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Who Makes Sure Seniors Get Out During Evacuations?

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Whose job is it to make sure that senior citizens are moved out of harm's way in the event of an emergency evacuation? The answer varies depending on the county and the type of facility that cares for seniors.

More than 500 people from hospitals and skilled nursing facilities were evacuated from Butte County during the Oroville spillway scare.

Lisa Almaguer is the communications manager for Butte County Department of Public Health.

"The Regional Disaster Medical Health [Coordinators] and Specialists, they are alerted by the county and based on the estimated number of people in this affected area, they will organize ambulance strike teams," Almaguer says.

The county has two hospitals and three skilled nursing facilities south of Lake Oroville.

The California Department of Public Health helps with an evacuation if asked. The department may also issue a citation to a hospital, psychiatric hospital or skilled nursing facility that fails to evacuate in a timely or orderly fashion.

There are also about 80 assisted living or residential care facilities in Butte County.

Each facility is the state's responsibility, though under a different department. Michael Weston, deputy director of the California Department of Social Services, played a different role aside from Almaguer's.

"Everybody was able to get out and get to a safe location to ensure they weren't in harm's way and that's something that went successfully," Weston says. "Now, we as a department, we contact the facilities to make sure they've actually gone out and executed their disaster plan."

Weston says assisted living facilities may also be cited if they do not move people to a safe place.

Yuba County was in contact with Rideout Hospital and the county's only skilled nursing facility the night of Feb. 12. The nursing facility evacuated while the hospital kept patients on higher floors, canceled elective surgeries and prepared generators for any possible operations.

The county relied on the state to monitor the evacuation of 17 assisted living facilities.

Nancy O'Hara, Sutter County director of Public Health, says the county handled its evacuation almost entirely at the local level and assisted more than 20 facilities.

"We particularly concentrated on assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities with the help of Bi-County Ambulance, Yuba-Sutter Transit and Yuba City Unified with their school buses," O'Hara says. We also got calls from people with no transportation."

Bob Moffitt

Sacramento Region Reporter

Bob reports on all things northern California and Nevada. His coverage of police technology, local athletes, and the environment has won a regional Associated Press and several Edward R. Murrow awards.   Read Full Bio 

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