After a number of years of relative quiet on the storm front, the 2017 hurricane season seemed to be aiming to make up for that. In addition to the hurricane that wreaked havoc in Houston, Hurricane Irma caused extensive damage in the state of Florida. And unfortunately, there were more problems caused than should have been.
Nursing Home Tragedy
This stemmed, ostensibly, from some shortfalls in health care facilities like nursing homes. One such tragedy made headline news across the country when 14 people died after a nursing home in Hollywood Hills, Florida lost power to its air conditioning system.
The tragedy spurred Florida Governor Rick Scott, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), and the Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) to issue Emergency Rule 59AER17-1 in hopes of forcing the health care industry in Florida to be better prepared for the next such emergency. One part of the multi-pronged ruling centered on requiring 15 different types of health care facilities (including hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, home health care centers, and of course, nursing homes) to submit extensive plans of action to document how they will respond to future such emergencies.
The other notable part of the Rule is the part you may have heard referenced on the news. Or, if you’re in the health care industry, it may be the part giving you the biggest headache. Nursing homes and assisted facilities in Florida would now be required to obtain generators and stored fuel sufficient to power air conditioning in the facility for up to 96 hours following the start of a power outage. The temperature inside cannot go above 80 degrees. Reports from the tragedy in Hollywood Hills indicated that, because the site had no air conditioning, the temperature inside the multi-story facility was well above 100 degrees, and two of the victims who died registered body temperatures of 108 and 109 degrees F.
Deadlines for Compliance Loom
By October 31st, all nursing homes were required to submit their detailed plans to the Agency for Health Care Administation (AHCA) showing how they planned to comply with the rule. They could also apply for a waiver or an extension, depending on their circumstances. Those facilities that did not comply by the November 15th deadline would be fined $1,000 per day or even face having their licensure revoked.
It’s notable that, according to a press release by AHCA, as of November 8th, there were still 18 nursing home facilities in the state of Florida that had not even responded to the October 31st planning deadline. While we’re not naming names (but you can find the list in AHCA’s press release here), more than half of them are concentrated in Miami-Dade, Pinellas and Palm Beach counties.
Forcing More Attention Paid To The Fuel
Hopefully these new requirements will go a long way to ensuring that as many essential medical facilities as possible are prepared for the worst that, given enough time, is certain to happen again in Florida.
It's notable that the requirements of this rule cover not only the generator itself, but also the procurement of enough fuel to run the system for the full 96 hours. This means there’s going to be even more stored fuel kept by the hospital and health care market than ever before. Many of these facilities will soon learn that just buying and storing fuel isn’t enough. Fuel has to be serviced and maintained to ensure it doesn’t degrade and cause problems.
As is the nature of such things, we rarely implement all of the best practice recommendations at the same time for a given area if we’re responding to a mandate like this. But sooner or later, these health care facilities are going to see the importance of putting some kind of fuel PM program in place. Such a program might be a multi-faceted program that addresses all of the aspects their stored fuel needs to comply with in order to stay viable in the event of unexpected emergency.
Most businesses aren’t fuel experts. They’re experts at what they do – making stuff, providing services. Hence, these nursing homes and ALFs may benefit from partnering with someone who can do the grunt work of keeping their stored emergency fuel and generators in compliance.
You may be interested in these other posts on Fuel Storage:
- "Wow" Facts on Contaminated Diesel Fuel. Be Prepared.
- Annual fuel testing is essential (but you don't have to do it all)
- Fuel Storage and Diesel Generator Problems: Fuel Microbes
Image Credit: The Florida Channel
This post was published on November 14, 2017 and was updated on November 14, 2017.