In his ground-breaking novel “One Second After”, the first place William Forstchen talks about the disaster impacting is an assisted living/long term care facility. It’s important, because most people don’t realize what life-ending implications a power outage will have on such facilities, starting within MINUTES. Here, we are going to discuss some of those risks, and discuss how you can plan for family members in these facilities.
First, before someone says, “But, bro, an EMP is unlikely”, let’s address the scenario in the book. In the book, an unknown party detonates multiple EMP devices at altitude across the country, causing an immediate loss of electrical power and stopping most vehicles. We know that’s a worst-case scenario, but a grid hacking attack is quite likely, especially in the event of hostilities with China or Russia, which is likely within the next 30 days.
In fact, Australian authorities this morning reported that in late November, an energy company in Australia detected a hacking attack on their grid network that was stopped. The origin of the attack was traced to China. Attacking the grid in a modern Western nation like Australia is likely to be purely a “proof of concept” attack, training for how to penetrate the US grid, as all Western nations use similar protection.
Whatever the cause, from the standpoint of an assisted living or long-term care facility, the effects are what matter. Now, a grid attack would leave their generator up and running, so they would forestall the immediate danger, but only by a few days. Generators only hold a certain amount of fuel. If the power is out, getting fuel out of the ground and into the generator is going to be an issue.
So, what are the risks? Well, a good number of the people in these facilities rely on electronic devices for survival. For some, it’s oxygen delivery devices, for others, more intricate life support. These devices will immediately stop working once the flow of electricity stops.
Again, many will say, “But the generators”. Generators, especially in commercial buildings, are not meant to power the ENTIRE facility for long-term operations. In fact, in a lot of areas, the generator runs a building at half power. This means that half of the lights are on and only half of the circuits are charged. This will start the countdown for a lot of residents.
Climate control is another grave issue. I’ve mentioned before how our controlled climates are making us weaker as a species, and it’s even more serious for the elderly. A facility dropping below 65 degrees or rising above 85 will rapidly cause deaths in residents. Facilities are required to have emergency plans for this, but those plans are for when help IS coming. What if help wasn’t?
Fear of freezing will lead to an increased fire risk, and we already know how dangerous that is. Lack of proper air handling and improvised heating will also lead to increased risk of carbon monoxide poising.
Sanitation will be a problem. Staff members won’t be coming into work and that means bed linens and bed pans won’t be changed, and some people who need assistance to get to the restroom won’t get help. It will get ugly very quickly. This will lead to infections and disease.
An outside risk factor is looting. I know a lot of you are thinking, “What??”. Think about what is stored at an assisted living facility. Drugs – specifically Fentanyl and opioids. What type of resistance do you think assisted living home residents & staff will offer? You haven’t considered it? I guarantee you the looters WILL.
So, with all these risks, what can we do?
First, get out your trusty Battle Board (seriously, why don’t you have one?) and visit the facility. The facility must make their emergency plans available, so ask for a copy. Use the Battle Board to sketch the facility and apartment/room for future use, you might need it. Take a photo with your cell phone of every wall-mounted evacuation map you can see. Walk the grounds, looking for access to trail systems, in case you need to remove someone at night. Information gathering and knowing the terrain is an important first step.
Ask specifically where the “safe havens” are that they would put residents awaiting an evacuation and ask what facilities they have agreements with to transfer people to in an emergency. If you arrive to liberate Granny from the facility and she’s gone, you need to know where to find her. Learn what the facilities’ vehicles look like in case you need to travel a route between two places, looking for a stranded vehicle.
Have an excess supply of any medications or medical tools (wheelchairs/walkers) that your relative needs in case you must take them out of the facility in a hurry.
The best practice in a known short-term emergency, like a localized power outage from a storm or weather, is to just leave them in place, but communicate with the facility daily. In this way, you will know what is happening, what their plans are, and where Granny is should they evacuate.
Should it develop into a longer-term emergency, or you know immediately that it’s “The Big One”, you may want to consider getting them out. Know the facility rules on checking people in or out, but remember that in a WROL situation, YOU decide what happens to your family and no sheet of paper overrides that.
Here’s the Tactical Wisdom on that:
Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
Leaving behind family members who can’t care for themselves is not an option.
The best option is to attempt to sign them out, even if it is against medical advice, as early in a crisis as possible. You can always bring them back if the situation wasn’t as dire as you originally thought.
If you’ve gathered the floor plan information and made the sketches as part of your “Area Study” on the building, you are in a better position to affect a rescue “in extremis” should it be required. If the power is out and looters are on the streets, and no help is coming, an extraction may be needed.
The point is to have plans that begin with signing them out normally, through arguing with staff if needed, to forcible extraction as a last resort. Your family cannot be obligated by the facility to remain there in a life-threatening crisis, and YOU get to make that decision, not them.
You need to consider your family member’s mobility when planning for an extraction. Do you need a wheelchair, or a stretcher? If so, you need additional people to provide security while someone pushes the chair or while two people carry the stretcher. Again, security must become an obsession.
Understand that you likely will not be able to stay on site to gather all their belongings, so consider making a visit now and preparing them a “Go Bag” with a few essentials. Another consideration is medications as the staff will not likely surrender them to you from their locked storage facility, so plan ahead.
You may have to plan for alternate entry, as most access control systems now default to locking with 10,000-pound magnetic locks if the power goes out. Know the full building layout in case you have to enter at an unconventional location.
This may seem extreme, but absolutely nothing would keep me from getting my family members out.
I was asked earlier today “How could you take care of them outside of that facility and isn’t it then better to leave them there?” That’s not the point. Why would you leave your family member to die trapped in a facility filled with other people, lacking running water and electricity, waiting to die? I would rather take them from a virtual prison, and bring them home, to let them die in dignity, rather than in a building where they will die with others in filth and terror. I simply could not leave them there, even if I knew they would die either way.
Another life lesson I learned at 18 years old: Warriors don’t leave another member of their tribe behind, even if that person wants them to. It is better to die free.
For those who say, “But the old and unwell are a burden on our bug-out compound”, I say two things. First, shame on you; everyone has value. Second, as I point out in TW-03 Defensive Operations, the elderly and less fit can man your command post, work a radio, or perform some other tasks, freeing up a more fit person.
Get out and do an area study on their facility and develop the plans to get them out of there in an emergency. Learn what the process is to sign someone out, as that is the preferred plan, but also have a plan to extract them in an emergency.
We saw with COVID 19 that the government very publicly said that they were willing to let the elderly die, if they had to choose between the elderly and literally any other age group. If you already can’t rely on them, why would you in a crisis?
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