In wake of Pa. fire, local nursing homes say they’re prepared for emergencies

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – With thousands living and working in nursing homes in the area, safety is a serious concern.

“Everything we do every day is about safety for our patients, our residents and our staff,” said Diane Reese, owner of Briarfield Health Care Centers.

In West Chester, Pennsylvania — near Philadelphia — a fire at an assisted living community for senior citizens injured at least 20 people and forced dozens into the cold.

Local nursing homes say they’re prepared if something like that were to happen here.

At the Windsor House, there are smoke alarms, emergency lights, sprinkler heads and outside entranceways. Inside, furniture and window coverings are all fire-resistant, and doors are made to withstand flames and heat.

Director Amy Francis said residents’ room doors are made to prevent the quick spread of fire, allowing them time to evacuate.

“That fire would not be able to spread out of that room or into those resident rooms, resident apartments for at least 20 minutes,” she said.

Reese said staff training and frequent drills for residents are also crucial.

Francis helps write and update the emergency plans for all 17 facilities run by the Windsor House chain, which have 1,200 residents and nearly that many employees.

“We train all of our staff on hire and multiple times throughout the year,” she said. “If something like what happened in Philadelphia occurs, we would be training our staff on what’s happened at other facilities as well.”

While authorities look for the cause of the fire in Pennsylvania, the national Centers for Medicaid and Medicare have ordered nursing homes across the country to have updated disaster programs in place by the end of this month. That’s because of lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.