Nursing Home Locked Down by Police After Receiving Threat Letter

208959_8922.jpgPolice in New Milford, New Jersey put a local nursing home on “lockdown” after the facility received a letter containing threats and references to the recent shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. As a precautionary measure for the safety of the nursing home’s residents, police kept residents in their rooms while searching for potential safety threats. No threats were found, and no suspects have been identified. All the residents are safe, and both police and nursing home staff say that they had access to care throughout the crisis.

A letter arrived at the Woodcrest Health Care Center the morning of Wednesday, July 25, 2012. This was less than a week after the shooting incident in Colorado, in which a masked gunman wearing full body armor shot dozens of people during a midnight screening of the new Batman movie. The gunman killed twelve people, injured more than sixty, and terrified the whole nation. The letter received by Woodcrest reportedly included handwritten references to the Aurora shootings and other threats, as well as pasted newspaper headlines. The letter made threats referencing explosives, knives, and guns. Nursing home staffers contacted the police, who arrived at about 11:40 a.m. Although the letter was apparently signed, police have not said by whom.

Police “locked down” the facility, instructing residents to remain in their rooms. They kept the residents there for about two hours. Bomb squad investigators, assisted by canine units, swept the facility and found no trace of explosives. The police chief reportedly requested the assistance of the county prosecutor’s Counter-Terrorism Unit, although it is not clear if they arrived on the scene before the scene was cleared at around 2:00 p.m.

According to the chief of police, they decided to put a “lockdown” on the facility rather than evacuate the residents because of the difficulty in moving many of them. Residents’ health concerns and physical conditions would prevent a quick evacuation, so lockdowns are a common procedure in many emergencies involving nursing homes. A case such as this one raises the question of nursing homes’ responsibilities during, and preparedness for, criminal actions such as the one apparently threatened in the letter to Woodcrest.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has studied the issue of emergency preparedness in nursing homes and noted that “there is little understanding about them.” In identifying the “special needs” of residents, the AHRQ identified five main concerns: caring for “special patient populations,” such as Alzheimer’s or dementia patients; providing adequate staffing during an emergency to meet patient needs; maintaining a supply of pharmaceutical and medical products; keeping the power on; and having access to sufficient food and water. Liability for a claim of nursing home neglect may be the farthest thing from an administrator’s mind during a crisis, but it is an important consideration when planning for a response.

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. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online, or call (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Nursing Homes Deal with Storms, Power Outages, Heat Waves, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, July 12, 2012
Resident Charged with Arson for Fire in Assisted-Living Facility, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, March 6, 2012
Maryland Nursing Home Staffer Pleads Guilty to Abuse of a Resident, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, February 14, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Canine Search’ by jzlomek on stock.xchng.

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