The most pivotal part of managing any emergency is to have a solid plan. Spectrum’s new senior director of resident risk management, James Robinson, not only has a plan but he has the experience to implement it.
In October 2019, James Robinson stepped into a new role — new for him and new for Spectrum Retirement. Robinson’s official title: senior director of resident risk management, safety, and preparedness. A big title for a big job. We caught up with Robinson to find out what he has planned for the new decade to ensure Senior Living safety for Spectrum Retirement residents.
Spectrum Retirement: This new position comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. Can you walk our readers through what it means for Spectrum residents?
James Robinson: Our residents and their families put their trust — often blindly — in us to take care of them. It’s important we uphold their trust and are always improving. So, I’m here to think about risks and threats to the safety of our residents; to think about the risks that are most likely in a particular area. What can we do to mitigate those risks? How prepared are we for catastrophic incidents? My job is to think of the worst-case scenarios and work on preparing for those things.
SR: You have a very impressive résumé. The beginning of your Emergency Medical Services (EMS) career started at age 19 as a volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT) and most recently you closed out 26 years of service with the City and County of Denver as Assistant Chief for the Denver Paramedic Division. During that time, you sat on various advisory boards and committees, local, national, and international. How will you translate all that experience to your new position ensuring Senior Living safety at Spectrum?
JR: One of my first goals is to connect every Spectrum community with their local emergency planning infrastructure [specifically, the local Health Care Coalition]. This is where my contacts in the EMS community will be beneficial. I’ll make sure we [Spectrum Retirement] are plugged into the right places. Spectrum will have clear visibility and resources in terms of planning with their local emergency service providers, local hospitals, and local emergency management infrastructure.
SR: This is a huge undertaking. How are you approaching it?
JR: It was important to me to get out and meet the residents who are putting their trust in us when they move into a Spectrum community. And I’m sitting down with the Executive Directors to evaluate systems and processes. I’ve met with local fire departments and EMS to make sure we’re fostering those relationships.
SR: As you prioritize initiatives, what’s your first major Senior Living safety project for 2020?
JR: There are several exciting initiatives we’re getting ready to roll out, but as far as a “first project,” I’m working on developing a standardized disaster plan for all Spectrum Retirement communities to be used as a template for preparedness. I’ve reached out to my national colleagues to make sure we incorporate local and state requirements for each community, determining what we need to do to go above and beyond the level of those basic guidelines.
SR: Spectrum has almost 50 communities across the U.S. all in different geographical areas. How do you assess what to focus on?
JR: That’s where my relationships with people in the EMS community and familiarity with Health Care Coalitions become beneficial. They will already have completed a community-specific risk assessment in their area. Building off that will help me develop a solid platform for education, fine-tune the ongoing drills, and assess what areas of preparedness need to be practiced more.
SR: Every Senior Living community has its own potential dangers — flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes — based on its geographical location. But are there any common risks and threats that you have recognized?
JR: Yes. On any level, in any community, two of the biggest concerns are wide-scale power outages, which impacts all of our services, and disruption to supply chains.
SR: Can you explain what you mean by disruption of the supply chain and how that relates to safety for seniors?
JR: In the aftermath of any disaster, the ability to get access to basic supplies (food, water, medication) becomes a serious concern — especially for seniors. In my experience in health care preparedness and emergency management work, in the event of a major crisis, we need to be prepared for at least 72 hours with no substantial help. I want to implement a rigorous set of best practices, so we’re prepared for any and every potential threat. So far, things look really good, but there’s always room for improvement.
SR: The bottom line is that current and future residents need to know they are safe in a Spectrum Retirement community.
JR: Absolutely. Residents and their families may not even think about some of these situations. They will if it happens. We need to not only have thought about it but also planned and practiced what we need to do. That’s how we uphold the trust people put in us.