Staff members at a California skilled nursing facility “did all the right things” after they were given just minutes to evacuate due to a threatening wildfire.
Local authorities warned caregivers at Riverside Heights Healthcare Center, in Riverside, CA, they would likely have to evacuate after a quick-moving wildfire spread to the area Wednesday. Staffers took matters into their own hands after emergency services providers didn’t immediately arrive after workers called for help, the Associated Press reported.
They had just 15 minutes to evacuate more than 100 residents from smoke and the approaching fire. They used that time to manually load residents into their own cars to take them to an evacuation centers. They also copied paperwork and gathered medications.
“Honestly, the staff at the facility did all the right things. They mustered residents outside and had them ready for pickup making sure they had blankets and masks for smoke protection,” said Deborah Pacyna, director of public affairs for the California Association of Health Facilities.
“We are grateful for their quick response, which resulted in everyone being safely evacuated,” she told McKnight’s.
A bus and an ambulance later arrived at the facility to finish the evacuation. Fire crews also arrived shortly after to stop the flames. No one was injured during the evacuation.
Qiana McCracken, assistant director of nursing at Riverside, said she thought they were all going to die once they could only see dark smoke.
“It was a crazy day, but the residents are safe,” McCracken told the news organization. “And we’re safe.”
Staff members were in the process of moving residents back into the building over the weekend. The facility’s heroic efforts was a testament to emergency training and drills they’re required to go through twice a year, according to LeadingAge COO Eric Dowdy.
“Under extreme circumstances they executed their emergency plan without hesitation. Evacuation procedures in SNF emergency plans must include ensuring safe transportation and maintaining resident records,” Dowdy told McKnight’s.
“The staff did this all and remained calm under what must have been an immensely stressful event,” he added.