Nursing homes are responsible for the residents in their care even during times of an emergency situation or disaster such as an earthquake. To prevent an eruption of chaos and panic during this critical time, it's important that staff in long-term care facilities learn about and take precautions for earthquake safety in nursing homes.
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States require nursing homes and assisted living centres to have electrical generator systems that are automatically wired to turn on when the power fails as a result of an earthquake or other major disaster. This is to critical for patients on ventilators and automatic regulating electrical machines. To ensure generators are in good working condition, states create mandates for how often they must be checked and tested. For example, the state of Tennessee requires that nursing homes inspect generators on a weekly basis and test for a 30 minute period every month.
Nursing home administrators and staff should devise a plan for what to do in the event of an earthquake. This plan should include the responsibilities for each staff member as well as the procedures for patient care during and after an earthquake. Train staff members in their responsibilities once a plan has been developed and then provide a mock drill to allow staff members to test their training before an actual earthquake.
Nursing homes need to have specific supplies on hand in the event of an earthquake. While a generator can provide power to the nursing home, it's important to have flashlights, extra batteries and a radio in case the generator fails or only works in a portion of the nursing home. In addition, food, water and medications are needed to keep residents healthy. Enough food and water should be on hand to sustain residents for at least a few days, and each resident should have at least a few days of their medication available. Nursing home staff need to make sure they order medication ahead of time to ensure they always have a little extra in case an earthquake occurs.
Gas is an important utility that often needs to be shut off after an earthquake when the rumbling and movement of the earth has caused a leak in the gas line. Staff in a nursing home need training from maintenance personnel in how to turn off the utilities in an emergency situation. While learning this, they also need to manually start the generator in the event it fails to automatically start after the main power has shut off.
A nursing home should follow the recommendations of the Federal Emergency Management Association in preparing the facility for an earthquake. These recommendations entail bolting down water heaters to the floor, checking for cracks and problems with building foundations, and removing any shelving or heavy wall hangings from walls above beds, couches, benches and other places where people sit.
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