Atlantic Shores Weathers Hurricane Florence With Comprehensive Plan and Teamwork
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA–Timeline: 96 hours out from projected landfall of Hurricane Florence in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Location: Atlantic Shores Retirement Community, situated in evacuation Zone A, one mile inland from the Atlantic Coastline. Activity: Incident Command Center being set up, trucks with additional food, water and supplies arriving, gutters and storm drains being cleared to prepare for a possible deluge.
With a projected Category 4 hurricane heading for the 100-acre retirement community’s campus, preparation was being made for all possible scenarios. In coordination with the City of Virginia Beach, Atlantic Shores’ emergency management team refined their Shelter-in-Place plan, which included a storm surge upward evacuation into their mid-rise apartment buildings, or the option of immediate evacuation.
Execution of the plan involved constant contact with the city and the state, an update every six hours, and coordination with the Virginia Hospital Alerting and Status System (VHASS) twice daily to ensure alternative health care locations and transportation for residents requiring medical attention in case of evacuation.
Accommodations were prepared for 86 staff who were staying on-campus to serve in their roles and take on additional responsibilities, ensuring any possible situations would be covered 24/7. And an Emergency Family Camp was set up, with childcare for employees who were staying on-site, and for any families choosing to evacuate their loved ones who might need temporary care for children they were bringing along.
Two Resident Town Hall meetings were held for the community’s Independent Living residents on the game plan for all scenarios, and how to personally prepare for the storm. Security briefings covered safety instructions and generator back-up power locations. Healthcare staff worked with Dominion Power and residents to register personal medical equipment that required electricity, and also distributed out-of-town forms to residents if they chose to leave campus for the storm. And Food and Beverage staff shared that free meal delivery would be provided in addition to regular dining, and that Happy Hour would continue to roll on, even as the storm rolled in.
The community’s main phone line was set up with prompts so residents could call in for updates, concierge staff was posted 24/7, and alerts were posted on Atlantic Shores’ My Community private network.
Residents themselves also stepped in to support and communicate the plan, especially with flooding-related scenarios. In addition to available units provided by the community, Atlantic Shores’ Residents Council contacted fellow residents with higher-level apartment homes who had extra rooms and were willing to take in potentially displaced residents.
In the community’s Seaside Health Center, communication was also key, with email blasts and personal phone calls to families of all skilled nursing patients. Current level of care, and family concerns were discussed in determining if each loved one was to remain or be evacuated.
By the time hurricane was scheduled to hit, all patients and their families were informed and comfortable with the decisions made. With available space, some of the community’s Independent Living residents also checked themselves in to Seaside, when their externally contracted home care nurses notified them of their inability to get to Atlantic Shores and provide their services.
In the community’s Harbourway Assisted Living facility, families were also kept constantly informed of the community’s plan, and developing options for all residents. Plans were made with families who wanted to pick up their loved ones only if the community was evacuated. Altogether, only four assisted living residents were picked up by their families, as they lived far away and would be unable to come if evacuation was needed – not wanting their loved ones to go anywhere else.
Families living far from family members at Atlantic Shores shared that they felt confident of their safety. According to John Baker, “I’m so impressed with how you and your team managed the situation. Living many miles away in California, I’ve been relieved and comforted that good decisions were being made and well communicated to my family. My sister also confirmed that locally, it was clear you and team were on top of it. This confirms our family made a great decision moving to Harbourway.”
Their trusts were well placed. Earlier this year, Atlantic Shores was selected to stage a disaster preparedness drill that put Virginia Beach in the national spotlight. This full-scale exercise enacted a post-hurricane scenario, giving local, state and federal agencies the chance to practice coordinated emergency response plans in real-time.
Atlantic Shores worked directly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Air National Guard, and Army Reserve 5-159th General Support Aviation Battalion to stage a mock patient evacuation via helicopter airlift at Atlantic Shores.
Lessoned learned from the exercise directly related to the action plan enacted four months later with Florence, including creating more than 100 individual care plan packets with medical records and corresponding medications, prepared to accompany each resident patient.
According to Donna Marchant-Roof, Atlantic Shores managing director of healthcare, “We were prepared and ready for this storm. Our previous evacuation drill gave us the opportunity to rehearse our emergency preparedness plan in a real-world setting with our entire staff. We had never taken drills to that level before, so during Florence, we knew what to do, and how to do it quickly. I’m very proud of the immediate response and implementation of our real-life plan by our staff, as well as the collaboration between our team and our residents. Everyone knew what was happening, and who was doing it. We were well prepared for either scenario, whether staying or going.”
Atlantic Shores resident Dixie Johnson also shared, “I was so impressed with the amount of planning and preparation done by management in anticipation of the storm. I’m also grateful for all the staff that stayed here to keep us fed, safe and comfortable. Their actions reinforced what we all already knew; Atlantic Shores is the best place to live!”
In the wake of the storm, Atlantic Shores is receiving industry recognition for their disaster planning, being selected from among 160 retirement communities across the country to present their Skilled Nursing Evacuation Drill at the 2018 National Healthcare Coalition Preparedness Conference.
After being spared major damage, Atlantic Shores residents and staff alike are also giving back to those who were impacted. The community is linking to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina to raise money to support their efforts to help those in need.