Brief Report| Volume 21, ISSUE 8, P1148-1152.e3, August 2020

Assisted Living Communities During Hurricane Irma: The Decision to Evacuate or Shelter in Place and Resident Acuity



      To investigate the factors associated with whether assisted living communities (ALCs) in Florida evacuated or sheltered in place for Hurricane Irma in 2017, focusing on license type as a proxy for acuity of care.


      Cross-sectional study using data collected by the state through its emergency reporting system and a post-hurricane survey.

      Setting and Participants

      Analyses included all 3112 ALCs in the emergency reporting system. A subset of 1880 that completed the survey provided supplementary data.


      χ2 tests were used to examine differences between ALC characteristics (license type, size, payment, profit status, rural location, geographical region, and being under an evacuation order) and whether they evacuated. Logistic regression was used to test associations between characteristics and evacuation status.


      Of 3112 ALCs, 560 evacuated and 2552 sheltered in place. Bivariate analysis found significant associations between evacuation status and evacuation order, license type (mental health care), payment, and region. In the adjusted analysis, medium and larger ALCs were 43% (P < .001) and 53% (P < .001) less likely to evacuate than ALCs with fewer than 25 beds. Compared with ALCs in the Southeast, nearly every region was more likely to evacuate, with the highest likelihood in the Central West (odds ratio 1.76, 95% confidence interval 1.35‒2.30). ALCs under an evacuation order were 8 times more likely to evacuate (P < .001). We found no relationship between evacuation status and having a license to provide higher care.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Prior research highlighting harm associated with evacuation has led to recommendations that long-term care facilities carefully consider resident impairment in evacuation decision-making. Evidence that small ALCs are more likely to evacuate and that having a higher-care license is not associated with evacuation likelihood shows research is needed to understand how ALCs weigh resident risks in decisions to evacuate or shelter in place.


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