Nursing home lauded for handling of evacuation

The 68 residents who had to be evacuated from Crescent Park Lodge after an electrical fire Thursday afternoon were scheduled to return to the Fort Erie long-term care home Friday, said Fire Chief Larry Coplen.

“There’s a few things they have to do by verifying the fire-alarm system and making sure that’s all operational. Once that’s done, they can move back in,” he said.

The residents were relocated to a number of different homes across Niagara, said Coplen, including Gilmore Lodge, Northland Pointe, Maple Park Lodge and Douglas Memorial Hospital.

He said the cause of the small fire in the electrical panel distribution system is still under investigation, but “it appears to be a malfunction in some of the distribution equipment.”

Coplen said the fire happened just after 2 p.m. Residents were evacuated outside and then initially into Maple Park Lodge next door.

He credited the staff at Crescent Park Lodge for how quickly, safely and orderly they handled the evacuation.

“When I arrived at the scene — I was one of the first vehicles — the building was completely evacuated. They evacuated in about 10 or 12 minutes.”

Coplen said it’s not easy to move that many residents, especially those who are in wheelchairs, are bed-bound, or have respiratory or cardiac issues.

“We’ve been extremely demanding in Fort Erie in the evacuation procedures that far exceeds what the province requires,” he said.

“It’s difficult for some of the homes to comply with what we’re asking, but once they practice, they drill … they’re able to evacuate the building in a very timely manner, which is basically safety, it’s getting people out of a hazardous environment.”

Coplen said long-term care homes in Fort Erie practice their evacuation procedures regularly.

He said Crescent Park Lodge did an internal drill Tuesday.

“When this incident happened, it was just routine, they just did it,” he said.

Sandie Safian, whose 86-year-old mother, Irmgard, is a resident at Crescent Park Lodge, said she was “extremely impressed” with how the situation was handled by staff at both Crescent Park and Maple Park, where her mother was temporarily moved to.

“It wasn’t just how quickly they were out, how quickly they were sheltered, they were fed, but I didn’t get a sense of panic from anyone — not the staff, not the residents,” said Safian.

“My mother was seated at a table having some dinner. Even Maple Park Lodge responded so quickly because all of a sudden they had all of these extra mouths to feed.

“They were just all so well taken care of and it even went beyond that immediate response, which was also quite impressive.”

Safian said staff even went with residents so there would be familiar faces around them.

“My mother, she’s sharper than any of us, but that’s not true for all of the residents, so I think it would be quite comforting for them,” she said.

Safian said staff had a well-managed master list with the names of all the residents and where they were moved to “because I’m sure they were going to get phone calls from families wanting to know where their loved ones are.

“My mother received her medication, as per her usual schedule. Everything was just really so well done.”

Lori Turcotte, of Conmed Health Care Group, which is the parent company for Crescent Park Lodge and Maple Park Lodge, said it was “all hands on deck” during the evacuation.

“The team here did an amazing job. All that training that we do just kicked in and they got residents out, they got them safe — the residents were relaxed and comfortable,” she said.

“Once we knew we weren’t able to go back, we just kicked it up a notch and said, OK, where can we send people? What accommodations can we make?”

Turcotte said staff do a minimum of three drills every month on days, afternoons and evenings.

“It’s important to us because we want staff to know what to do when something like this happens.

“All of our families were notified about what happened, so that families wouldn’t panic. We have a really solid policy for this.”

Story by Ray Spiteri
Reprinted from Niagara Falls Review, July 29, 2016