Change that's overdue

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

We've seen a lot of things change in the past year or so.

Our nation now has a new president, changing regulatory oversight and numerous marketplace adjustments in play. Yet one troublesome matter remains largely as it was.

It was less than a year ago that McKnight's began reporting about a needless and horrific tragedy. To be more specific: More than a dozen residents at a Florida facility died largely because the facility's electricity couldn't be turned on for days on end.

The conditions that fueled this catastrophe almost beggar belief. The facility where the residents lived in South Florida had no backup generators in place.

Are generators expensive? You bet. You know what else can get really, really expensive? Wrongful death lawsuits.

If there is one locale where backup generators should be viewed as a price of admission, it's SOUTH FLORIDA. This is, after all, where extreme heat and humidity come with the territory. It's also where hurricanes occur with enough frequency to merit the posting of evacuation routes.

What have Florida lawmakers since done to prevent a re-occurrence? They enacted legislation that mandates that if this ever happens again, the responsible enablers will be locked away for the rest of their natural lives. Well, not exactly.

They did far, far less. Technically, they passed a law. One that has a generator provision you could drive a hurricane through. In fact, more than 1,000 facilities in South Florida still do not have backup power in place.

But why should operators get all the blame? Fair credit must also be given to the kind souls at the utility company. Not only did the folks running the  Florida Power & Light Co. not allow long-term care facilities to be on the priority restoration list last year — they also declined to grant the benefit now. Then again, what's the worst thing that could happen?

For their sake, let's hope operators with an aversion to generators and tone-deaf utility regulators don't believe in Judgment Day. Otherwise, they might eventually have to deal with a place where the heat really gets turned up.