MASON CITY | North Iowa long-term care facilities are banding together to help each other become more emergency-ready and prepared to meet government guidelines.  

Though planning for a full-scale drill, the providers feel they are developing a long-term care family in North Iowa.

“We’ve developed a very good network of facilities,” IOOF Home and Community Therapy Center Compliance Officer Debra Haugen said. “All of us will be there for each other.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued new emergency preparedness requirements for long-term care providers and others accepting the plans. They must now perform a yearly disaster preparedness drill.

A group of providers from facilities in Mason City, Clear Lake, Osage, Britt, Manly and Nora Springs first met in June to exchange ideas and emergency plans. 

Cerro Gordo County Emergency Management, Cerro Gordo Department of Public Health and 11 area providers will run a full-scale exercise Tuesday in Mason City. The exercise will begin at the IOOF Home about 8 a.m. and will continue to Good Shepherd.

Participating facilities include:

  • IOOF Home and Community Therapy Center, Mason City.
  • Good Shepherd Health Center, Mason City.
  • Faith Lutheran Home, Osage.
  • Manly Care Center.
  • Oakwood Care Center, Clear Lake.
  • Heritage Care and Rehabilitation, Mason City.
  • Nora Springs Care Center.
  • One Vision, Clear Lake.
  • Westview Care Center, Britt.
  • Mosaic, Forest City. 
  • Salvation Army Adult Day Health Center, Mason City. 

This is IOOF's second full-scale drill, but the first for other facilities. 

The drill begins with a narrative of a storm system moving east through the Midwest.

At 9:15 a.m., radar will indicate a tornado with winds between 110 to 125 mph, prompting a tornado warning for parts of Cerro Gordo, Worth and Floyd counties. The tornado will severely damage parts of the IOOF Home and southern Mason City.  

Participants will then act as if there is no power south of Highway 122, from Eisenhower to Kentucky avenues.

Each provider’s volunteers are given roles to act as residents and staff members, giving them an opportunity to test their procedures. 

Mason City Police and Fire departments and the Mason City Road Crew will assist in the drill.

The Salvation Army Adult Day Health Center recently had an emergency situation -- a gas leak -- and "found out some important things," Haugen said. 

Through the experience, Salvation Army Adult Day Health Center Director Kay Rathmann realized there were contacts that needed to be in officials' cell phones, rather than in a hard copy or on a computer.

“It was a real eye-opener,” Rathmann said.

Learning from other drills and emergency situations, the providers were able to share advice. 

“Having some of this knowledge in my back pocket helps,” Oakwood Administrator Sheri Weaver-Isvik said.

Cerro Gordo County Emergency Management Coordinator Steve O’Neil said the group of providers coming together has been fantastic for him and his department.

“It’s all about communication,” O’Neil said. “Having these people at the table brings a huge wealth of knowledge.”

In the event of an emergency at one facility, other facilities can be called in to assist.

“If it’s a call saying, ’We’re fine, how can we help,’ or ‘We’re screwed, come help,’ it's good to have a plan," O’Neil said. 

Area providers plan to work together every year to meet this requirement by performing the drill at a new facility annually. 

Contact Courtney at 641-421-0534 or on Twitter @CourtneyFiorini.




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