Issue: 1/04

The president of NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) has called for all nursing homes in the U.S. to be equipped with fire sprinklers, in the wake of two recent nursing home fires in Hartford and Nashville, where a total of 24 people died.

In his statement, President James M. Shannon said that although the nursing home industry has made great strides in recent years to ensure residents are safe in the event of fire, more needs to be done. Sprinklers are already required in all new and many existing nursing homes, but where they are not yet required, they must be added to the package of fire protection provided by existing codes and standards. He said nursing homes should be protected with more stringent fire protection because their residents are the least capable of saving themselves from fire.

According to NFPA research, when sprinklers are present in a building, the chances of dying in a fire are cut by one-half to two-thirds, compared to fires where sprinklers are not present. In fact, when measured by the average number of deaths per thousand fires in 1994-1998, the reduction associated with sprinklers is 82% for properties that care for the aged or sick. One-quarter of all nursing home fires occur in facilities not equipped with sprinklers. It is estimated that overall 10-15% of all nursing homes are not equipped with sprinklers.