June 14, 2016

Disaster and Emergency Preparedness: One of the Most Important Considerations When Touring Assisted Living Facilities

By Megin Hemmerling, Executive Director, Harriett & Ralph Kaplan Estates
When touring Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs) the safety and emergency preparedness practices of the community should be a top consideration. Be prepared to ask questions related to each facility’s emergency preparedness plan. It’s really such a critical issue. The Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA), which governs ALFs in Massachusetts, sets forth regulations that must be complied with by every assisted living.
The following are minimum standards:

  • Each residence must have a comprehensive plan to meet potential disasters and emergencies. These must be made in conjunction with local and state emergency planners.
  • The emergency plans must include locations of emergency exits, evacuation procedures, and plans for emergency transportation, if needed.
  • Emergency plans must take the physical and cognitive needs of the residents into consideration. Methods must be established to handle each resident’s individual needs.
  • Annual simulated drills for fire and building evacuations must be done on all shifts. Drills for a missing resident must also be conducted.
  • Staff training must be completed upon hire for the handling of resident-specific and building-wide emergencies. Emergency training must be on-going and conducted regularly to ensure learning is ingrained.

When visiting different Assisted Living communities, ask about how each conducts their staff emergency preparedness training. Ask to see their emergency procedures plan.  Inquire about security cameras, hours of the reception area, visitor guidelines and procedures. Find out if the facility specific has plans for weather, fire, unwanted visitor, bomb threat and other potential emergencies/disasters.
Remember that an important part of moving to an Assisted Living community is ensuring you will be living in a safe environment. It’s essential, therefore, to ask pertinent questions concerning safety and emergency procedures upon your first visit.