Category — Your Community in Dialogue

Memorial Day 2012

We pause this Memorial Day weekend to reflect upon the meaning of this special holiday.  We think it is important to remind ourselves that this day of remembrance has nothing to do with furniture sales, picnics, swimming pools and barbecue cookouts. It is a holiday that was originally started in the 1800’s by former slaves after the Civil War to honor the unknown Union dead.  It was first called Decoration Day.  It is now a day we honor great American men and women who’ve lost their lives in wars and conflicts the world over. Freedom was not born nor is it maintained in the quagmire of politics.  In every instance of true freedom, birth comes and longevity is assured because of the courageous and honorable men and women who have fought and continue to fight around the globe.

We offer our solemn gratitude to those valiant soldiers who paid the ultimate price to ensure freedom continues to ring loud and true in the United States of America.  We extend our heart-felt appreciation to those courageous soldiers and their dear families who continue to pay great sacrifice every day of their lives that we may be free to exercise our rights and privileges in this magnificent country.

God bless them all.  God bless America.

Facta non Verba

May 25, 2012   1 Comment

Your Community in Dialogue: Nursing Homes/Elderly Care Facilities – Will Your Loved Ones Be Adequately Cared For During a Disaster or Emergency?

The degree of neglect and abuse which has been attributed with far too many of our nation’s nursing homes is deeply troubling to say the least.  Neglected, abused, and threatened, nursing home residents may suffer physically and emotionally. Painful bedsores, broken bones, or even premature death can result from neglectful and outright abusive treatment.  Unfortunately, in many cases it seems a serious lack of emergency preparedness by these nursing home facilities may just be one more offense to add to the list.

Almost seven years ago, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina revealed the critical failures of nursing homes to provide adequate care and safe evacuation for their residents during a disaster or significant emergency.  35 elderly residents of the St. Rita Nursing Home alone, for instance, drowned during that horrific event.  According to a Houston Chronicle investigation, it was estimated that 139 nursing home residents died overall during that hurricane or in the immediately following aftermath.

The owners of St Rita’s were found innocent of negligent homicide and cruelty to the infirm in 2007, but have gone on to face more than 30 civil lawsuits from family members of those who needlessly perished. How were the owners found innocent of the criminal charges?  One juror indicated that he was directly swayed by the arguments of the defense which emphasized the government was largely to blame for the tragedy because of breached levees and the state’s failure to help evacuate nursing homes.

A recent government investigation of 210 nursing homes across seven states found that as a whole, such facilities are woefully unprepared in the face of hurricanes, floods or wildfires.  Amongst a litany of emergency preparedness shortfalls, a few standout.  For instance 19 of these homes had absolutely no plan whatsoever to transport their patients in the face of disaster threatening the facility.  To make that fact worse, 17 homes indicated that transportation contracts they did have in place to transport patients were not honored during an emergency evacuation.

Considering that in 2009, 3 million people spent time in a nursing home, there’s a good chance someone you know and love is a permanent or temporary resident of such an elderly care facility.  If so, there are questions about that facility’s emergency plans to which you need answers. Many residents of such homes lack mobility and are already in frail health, so failure to have adequate emergency plans could be a death sentence.

  1. What is the plan to notify family members of residents in case of an emergency or evacuation?
  2. How is the evacuation of residents conducted?  How are they transported?  Where are they transported to? How do you communicate with your loved ones under such circumstances?
  3. How does the facility manage the medication requirements of residents during an evacuation?
  4. What is the plan to coordinate with local authorities during a crisis?
  5. Does the nursing home’s emergency plans in any way rely upon external resources (such as local, state, or federal government) to facilitate the safe evacuation and care of residents during a disaster?  If so, to what degree and specifically which organization or agency is being relied upon? (similar questions need to then be asked of said organization or agency)
  6. If the facility relies on third-party contractors to provide transportation, has that third-party ever been put to the test during a live emergency?  How can you be assured that such third-party will fulfill its contractual obligations?
  7. When was the last emergency drill conducted by the elderly care facility?
  8. Is emergency evacuation covered in the contract that you signed with the facility for your loved one?
  9. Does the nursing home have a Shelter-In-Place capability?
  10. In the event of an extreme weather emergency can the facility sustain itself for at least 72 hours without endangering the health and welfare of the patients? Does the facility have back up power for HVAC and refrigeration of medications and food?

Ask the questions and make a real difference in the quality of care of your loved ones living in a nursing home or elderly care facility!

Facta non Verba

May 7, 2012   No Comments

Your Community in Dialogue: Dangers of Living Near Nuclear Power Plants

On April 13th, the U.S. Department of State canceled it’s travel advisory to Japan which had been active in one form or another for over a year since the Japan 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear power plant disaster.  There is no doubt that Japan has made remarkable progress in its recovery, but how did the country fare in the immediate days and weeks during their nuclear evacuation?  That evacuation may have saved lives, but to one demographic it was rather brutal – the elderly.  Dozens of senior citizens died as a result of the evacuation itself.

So what has been done to resolve such evacuation difficulties in the future?  According to one recent article, not much.  “We have set a terrible precedent for the rest of the nation and for any town in the world where nuclear plants are located,” said Katsutaka Idokawa, the mayor of Futaba, a town near the devastated Fukushima facility. “I see this disaster as a meltdown of Japan itself.”  Local community leaders in Japan fear that were the event to repeat today near their own communities, they would fair no better than the two towns surrounding Fukushima Diiachi did over a year ago.

Is the United States better prepared to meet the needs of its elderly and disabled population in the event of a nuclear disaster?  Are we even adequately prepared to meet the emergency needs of our general population during such an event?  Japan is extending its evacuation plans from a 10-mile radius immediately surrounding a nuclear power plant to 18 miles – in particular to mitigate the exact problems they found as they tried to evacuate their handicapped and elderly from the area of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.  So how about the United States of America?

The Indian Point Energy Center located in Buchanan, New York is just 38 miles north of New York City, well within the 50 mile radius which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission indicates may have contaminated food and water in the aftermath of a nuclear power plant disaster. In March 2012, Bronx Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera wrote, “Recently the Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied a request for the operators of Indian Point Energy Center to provide an emergency preparedness and evacuation plan for the surrounding communities which are home to 20 million Americans in a tri-state area. In addition, there are serious questions as to the ability of local, state and federal government agencies to communicate and react to a nuclear emergency.”

In our last post we identified an ongoing initiative to promote community dialogue through this blog series.  In consideration of living in proximity to a nuclear power plant, we would suggest you ask the following questions of yourself, nuclear power plant representatives and of your own elected local officials:

  1. Do you know if you live in a 50-mile radius of a nuclear power plant?   With 104 nuclear reactors spread across the U.S., you might be surprised.  Find out here.
  2. Are you upwind or downwind of the nuclear power plant and what are the prevailing winds in your area? What is the evacuation plan for your community (read neighboorhood) in the event of a nuclear discharge or release?
  3. What plans have been established for elderly residents, nursing homes and the  handicapped during an evacuation?
  4. What plans have been established for infant day care facilites and schools?
  5. Considering the U.S. government warned Americans within 50 miles of Fukushima Daiichi to evacuate last March, why are our own local officials still stuck on the 10-mile radius evacuation plan? What do your local elected officials think of this fact?
  6. If such a nuclear disaster occurred, what local hospital is prepared to provide you emergency radiation exposure care?  Considering the very troubling results of a study performed at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2009, a better question might be – how can you even know that hospital personnel will even be present to provide that emergency care?  (give you a hint – 39% of those responding in the aforementioned survey were not even willing to show up to work in case of a nuclear event)

If you live within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor, go ask your elected officials, city council, board of supervisors, Town Hall or other local leaders these very important questions!  Remember – don’t take no for an answer and don’t let this very important issue be marginalized.

Community leaders answer to YOU as members of the community!  You are important and you have a voice! Use that voice to be an instrument for change and progress.

After you get (or perhaps don’t get) those answers, come back to this blog and share “the answers” with emergency-minded citizens just like yourself and engage Your Community in Dialogue! Now it’s your turn!

Facta non Verba


April 19, 2012   No Comments