Mock hurricane disaster drill at Wilton Meadows

Monday, Oct. 2, was not the usual day at work for Anthony Milone, 27, of Danbury, the assistant director of therapy and recreation at Wilton Meadows.

Instead of helping to lead people in flexibility-building exercises, Milone was sitting in the empty dining room with more than a dozen other employees and family members of residents, pretending to be worried residents during the onslaught of a pretend hurricane.

“Don’t be afraid, everything is going to be all right,” said Ellen Casey, administrator of Wilton Meadows, as she walked into the room and directed crew members to begin taking the mock residents out to several vans and an ambulance to be evacuated due to an imaginary power failure.

“It will be interesting,” said Milone, as he pondered what his work day was going to be like for the next couple of hours, pretending to be an evacuee.

Wilton Meadows, with 148 elderly residents, actually conducts these preparedness drills twice a year, said Casey.

It is a timely practice event, because it is hurricane season and the news is still full of reports from Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, the latest areas to be ravaged by hurricanes.

Connecticut Long Term Care Mutual Aid Plan (LTC-MAP) is the organization that conducts these mock evacuation exercises with healthcare facilities. The Middletown-based outfit will be conducting a number of these evacuation scenarios at long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living communities all this week.

Although rare, the evacuation of a healthcare facility is a complex event requiring significant coordination with the community and region, said Ron Bucci, senior executive director of Wilton Meadows. The focus of these exercises is to evaluate the interaction of the LTC-MAP members in each region in preparation for internal events like fires and power failures to external events including hurricanes and ice storms.

The focus is on communication, tracking of evacuated residents, and handling a large influx of residents at receiving facilities.

Volunteers played the role of mock residents being evacuated between various facilities.

The exercises are a joint effort by LTC-MAP members, Russell Phillips & Associates, Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, local health directors, fire departments, emergency medical services and emergency management officials.

The exercises are not for naught. Over the past six years, this plan was used to coordinate and manage more than 200 healthcare facilities in Connecticut during emergencies including Tropical Storm Irene, the October 2015 blizzard, and Superstorm Sandy, Bucci said.

“These disasters pointed to the need for local, regional, statewide and now “interstate” planning to support nursing homes and assisted living communities in a disaster,” Bucci said in a statement.