Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher on Wednesday applauded the passage of legislation, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Webster and Rep. John Stargel, that would require all of the state’s nursing homes to have automated fire sprinkler systems by 2009.
A loan guarantee program would be made available to help the estimated 35 nursing homes, mostly older facilities, that currently are not protected by any kind of sprinkler system.
“A fire sprinkler system could be the difference between life and death for nursing home residents who are disabled or have limited mobility,” Gallagher said. “An uncontrolled fire can quickly overwhelm a senior citizen, even one who has practiced evacuating safely.”
About 300 residents were evacuated from Westminster Care of Orlando after a fire broke out one evening in October of 2003. No one was seriously injured, but about a dozen residents required treatment for minor cuts and scrapes and smoke inhalation. Fire officials credited the home’s automated fire sprinkler system as the reason for the residents’ safe escape. Webster, of Winter Garden, represents the area in the Legislature.
“We’ve taken an important step in preparing nursing homes for an event we all hope will never happen,” Webster said. “But fires do happen and when they do, seniors deserve a fighting chance to safely escape.”
“When an individual needs the services of a nursing home, they need special care and consideration,” said Stargel, of Lakeland . “We should not leave their safety to chance.”
The nursing homes without fire sprinkler systems represent 4,200 beds, but regulators have estimated that there could be as many as 5,000 unprotected nursing home beds. This represents about 5 percent of Florida ‘s nursing home beds.
All hazardous areas, such as boiler rooms, paint shops, soiled linen rooms and trash collection rooms, would be required to be protected by an automated fire sprinkler system by Dec. 31, 2007. All remaining areas of each existing nursing home would have to be protected by an automated fire sprinkler system by Dec. 31, 2009.
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