Scandinavian puts preparation to test with disaster drill

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It was a beautiful day last Tuesday, but one would never know by taking a step inside the Scandinavian Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Home.

Within its walls, staff members and employees from the Department of Health and Russell Phillips and Associates were working against the clock as a planned disaster drill was underway.

The exercise was orchestrated to help prepare Scandinavian in case of an actual disaster, such as flooding or a hurricane. Members of the Cranston Fire Department were in attendance, and there were ambulances on site as the team worked together to evacuate its “disaster-stricken” facility.

The drill was one of two last week held in Rhode Island by the Long-Term Care Mutual Aid Plan (LTC-MAP). The southern half of the state held its drill on April 10, while Lacroix volunteered Scandinavian to be one of the two representatives for the northern half.

“I volunteered because I felt being in the whole situation, you learn,” Administrator Simone Lacroix said. “It’s a great learning experience. I really felt that way. A lot of things were taken into consideration.”

While the day started for Lacroix, Director of Nursing Christine Roy and Lori Levine at around 8 a.m., the official drill didn’t begin until 9. At that point, a message from the Rhode Island Health Notification System was distributed that noted several facilities were damaged by a major storm, and Scandinavian was one center that had to evacuate.

“Our facility was struck by this disaster,” Roy said. “We had flooding in the basement, in the generator rooms. We didn’t have street power, the generators were down; we had to evacuate the residents. This was what the whole drill was, evacuating residents to a safer location. What we had to do was find places for them to evacuate to where they had appropriate bed placement and the appropriate staff facilities to take care of our residents.”

The environment was hectic, but Lacroix said they were prepared. As the Department of Health acted as concerned families and press members inquiring about the situation and the safety of residents, the staff remained cool under pressure.

The objective was to find placement for the 30 mock residents, portrayed by members of the Scandinavian workforce. Lacroix said that second- and third-shift workers participated in the drill, since she said, “disasters are mostly evening or night time.”

Some were occupied in the “Day Room” as residents, where they were also given refreshments and there was a bed as well. In the conference room, which was the exercise’s command center, Lacroix and the rest of the crew worked diligently.

“I feel it went really well,” Lacroix said. “I found that our team worked really well. We were very well prepared. We had binders of residents’ information, we had cases of supplies if we had to move supplies out.”

Eventually, the 30 mock seniors were placed in three different homes. There were 13 sent to West Shore Health Center, while three went to the Hallworth House. The remaining 14 were placed at the Berkshire Place Nursing Home. All three locations were within 15 minutes of Scandinavian.

Lacroix said that there were lanterns and flashlights, all battery-operated, as well as walkie talkies ready to go if power was lost. Roy added that there was an internet hotspot as well, since wi-fi would also be knocked out if the generators went down.

While there was a sense of urgency to the procedure, Lacroix briefed the employees beforehand to remember the little things. Since Scandinavian is a home to many residents, leaving for an extended period of time during any sort of repairs could be difficult.

She encouraged employees to give residents a picture or a small token from their room so their temporary shelter could feel like home.

“They’re afraid they’re going to have to stay at another facility, and that’s a very important factor,” Lacroix said. “Yes, we need to move them out into the day room to get them prepared and all of that, but please, take a picture of a personal belonging and give it to them so they can take it along with them. That’s security. Think outside the box.”

Lacroix reported there were no residents reported missing and that all 30 made it to their locations safely. While the nearly four-hour process, lasting until just before 1 p.m., was a flurry, Lacroix was pleased with the outcome. Everything was planned ahead, from moving command center if a tree fell through the building to what resident needed transport by van, stretcher or wheelchair. In an actual scenario, Roy said Scandinavian could have as many as 74 residents to place.

While Scandinavian hasn’t had to actually be evacuated for a similar issue, even with the severe flooding in 2010, its disaster drill training will have staff ready to go in the direst of circumstances.

“It’s a major preparation but in reality, it’s more if something did hit, people really need to know,” Lacroix said. “You’re not going to be prepared for it. You need to stay calm, you need to listen and you need to work together as a team.”

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