March 16, 2009
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During a catastrophic disaster, hundreds of people living in skilled nursing facilities throughout Contra Costa County would need special assistance. To help prepare these residents and their caretakers for the worst, a hands-on workshop on Friday is being sponsored by Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS).
Emergency preparedness coordinators with CCHS say the complex needs of the elderly population make them especially vulnerable to natural disasters, such as earthquakes.
"When a big disaster occurs, the most vulnerable population is in skilled nursing facilities," said Dan Guerra, Emergency Preparedness Manager at CCHS. "If skilled nursing facilities don´t have the proper planning, they will be out of options. They will be in crisis."
Depending on the emergency, Guerra said, care facilities might have to relocate or admit patients, activate backup generators, shelter in place or provide security.
The workshop will focus on three main areas: best practices in emergency preparedness; licensing and certification expectations; and communications. Guerra said a main goal of the event is to build relationships between various care facilities and the larger health care system.
"For skilled nursing facilities, this is a starting point. We are defining the problem and developing a solution," Guerra said. "It is about needs and resources. It is about how community partners can best use their resources to work together during an emergency."
The workshop will be held from 8 a.m. to noon on Friday, March 20 at Stonebrook Healthcare Center, located at 4367 Concord Boulevard in Concord. Stonebrook Administrator Lori Cooper hopes the event will help to unify her center with others in the county.
"There are 34 skilled nursing facilities and 34 different emergency plans," Cooper said. "We want to have a uniform plan and let the county know the health facilities are here if it needs us."
In the past, CCHS has conducted surveys of skilled nursing facilities and created a map of potential geographic hazards, such as fault lines.
Cooper said events like Hurricane Katrina have prompted many nursing facilities to update their emergency plans and said she knows that natural disasters — such as earthquakes and fires — put Contra Costa at an increased risk for disaster.
"We are better prepared than we were five years ago, but we have a ways to go. This is definitely a step in the right direction," she said. "It is a plus to get training and input from the county and the state."
To find out more about emergency preparedness, visit www.cchealth.org/topics/emergencies/
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