LICENSING OFFICE OF RESIDENTIAL CARE HOMES FOR THE ELDERLY AND KWUN TONG DISTRICT SOCIAL WELFARE OFFICE – “FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: WE SERVE WITH WARMTH AND DEVOTION”
Social Welfare Department

Exemplary Services@Gov
2017
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A SEAMLESS OVER-NIGHT EMERGENCY EVACUATION OF RESIDENTIAL CARE HOMES

In 2016, two residential care homes for the elderly were affected by dense smoke produced by a No.4 fire alarm set off nearby. In light of the latest developments, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) arranged the safe evacuation of 293 elderly residents, many of them in a fragile state of health, and 56 members of staff. It also immediately provided manpower for direct assistance, as well as transportation services, accommodation, emergency supplies, crisis support and counselling.

CAREFUL DEPLOYMENT AND THOUGHTFUL ARRANGEMENTS

The notice of a possible evacuation of the facility was released at about 8:00 am. To avoid panic and miscommunication, SWD and district office staff activated an emergency response process to deploy resources on site and provide accurate information to the affected people.

The elderly evacuees were all in very different health conditions: some could walk by themselves, some were bedridden, some were wheelchair users, and a few of them suffered from dementia. SWD staff therefore developed a comprehensive evacuation plan based on these specific needs, and implemented it in an orderly manner. They also reminded staff at the elderly homes to assist the residents with packing up their medicines and supplies, and constantly keep an eye on their health and general well-being. In addition, they contacted family members to see if they could provide temporary care for their seniors.

SWD immediately approached related organisations to provide resources and assistance. Ambulances and other vehicles of different capacities were arranged to transport the elderly residents, and nearby community halls were converted into temporary shelters. Short-term accommodation was made available for people who could not go back to their own homes. SWD also liaised with hospitals in the affected districts to provide medical support. Their staff stayed on site while waiting for the residents' evacuation to maintain normal operations of the two elderly homes. They also provided counselling services to the residents and staff.

ORDERLY OVER-NIGHT EVACUATION AND RETURN

At about 7:00 pm the residents were evacuated as instructed. Additional manpower for assistance was sent to the elderly homes and shelters. Staff closely monitored the physical and mental health of the elderly residents, assisted people with walking difficulties, checked the number of evacuees and their ultimate destinations. The evacuation carried on until 4:00 am the next morning.

During the following week, SWD staff continuously followed up with the status of the elderly residents. They paid daily visits to 11 different elderly homes together with medical staff from the Hospital Authority to monitor the elderly residents’ health conditions. By the end of June, when the two facilities were declared safe again, SWD staff accompanied the residents back to the elderly homes in batches.

Besides significant extra care required by the target group, SWD had to overcome many challenges during the evacuation. For instance, it had to provide accommodation and supplies for the elderly within a very short time. SWD also had to deploy a large number of staff to these sites to provide support, and the dense smoke constantly coming in created a very difficult working environment. The emergency also posed a challenge for the department’s internal communications. Because of its effective internal structures and division of labour, SWD staff maintained close contact and complemented each other. In terms of external communication, SWD responded promptly to enquiries from various district councillors and the media. It issued press releases proactively, and set up a 24-hour hotline for public enquiries and counselling services. The evacuation is regarded as a great success and the credit goes to our dedicated colleagues and their ingenuity, a careful and efficient deployment process and excellent team work.

Inspectors from the Licensing Office of Residential Care Homes supervised the on-site staff of the elderly homes while they prepared drugs for the residents.
Inspectors from the Licensing Office of Residential Care Homes supervised the on-site staff of the elderly homes while they prepared drugs for the residents.
SWD prepared residents to be evacuated from the residential care home.
SWD prepared residents to be evacuated from the residential care home.
SWD arranged a temporary shelter for the residents.
SWD arranged a temporary shelter for the residents.