St. Petersburg, Fla. – AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson will share AARP Florida’s battle to protect frail older people in the state’s next disaster during a Facebook Live Event at 6:30 pm Nov. 8.

As Florida lawmakers gear up for the Jan. 8 start of the 2018 legislative session, a top issue is elder safety in disaster.

AARP is fighting to toughen provisions in state law protecting older people during natural disasters, including requiring nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to have enough emergency generator power and fuel supplies to keep frail and disabled residents safe if electrical power is lost.

During the Facebook Live event, Johnson will be joined on livestream by AARP Florida Executive Council volunteer Monica Stynchula, an elder-care entrepreneur and expert, and Dorene Barker, AARP Florida’s associate state director who is lobbying lawmakers on this issue. Join AARP Florida at 6:30 pm Nov. 8 to learn more about this important issue and how you can get involved.

To support AARP’s fight, sign our petition urging state lawmakers to act now. We will keep you updated as the issue moves through the 2018 Legislature.

Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers are focusing on the issue after the deaths of 14 residents of a Broward County nursing home, the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, after Hurricane Irma knocked out power on Sept. 10.

However, AARP believes the issue goes far beyond the tragedy at one nursing home.

Statewide, there were resident evacuations at 79 nursing homes, including Hollywood Hills, though not all of those 79 had all of their residents evacuated as Hollywood Hills did. In addition, more than 400 assisted living facilities had at least some residents evacuated. In all, an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 residents statewide were evacuated from nursing homes or assisted living facilities in the wake of the storm. State health-care administrators have described concerns about elder safety after Hurricane Irma as “pervasive.”

Nursing-home associations have gone to court to block an emergency order issued Sept. 16 by Gov. Scott, requiring nursing homes and assisted living facilities to install generators and fuel supplies sufficient to provide backup power for cooling if electrical power would be lost after a future storm or other disaster. Facilities had 60 days to comply with the executive order, but could request an exemption. About half of the state’s nursing homes have requested an exemption to date.

Florida lawmakers have filed several bills to codify similar provisions in state law.

According to Johnson, AARP Florida believes:

– The governor’s executive order should be codified in state law, requiring that every nursing home and assisted living facility have sufficient backup generator capacity and fuel to provide cooling to keep residents safe.

– In addition, the state Agency for Health Care Administration should be required to have teams physically inspect nursing homes and assisted living facilities as soon facilities are physically accessible after a major storm.

– One state agency should have overall accountability for keeping Florida elders safe after a major natural disaster knocks out power.

– There should be clear lines of communication between utility companies, county emergency management staff, elder-care facilities and state emergency management staff.

– There should be stronger efforts to hold nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other elder-care facilities when a facility’s emergency management plan is not implemented effectively.

– Power restoration to nursing homes and assisted living facilities should have the same priority as restoring power to hospitals.

– Legislators should reinstate a former state law, repealed in 2011, that required high-rise structures to have sufficient generator capacity to power elevators.

– Florida cities and counties should take emergency management issues for older people into account when planning Livable Communities initiatives.

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