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  • Carl E. Clark II

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Devereux California team works seamlessly to keep adults safe during wildfire evacuations

A raging wildfire in the mountains above Santa Barbara, Calif., recently forced the temporary evacuation of two Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health California group homes, and tested the resilience of the adults the organization serves, as well as its staff.

In late November, Devereux California’s emergency response team, which plans and prepares for unexpected events, including earthquakes, fires, floods, mudslides and power outages, sprang into action due to the proximity of the wildfire. The team – led by Quality Management Manager Mory Alvarez – connected with community officials and coordinated the evacuation of two group homes serving 10 adults with autism spectrum disorders.

Devereux California direct care staff relocated the adults to the center’s main campus in Goleta, as well as to area hotels. An additional nine adults who receive community-based independent and supported living services also were evacuated, and team members arranged for those individuals to stay with family or friends, or at hotels.

“Words cannot express how proud I am of our amazing staff for rallying together to ensure our individuals received the care and support they needed during these evacuations,” said Devereux California Executive Director Amy Evans. “Team members accompanied adults to their temporary homes, helping them remain safe and calm while they adapted to their surroundings. For individuals with autism who face sensory processing challenges, being in a new, unfamiliar setting can result in increased feelings of stress and anxiety, but our adults demonstrated great resilience as they quickly acclimated to their changing environments.”

Preparing for the unexpected

Two days later – once the fire was contained – adults and staff were allowed to return to their homes.

Evans credits prior planning with helping to ensure the evacuations ran smoothly.

“In the months prior to this fire, our emergency response team trained clinical, supervisory and direct care staff on person-centered planning, which is the process of determining real-life outcomes and developing strategies to achieve those outcomes, phone and text chain of command, as well as best practices for individual safety,” Evans explained. ”While you can never predict the future – you can prepare for it – and that is exactly what we did to ensure the safety of all of our those entrusted to our care.”

Team members share their experiences …

Devereux California staff said they were appreciative of the efforts of their team to support the individuals they serve, as well as each other.

“Our program administrators and staff were absolutely amazing! Despite performing on little to no sleep, they were supportive, reassuring and calm during the evacuation process. Upon entering their new home environments on campus, staff immediately removed any items that could pose a health and safety risk for our individuals, and located sensory materials to help our adults relax and feel more at ease.”
– Director of Behavioral Services Noelle Escovedo

“There are countless examples of team members embodying the true spirit of Servant Leadership. From staff helping adults pack prior to receiving formal instructions to evacuate, to our interim program administrator working through the night to ensure all of our individuals were comfortable in their new surroundings. Our team did a fantastic job handling an extremely challenging situation.”
– Assistant Program Director Jennifer Farley

“I cannot say enough about our outstanding and hard-working team. Staff members were willing to track down hotels that could accommodate our individuals, coordinate the move, contact families – do whatever was needed to make sure everyone was safe.”
– Supported Living Program Administrator Ha Nguyen

Learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.

 

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