Nursing home residents wake to large emergency response after staff detects ‘haze’

2017 file photo shows fire engines in St. George, Utah | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Residents of a nursing home awoke to a well-planned emergency response after a haze in one wing of the facility activated fire alarms early Sunday morning.

One wing of Seasons Health and Rehabilitation Center was evacuated after a light haze was reported in the corridor, St. George, Utah, Feb. 17, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

St. George Fire responded to Seasons Health and Rehabilitation Center at 242 W. 400 North on what initially came in as a fire alarm activation at 3:40 a.m. While emergency crews were en route, the care center’s staff reported “a haze in one of the hallways,” St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said.

Seasons’ staff helped evacuate approximately 18 residents to the facility’s large lobby area as fire crews canvassed the building in search of the haze’s source, which could be seen in the facility’s rehabilitation wing.

The facility’s administrator, Jeremy Frehner, also responded to help coordinate staff and residents. In these types of situations, Frehner said “it’s all hands on deck.”

The investigation into the origin of the haze turned up nothing, Stoker said, so fire crews remained at the scene for “quite a while” along with the facility’s maintenance staff to make sure there were no further issues.

The smoke was light enough that it cleared from the building naturally, and crews remained at the facility while residents returned to their rooms. Once the Fire Department cleared the scene, the facility’s maintenance department continued to monitor the situation and took care of any needed followup.

Stoker said the Seasons’ staff “did a great job in dealing with the incident, the residents and in following their emergency operations plan.”

One wing of Seasons Health and Rehabilitation Center was evacuated after a light haze was reported in the corridor, St. George, Utah, Feb. 17, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

That operations plan includes implementing temporary housing for the residents should a large-scale emergency take place, and even though Sunday’s incident was minor in comparison to what could have occurred if there were a fire, Frehner said having that plan in place is critical.

A federally mandated “Memorandum of Understanding” is in place at the facility, Frehner said, which ensures residents have a warm, safe place to stay in the event of an emergency.

During Sunday’s incident, preparations were being made to move the evacuated residents to another facility in close proximity — either the St. George Senior Center or the St. George Catholic Church — in the event accommodations were needed.

The emergency operations plan also entails a rapid response by the facility administrator. Frehner said he responds to all emergency events, regardless of when they occur.

“These residents are like family to me, and this is my second home and has been for the last 20 years,” he said.

Like Frehner, Seasons nursing director Terral Bassett also responded in the middle of the night to support her staff with “anything they needed,” she said, noting that they are “well-trained and handled the evacuation very calmly and efficiently.”

“We’ve had so many fire drills, and it all worked as designed,” Bassett said. “The staff made sure the residents were safe, so it all paid off in the end.”

The Fire Department’s rapid response with so many engines and manpower was also very helpful, Frehner said, adding that even though a large-scale evacuation was not needed, it was good to know they were there.

“We can’t thank the Fire Department enough for what they do every day, and particularly for what they did here this morning,” he said.

Several St. George Police units and Gold Cross Ambulance crews also responded to assist at the care center.

This report is based on statements from emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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