APNewsBreak: Survey gauges Ohio nursing home emergency prep


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CINCINNATI (AP) — A survey of Ohio nursing homes has found they have plans for coping with natural disasters and other emergencies, yet many haven't coordinated with key local agencies and facilities.

Researchers at Miami University's Scripps Gerontology Center added questions about emergency preparedness to their latest biennial survey for state authorities. Some nursing home residents in other states have been harshly affected by disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

Matt Nelson of the Scripps center in southwest Ohio said all 890 administrators responding reported having plans for emergencies such as natural disasters, mandatory evacuations and equipment failures. But nearly half acknowledged not working with outside authorities such as emergency responders, hospitals, or health officials in developing their plans.

Ohio has nearly 80,000 people in some 960 nursing homes.

"I would say the fact that they are planning for emergencies is a very significant point, but there really could be more work linking up with local agencies," Nelson said. He said lack of prior coordination could make a difference in delivery of services in a disaster.

The survey found that many facilities set up their plans without that coordination. Another finding was that hundreds of the homes could face food, water or medicine shortages if forced to "shelter in place" by disasters lasting longer than a week. The Scripps center recommends more discussion of what supply stockpiles are adequate.

"On one hand, you can't have a warehouse full of food, but on the other hand, you don't want to have too little when there are those situations," Nelson said.

The center worked with state authorities for aging, health and emergency management on the survey. State officials say they have identified action steps and are working to improve the homes' community emergency links, bolster plans, and to give state and local planners information about facilities that could be affected.

"We are pleased that Ohio nursing homes and other care facilities are, for the most part, prepared to provide for their consumers during an emergency, and we are grateful to Scripps Gerontology Center for helping to identify areas for improvement," Bonnie K. Burman, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, said in a statement.

Pete Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, said the group that represents long-term care providers has participated in disaster planning forums and works with state and national groups. The association also has put on webinars and seminars, provides training, and has a section on its website about disaster planning.

Shelly Szarek-Skodny, chief executive of Century Oak Care Center near Cleveland, said it has worked with local authorities on emergency procedures. She said the center is near Interstate 71, so it has practiced responses to a chemical spill and explosion on the highway. She said there's also been review with police and fire departments about "active shooter" or other hostile situations.

"Today's environment has changed to be always ready when conflict turns dangerous," she said, adding that community emergency services need to be part of the preparation.

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