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Staying Ahead of Upcoming Storms: How We Prepare
“As a healthcare organization, we are first and foremost required by law to have a disaster preparation plan,” said Susan Harris, Chief Executive Officer of Wilf Campus. “We look at many different areas of our campus – making sure that our emergency power sources are tested ahead of time, that our emergency fuel tanks are full, and that our emergency generators are running properly.”
“If we get word one week out, we start watching the storm as it develops,” she said, noting that emergency notifications are received from LeadingAge, a state association, as well as local news outlets.
A campus of 53 acres must be efficiently cleared of snow, which is accomplished by a number of vehicles armed with plows and salt spreaders, and a small ATV that clears all our sidewalks.
“For us, it is always about safety first in hazardous weather conditions. We must make sure that all entry door areas, sidewalks and exits are clear and visible and consist of no ice for the safety of our residents, staff and visitors,” she said.
Internally, the facility is stocked with food and arrangements for essential staff members to stay over during the course of a storm are made in advance, including air mattresses and room assignments by each campus department.
“We were lucky, even during Super Storm Sandy, we did not lose power. We were able to act as a heating, warming and charging station for others in need. Of course, for the first few days, the staff on the campus couldn’t leave because the roads off campus were blocked by fallen power lines and trees” added Harris.
During the last storm in early January2014 staff members again weathered the storm on campus.
“Most of our residents hardly knew anything was going on outside because they were engaged in activities inside and everything ran normally,” she said.
As for how the storms impact staff members, Anna Simmons Executive Director of Stein Assisted Living, said that it can often be difficult because Stein is located in central New Jersey and many employees live in the northwest portion of the state.
However, everyone pulls together like family. That sense of community is especially experienced, she said, when staff members can be seen cozy in their pajamas chatting with residents.
“In 10 years, I have never seen a problem with a staff shortage,” said Simmons. “Even non-essential staff members will stay and do all that they can to help out or come in as early as they can to relieve other staff members. It is truly hands-on during that time.”
She added that when the hint of a storm arises, the assisted living staff refers immediately to the facility’s snow policy, which includes the declaration of a snow emergency by the executive director, plans to keep the campus area free of snow and ice, and the maintenance of all provisions and activities.
Dottie Sacks, Stein Assisted Living resident, shared her storm experiences recently in a hand-written note she sent to Simmons: “I did not know how things were going to ‘run smoothly’ last night with all that snow. Who was going to help me get ready for bed? I was actually frightened at the prospect of a dark and dreary evening. But in came Betty (a Nursing Aide) to assist me and she said, ‘What are you worried about?’ It made me feel so safe.”
Sacks added, “When I woke up this morning, there was Hema (one of our LPN’s) telling me everything was fine and it was! What a special, great staff you have! So glad I live at Stein!”
Bruce Birnberg, Executive Director of Stein Hospice, said that storm preparation on his end is not as dramatic since we don’t run a residential hospice.
Even so, snow storms can prevent services from getting to where a hospice patient resides, he noted, which does add a sense of urgency to the situation.
“We anticipate the needs of each patient and if need be, will make a visit prior to the storm to be sure the necessary medications are supplied,” said Birnberg, adding that Hospice has been fortunate; we have not experienced any emergencies during a storm.
During Super Storm Sandy, Birnberg recalled how Stein Hospice helped to move six patients from their homes by ambulance to facilities where they could have heat.
“We have very dedicated nurses and they always call the family members before a storm comes in order to work with them and assist with whatever they need,” he said.
Ensuring the safety of his staff members is also paramount, he acknowledged. We try to determine when the worst of a storm will hit and ensure that our staff get out on the road ahead of the storm to see patients. This has always worked very well for us and ensures the safety and comfort of our staff.
Olga Miccio, Executive Director at The Lena and David T. Wilentz Senior Residence, added, “We are very fortunate to have Carlos Acevedo who is our Resident Night Manager who resides in our building. He is also works for our maintenance department. With him on site along with two resident volunteers, we are well covered.”
She added, “Our campus foundation also provided flashlights to all of the residents in preparation for such emergencies. We have a generator for power outages. Our Dining Services Department is amazing with providing water bottles or meals if needed.”
If you have a loved one who cannot leave their home, Miccio makes the following recommendations:
· Create an emergency kit including flashlights, food that can be eaten without heating, and water;
· Make sure cell phones are charged
· Keep a battery-operated radio nearby
· Remind your loved one to dress in loose-fitting layers to keep warmer if the heat should go out;
· Keep enough prescription drugs stocked so you don’t run out.
The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living which is comprised of The Martin and Edith Stein Assisted Living Residence which includes Jaffa Gate Memory care neighborhood, The Martin and Edith Stein Hospice, The Lena and David T. Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport, Wilf At Home, and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information contact us at (732) 568-1155, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.wilfcampus.org.