Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Emergency exercise tests plans at local retirement community

VIRGINIA BEACH — If there’s one thing that past natural disasters across the United States have shown, it’s that the outcomes can always be worse than it was thought they could be.

Atlantic Shores Retirement Community on Monday afternoon took part in a full-scale evacuation exercise that involved the Eastern Virginia Healthcare Coalition, Air National Guard, and Atlantic Shores residents and staff.

The focus of the exercise was evacuating patients in the aftermath of a hurricane.

“We have a very solid emergency management plan in place, but we’ve never had to evacuate,” said Donna Marchant-Roof, managing director of Healthcare for Atlantic Shores. “We’re taking what we practice routinely and taking it to a higher level.”

The scenario for the exercise involved a major hurricane that made landfall near Hampton Roads, causing critical infrastructure damage, including flooding of roadways and airports.

For the scenario nursing home patients were trapped and needing evacuation via military airlift to available health care facilities in other parts of the state.

“We want to be prepared for the worst case scenario. We want to look for gaps in our plans. We didn’t expect it to go perfectly,” Marchant-Roof said.

Independent living residents of Atlantic Shores played the parts of assisted living residents needing evacuated, she said, and the families of the assisted living residents were contacted before the exercise to ensure they knew the drill was taking place and that their loved ones were not involved in the exercise.

The Atlantic Shores Evacuation exercise was part of the larger FEMA Exercise “Vigilant Guard” and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management – Virginia Emergency Support Team Exercise, a series of preparedness events occurring across the Mid-Atlantic region between April 30 and May 11.

Air National Guardsmen and exercise staff discuss specifics during the evacuation exercise
Air National Guardsmen from Army Reserve Unit 5-159th General Support Aviation Battalion out of Ft. Eustis and exercise staff discuss specifics during the evacuation exercise (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Atlantic Shores)

Also involved were the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and Virginia Department of Health.

Marchant-Roof said large scale exercises like this are important for their facility, so they can see how they will work with local, state, and regional partners.

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