in compliance.

Coastal counties with the highest percentages of noncompliance include Flagler, where 73% (16 of 22) of assisted living providers are not in compliance; St. Lucie, where 63% (48 of 76) of assisted living providers are not in compliance; and Hernando, where 56% (15 of 27) of assisted living providers are not in compliance, according to the map.

Forty-two percent of assisted living providers in Broward County (115 of 277) are not in compliance with the generator requirements, and 41% of assisted living providers in Miami-Dade County (346 of 841) are not in compliance, according to Florida AHCA.

See the articles under “Related Articles,” or click on “Hurricane Irma” below, to read additional information on this topic.

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