CAPE CORAL, Fla., - With hurricane season underway, local assisted living facilities and nursing homes are working to make sure they meet the state mandate for generators.
New laws went into effect earlier this year after 14 people died when a nursing home lost air conditioning for a prolonged period of time in Hollywood Hills, Florida. Since then, legislators passed a law mandating all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have back up generators and fuel to power air conditioners should the power go out in a storm.
“Prepare for what you could never imagine, cause that’s what Irma was,” said Ayla Harwood, discussing lessons learned from last year. Harwood is the executive director of Juniper Village, an assisted living facility in Cape Coral. She and her team were tasked with weathering Irma with more than 40 residents.
They were forced to evacuate to an emergency shelter just days before the storm. Then, when the shelter ran out of water, they went back to Juniper village where the power still hadn’t come back on.
They had a generator they used to power the kitchen, but it wasn’t enough to power the air conditioner.
“We created cooling rooms. We filtered residents in and out and we took bus trips on our buses that have air conditioning to keep our residents cool,” Harwood said.
Harwood says they had a nurse practitioner on site to make sure patients were safe.
The deadline for meeting the requirement for emergency generators is June 1st. Harwood says they’ve filed an extension and are now finalizing their plans with an engineer to come up with a plan of action.
“We’re deeply dedicated to make sure that our residents have air moving forward and that we make every proper step to make sure its installed the right way,” Harwood said.
Those granted an extension for emergency generators have until January 1, 2019 to meet the requirement. If granted an extension, they’re also required to prove they’ve got a plan to keep the facility cool for residents should a storm be approaching.