Florida residents scrambled to safety as Hurricane Irma made landfall in 2017. But some Florida nursing home residents had no way out. At one nursing home in Hollywood Hills, residents braced for the storm. As a power outage knocked out air conditioning to the facility, temperatures soared as high as 99 degrees inside—12 residents died from heat-related illnesses and complications.
An investigation after the fact revealed that the facility didn’t have enough staff on hand in the aftermath of the storm. Residents waited as long as 62 hours for relief from the heat. They pleaded for ice, water, and fans, but they were ignored. Because of a boil water advisory, residents had to wait for help to get water. As many as 80 percent of top-floor residents suffered from dehydration and heat exposure. Forty-four percent of residents on the first floor had the same complications. Sadly, with better planning and more care, the suffering of the nursing home residents likely could have been prevented.
New Florida Nursing Home Generator Laws Protect Residents
Because of the tragic events of Hurricane Irma, Florida regulators put new rules into place that require nursing home operators to have generators for temperature control in the event of an emergency. The new regulations require each facility to have the capacity to create their own power to regulate temperatures for a period of time if there’s a power loss. Nursing home facilities had a limited period of time to acquire the necessary equipment to generate power.
What Is Florida’s New Nursing Home Generator Law?
Florida’s new nursing home generator law requires assisted living and nursing home facilities to acquire generators and fuel. The equipment that they acquire must allow them to keep the temperature at their facility at 81 degrees or below even if they suffer a loss of power. Small facilities must be able to provide air conditioning for 48 hours. Large facilities must provide power for up to 96 hours after a power loss. The requirements also depend on whether the facility is an assisted living or a nursing home facility. Nursing homes have more stringent requirements to provide power for their vulnerable residents.
There are additional requirements that are part of the new law. Facilities must create and report an emergency plan to the Department of Elder Affairs. The plan that the facility creates must be a comprehensive emergency management plan. They must also pass an inspection by the Florida Fire Marshall. The Fire Marshall performs an inspection to ensure that the generator and fuel that the facility acquires is adequate to comply with the law.
Where Does the Authority for Florida’s New Nursing Home Generator Law Come From?
Florida’s new nursing home law is Florida’s administrative regulation 59A-4.1265. It’s a regulation that’s created by Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. That means the Florida legislature didn’t directly pass the nursing home generator law. Instead, they delegated the authority to make the law to the Agency for Health Care Administration.
The Florida legislature gave the Administration the power to make the nursing home generator law in Florida law 400.23. The law says that the Administration can create rules to ensure the quality of resident care, to ensure safe and sanitary nursing homes and to improve the quality of life for people who live in nursing homes in Florida. The Administration took it from there to respond to the events of Hurricane Irma by creating the new nursing home generator laws.
Florida’s Nursing Home Generator Law Mirrors Federal Requirements
Although the nursing home generator laws are new to Florida, there are federal regulations that are already in place that regulate temperature requirements in nursing homes throughout the United States. Federal law 42 CFR 483.15(h) requires all senior care facilities to maintain a temperature between 71 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. The rule applies to all senior care facilities that are certified from 1990 and later.
Florida’s new law adds to the existing federal law. The state law also gives more specifics about what the facility must do to keep the temperature within the allowed range in an emergency. It also provides state authorities the power to take action if the facility doesn’t comply with the law. If a facility doesn’t abide by the law, the state can take action to impose administrative fines or suspend the facility’s license to operate.
Failure to Comply With Florida’s Nursing Home Generator Law May Be Negligence Per Se
If a Florida nursing home doesn’t comply with the generator laws, their actions may amount to negligence per se. That means their actions may automatically open them up to legal liability if you or a loved one becomes a victim. If they don’t comply with the generator laws, you don’t necessarily have to take the extra step to show how the nursing home’s actions are unreasonable.
Instead, because of the law violation, there may be an automatic presumption that the nursing home acted unreasonably. Negligence per se is an important distinction in Florida’s personal injury laws that can make it easier for victims to pursue their rights when they’re hurt because of a law violation.
Other Types of Negligence in Nursing Home Cases
In addition to negligence per se, if you or a loved one is hurt while living at a nursing home, there are many possible paths to recovery to explore. There may be other negligent behaviors on the part of nursing home representatives that give rise to legal liability.
You may have a claim under Florida’s Nursing Home Bill of Rights. Our experienced Tampa nursing home rights attorneys can help you explore all of your options and review your claim for all of the ways that you may be able to demand recovery for your losses.
Our Tampa Nursing Home Injuries Attorneys
At Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, we’re serious about helping nursing home victims advocate for their rights. If you have questions about how Florida’s nursing home laws may impact you or a loved one, contact us. With us, your case is in good hands. Jack Bernstein is a proud graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, and he oversees every case. Contact us today for a free consultation.