Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs) in the United States are expected to maintain a safe environment for residents in the event of a loss of power. These facilities are expected to develop an Emergency Environmental Control Plan and to have the plan approved by the local emergency management agency.

A good emergency environmental control plan is expected to serve as a supplement to the facility’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, to address emergency environmental control in the event of the loss of primary electrical power in the facility.

Component of an Assisted Living Emergency Environment Control Plan

The plan will have to include the acquisition of a sufficient alternate power source such as a generator(s), maintained at the assisted living facility, to ensure that the facility will have ambient air temperatures and will be maintained at or below 81 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of ninety – six (96) hours in the event of the loss of primary electrical power.

Note that temperature in an assisted living facility is very crucial to ensure that residents are safe at all times. To ensure the viability of this purpose, no less than twenty (20) net square feet per resident will have to be provided. The assisted living facility may use eighty percent (80%) of its licensed bed capacity to determine the required square footage.

In most states in the United States, this rule does not prohibit a facility from acting as a receiving provider for evacuees when temperature related conditions are met. A good emergency environmental control plan is also expected to include information regarding the area(s) within the assisted living facility where the required temperature will be maintained.

Although every assisted living facility is unique in size; the types of care provided; the physical and mental capabilities and needs of Residents; the type, frequency, and amount of services and care offered; and staffing characteristics, the alternate power source and fuel supply will have to be located in an area(s) in accordance with local zoning and the state Building Code.

Although there may be variations in how facilities meet the emergency power requirements, one thing is crucial – the alternate power source must be able to maintain the facility’s climate control system for at least 96 hours during a loss of primary power.

However, ensuring that emergency power plans have been implemented, to include conducting on – site inspections and issuing sanctions for non – compliance is the responsibility of every State’s Agency for Health Care Administration. Sanctions for non – compliance can include loss of a facility’s license to operate an ALF or nursing home in the United States.

Four Critical Phases of Emergency Environmental Control Plan

Building an emergency environmental control plan for an assisted living facility can sound daunting for a small organization, but it need not be. Taken in steps, it is a process that small and medium – sized facilities can tackle.

The four most critical phases of emergency environmental control plan make up a continuous cycle of planning and action undertaken by any health care facility, especially an Assisted Living Facility, to maintain a comprehensive approach to Emergency Management, while maximizing the safety of staff, visitors and patients. These four phases are:

1. Mitigation

Mitigation is regarded as the most cost – efficient method for reducing the impact of hazards. However, the first stage of mitigation in an emergency environmental control plan is the identification of risks. Physical risk assessment more or less is the process of identifying and evaluating possible risks. The higher the risk, the more urgent the need is to target hazard specific vulnerabilities through mitigation efforts.

One way assisted living facilities have leveraged this phase over the years is by creating strategies and plans to ensure continuity of operations in areas such as utilities, communications, food, water, medication, staffing, and medical supplies when the community is unable to support the facility due to an external disaster scenario.

2. Preparedness

Preparedness normally is a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluation, and improvement activities that allows an Assisted Living Facility to ensure effective coordination and the enhancement of capabilities to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against emergencies and events that have been identified within the Hazard Vulnerability Analysis (HVA).

Note that in the preparedness phase, a facility can develops plans of action to manage and counter risks and takes action to build the necessary capabilities needed to implement such plans.

3. Response

This particular phase involves the mobilization of the identified emergency staff, including first responders, to an internal or external event which could have an impact on patient care operations or the facility.

Note that response procedures are pre – determined by the facilities and facility management, and are detailed in emergency environmental control plan during the Preparedness phase. Response actions may include activating the alternative power source, evacuating threatened residents, emergency medical care, and fire fighting.

Response plans remain flexible in nature due to the varying members of staff available at any given time. Response procedures and plans are also constantly evaluated and changed based on improvements identified during After Action Reviews (AARs), which is expected to hold after training exercises and disaster responses.

4. Recovery

Note that the Primary aim of the Recovery phase is to restore the affected area to its previous state. This particular phase differs from the Response phase in its focus: recovery efforts are concerned with issues and decisions that are expected to be made after immediate needs are addressed.

Recovery efforts are more or less concerned with actions that involve rebuilding destroyed property, the repair of other essential infrastructure, as well as the re – opening of essential services in the facility. Also note that recovery operations are a very critical phase in the emergency environmental control plan and yet one that is often overlooked.

Conclusion

It is important for every assisted living facility in the United States to submit its plan to their state local emergency Management agency for review.

Also, every existing assisted living facility that undergoes any additions, modifications, alterations, refurbishment, renovations or Reconstruction that require modification of its systems or equipment affecting the facility’s compliance with this rule is expected to amend its plan and submit it to the local emergency management agency for review and approval.

The assisted living facility is also expected to maintain a copy of its approved plan in a manner that makes the plan readily available at the licensee’s physical address for review by a legally authorized entity. If the plan is maintained in an electronic format, assisted living facility staff must be readily available to access and produce the plan.

Ajaero Tony Martins