VOORHEES, N.J. (CBS) — A nursing home and senior center in Voorhees was evacuated because of the dangerous heat on Sunday. All 183 patients at the Pines at Voorhees Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center were ordered to evacuate because of a faulty air conditioner and dangerous heat.
Eighty-five of the 183 residents at the center on Laurel Oak Road in Voorhees were taken to an adjacent Eastern Regional High School for shelter.
Others who needed immediate care were taken to a few other facilities.
Some facility residents and family members of the patients called police and the New Jersey Health Department because of a faulty air conditioning unit.
“They were working in the day room and they have a photo of the thermostat inside — 95 degrees,” said Nick Torres, who was there to visit his grandmother.
According to an employee, the air conditioner is working, but at a very low capacity.
As patients evacuated — driven by ambulance and pushed in triple-digit temperatures in wheelchairs — their family members like Torres awaited word.
Torres came to visit his grandmother Sunday on her 75th birthday.
“Like I said, my grandmother’s old. We don’t know how much longer she has with us and not being able to see her on her birthday, especially since she’s 75 with vascular dementia, it could be her last birthday,” Torres said. “It was supposed to be a birthday party, and now it’s just a mess.”
“It’s ridiculous. How do you let an elderly woman sit in a room where it’s 95 degrees? I’m hot. I can see your hot. I know your hot with that camera. Could you imagine if you were in your seventies sitting in a room when it’s that hot?” Frank Sarino, a patient’s son, said.
After hours of waiting, all sheltered patients were allowed to return to the facility.
Fire officials gave word that the HVAC company hired by the facility was able to make the needed repairs to fix the air conditioning.
“They were able to get those air conditioning units back up and running,” Voorhees Township Fire Department Capt. Jim Arpino said. “We brought that temperature down in the facility so we’re going to repopulate the residents back into the facility and we feel that they’ll be safe.”
There’s no word on what caused the AC unit to malfunction.
At least one person was transported to the hospital. It’s unclear if it was related to the dangerous heat.
Because of the excessive heat, firefighters rotated during their shift throughout the day to keep them safe.
Fire officials also had to call in off-duty staff to assist.
CBS3’s Chantee Lans reports.