Fla. CFO Says Nursing Home Fire Points to Need for Legislation to Require Sprinklers

April 26, 2005

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher said a fatal fire recently at a Lakeland nursing home should compel the Legislature to pass legislation, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Webster and Rep. John Stargel, to require all of the state’s nursing homes to have automated fire sprinkler systems by 2009.

A hospice patient died and another was hospitalized after a fire broke out at the Palm Terrace of Lakeland nursing home shortly after 8 p.m. last Sunday night. The hospice rents the wing from the nursing home. The building’s sprinkler system was activated by the fire, and the fire was extinguished by the time firefighters arrived. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the fire along with the Lakeland Fire Department.

“I’m sorry anyone lost their life, but I am very relieved to hear that the sprinkler system contained the fire and saved many more lives,” Gallagher said. “A fire sprinkler system could be the difference between life and death for nursing home residents who are disabled or have limited mobility.”

Under the pending legislation, a loan guarantee program would be made available to help the estimated 35 nursing homes, mostly older facilities, that are not currently protected by any kind of sprinkler system.

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.

Senate Bill 2572 is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in the Senate Health Care Committee. House Bill 1267 is expected to be withdrawn from the Health Care Appropriations Committee and is anticipated to be heard in the next Health and Families Council meeting.

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