Safe through any storm
Palm Beach Gardens, FL -- Benjamin Franklin once famously remarked, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." For Enrique Santiago, the security and emergency services manager at Devonshire, an Erickson Living managed senior living community at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, preparedness is the key to keeping the entire community—residents and staff — safe and secure.
With a carefully crafted preparedness plan in place, even throughout the recent coronavirus shelter in place directive and ongoing safety precautions, Santiago and his team remained well-prepared to protect the Devonshire community during the Atlantic hurricane season (June through November).
Located in a non-evacuation zone, Devonshire boasts top-grade, steel beam construction, and hurricane-rated windows. Not once in the community's twenty-year history have community members had to evacuate.
"There simply isn't a better place in South Florida to be during severe weather conditions," says Devonshire community member and resident council chair Bob Frasier. "The community is well-prepared at all times. We are safe and well cared for by a staff who is more like family than employees."
Recently, Santiago discussed the many ways in which he and his team protect the Devonshire community during hurricane season.
Q: In what physical ways is the Devonshire campus prepared and protected from hurricanes?
Santiago: In preparation for the possibility of a hurricane, our team performs maintenance checks throughout the calendar year. This includes our hurricane-strength windows designed not to break. We also test our two generators, that if needed, will provide power to all our common areas and kitchens. Our staff also clears downspouts and tests all electrical outlets. In addition, we ensure that our hurricane storage closet is fully stocked with batteries, air mattresses (for family members and staff who stay on campus during a storm), and hurricane radios. We also hold a variety of meetings, prior to the start of the season, to ensure that both staff and community members understand our safety procedures and are comfortable with what is expected of them. Our team visits every apartment home on campus to ensure that community members are well prepared and understand what will happen should a hurricane threaten our area. At that time, we answer their questions and share with them a list of supplies they must have on hand as a safety precaution, such as batteries and flashlights.
Q: I understand that your team maintains the bible of hurricane preparedness—the Devonshire hurricane binder. Can you explain what this is?
Santiago: The binder is our go-to during hurricane season. It is reviewed and updated throughout the year to ensure that we have the most up-to-date information needed to best protect our community. The binder spells out the responsibilities each Devonshire department has before, during, and after hurricane season. It also contains our emergency contact list for our most important resources, including the elevator company, the police department, and electric company. In addition, the binder includes the current list of residents willing to volunteer their time helping their neighbors should a hurricane threaten our area. Before hurricane season begins, we ask both our staff and residents to submit a list of family members and guests who will be staying on campus during a hurricane threat. Because Devonshire is located in a non-evacuation zone, many family and friends feel more comfortable staying here with their loved one during a hurricane. And we, as the staff tasked with protecting the community, need to account for everyone in our care. The hurricane binder also consists of numerous to-do lists, most of which complement the year-round tasks we undertake to ensure that, should a hurricane hit, Devonshire is prepared. For instance, there is a list of patio and common area items that must be brought inside to avoid injury to residents. The binder also has the lists of our hurricane "A" and "B" teams, made up of those employees who will either work on campus during a hurricane or those who will come in after. All of this is determined and finalized by early May. Finally, the binder includes copies all the flyers, lists, and announcements shared during past hurricane threats, like Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
Q: Could you please explain what life on the Devonshire campus is like during a hurricane threat?
Santiago: When news that the West Palm Beach/Palm Beach Gardens area is within the eye of an incoming hurricane, we immediately go to work putting our storm preparedness plan in place. This precautionary action guarantees that the community has adequate staff resources and supplies. In addition, we begin and maintain constant communication throughout the threat. Ongoing communication updates regarding community operations are conducted via town hall meetings, shared on our television channel 63, in cubbie stuffer notices, and through bulletin board postings. In addition, family members and friends are kept informed via the My Erickson app and Devonshire's website and Facebook page. A large part of the team effort is the commitment of staff members to stay on campus throughout the hurricane threat, pitching in wherever needed, to ensure that life goes on as normal for members of the community. For instance, our culinary team continues to prepare three meals a day, and activities personnel work diligently to ensure all activities run smoothly. Many members of our resident life team stay on campus devising new ways to entertain our residents, such as trivia team competitions. I've witnessed firsthand the dedication of each employee to making our community members happy, comfortable, and safe. and have felt safe and well cared for every single day," says Bob.
About Devonshire at PGA National: Devonshire at PGA National, is one of 20 continuing care retirement communities managed by Erickson Living® and is situated on a scenic 28-acre campus on the grounds of prestigious PGA National. The community is located in Palm Beach County and is home to more than 350 community members. Additional information about Devonshire can be found at DevonshirePGA.com.
Written by Kelly A. Shue