The February 2017 flood crisis took a giant toll on over 188,000 Northern California residents living in cities surrounding the Oroville Dam. Many families without shelter found themselves living in their cars in parking lots or taking refuge at fairgrounds in more than four counties. Even 578 inmates at the Butte County Jail were transported to Alameda County, about 170 miles away. “I recognize that this is displacing a lot of people,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters.
Most of the national media coverage about this crisis focused on the families and children who were affected. Seniors living at home alone, in assisted living apartments and nursing homes were also impacted by the evacuation. “We were able to take 11 of the 189 skilled nursing and assisted living residents evacuated from Sutter County,” said Executive Director Heather Craig of Eskaton Care Center Greenhaven in Sacramento, California. “This was the most people we’ve admitted in a day, let alone a two hour period. They came two to three in an ambulance with just the clothes on their backs and their medication.”
Between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Monday, February 13, Craig’s team of nurses, therapists, caregivers, dietary, activities, administration and environmental services staff teamed up to welcome the elderly and frail residents of evacuated skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. “Due to the staff’s emergency preparedness training, they were up for the task,” said Craig. All employees of Eskaton Care Center Greenhaven receive at least three of hours of emergency and disaster preparedness training per year. “This training is not just in case something happens and we have to evacuate our residents, it is also designed to help the greater community in the case of a crisis like the Oroville Dam,” said Craig.
Eskaton skilled nursing facilities participate in trainings provided by the California Association of Health Facilities Disaster Preparedness Program (CAHF/DPP). CAHF, the Sacramento County Health Department, and the Sacramento County Emergency Services Agency conduct drills with area nursing facilities throughout the year to simulate the evacuation of neighboring nursing homes.
Deborah Franklin, dietary manager at Eskaton Care Center Greenhaven , who has 45 years of experience in skilled nursing, said her staff stepped up. “We concentrated on getting the meals out to everyone. It was like a well-oiled machine.” The seniors who were evacuated received a hot breakfast and were asked about their meal preferences and dietary restrictions. “It makes you feel good to know you are doing something to help others in a crisis,” Franklin explained.
The evacuation, due to excessive rain and a hole in an emergency spillway in the tallest dam in America, garnered national attention by The Washington Post, CNN, and other major news outlets. Very little coverage reported on vulnerable seniors living in local cities and rural counties affected by this crisis. The remaining 178 evacuees were admitted to other facilities around Sacramento County.
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