Nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida will now be required to have power generators under new rules signed by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday.
The rules require senior living facilities to install generators and fuel to power air-conditioning systems. Lawmakers passed the legislation after 12 residents of a Hollywood nursing home died during power outages in the days after Hurricane Irma passed over South Florida.
Facilities have until July 1 to comply.
In a statement, Scott said the tragedy “made it clear more needed to be done to ensure the protection of vulnerable Floridians during emergencies like Hurricane Irma.”
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“As we near the 2018 hurricane season, families can now know the facilities responsible for caring for their loved ones will have the resources needed to be fully prepared ahead of any potential storms,” he said.
Nursing homes and larger assisted living facilities are required to have enough fuel to run generators for 72 hours. Assisted living facilities with fewer than 17 beds are required to only have 48 hours worth of fuel. Nursing homes will be mandated to have equipment that can control indoor temperatures for 96 hours after an outage and maintain an ambient temperature of no more than 81 degrees.
The rules come as a result of a tragedy in the aftermath of Irma at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. With no electricity for days after the storm, eight residents died in the sweltering heat on Sept. 13, three days after the air conditioning went out. After the nursing home was evacuated, four more residents later died.
Following the deaths, Scott issued emergency rules mandating generators at nursing homes and assisted facilities. The requirements were challenged by industry groups, and a compromise was passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor Monday.
“The Florida Senior Living Association applauds Governor Scott’s efforts to protect the residents of Florida's assisted living and memory care communities, especially during times of crisis such as natural disasters,” said Gail Matillo, president of the association.
The Hollywood Police Department is investigating the 12 deaths as homicides, but no criminal charges have been filed.
The nursing home remains locked in litigation with the state health care agency over the revocation of the home’s license to operate. Recently released testimony from an engineer hired by the state to evaluate the incident indicated that chillers meant to cool the home actually made things worse because of improper ventilation.