Residents return to NJ senior center after air conditioning failure

Annie McCormick Image
Monday, July 22, 2019
Residents return to NJ senior center after air conditioning failure
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Residents return to NJ senior center after air conditioning failure. Annie McCormick has more on Action News at 10 p.m. on July 21, 2019.

VOORHEES TOWNSHIP, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Air conditioning failure forced more than 100 senior center residents into the stifling heat on Sunday afternoon.

It happened at the Voorhees Care and Rehabilitation Center located on Laurel Oak Road in Voorhees Township.

The "mass evacuation" got underway just after 3 p.m. when the building's air conditioning unit failed during the extreme heat wave.

The center has patients with a range of issues--both short term and long term. Some of the more serious patients are in the memory care unit and cardiac care unit. Officials say the building holds roughly 183 residents.

Some family members tell Action News they noticed sweltering conditions when they arrived to visit on Sunday.

"She got a picture of the temperature in the dayroom and it was 95 degrees and they weren't doing anything until she had someone call anonymously to the state and then the state came," says Nick Torres.

"Some residents and family behind me contacted police because they thought it was excessively hot inside the building," said Captain Jim Arpino with the Voorhees Fire Department.

Employees of the facility and first responders also rushed to transport vital medical equipment and medicine. The bulk of patients were taken to a temporary shelter set up across the street at Eastern Regional High School. Others with more serious medical needs were transported to neighboring facilities.

By 7 p.m. Sunday, the air conditioning was repaired and residents were cleared to return.

"We were able to shelter some in place in the facility. Once we determine we weren't going to transport them out, we left them in the cool air of the facility , fed them , fed ones in the shelter and now we're going to repopulate the facility," said Arpino.

A Heat Advisory remains in effect as heat indexes reach above 100 degrees.