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Seniors survive relatively unscathed Allison K. Sampite | Fri, Sep 09 2011 12:00 PM

Among those left most vulnerable after a massive power outage knocked out power to more than a million people in the county were the elderly at senior assisted living homes in Chula Vista, Bonita and National City.

Associate director Patricia Pearman said she and her staff at Fredericka Manor focused on keeping its more than 280 residents calm and comfortable.

Pearman said in the 19 years she worked at the Manor, there have been short-term power outages, but none of this magnitude.

“All of our staff performed well,” she said. “They knew exactly what to do.”

Pearman held a staff meeting this morning to review the evening’s events.

“In hindsight, you always see yourself doing things differently,” she said.

Pearman said having flashlights readily available are items of which they can never have too many.

“As alarming as it was it’s been a worthwhile experience,” she said. “We’ve learned how to work well together as a team.”

The Manor doesn’t have a back up generator to restore power to the entire building, but was able to restore some lighting in hallways and provided flashlights to residents until the power came back on around 9:30 p.m.

“It became obvious that we had to rely on ourselves because police and fire wouldn’t be here for a while,” Pearman said. “So that’s what we did.”

Pearman said a 90-year-old woman was stuck in an elevator for three hours.

“She was a little bit shaken up,” Pearman said. “We (staff) took turns talking to her to keep her calm until American Medical Response arrived.”

At Villa Bonita Senior Living on Bonita Road, community marketing director Jenny Wallis and executive director Kira Anthofer and their staff assisted residents up and down stairs and provided them with food and flashlights until power was restored around 11:30 p.m.

Villa Bonita has a back up gas generator but was unable to use it because gas stations were closed. They were, however, able to restore some hallway lights while corridors and stairwells remained dark, according to Wallis.

“Some of the residents get very scared,” Wallis said. “Thank God no one got stuck in an elevator.”

About 92 residents live at Villa Bonita on three different floors, including 14 memory care residents on the first floor, for which extra security was added to help keep them from wandering off.

Staff continually provided hourly checks on residents, asking them if they needed anything and making sure they were drinking water.

Anthofer said the facility keeps up to one week’s worth of perishable and nonperishable food, as well as two gallons of water for all residents.

“We had all hands on deck,” Anthofer said. “Several non-working employees called or texted asking if we needed help.”

She added: “With a plan in place, everyone was very calm. That kind of planning was very affirming.”

In National City at Paradise Village retirement living center, residents hardly noticed the outage thanks to several back up generators.

Residents watched ballgames and United States President Barack Obama’s speech.

Lewis McCoy of Generations, the parent company that owns Paradise Village, said he was told about 40 employees worked to provide support to the facility’s 200 residents.

“They had hot food, Internet, access to elevators and light,” McCoy said. “I think the experience brought the community together.”

McCoy said the facility disaster plan worked as it should.

Security gates remained operational and back up generators powered the core of the village, although power remained out for individual apartments.

At the Congregational Towers in Chula Vista, resident manager Linda Wilson and building superintendent Michael Castro helped 227 residents cope with the power outage, which was not restored until 3:25 Friday morning.

Residents were given food bought down the street at the farmer’s market. One vendor gave residents free watermelon.

Wilson said despite the Towers having 17 floors, the residents remained calm and coped well with the situation.

One woman in her 70s was trapped in an elevator for about 40 minutes but Wilson said the fire department responded quickly and took her to the emergency room, then came back again to check on her.

The Towers lost water because their pumps run on electricity and although it does not have back up generators for the entire building, they were able to provide power to stairwells, the phones, alarm system and office.

“Many of the residents stayed in the recreation room,” Wilson said. “We had fun. We kept them laughing—it was an experience.”

The staff of four stayed on duty all night and many families came to visit their loved ones.

Wilson said they would make sure everyone has a flashlight next time.

Resident council president Wanda Tribble lives on the 16th floor of the Towers and said the outage was an experience.

“At first it was frightening because I thought it was just in the building,” she said. “But then I looked outside and saw that the street lights were off too.”


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