When Hurricane Irma made landfall in South Florida nearly two years ago, it knocked out power across the region — in some areas for up to 10 days. A dozen people in the Rehabilitation Center At Hollywood Hills died after the storm, due to heat-related issues from lack of air-conditioning.
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and Fmr. Florida Senator Eleanor Sobel gathered with local leaders Friday morning in front of the same Hollywood nursing home, which has since lost its license, to release the 2018-2019 Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response Guide.
"Never ever again!" Wilson said about the Hollywood deaths. Her district includes parts of Broward and Miami-Dade. "We're here to wake the town and tell the people that Hurricane Season actually starts June 1."
The guide was created by the Congressional Consortium For Safe Seniors, which Wilson and Sobel lead. The consortium has held hearings and workshops throughout South Florida for over a year to gather data on care at senior facilities.
"It's a one-stop [shop] manual: It includes an emergency preparedness checklist for caregivers and seniors," Sobel said. "Preparing for power outages, sample worksheets for preparing emergency control plans, gas stations..."
While the guide can help anyone prepare for a hurricane, the front section is specifically aimed at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It includes questions and answers about generators.
There are more than 300 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in Broward County alone, serving more than 13,200 people, according to the Agency For Healthcare Administration (AHCA). In South Florida, from Palm Beach County to Monroe County, there's a total of 1,440 facilities.
Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy was also at the Rehabilitation Center for the release of the emergency guide.
"September of 2017 was a difficult month for us," Levy said about Hurricane Irma and the aftermath. "We began understanding the gravity of what power loss means to facilities that are the most vulnerable."
Levy said the city is ready to assist in "every way we can" for hurricane season this year.
After the deaths at Hollywood Hills, the state passed a law requiring nursing homes to have emergency generators. However, there are still nursing homes as well as assisted-living facilities across the state that have been granted time extensions, and do not meet the requirements.
Wilson said those facilities are being monitored but not enough is being done.
"I think we need to be more forceful to putting them on a path to solving their problems," Wilson said. "No one is going to forgive them if something happens...that's unacceptable. Totally unacceptable."
The full, digital version of the 2018-2019 Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response Guide is available here. It is only currently available in English.