Gulf Coast Village, in Cape Coral Florida, in operation since 1989, is heralded as the premier Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). Sponsored by Volunteers of America National Services, a national nonprofit faith-based organization dedicated to helping those in need rebuild their lives and reach their full potential, the retirement community is the only CCRC in Cape Coral that offers a full continuum of care, which includes assisted living, skilled nursing, secured memory support, home health and rehabilitation services.
Cape Coral is in a high-risk hurricane zone. Over 80 hurricanes have been recorded in the city. The largest hurricane was Wilma in 2005. The most recent was Hurricane Ian in 2022. On average, this area is affected by a tropical storm about every three years.
To ensure, the safety of the residents, a mitigation project was initiated to protect the entire envelope of the Gulf Coast Village Retirement Community. Shuttering all windows, doors, vents, and other openings, the building is shielded from wind-borne debris during storm events. The project provides protection against wind from all directions and wind gusts up to 155 mph protecting more than 150 residents at the site.
A retrofit project completed in 2007 helps minimize the risk of that full continuum of care being interrupted due to high-wind events.
The work included installing roll-down shutters on 30 windows, aluminum accordion shutters on 212 windows and 198 sliding doors. Electric controlled rolldown shutters were placed on openings that are not safely accessible in a timely manner. This reduces the risk of loss of life and property.
If there is a loss of power, a battery power system is in place that was specifically designed for the facility to address the electric roll down shutters. However, if the shutters are down and the power is out, emergency personnel have access to patients because none of the electric roll down shutters cover doorways.
The total project cost was $588,495. FEMA provided 75% of the cost and the non-federal cost share was $147,124.
In September 2022, Hurricane Ian tested the success of the mitigation efforts deployed at the facility as the storm made its way through Southwest Florida. With wind gusts of 140 mph in Cape Coral, Ian left significant structural damage to homes and businesses throughout the city. Torn roofs, bent signs, collapsed trees, and boats on land were just some of the damages following Hurricane Ian. Local news outlets reported Cape Coral suffered massive damages, as almost every structure was affected. Affordable housing, skilled nursing, and retirement communities across Florida had damage from wind, rain, flooding and power outages.
The facility received damage to the facade of its six-story building, including losses of some balconies and collapsed metal carports falling on cars. The community also sustained roof damage. The community depended on backup generators after power loss. Yet, every opening, including windows and sliding glass doors remained intact because of the hardening project that was executed 17 years prior. During the storm, more than 300 residents, staff members and their families were able to ride out the storm in interior areas.