Jackson Bill to Require Backup Power for Nursing Homes Passes Senate Floor

June 22, 2020

SACRAMENTO –As California faces another wildfire season and potential public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)’s Senate Bill 1207 to require California nursing homes to have backup power for at least 96 hours during an emergency passed off the Senate floor today on a 36 to 0 vote. The bill now moves to the Assembly.

Currently, state regulations only require nursing home facilities to provide very limited backup power for six hours in the event of an emergency. However, during the 2019 public safety power outages (PSPS), many Californians were without power for more than 48 hours.

Nursing home residents are especially vulnerable during natural disasters and power outages. Evacuations can be challenging due to mobility limitations and dangerous amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, some residents rely on electrical-powered life support systems to stay alive, unsafe temperatures can be dangerous, and unrefrigerated medications put many residents at risk. According to a November 2019 report by the HHS Office of Inspector General, California nursing home residents are at an increased risk of injury or death during emergencies because all of the nursing homes it examined in high risk areas of the state repeatedly violated critical emergency preparedness standards.

Senate Bill 1207, the Nursing Home Resident Safety Act, will ensure that nursing homes are able to maintain safe temperatures and power for critical life-saving systems such as oxygen and dialysis during an emergency.

“Nursing home residents are especially vulnerable during an emergency. Evacuations can be challenging due to mobility issues and outright dangerous amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nursing Home Resident Safety Act will help keep our most vulnerable residents safe by ensuring nursing homes are able to maintain safe temperatures, keep food and medications cool, and operate critical life-saving equipment in the event of a power outage,” said Senator Jackson.

SB 1207 is sponsored by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) and Long-Term Care Ombudsman Services of San Luis Obispo County. “With COVID-19 present in communities and care facilities, it is more important than ever that skilled nursing facilities in California be independent during extended power outages.  Facilities should only evacuate residents if there is danger to the building, such as during a fire, and not because they lack the ability to provide safe temperatures and electricity to medical equipment.  We cannot risk unnecessarily exposing facility residents to COVID-19,” said Karen Jones, LTC Ombudsman Services of San Luis Obispo County’s Executive Director.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.