Janice Connelly of Hollywood, sets up a makeshift memorial in memory of the residents who died in the heat at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. Photo by Carline Jean/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

TALLAHASSEE – AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson issued the following statement Wednesday following an announcement that Gov. Rick Scott’s administration and groups representing Florida nursing-home and assisted-living facilities have reached an agreement on requiring backup emergency electrical generators for cooling at long-term care facilities.

“This agreement reflects encouraging progress as Florida faces the beginning of another hurricane season in only five months,” Johnson said.  “Now it’s time for state lawmakers to follow through and enact the provisions of this agreement into state law.’

“The essential requirement should be that nursing homes and assisted-living facilities be able to provide emergency cooling for their residents if a major disaster causes the facility to lose electrical power and air-conditioning,” Johnson said.

In September 2017, a dozen residents of a Broward nursing home died from heat-related causes after the facility lost power during Hurricane Irma.  The storm knocked out power to much of the state, forcing the evacuation of at least some residents from 79 nursing homes and more than 400 assisted-living facilities.  A state agency reported that risks to frail residents were “pervasive” after the storm.

Under the agreement just announced, long-term care facilities must have emergency backup power generators on site to provide backup power but are not required to have generators installed.

AARP Florida commended the agreement as a step in the right direction but urged Florida lawmakers to enact a comprehensive state law protecting residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.  AARP Florida also urged lawmakers to ensure that the terms of the agreement are implemented.

More than two dozen bills have been filed in the 2018 Legislature on related issues but lawmakers have not yet enacted final legislation.

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