Despite 12 deaths, nursing facilities denied request to be on utilities' priority list

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A year after Hurricane Irma killed 12 nursing home residents, senior living facilities have been under pressure to have better emergency preparedness plans during the 2018 hurricane season.

But only 346 out of 1,444 of South Florida's facilities are ready with backup power, despite a law pushed by Gov. Rick Scott (R) that was signed in March, according to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper. Many of the facilities have asked for an extension, while others have pleaded poverty related to the requirements of installing backup generators or other infrastructure upgrades.

The area's senior facilities also received a blow when Florida Power & Light Co. rejected requests from Broward and Miami-Dade counties to put them on the priority power restoration list.

The utility asks that counties prioritize 20% of the main power lines that provide electricity. Both hospitals and 911 dispatch centers are automatically on the priority list, the newspaper reported. Each county's emergency operations officials may ask for modifications. Broward county said it asked that nursing homes and assisted living facilities near certain power lines be included, but FPL responded by saying it was going to rely on the 2017 list, county officials said.

“In order to prioritize restoration, some limitations must be made,” FPL's governmental customer advisor, Jocelyn Wright, told Broward's emergency management in a May 22 letter rejecting the county's 2018 list, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

A similar denial occured in Miami-Dade, which has 900 facilities.

The need for nursing homes to have a power outage plan also was highlighted hundreds of miles away this week when a nursing home's air conditioner in Englewood, NJ, failed. Residents at Inglemoor Center, a Genesis Healthcare facility, were evacuated. The heat-index Monday was 105, with temperatures expected to remain high all week, PIX11 News reported.