Maryland Nursing Homes Deal with Storms, Power Outages, Heat Waves

800px-6-29-2012_Derecho.jpgA massive storm struck Maryland on June 29, 2012, causing many parts of the state to struggle to restore power and other utilities. A severe heat wave made matters even worse, with more than a week of temperatures approaching one hundred degrees. Power restoration was completed after nine days, but further storms may still leave people vulnerable to the heat. This is a particular concern for nursing home residents. More than thirty nursing homes lost power after the storm, and at least four went without air conditioning for several days.

The storm began in northern Indiana and swept east, reaching the Atlantic coast in about twelve hours. Wind storms known as “derechos,” which typically accompany thunderstorms, hit parts of the Midwest roughly once a year. They are less common in mid-Atlantic states like Maryland. The intense heat wave seems to have worsened wind conditions in this case, creating what meteorologists are calling a “super derecho.” Wind gusts of up to ninety-one miles per hour hit some areas, equivalent to a category 1 hurricane. By the time the storm passed through Maryland, it had killed thirteen people and knocked out power for millions.

Further storms and one of the region’s longest recorded heat waves added to the death toll. By earlier this week, the heat wave had accounted for eighteen deaths in Maryland. Most of the victims were elderly or had chronic conditions like diabetes. Temperatures reached into the high 90’s and low 100’s for twelve days before finally breaking on July 8.

Power outages all over Maryland left countless people without essential utilities, particularly air conditioning. Lack of air conditioning most likely contributed to many of the heat-related deaths. Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) announced that it had finished restoring power as of July 8. During the previous nine days, at least thirty-three nursing homes lost power, according to state officials. Most were able to set up generators and window A/C units to keep residents reasonably comfortable. In addition to a lack of air conditioning, automatic doors and other features that assist elderly nursing home residents were not functioning. As of July 2, four nursing homes were confirmed to lack air conditioning and did not have backup generators. Maryland health officials set up “cooling centers” around the state to help people without any other respite from the heat.

Last fall we examined how Maryland nursing homes handled floods that struck the state in September 2011. Nursing homes should have an emergency management plan for natural disasters. Heat waves are an underappreciated natural disaster, accounting for hundreds of deaths in the U.S. each year. Preparation for power outages during the summer months ought to be a critical part of a facilitiy’s emergency response plan.

Nursing homes have a duty to provide diligent care and a safe environment for their residents, and people injured when they breach this duty may be entitled to damages. The Maryland nursing home lawyers at Lebowitz and Mzhen help obtain compensation for people injured due to abuse or neglect by nursing home staff. Contact us today online, or call our legal team at (800) 654-1949 for a free, confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Resident Charged with Arson for Fire in Assisted-Living Facility, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, March 6, 2012
Maryland Nursing Homes Demand Higher Priority for Power Restoration During Outages, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, November 15, 2011
October is Long-term Care Residents’ Rights Month in Maryland and around the Country, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2011
Photo credit: ‘6-29-2012 Derecho’ by NWS/Storm Prediction Center (NWS/Storm Prediction Center) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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