Fire is an especially deadly threat to nursing homes throughout the country. Patients often have limited mobility or awareness, and elder care facilities are often older construction—built before the advent of flame-retardant materials and stricter standards.

Nursing home fires in the past century have killed hundreds of elderly residents, but no regulations regarding automatic sprinkler systems were enacted until a pair of fires in 2003—one in Connecticut and one in Tennessee—killed 32 people. Both facilities had been in full federal compliance, and neither were equipped with sprinklers. As a result of those tragic fires, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) required newly constructed nursing homes that participate in Medicare or Medicaid to have automatic sprinklers, and in 2008, required that all other participating homes be retrofitted with the same.

The Deadline for Compliance Has Come and Gone

The deadline for retrofitting older nursing home facilities with automatic sprinklers was August 2013. However, as of July of this year, nearly 400 nursing homes have failed to comply. In total, these facilities are licensed to care for over 52,000 residents. Of the 385 violators, 44 have no sprinkler systems at all. Both CMS and state officials will be taking action to ensure compliance—they have said that resident safety is their top priority.

For nursing homes that have been in full compliance with the automatic sprinkler systems, the investment has paid off. A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2004 observed that none of the compliant facilities had suffered a multiple-casualty fire.

For elderly nursing home residents who may not be able to evacuate quickly, an effective sprinkler system could be a lifesaver. Does your loved one’s facility meet the standards? If not, you may have questions about how to proceed—feel free to reach out to us today by clicking on the live chat link, and get the answers you need now!


Damian Mallard, Esq.
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Board Certified Sarasota Personal Injury Attorney
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