NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A new ordinance proposed in New Orleans aims to protect residents of residential complexes for seniors during disasters like Hurricane Ida, which cut off power to the city and stranded hundreds of people in glowing residential complexes for seniors.
The ordinance passed by the community development committee on Tuesday provides for a new permit for apartment buildings that are specifically intended for residents over 55 years of age and are not already subject to a permit requirement. According to The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate, there are about 75 of these types of complexes in the city.
The ordinance stipulates that building operators must keep a list of residents who need accommodation such as supplemental oxygen or a wheelchair. In addition, the building operators would have to keep staff on site in the event of a declared emergency and coordinate plans with the city in the event of an emergency. The regulation would not prescribe generators for the buildings.
Councilor Kristin Gisleson Palmer said the evacuation window will shrink and more people will have to seek shelter on the spot if a storm comes.
“Often that means that our most vulnerable populations are at the highest and greatest risk,” she said, according to the newspaper.
Category 4 Hurricane Ida caused a citywide blackout that created widespread problems in high-rise residential buildings for seniors. Many wheelchair users would not be able to walk without functioning elevators. People who relied on electricity to supply their oxygen suffered as a result.
According to the city’s coroner, 10 people – all 65 or older – died in various locations around the city from possible heat-related reasons in the aftermath of Ida. The newspaper reported that seven of these deaths occurred in facilities for the elderly.
The buildings are not nursing homes, which generally have more regulations and oversight requirements, especially during hurricanes.
Hundreds of people have been evacuated from some New Orleans senior citizens’ homes after the after-storm conditions inside became known. The city also conducted extensive inspections to assess the condition of senior facilities, including those that have not been evacuated.
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