After the chaos and tragedy of the Gulf Coast hurricanes, disaster preparedness officials are reviewing their programs to be sure they’re prepared to safely evacuate and care for elderly and frail people, reports USA Today. At least 10 states, including Florida and Louisiana, are considering legislation to regulate emergency preparedness by nursing homes, including a requirement for backup electrical generators. California, Kansas, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Oklahoma and Texas are among the states reviewing their evacuation plans to be sure that transportation and medical concerns of the elderly, frail and disabled are included, particularly where large areas and large numbers of people must be evacuated.
Federal legislation being considered by the Senate would require the Department of Homeland Security to make states rewrite evacuation plans to consider the elderly and people with medical needs. Elderly and disabled people were hit hard in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Hundreds were stranded in their homes as water rose; many died there. More endured crowded, unsanitary conditions at the Superdome and the Morial Convention Center. Medical care deteriorated when hospitals and nursing homes lost power. In a New Orleans nursing home, 35 residents drowned after owners did not evacuate them before Katrina hit.