"We recognized a long time ago that we care for a frail population and being prepared for disasters is critical," says Jessica Scheffner, RN, BSN, Mrs. Bush's Personal Care Home's facility administrator.
That's why when Hurricane Sandy blew through Kunkletown, Oct. 29, most of the residents weren't even aware of the power outages around them. It was 'business as usual' the two days they were running on a generator. They received three hot meals a day, (and on time,) they attended regular activities, watched their favorite TV shows and were warm and safe.
"With our residents' medical conditions and physical disabilities, to be able to offer them safe shelter is important. This is not always something people think about when looking for a personal care home," says Scheffner.
"It's very serious to educate people about what to look for when searching for a home for themselves, or a loved one. It's so important to not disrupt an older person's routine. Half our people didn't even know most of Kunkletown was without power. That's thanks to the very large generator we have," says Carrie Shafer, Mrs. Bush's activity director.
"We realize we can't rely on government and outside agencies to rescue us. We have to be as self-sufficient as possible, to do as much as we can to run things smoothly. We invested in emergency preparedness. It's expensive. But we installed two large generators, one at each of our two facilities, that allow us 100 percent function," says Scheffner.
Mrs. Bush's has had to utilize the generators at various times throughout the years.
So when word about Sandy was broadcast, Mrs. Bush's made sure they had propane gas to operate the generators. They have 1,000 gallon tanks buried. So when most of Kunkletown was without power, Mrs. Bush's lights were still on.
"Remember when we had the big Y2 scare for 2000? That's when we invested in our emergency preparedness," says Scheffner.
Also as part of their emergency preparedness, they made sure they had plenty of water, service supplies like oxygen and made sure all the residents had flashlights and batteries. They had an extra week's worth of food supplies.
"All of this cuts down on risks, like not having to relocate, which is hard with the physical needs of our residents," says Scheffner.
Because of their self sufficiency, they were also able to offer help to members of their staff who were without power, offering them a place to take showers and provide food for them.
"Without our dedicated staff, we couldn't operate either," says Scheffner.
They saw and heard the horror stories of other facilities that were not as prepared as they were. They even had calls from folks looking for emergency back up locations in case they were needed.
Shafer says that most people don't know the lengths facilities go to, to have an emergency plan and what is required by the state.
"Which in my book, is too minimal and those needs should be addressed," she says. "It makes me very proud to work at Mrs. Bush's and to see how well our home is prepared for all situations and how as a team we work together so smoothly that our residents' lives are not affected."
"You can prepare only so much but we rest easy knowing we are as prepared as we are," says Scheffner.