While it was only a drill, residents and staff of the Scotland County Care Center and volunteers from the local emergency services, got firsthand experience with a complete evacuation of the local nursing home on Thursday, September 20th.
“We are required to perform a full evacuation drill once a year,” said Administrator Daisy Murphy. “This year we made it through the full evac in just 13 minutes.”
The process isn’t as simple as just pulling the fire alarm and pointing everyone to the exits. Staff members are required to help the vast majority of the nursing home residents, who have restricted mobility or other physical disabilities that limit their ability to evacuate themselves.
Murphy said there is a designated incident commander on duty 24/7 at the facility. In case of an emergency, after the proper authorities are notified by pulling the fire alarms or dialing 911, Murphy is contacted and begins her response. In addition to traveling to the scene, Murphy enacts a call chain, notifying all employees not presently on duty.
“It’s an all-hands on deck moment,’ she said. “The call tree is put into action and at the same time we begin notifying family members of residents about the situation.”
In Thursday’s drill, the incident commander worked with responding fire and law enforcement personnel as well as the ambulance crew and representatives of the Scotland County Hospital, Scotland County Health Department and Scotland County Commission, to inform them of the mock disaster. While fire is typically the biggest concern, other possible disaster include gas leaks, explosions, earthquake or other natural disasters.
While EMS responders are working to resolve the problem, staff members are busy evacuating all residents and then verifying that everyone is present and accounted for in the designated gathering spot outside the danger zone.
“We have an emergency kit bag, which includes identification badges for each resident, complete with a photo ID,” said Daisy. “We work off our current census report, placing the ID badges with the corresponding resident to ensure everyone has reached safety.”
In the event of a short-term evacuation, the residents can be bused to the Scotland County R-I School campus.
Murphy said the Care Center has transfer agreements in place with all of the nursing homes in surrounding counties in case of an emergency that would require longer term housing for residents.
“It is a daunting task,” said Murphy. I am proud of how our staff and residents responded. We just pray we never have to do it for real.”