Nursing Homes Still Violate Fire Safety Rules

Nursing Homes Still Violate Fire Safety Rules

The New York Times blog, The New Old Age, reports the outrageous and frightening news that there are more than one thousand nursing homes without fire sprinklers or which contain only partial fire sprinklers in violation of federal rules. Dozens of the homes without fire sprinklers are in New York.

As you can imagine, nursing home residents are especially vulnerable to fire’s dangers. Many residents have difficulty walking, hearing, and seeing. Others may suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease and confusion and may not even be aware of a fire’s dangers. Many nursing homes are understaffed and are unprepared for emergency evacuations. Fires often occur at night when staffing is at its lowest level. The New Old Age discussed how a 2003 fire, set by a resident to her bedding in the early morning hours, killed 16 residents at the Greenwood Health Center, in Hartford, Connecticut. In that same year, a nighttime fire killed 15 residents at the NHC Healthcare Center, in Nashville, Tennessee.

In order to address the dangers of fire in nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in August 2008, required that all nursing homes and facilities have fire sprinklers. Somehow, the industry was able to get a 5-year extension on that rule to August 2013. Unexplainably, today, despite that 5-year extension, 1,100 nursing homes still don’t have sprinklers and are in violation of that rule. Some of the violators partially comply, which means that sprinklers might be present in the facility’s laundry room or kitchen, but not necessarily throughout the facility. The missing sprinkler systems create a very dangerous situation for these homes’ residents.

The National Consumer Voice for Quality of Long Term Care “Hall of Flame” contains a state-by-state list of nursing homes that fail to comply. It recommends that if you are admitting a relative to a nursing home, look up. If you don’t see a fire sprinkler, DO NOT permit the admission. Find a different facility that has a sprinkler system.

If you have any questions about the rights of nursing home residents to safe facilities or what to do when a resident is injured as a result of the facility’s violations of safety rules, please contact our office, via email ( or telephone (1-866-LAW-HELP (1-866-529-4357) from NYC, Westchester and Long Island and 212-809-2493 from everywhere else).

Ron Katter
Katter Law Firm
Phone: 866-LAW-HELP
Alt Phone: 212-809-4293