Some Maryland Group Homes Still Need Fire Sprinklers

October 7, 2008

More than 20 Montgomery County group homes still don’t have sprinkler systems to protect young, disabled and elderly residents, despite $250,000 and a year of work to fix fire safety violations.

Montgomery County has completed 18 sprinkler systems since 2007 when the violations were discovered, but 24 group homes still need the upgrades, Senior Housing and Community Affairs Planner Alan Hepler said.

Council Vice President Phil Andrews encouraged council members to authorize another $150,000 for the project at a Sept. 16 council meeting.

“The time involved with the initial coordination of contractors was concerning, but my understanding is things are going a lot faster now. There is some complexity involved here: We don’t want to kick people out of these homes because there is no where else for them to go,” Andrews said.

Last summer, the County Council authorized $250,000 for 42 group homes without sprinkler systems and windows that don’t qualify as emergency exits.

But Hepler said the money has all been spent after “behind-the-scenes negotiations” delayed the bidding process for some projects.

“We had some bids at $70,000 and some at $13,000 and it turned out there were bids coming in on two different sprinkler systems,” Hepler said. “The county is in the market for a system that give residents a chance to be rescued or buys them time to get out of the home, the purpose is not saving a building.”

Currently, installation work is happening at five homes and Hepler said funding four others has been approved. But he said the county is still in the discovery states of finding group homes that violate county fire codes.

“There are houses I didn’t even know were group homes that are now coming forward for help,” Hepler said. “I’ve been working with group homes since the early ’90s — when they told me there were only so many that violated code, I thought oh you don’t know the situation, there will be a need, a need and a need.”


Information from: The Washington Examiner,

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