Are Texas nursing homes prepared for hurricane season? State officials call for updated emergency plans


FILE – This Wednesday, May 27, 2020 satellite image made available by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Tropical Storm Bertha approaching the South Carolina coast. On Wednesday, March 17, 2021, a World Meteorological Organization committee plans to discuss whether the Atlantic hurricane season should start on May 15 instead of the traditional June 1. (NOAA via AP)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Just before the start of what experts have predicted could be an active hurricane season, Texas health officials are urging nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to get prepared.

For instance, if floodwaters threaten a home, where will residents go to evacuate? Do they have enough resources and supplies to withstand severe storms? How will COVID-19 infections complicate a facility’s existing emergency plan?

These are the types of questions Texas Health and Human Services urged long-term care providers to answer, when updating their emergency preparedness and response plans.

All long-term care facilities in the state are required to maintain an updated emergency plan and ensure staff are fully trained on how to execute it during natural disasters. Similar requirements are in place for hospitals, dialysis centers and state-regulated child care operations.

In late May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced it has predicted an “above-normal” Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 until Nov. 30.

In a news release Friday, David Kostroun, HHS deputy executive commissioner of Regulatory Services, said in part, “now is the time for long-term care facilities to make sure their hurricane preparedness plans are up-to-date and ready to go.”

He went on to say, “Our priority is making sure the people in facilities we regulate are safe, and staff know what to do when there are shelter-in-place orders, evacuations and emergencies during severe weather.”

HHS officials noted a “complete” emergency plan would include up-to-date information about evacuation destinations, transportation plans, responsibilities of staff members, communication procedures and how they plan to continue treatment and care of their residents.

“Like last year, this year’s emergency preparedness plans should continue to address COVID-19 contingencies, including securing supplies of personal protective equipment and maintaining infection control measures during evacuations,” the HHS release reminded providers.

  • For more on how the state recommends Texans prepare for the season, click here.
  • For more information on disaster assistance and services, click here.
  • For more details on what updates the state urges long-term care facilities to consider, click here.

Earlier this year, nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state were impacted by Winter Storm Uri. Several Central Texas homes reported losing power. One family told KXAN Investigator Avery Travis their loved one in a north Austin retirement community died of hypothermia.

Several efforts were put forth at the Texas Capitol to address the safety of vulnerable, elderly Texans in these homes during severe weather events.

Tim Morstad, the state associate director at AARP Texas, said, ““We really implore the Texas legislature to step up and get these systems in place.”

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