New Federal Legislation Would Require Sprinklers in Nursing Homes
The National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) participated in a media conference call on Aug. 25 held by Congressman John Larson (D-Conn.) and the American Health Care Association (AHCA) to discuss legislation that would require nursing homes to be retrofit with automatic fire sprinkler systems.
In response to fatal nursing home fires in Hartford, Conn., where 16 people died, and Nashville, Tenn., where 15 lives were claimed, Rep. Larson has introduced the Nursing Facility Fire Safety Act of 2004. Speaking in support of the bill, in addition to Rep. Larson, were AHCA President and CEO Hal Daub and AHCA Chairman Steve Chies.
The bill, identified as HR-4967, would provide reimbursements to facility owners equal to the capital expenditure to retrofit with automatic fire sprinklers. The major provisions are:
All nursing homes must be fully equipped with automatic fire sprinkler systems within five years of the legislation's enactment;
Parallel Medicare and Medicaid funding for fire sprinkler protection in nursing facilities, to be amortized over five years;
After five years, facilities not in compliance with federal law would be subject to strict penalties including closure.
AHCA has already approached the National Fire Protection Association about including mandatory requirements for fire sprinklers in nursing homes in the 2006 edition of the Life Safety Code, which will be under committee review during its next revision cycle.
There are approximately 4,080 nursing homes—an estimated 25% of the total across the country—not protected by fire sprinklers.