GHURA reviews SOPs after resident's death - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GHURA reviews SOPs after resident's death

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - While the island was spared of any damage from the massive tsunami that was generated from last Friday's devastating earthquake in Japan, the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority is reviewing its standard operating procedures after a resident at Guma Trankilidat died while other residents had been evacuated.

When the island was placed under a tsunami warning Friday evening, GHURA began evacuating the elderly living at Guma Trankilidat in Tumon. GHURA Executive Director Marcel Camacho told KUAM News, "So we decided to move them initially using company car and then we contacted the mayor's office in Tamuning to assist to get a bus and an ambulance. The reason for the ambulance we have a couple of residents who are bed ridden and they wouldn't be able to be moved in the bus or the car."

But not everybody was evacuated from the residential area that is nestled near the coast of Tumon Bay. One elderly refused to be evacuated while two others, who were bedridden, were left behind. "We talked to the families of the two residents that were bedridden," Camacho confirmed. "One family member stayed with her spouse. The other family member we discussed with her over the phone the possible evacuation of her mother at the time there were two caregivers there."

Camacho admits though that the caregivers left around 7:30 that evening, leaving one bedridden elderly woman by herself. "At about 9:30 when the manager came back to the site he checked on that resident and found that she wasn't breathing so the manager  called 911 and medics were dispatched in just a few minutes and were at the site," he added.

KUAM News asked Camacho if he thought his agency is responsible for this woman's death because she was left unattended at a time when everyone else had been evacuated, to which he replied, "I don't believe so; I think the family members knowing about the impending threat and having our personnel on site, there was communication. We can't control all the instances that occur. I think we did our best to offer assistance to those who wanted it."

Camacho maintains GHURA had the ability to move them if the tsunami had turned into an urgent situation. "The decision was made to contact some assistance and we were awaiting the assistance, but the timeframe, I guess, kept getting extended and eventually the sense of urgency really didn't materialize. And I think if it got more urgent we probably would have had more immediate response," he surmised.

Guam Fire Department spokesperson Captain Andy Arceo confirms that three calls were made to the agency Friday night. The first came at 6 from the Guma Trankilidat Homeowners Association's president, asking that GFD come and tell residents to evacuate. The second came from the Guam Police Department at 7:04, just minutes before the estimated tsunami arrival time, informing them that two bed ridden residents needed to be evacuated. But Arceo says there were only four medics in operation on Friday evening - all responding to emergency calls. 

It wasn't until the 911 call was made at 9:13 Friday evening that medics responded in 7 minutes to find the 96-year-old woman had already died. "If we had been advised that the tsunami was actually headed our way and was a major threat, we would have responded a little differently, I believe," he said.

In light of what transpired on Friday evening, GHURA is now reviewing its standard operating procedures to identify areas of improvement. Camacho says they're also looking to obtain federal funding to purchase their own vehicle to accommodate those residents needing additional assistance in future times of emergency.

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