Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Colorado Member Shares Firsthand Account of Devastating Colorado Floods Experience

This is part of a special blog series this week, highlighting AHCA/NCAL members who are “emergency heroes” – going above and beyond the call of duty in the face of natural and man-made disasters.

“When we prayed for rain during the fires, this is really not what we had in mind,” said Arlene Miles, President and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association.

The ongoing Colorado floods first began on September 9, as tropical moisture, often referred to as “the monsoon” by locals, hovered over the Rockies, an area of high pressure, and a high-powered, nearly weeklong rainstorm resulted.

The subsequent floods significantly impacted Colorado’s most highly populated regions along the front range of the Rockies. The pressure of the floods literally ripped homes from their foundations, demolished roads and bridges, and initially left a reported 12,000 people stranded. Currently, eight fatalities have been reported as a result of the devastating floods.

Fields of corn, many local farmers’ number one cash crops, have been flushed away, as have multiple gas and oil production sites in the region.

Photo by: CBS News
President Obama has declared a state of emergency in Colorado, making residents hit hardest by the floods eligible for federal grants to repair their homes, once the areas are deemed safe.

One of NCAL’s members, Frasier Meadows Retirement Community in Boulder, sent the following written testimony:

A community that went from good to great in the darkness of a stormy night.

 “We are alive and not so well here at Frasier…but we’re getting better!” said Tim Johnson, President & CEO of Fraiser Meadows Retirement Community in Boulder. 

Thursday evening, September 12, 2013, a wall of water made a direct hit on the Health Care Center.
Because of severe roof leaks in their Assisted Living building, the staff made a decision to relocate all of their Assisted Living residents (34) to other locations around the campus.  Each resident had a team of staff members who moved their bed, including a container of their most important belongings, while other staff assessed the damage to the building.  That was completed by about 7:45 p.m. on Thursday evening. 

As staff gathered in the Assisted Living lounge, an employee shouted that the Health Center was in a state of disaster.  En masse, staff ran to the lobby where a wall of water was pressing up against the entrance. Suddenly, the water broke loose and penetrated the building, flooding the Health Care Center, the Assisted Living building and two underground garages.  Staff immediately went to our two 27-bed units in the Health Care Center moving residents out of the building. 

As staff began the process of moving residents, the transformers exploded and the facility fell into total darkness.  The facility lost their generators. 
In just over 20 minutes, staff evacuated 54 skilled residents, 27 of whom were in the dementia neighborhood.  Across a courtyard, which had filled with as much as 3 feet of water, water began to seep into the ground level of their Independent Living apartments.  Staff was able to move all the Health Care residents up into the dining rooms, Wellness Center, library and living rooms.  The facility was notified that additional flooding may occur, so in the interest of safety, staff asked all residents residing on the ground floor to also move up. 

“It was a tremendous undertaking by our supercharged staff members,” said Johnson.  
The police and fire departments informed them they could not expect assistance, because of emergencies in the rest of the Boulder community. 

“We performed this Herculean effort sustaining not a scratch or injury to any of our residents, and only one injured shoulder on a staff member.  It was nothing short of amazing,” praised Johnson. 
In the evening, staff provided psychological first aid to residents, calming and comforting them. Staff was in turn met with miraculous moments of ministry by residents and staff. 

A resident from the memory unit, who for three years has only been able to receive assistance, being totally dependent upon caregivers, unable to give anything back in return, quietly hummed and sang hymns through the night, ministering in her own quiet way to the needs of the many around her. 
“As I walked past her, she was singing the hymn ‘In the Garden’,” said Johnson.  “As I paused in front of her, as she lay on her bed, she raised both of her hands up toward me and grabbed my hands.  Together we sang “and He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” 

A woman who hadn’t communicated in years ministered to those gathered around in their greatest moment of need, including one very needy CEO.
“It has been an exhausting ordeal, and we’re not through with this challenge yet,” Johnson said.  “Through it all, a calm—a miracle [happened,] really.  A community that went from good to great in the darkness of a stormy night.” 

If you know of an emergency hero you’d like to tell us about, please email AHCAPressOffice@ahca.org.

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