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Texas Winter Storm (Uri) Senior Living Case Study
Between February 13-17, 2021 a winter storm referred to as Winter Storm Uri brought snow and frigid temperatures to a large portion of the central United States reaching as far south as Texas. Caused by a polar vortex, an area of low pressure which typically keeps cold air in the Arctic, temperatures plummeted, and major power systems began to fail. This combination resulted in mass damage to commercial properties across Oklahoma, Texas, and other areas of the south and central United States.
In Texas, power generation failed to meet the increased demand due to several factors. In the week leading up to the storm, sustained wind speeds and mild temperatures filled more than 50 percent of Texas power reserves. However, as wind speeds slowed and temperatures began to decline, ice accumulation on the turbine blades made power production severely compromised or even impossible. Electricity generation suffered once again as gas fired power plants were unable to obtain the required supplies needed and therefore were not able to keep up with the spiking demand. As a result, nearly 11 million people lost power for extended periods of time including commercial properties and businesses.
Several of the properties damaged by the winter storm belonged to an SRM senior living client. In total, the client had eight communities which sustained serious damage from frozen and burst pipes, sprinkler system bursts or other winter related property damage. The eight communities accounted for over 750,000 square feet of senior living, nursing care, and elderly resident space. The situation was further complicated by several factors; one was the nation was still dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic so special precautions needed to be followed. Second, was the unreliability of power due to the failing power generation. Lastly, these facilities were occupied by residents who experience a range of physical and mental challenges such as memory retention. These individuals needed to not only maintain their residence, but also their daily schedule and routine. Often when someone with memory loss or dementia encounters a different routine they struggle to adapt. SRM wanted to ensure the client their residents would be able to live in the facility and continue their normal routine as closely as possible.
ServiceMaster Recovery Management had been in contact with the client and the facility managers prior to the temperatures dropping once forecasts showed an elevated risk of property damage. SRM then worked with the client’s management team, facility managers and building maintenance teams to begin planning their response and restoration in case the need arose. SRM also guided the facilities through the preparation process and offered support services and equipment such as emergency power if the facility required.
At this time, SRM initiated their pre-disaster protocol. One aspect of the protocol includes sending daily Advanced Weather Alerts to client-defined stakeholders within their organization. These daily alerts, which were sent via email and the proprietary SRM Mobile App, provided daily weather forecasts showing expected temperatures in relation to client locations. In addition, this communication allowed the client to not only best prepare their facilities, but SRM was also able to work with the client to discuss possible outcomes, anticipate their recovery needs and mobilize resources even before any properties were damaged.
As temperatures dropped, buildings began experiencing damage from frozen / burst pipes and sprinkler system failures throughout their facilities. In total, the eight facilities experienced over 200 burst pipes causing extensive damage to resident units and common areas. Over 100 resident units were damaged.
ServiceMaster Recovery Management was positioned to help immediately as communities became damaged. SRM moved quickly to move any residents whose unit had been damaged making sure to do so in the most respectful and considerate way possible. Accommodations were also made to help the residents adapt to their temporary unit until restoration was complete. This involved keeping the temporary unit as close to the original location as possible, outfitting the temporary unit in a similar manner and many other accommodations to ensure residents were as comfortable as possible.
Relocating residents was sometimes challenging due to the high occupancy rate of the communities. SRM went to great lengths to plan, prepare and manage the relocations in the least disruptive way possible. Coordinated shifts of crews were used to minimize noise and disruption while providing the fastest recovery possible.
In addition to resident units, many common areas were damaged which were vital to the operations of the communities. These areas included dining halls, housekeeping areas, administrative offices, and activity areas. SRM wanted the communities to be able to maintain near seamless operations, so careful planning and implementation was conducted to allow almost no interruption across all eight communities. Residents were able to continue their daily routines largely unaffected. The client was extremely impressed by the coordination and pleased their residents were able to continue their quality of life.
During restoration every effort was made to continue the minimally invasive process for residents. This often resulted in SRM managing smaller crews throughout longer hours to allows for less noise at any given time as well as coordinating around resident schedules such as having crews work in the resident areas while they were in the dining hall eating lunch and vice versa. SRM also ran multiple crews overnight in areas away from the resident units which allowed for a speedy restoration with minimal disruption.
ServiceMaster Recovery Management engineered and executed the most effective restoration and reconstruction plan possible which involved the use of the latest moisture mapping equipment and software, strategic placement of airmovers and dehumidifiers to limit noise while maximizing drying impact, negative air units vented outdoors and many other aspects. Having the required equipment staged in advance and being able to call on the extensive reach-back capabilities of the SRM network allowed restoration on all eight communities to be completed faster than original timelines.
In the end, the client facilities were restored to pre-loss condition sooner than expected, residents experienced minimal disruption, and all residents were allowed to stay within their home community as no residents required relocation outside of their home community. The client was impressed by not only the expertise, equipment and skill SRM provided, but also the level of care and consideration given to their residents.