Training Pays Off

Stan Szpytek

Stan Szpytek

Good morning, ProviderNation.

It is not uncommon to see negative news coverage when disaster strikes at or near a long term care community. The isolated challenges and opportunities for improvement during an adverse event seem to be the “low hanging fruit” for those looking to criticize the operation of health care facilities that suddenly face a crisis or disaster in the midst of their daily commitment of caring for our nation’s elderly and frail with compassion and dignity.Well, I say it’s time for some positive news.

While this local incident itself was somewhat minor in scope (an electrical fire in a SNF that required complete evacuation of a single facility), I believe the narrative provided by one AHCA state affiliate’s director of quality and regulatory services is worth sharing. The comments are directed to the emergency preparedness bureau chief at the state’s Department of Health Services (DHS) summarizing an event that underscores the true benefits of training and preparing LTC facilities to properly manage emergency situations:

Hello Teresa,

I just wanted to share a great success story with you. Yesterday in the early morning, one of our inner facility nursing homes had smoke filling the building. There are 30- to 50-year-old wiring and circuits there, and one arched in the conduit underground. The fire department deemed the building unsafe, and the facility had to be evacuated. There were 84 residents. This facility has many sister facilities here, and they reached out to them. DHS was notified. They set up their Emergency Operation Center (EOC) and donned their Incident Command System (ICS) vests!!!

Yes, this facility had attended the training (Disaster Planning and Nursing Home Incident Command System- NHICS) and were prepared.

Over 50 people arrived to help, and other facilities brought vans, and all residents were safely evacuated starting at 9:00 am and completed by 11:42 am. All families were notified, and the brand new administrator said he watched with great humility and admiration as everything hummed along. Because all the facilities receiving these residents have the same electronic record systems, transfers and transitions went well. Staff was dispersed to the other facilities to care for their residents and will continue to do so until they can return home. Every resident left with their meds and charts.

The facility may be cleared by the fire department today, and they are bringing in a huge generator to run the building until an electrical wiring issue can be addressed. They expect to be able to return residents by Monday at the latest.

I couldn’t be more proud to see something like this actually happen so successfully. I know this is only one facility, but when we evaluate how well this went, there is hope that we really will be “Disaster Ready” as we already are on our way. This facility has promised to tell their story at our state’s conference in October.

One nurse returning to get her car late yesterday evening told the DON, “This is why I love to working here!!!”

We are committed to continue to have more successes whenever the need arises.

Disaster Ready” is the name that this state affiliate created to “brand” its disaster planning and emergency management resource program. Through grant funding received from the Hospital Preparedness Program, this state, along with many others, is focusing on preparedness through the development and implementation of comprehensive training programs.

So, after reading this success story, you should ask yourself one simple question: “Is our facility Disaster Ready?”

Stan Szpytek is the president of Fire and Life Safety 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. For more information, visit or email Szpytek at


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