A fire which started in the room of a sleeping 90-year-old assisted living patient was extinguished by sprinklers several days ago before it caused any injuries. The fire started at 2:58 a.m. on the couch of the sleeping patient's room. Firefighters credited ceiling sprinklers for dousing the blaze, which permitted patients to gather safely in the facility's lobby unharmed. Read more about the fire.
I congratulate the owners and operators of this assisted living facility for their foresight. As I reported recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that nursing homes across the country will be required to have automatic fire sprinklers by 2013. The government estimates that about one out of every 11 nursing homes does not have a sprinkler system. To comply with the new regulations, nursing homes will need to have sprinkler coverage in patients' rooms, kitchens, dining areas, hallways, offices, and other areas of these facilities. Read more about sprinkler requirements for nursing homes. The Government Accountability Office recommended in 2004 that federal health officials consider requiring fire sprinklers in all nursing homes.
I can't believe that any nursing home or assisted living facility would even think about accepting patients without first installing an automatic sprinkler system! The cost of outfitting a facility with an automatic sprinkler system is more than outweighed by the peace of mind for staff and families that comes with knowing that the facility's patients, as immobile and demented as they often are, will be protected from fire-related injuries like burns and smoke inhalation.
Again, my admiration is extended to those who own and operate this assisted living facility. By equipping its facility with automatic fire sprinklers, the fire was doused before it was permitted to result in a Christmas tragedy.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia