NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans City Councilmember Kristin Palmer has proposed an emergency mandate for senior living apartments that will require owners and managers of such places to have at least 4 days of generator fuel to power essential cooling functions and a person who must remain on-site to coordinate emergency services.
“After Hurricane Ida, five tenants who lived in independent living apartments died because the owners and operators of the properties were negligent, leaving their tenants in inhumane conditions to fend for themselves,” she said.
The proposed ordinance would require senior living accommodations that house six or more residents to have the following:
- Sufficient generator and fuel capacity to power heating, cooling, elevators, lighting for emergency exits, and communications systems for 96 hours in a power outage
- A point of contact who must remain on-site at all times (24/7) during declared emergencies
- Daily updates to the Mayor's Office of Homeland Security once an emergency order has been activated, and immediate updates in case of evacuation
- Annual city licensure
Palmer said the city evacuated 10 residences last weekend where the conditions inside were not at a minimum acceptable level for the residents, many of whom were elderly and some who needed functioning elevators to get around.
Five of those residents died. Others were hospitalized and the remaining residents were evacuated to shelters around the state. In the wake of Hurricane Ida, power was out to most of the city for a week while temperatures climbed into the 90s with heat indices of more than 100 degrees.
One of the residents, who joined Palmer in a press briefing, said she knew things were bad the very first night as the winds howled and water started leaking in.
"A lot of people were screaming," she said. "We had one lady to jump out the window and broke her leg from the second floor... It was a sad situation."
Palmer said the owners of the residences, which include the Archdiocese of New Orleans, were trying to use a “loophole” of the residences being independent living.
The independent living facilities are different from nursing homes in that there isn’t on-site medical care and the state does not require evacuation plans to be filed as is done with the nursing homes.