Florida places safety first for seniors in residential facilities
By BRENDA EGGERT BRADER
All senior facilities must have an emergency environmental control plan explaining in detail what the requirements are and each facility’s compliance to the law by June 1.
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New legislation now requires assisted-living centers and nursing homes in Florida to maintain a backup power supply if electrical power is lost during a storm.
The legislation protecting Florida’s seniors and elderly was signed by Gov. Rick Scott in March and takes effect June 1.
That legislative urgency came just a few months after the Sept. 12, 2017, incident during Hurricane Irma when some South Florida residents died in the sweltering rehabilitation center at Hollywood Hills after a power outage.
That Florida legislation (SB7028 and HB7099) mandates nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have an alternative power supply capable of maintaining the temperature at 81 degrees or less for a minimum of four days. Portable power sources can be used, but they must provide at least 20 square feet of cool space for each resident. That law also states that nursing homes are required to have backup power capability and adequate fuel supplies to maintain air conditioning for 96 hours after the loss of electricity.
“Large facilities have had generators to power elevators because you still need to move residents from floor to floor,” said Kara Anderson, owner of Simply Senior Living consulting firm in Brevard County. “It is truly a life factor, not a convenience.”
All senior facilities must have an emergency environmental control plan explaining in detail what the requirements are and each facility’s compliance to the law by June 1 (the beginning of another hurricane season). However, facilities can seek an extension until Jan. 1, 2019, for delays related to construction, zoning approval and delivery.
Cedar Creek Assisted Living on Merritt Island has been prepared for storms.
“If we would get a direct impact, we must evacuate,” said Jason Rodriguez, executive director of Cedar Creek. “We have had generators to run the facility since the building opened 14 years ago. If it wasn’t mandated that we had to evacuate, we would stay right here for we have everything in place to survive but we have to evacuate because we are on a barrier island (Merritt Island).”
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and the Florida Department of Elder Affairs (DEA) were directed, by the governor, to issue the emergency rules immediately. Florida is one of the first states in the nation to require emergency generators at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, according to Scott.