Sprinklers Urged for Nursing Homes

Sprinklers Urged for Nursing Homes

All nursing homes, regardless of construction type, should have automatic sprinkler systems, the committee on government operations has stated in a report to the United States House of Representatives.

The report also declared that nonambulatory or blind patients should not be placed in rooms above the first floor of non-fire-resistive buildings that lack a sprinkler system. At hearings conducted by a subcommittee headed by Representative Floyd V. Hicks (D-Wash.), it was disclosed that such patients were housed above the first floor in half the unsprinklered protected ordinary construction nursing homes and two-thirds of the unsprinklered protected noncombustible nursing homes.

Discrepancies in determining the type of construction of nursing homes— sometimes the same home—also were noted in the report, which stated that in some case waivers of sections of the Life Safety Code, NFPA 101, were based on one type of construction when the nursing homes involved actually were of another type of construction.

Therefore, the committee recommended in its report made December 18, that until such facilities are sprinklered, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare “should act to insure that homes presently permitted to operate without sprinklers because of construction type actually meet the Life Safety Code requirements for such construction type.” The report added that sprinkler system waivers should not be granted to homes, regardless of construction type, unless they meet all four of the HEW equivalency standards.

The report also urged HEW to impose a uniform life safety policy on both skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care facilities. This would involve revocation of the waiver authority that the states now have for safety regulations in intermediate care facilities.

Criticism of inspections by state inspectors led to the recommendation that HEW determine whether the system of training state inspectors with federal funds “can be made to meet the congressional mandate for life safety.” The report urged that the training program be upgraded with emphasis on uniform application of the Life Safety Code.

Followup inspections urged

Followup inspections, the report declared, should be made to ensure that deficiencies are removed if HEW continues to give homes conditional certification based on plans for correcting deficiencies.

The report also called on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to upgrade its minimum property standards for nursing home loans to meet the Life Safety Code requirements. This would place nursing homes built with HUD-insured loans in compliance with HEW standards for institutions housing federally supported patients.

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