With implementation of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ new emergency preparedness rules on the horizon, United Hebrew of New Rochelle took its disaster drills up a notch.

The New Rochelle, NY, skilled nursing facility has done drills in the past on active shooter situations and plane crashes. In July, the provider teamed up for the first time with the local fire department to simulate a chemical spill.

Employees in the lower level of the facility where the food and building services departments are located were told the exercise would mimic what would happen if bleach and ammonia were accidentally mixed, said Rita Mabli, president and CEO of United Hebrew. A code was called over the PA system, and the drill began.

Workers evacuated from the building, with two posing as severely ill or unconscious. The spill area was contained, and employees were “decontaminated” in a staged hazmat area.

In the end, the drill showed United Hebrew staff and leaders where their emergency preparedness is strong, and some areas that could use brushing up before the Nov. 15 CMS deadline. 

“Advanced planning for all kinds of emergencies, it’s essential. It also affirms how you’re doing,” Mabli said. “The time we spent planning and executing the drill was really time well spent.”