A fire this week that tore through a nursing home in Quebec reminded us that sprinklers in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are one of the most important safety features a facility can offer. In the Quebec fire, the facility, which was described by one official as “modern and very well kept,” lacked sprinklers in the older portion of the facility.

The fire resulted in five deaths. Fires in nursing homes are inherently horrific, as many of the residents are unable to move from their beds because of age or other physical limitations. Others may suffer from dementia or similar mental disorders and not recognize the threat, even as fire alarms sound.

In Canada, the Provence of Quebec did not require the installation of sprinklers in the facility, but some Provinces do. The fire occurred in a nursing home that only had partial sprinkler protection. This is similar to the situation in some nursing homes in the U.S.

Last year was to be the year that all nursing homes in the U.S. had to have sprinklers installed, but that was five years later than the law originally mandated. The nursing home industry requested additional time to comply. Some facilities still may not be in full compliance.

When you are looking for a home for an elderly parent in New York, checking to see if the facility complies with the regulations is an important factor to consider. Many facilities may not fully comply and, like the facility that burned in Quebec, may have only partial sprinkler coverage. Ask specifically if the entire building is protected.

As an advocate for seniors in Canada, noted, “These fires are entirely foreseeable situations.”

Source: The Globe and Mail, “Sprinkler rules back on the agenda after deadly Quebec fire,” January 24, 2014