Assisted living facilities prepare for unexpected

A fire drill is a surprise that residents of an assisted living facility look forward to.

But in the event of a real disaster, valley assisted living facilities are ready. The drills may break routine, but the real thing must run like routine.

By law, assisted living facilities are required to have a disaster or emergency contingency plan prepared in writing and approved by a state or local licensing agency. The mandate also states that facilities must keep up to two days' worth of fresh food and a week of canned provisions on hand at all times. A gallon of water for each person per day also must be reserved.

A copy of the disaster plan and sanitation items, medication and emergency items such as batteries, a first-aid kit and flashlights must be on the ready, too.

Many assisted living facilities keep an emergency number and wireless line for loved ones to connect during a disaster.

The Silver Sky at Deer Springs Assisted Living Center, 6741 N. Decatur Blvd., was built with emergency preparedness in mind, administrator Sigrid Mohrhardt said.

The building is divided into quadrants to protect residents. Staffers have assigned locations to be at in the event of a disaster, and a facility manager has capacity to shut off gas and water lines.

All doors have a two-hour fire rating, which means it would take flames two hours to breach the entrance, Mohrhardt said.

The facility also is an "in-place shelter," meaning that during a disaster, residents are to stay indoors if possible.

"Because of our clientele, we can't have residents standing outside in the 100-degree weather for something that isn't an all-out evacuation," facility manager Scott Morehouse said.

The facility, which opened in March, is home to 28 residents who are 55 or older and of varying health capacities.

Morehouse conducts monthly surprise fire drills. He has plans in place for earthquakes and most other disasters, he said.

Mohrhardt also is on a task force with the Southern Nevada Health District. In the event of a statewide disaster, she would be informed and dispatched to move residents.

Penny Munn, executive director for the Acacia Springs Community, 8630 W. Nevso Drive, and the Heritage Springs Assisted Living and Memory Care Community, 8720 W. Flamingo Road, said the facility adheres to state requirements of emergency preparedness.

Staff members are divided into emergency response teams, and drills are hosted often. They prepare for everything from floods and fires to tornados and possible bioterrorism attacks, Munn said.

Backup transportation and coordination with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada and the Southern Nevada chapter of the American Red Cross are in place.

Routine fire drills with staff members and residents also are conducted during all work shifts, she said.

Acacia Springs Community is an independent living facility, and Munn said staff members meet with residents about the facility's emergency plans.

Just like the Boy Scouts of America's longtime motto, assisted living facilities take the words "Be prepared" seriously.

"We are very prepared for any contingency," Morehouse said.

Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at or 477-3839.