In Wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, Senate Aging Committee to Examine Disaster Planning for Older Americans

Six deaths caused by a lack of air conditioning in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma at a South Florida nursing home reflects the challenges facing vulnerable Americans during emergencies

Washington, D.C.—On Wednesday, September 20th, the Senate Aging Committee will hold a hearing to examine policies and procedures for sheltering in place, evacuating, and relocating our most vulnerable citizens before disaster strikes. The purpose of the hearing is to review what has been learned from past experience and what more can be done to ensure the health, safety, and resilience of older Americans during and after disasters, such as hurricanes.

The hearing follows today’s tragic announcement that six seniors died due to a lack of air conditioning at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida. The facility had lost power on Sunday as a result of Hurricane Irma.

Other reports and images from the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey also provided poignant reminders that older Americans and individuals with disabilities are particularly vulnerable during a natural disaster. On Florida’s Gulf Coast, an assisted care facility for dementia patients lost power for three days, causing 20 seniors to suffer from high indoor temperatures. In Dickinson, Texas, a widely-shared photo showed elderly residents of an assisted-living center awaiting rescue as flood waters rose waist deep inside the facility.

When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast 12 years ago, more than half of those who died were seniors, according to a report from the National Institutes of Health. Since that devastating storm, disaster response officials have placed much emphasis at the national, state, and local level to better protect older Americans during an emergency.

“As we have learned from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey as well as past catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina, some of our neighbors – especially seniors – face many obstacles during a crisis, and we must focus on the attention older adults may need,” said Senators Susan Collins and Bob Casey, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee. “This hearing, which will be held during National Preparedness Month, will help improve preparedness and response efforts so that the next time disaster strikes, tragedies like the one that occurred at the nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, may be avoided.”

What: Senate Aging Committee hearing, “Disaster Preparedness and Response: The Special Needs of Older Americans”
When: Wednesday, September 20, 2017, 9:00 AM
Where: 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.
Witnesses: TBD