Is it enough? Backup generators for Florida nursing homes

With peak hurricane season quickly approaching in Florida, it’s essential for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to make sure their backup power needs are fully supported. That not only means having a backup power generator on site—but also a “backup for the backup” in case your primary generator fails for any reason.

Responding to Avoidable Loss of Life with a Mandate

In 2018, following the deaths of 12 residents of a Florida nursing home during a power outage caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017, Governor Rick Scott signed two bills regarding emergency power rules for assisted living facilities into law. The rules mandated that nursing homes install backup power sources for air conditioning systems and keep fuel on hand to run the generator(s). Although the rules were initially set to go into effect July 1, 2018, many homes have asked for and received extensions.

If your facility already has a backup generator in place, you are doing right by your residents since many properties are struggling to comply with the mandate. Either way, however, it’s worth considering what’s really at stake with backup power and if more can be done.

Avoiding Sweltering Conditions and Devastating Headlines

When a hurricane hits your nursing home or assisted living facility the situation can get complicated fast. After all, it may be difficult or impossible to evacuate residents. And many, if not most, residents are very vulnerable to the rising temperatures that come with power outages. Now that there are rules in place regarding backup generators, the press and victims’ families are likely to be especially unforgiving about future avoidable incidents. That’s why it’s especially important to make sure your facility is ready for a worst-case scenario.

What if the Backup Generator Fails?

Remember that in a hurricane a backup generator isn’t a fail-safe. What if your generator is hit by lightning and stops working? What if it’s not sitting high enough off of the ground and it is inundated with water from a storm surge or nearby creek?

If you’re thinking that you would simply call a disaster restoration provider for help, there are a couple of things you need to understand.

  1. In an area-wide disaster like a hurricane, emergency equipment and resources become scarce very quickly.
  2. If you don’t have a prior working relationship with a disaster restoration provider in place, you will likely be hard pressed to quickly find a generator.
  3. If your facility is damaged or flooded, you will need other rapid response services, in addition to a generator.

Keeping Residents Cool and Safe While Controlling Costs

The good news is that it’s possible to have a generator backup—as well as emergency response and rebuild support—in place for your facility without incurring unnecessary costs or long delays. The key is to establish a partnership with a disaster restoration provider before a hurricane is tracking for your area. With a master services agreement in place, your provider will prioritize your facilities over customers who call for the first time as a hurricane approaches or passes. It also enables your provider to consider your needs as it calculates the likely post-storm needs of its clients and allocates equipment. As you look to partner with a disaster restoration provider, remember:

  • Choose a provider that provides full-service emergency response and rebuild services—Some restoration providers only provide emergency response services, such as water removal and drying, leaving the rebuild for other companies. That extends the entire recovery process, potentially leaving residents displaced, adding to your headaches and costs.
  • Ask providers what they do to keep costs down and speed recovery times—Different vendors have very different approaches when it comes to working with you and your insurers to complete jobs. Take time to understand how vendors you are considering approaching jobs and what that will mean for your recovery time and costs.
  • Establish a true partnership—While hurricanes cause significant damage, you can benefit from using the same provider for year-round events, including water damage, fires and mold issues. Your provider will become familiar with your facility and your protocols, which will help speed up the recovery process as well as move you even higher on their priority list.

Sources:

“Florida nursing homes now permanently required to have generators to power A/C,” Miami Herald, March 2018.
“Many nursing homes, assisted living facilities still can’t meet Florida’s mandate for backup power,” South Florida Sun Sentinel, April 2019.