Good morning, ProviderNation.
As the nation watched sympathetically during Colorado’s most recent brush with disaster, heroic deeds took place at long term care communities impacted by catastrophic flooding. My colleague, David Skipper, vice president of public relations and emergency preparedness for the Colorado Health Care Association (www.cohca.org), shared this compelling story, which serves to inspire providers across the country to take a closer look at levels of preparedness, response, and recovery. It is an account to colleagues by Tim Johnson, president and CEO of Frasier Meadows Retirement Community in Boulder.
Thursday evening, Sept. 12, 2013, a wall of water made a direct hit on the health care center at Frasier Meadows Retirement Community in Boulder, Colo.
Because of severe roof leaks in their assisted living building, the staff made a decision to relocate all 34 of its residents to other locations around the campus. Each resident had a team of staff members who moved beds, including a container of their most important belongings, while other staff assessed the damage to the building. That was completed by about 7:45 p.m. on Thursday evening.
As staff gathered in the assisted living lounge, an employee shouted that the health center was in a state of disaster. En masse, staff ran to the lobby where a wall of water was pressing up against the entrance. Suddenly, the water broke loose and penetrated the building, flooding the health care center, the assisted living building, and two underground garages.
Staff immediately went to our two 27-bed units in the health care center, moving residents out of the building.
As staff began the process of moving residents, the transformers exploded and the facility fell into total darkness. The facility lost its generators.
In just over 20 minutes, staff evacuated 54 skilled residents, 27 of whom were in the dementia neighborhood. Across a courtyard, which had filled with as much as three feet of water, moisture began to seep into the ground level of the independent living apartments. Staff were able to move all of the health care residents up into the dining rooms, the wellness center, library, and living rooms.
The facility was notified that additional flooding may occur, so in the interest of safety, staff asked all residents residing on the ground floor to also move up.
“It was a tremendous undertaking by our supercharged staff members,” said Johnson.
The police and fire departments informed them they could not expect assistance because of emergencies in the rest of the Boulder community.
“We performed this Herculean effort sustaining not a scratch or injury to any of our residents, and only one injured shoulder on a staff member. It was nothing short of amazing,” said Johnson, shaking his head.
In the evening, staff provided psychological first aid to residents, calming and comforting them. Staff were, in turn, met with miraculous moments of ministry by residents and staff.
A resident from the memory unit, who for three years has only been able to receive assistance and was totally dependent upon caregivers, unable to give anything back in return, quietly hummed and sang hymns through the night, ministering in her own quiet way to the needs of the many around her.
“As I walked past her, she was singing the hymn ‘In The Garden,’” said Johnson. “As I paused in front of her as she lay on her bed, she raised both of her hands up toward me and grabbed my hands. Together we sang, ‘and He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.’”
A woman who hadn’t communicated in years ministered to those gathered around in their greatest moment of need, including one very needy CEO.
“It has been an exhausting ordeal, and we’re not through with this challenge yet,” Johnson added.
“And through it all, there was a calm, a miracle really. It was a community that went from good to great in the darkness of a stormy night.”
Here is a link to a story and video about Frasier Meadow’s clean up: http://www.dailycamera.com/news/boulder-flood/ci_24117699/boulders-frasier-meadows-staff-members-called-heroes-after
Would you like to hear more real-world and amazing stories about disaster management in long term care? If you are attending the AHCA/NCAL Annual Convention & Expo in Phoenix in October, be sure to attend the Disaster Breakout Session, where I will be facilitating a panel discussion of providers who will share their stories and discuss “lessons learned.”—Stan Szyptek
Stan Szpytek is the president of Fire and Life Safety (FLS) and is the Life Safety/Disaster Planning Consultant for the Arizona Health Care Association and California Association of Health Facilities. Szpytek is a former deputy fire chief and fire marshal with more than 35 years of experience in life safety compliance and emergency preparedness. FLS provides life safety and disaster planning consultative services to healthcare and senior living providers around the nation.