Nursing Home Injuries and Deaths During Natural Disasters May Be Preventable

Carl Saiontz

By Carl Saiontz
Posted April 23, 2012


Many U.S. nursing homes remain woefully unprepared for natural disasters and other emergency situations, despite a number of warnings, regulations and tragic events that have impacted nursing homes in recent years, causing unnecessary deaths and injuries.

According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) earlier this month, a survey of the nation’s 16,000 nursing homes found that while most (92%) did well on “preparing” disaster plans, only 72% actually met standards for emergency training of personel.

More troubling, inspectors went to 24 selected nursing homes for an actual hands-on review of their disaster preparedness and found that most were inadequate. The nursing homes were chosen for having actually survived a natural disasters and are unnamed in the report.

In one example, inspectors noted that 23 out of the 24 facilities had plans that did not detail how to handle a resident’s death during an evacuation. And 15 not only failed to have plans on meeting patients’ medical needs, but they did not even have plans to keep a list of medications needed by each patient in case of an evacuation.

Seven of the nursing homes did not even have any method selected for how they would identify the patients they were evacuating, failing to even plan on giving them name tags. All but two had plans that made no accommodations for staff members failing to show up for work, and none of the nursing homes had plans that addressed providing residents with food and water during a disaster or evacuation.

The need for nursing homes to have disaster preparedness plans was highlighted tragically by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When the hurricane hit New Orleans, 35 residents at St. Rita’s Nursing Home died; some of them drowning in their beds. In total, 135 nursing home residents are believed to have died in New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Adequate emergency plans are required by the federal government, and a lack of such plans, exposing nursing home residents to injury or death due to inadequate safety measures, could have tragic consequences for nursing home residents.


The nursing home attorneys at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. investigate potential lawsuits for individuals throughout the United States who have suffered an injury caused negligence or neglect in a nursing home. To review a potential claim for your family member or loved one, request a free consultation and claim evaluation.

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