Ready or not: Emergency preparedness in residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFE) in California




emergency preparedness, residential care facilities for the elderly, long-term care, COVID-19, public health, older adults


This study examined the results of an electronic survey of residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFE) in California in 2021 to provide insight on key elements of emergency plans and facility preparedness for the COVID-19 pandemic and future emergencies.

Surveys were distributed to RCFE administrators using publicly available emails found on the California Health and Human Services Open Data Portal. Responses from 150 facility administrators included data on their perception of current and future facility preparedness for COVID-19 and other emergency scenarios, items included in facility evacuation/shelter-in-place plans, and hazard vulnerability analyses and training practices of facility staff. Descriptive analyses were performed on collected data.

The majority of results were from small facilities serving less than seven residents (70.7 percent). Prior to COVID-19, more than 90 percent of respondents included disaster drills, evacuation plans, and emergency transportation in their emergency preparedness plan. The majority of facilities added pandemic planning, vaccine distribution, and quarantine guidelines elements into their plans during COVID-19. Approximately half of facilities reported conducting proactive hazard vulnerability analyses. Around 75 percent of RCFEs felt well prepared for fires and infectious disease outbreaks, had mixed preparedness levels for earthquakes and floods, and felt least prepared for landslides and active shooter emergencies. During the pandemic, perceptions of preparedness rose, with 92 percent stating they felt very prepared currently and almost 70 percent felt very prepared for future pandemics.

Preparedness of these essential facilities and their residents can continue to improve by conducting regular proactive hazard vulnerability analyses, improving communication lines and mutual aid agreements with local and state organizations, and preparing for critical emergencies such as landslides and active shooter scenarios. This can help to ensure adequate resources and investments are provided to care for older adults during emergencies.


Author Biographies

Kaitlin O. Bahr, PhD, MPH

Associate Professor, Department of Health Sciences, California State University Northridge, Northridge, California

Grishma P. Bhavsar, PhD, MPH

Associate Professor, Department of Health Sciences, California State University Northridge, Northridge, California

Vickent Ung, MPH

Department of Health Sciences, California State University Northridge, Northridge, California

Eric Vargas, MPH

Department of Health Sciences, California State University Northridge, Northridge, California


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How to Cite

Bahr, K. O., G. P. Bhavsar, V. Ung, and E. Vargas. “Ready or Not: Emergency Preparedness in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE) in California”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 21, no. 2, May 2023, pp. 165-71, doi:10.5055/jem.0770.