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Deadly Hurricane Irma Aftermath Prompts Florida Nursing Home Backup Power Preparedness Requirements

At AXI International, we know first-hand just how terrifying a hurricane can be. Hurricane Irma passed over the state of Florida, including our corporate headquarters, just last week and left a path of destruction in her wake.

Cars were destroyed, building roofs were blown away, homes were flooded, and trees were uprooted from the ground. However, perhaps one of the most imminent dangers that Irma bestowed upon Floridians was downed powerlines. Not only do exposed live powerlines pose a danger, but the lack of power can lead to some deadly consequences for some.

Deadly Nursing Home Power Outage

Take, for example, a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, where, as of the day this article was written, eleven senior citizens, ranging in age from 71 to 99 years old, have died from heat-related causes. Emergency responders went to the facility on September 13th after receiving three calls from distressed patients. After doing a check of the entre facility, they found three people dead and evacuated the facility. Later that day, five more had died and at least a dozen more were transported to the emergency room. Three more have died since the incident.

Apparently, The Rehabilitation Center has a recorded history of putting their patients at risk by not maintaining a reliable backup power system. According to a state report, The Rehabilitation Center had previously been cited for having generator related maintenance issues. The organization that regulates nursing homes in the state of Florida, the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), performed an impromptu recertification assessment last year and found that the facility “failed to maintain the emergency generator.” According to the AHCA, the problem was corrected later that year, as found during a subsequent visit.

The police department has opened a criminal investigation in to the nursing home. Governor Rick Scott said that he was “absolutely heartbroken” over the reprehensible deaths and called the situation “unfathomable.”

“If they find that anyone wasn’t acting in the best interest of the patients, we will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” said the Governor.

Perhaps if the facility’s generator had been up and running after Hurricane Irma, the heat-related deaths could have been prevented.

This story is just one example of the terrifying after effects of Hurricane Irma for Florida’s senior citizens. On September 17th, Governor Rick Scott’s office said that 673 of Florida’s assisted living facilities are still without power.

On Sunday, in Fort Lauderdale, senior citizens hung a sign outside of their complex that said, “Help Still No Power.”

One Florida mayor, Mayor Bill Ganz of Deerfield Beach, said that he’s visited assisted living facilities where the conditions are only getting worse. He stated, “Many private facilities are poorly equipped to handle these types of outages.”

Changes in Nursing Home Emergency Preparedness Legislation

Around the country, air conditioning is often thought of as a luxury. However, in Florida, where temperatures are often in the high nineties or above, it is a necessity for most. It is extremely important for senior living facilities and nursing homes to be prepared for power outages. If they are not prepared, they are being neglectful and putting their patients’ lives at risk.

After the nine nursing home deaths, Governor Risk Scott introduced legislation that requires senior housing facilities to have operational  emergency power sources for five days in the event of a power outage. The governor also announced an immediate rule requiring similar resources to be implemented at all assisted living and skilled nursing communities within the next 60 days.

Facilities: Maintain Your Generator and Your Fuel

As a crucial component of proper generator maintenance, facilities not only need to keep enough fuel on hand, they also need to maintain the fuel in optimal condition at all times to ensure they are prepared in the event of a power outage. In facilities such as nursing homes, generator and generator fuel maintenance should be a top priority.

When left to sit, fuel will inevitably degrade and become contaminated. Degraded and contaminated fuel not only wreaks havoc on an engine, but clogs on-engine filters quickly during operation. This leads to unplanned maintenance and downtime. In times of crisis, such as after a hurricane, this can lead to unnecessary liability for facilities, and in some cases, loss of life.

AXI International engineers and manufactures Automated Fuel Maintenance Systems that continually maintain fuel in optimal condition. Many healthcare facilities around the country rely on AXI systems to keep their fuel up to spec, which allows facility owners to have peace of mind about their backup power.