Seniors Housing Business

OCT-NOV 2017

Seniors Housing Business is the magazine that helps you navigate the evolution of the seniors housing industry.

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22 www.seniorshousingbusiness.com Seniors Housing Business n October-November 2017 Industry Weathers Two Epic Storms Operators' response to hurricanes hailed despite isolated tragedies, negative press. By Jeff Shaw The seniors housing indus- try as a whole weathered hurri- canes Harvey and Irma extremely well, according to professionals within the industry. The back-to- back natural disasters hit Texas and Florida, respectively, causing more than $150 billion in damage, according to Moody's Analytics. But the strong building infra- structure of seniors housing allowed many communities to stay open without evacuating or losing power. Those facilities that did close evacuated efficiently and were quickly reopened. Unfortunately, those will not be the lasting headlines and images for most Americans. The most enduring image has been a photo of elderly women in a nursing home in Houston, sitting in wheelchairs and loungers in waist-deep water, calmly awaiting rescuers. Also in Houston, residents of the affordable seniors housing com- munity 2100 Memorial returned after the hurricane to find evic- tion notices. FEMA was shutting down the former Holiday Inn because Hurricane Harvey had compromised the electrical and fire-control systems. An unfeel- ing note gave residents five days to remove all personal belongings or the building managers would clear out the rooms and bill the residents. All leases were canceled. Most tragically, 12 seniors died in Hollywood, Florida, after a skilled nursing facility failed to evacuate residents in advance of Hurricane Irma. When a downed tree knocked out power to the air conditioning system, and with no backup generator in place, patients were left in sweltering heat and emergency help arrived too late. Within the seniors housing industry, most industry experts view these isolated tragedies as sad footnotes to an otherwise excellent response to the disasters. The bright side "We've done a tremendous job as a state," says Gail Matillo, president and CEO of Florida Argentum, the state's branch of an industry association that rep- resents seniors housing operators. "Thousands of volunteers helped to restore power, and many helped deliver fuel to keep generators running." Brookdale, the industry's larg- est owner and operator, has 137 communities in Florida and had to evacuate 16 of them, accord- ing to Matillo. Of those, half were reopened just days later. American House, an owner- operator based in Michigan, had to evacuate three of its six communi- ties in Florida in advance of Irma. Nine charter buses transported 250 residents and staff to another American House community out- side the direct path of Irma. In addition, three rental trucks were used to transport medical and emergency supplies, including a two-week supply of food and 30-day supply of medications. Although the three properties lost power, residents were able to return almost immediately thanks to backup generators. "The state was prepared. We got the word out early," says Matillo. "Everyone prepared and evacu- ated when they needed to." Coordinated response pays off Richard Hutchinson, CEO of Discovery Senior Living, reported that his company evacuated two communities, one near Tampa and another in Fort Myers. There were no reported injuries to the 3,000 Discovery residents in the area. "The buildings did their job; they held up great," says Hutchin- son. "We have a lot of remediation to do for water intrusion, but no major damage. Once we got power fully restored, Irma was mostly behind us." Discovery communities all fea- ture backup generators with emer- gency plans in place in case power outages outlast fuel supplies. Additionally, the company worked closely with the governor's office and the American Health Care Association to alert them to emer- gency situations as needed. "Operating after the storm is more challenging than get- ting though the storm. We had plenty of supplies and food," says Residents of affordable seniors housing community 2100 Memorial in Houston returned from Hurricane Harvey to find eviction notices due to damage from the storm. The now-infamous photo, taken by Trudy Lampson, showing seniors patiently waiting in standing water for rescuers during Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

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