Tennessee Governor Signs Assisted Living and Residential Homes for the Aged Sprinkler Bill

Nashville, TN – A bill requiring sprinklers in assisted living facilities and residential homes for the aged was signed into law on June 17 by Gov. Phil Bredesen. The families of two of the five women who died in the January 20, 2004 fire at a Blount County home for the aged were in Nashville to witness the signing. “This is the good from a tragic situation,” Charlene Walker said at the signing of the bill. Walker said adoption of the law means her mother, 80-year-old Hattie Frye and the other four victims “did not die in vain.” Walker said.

Persons attending the signing were Blount County’s legislative delegation – Sen. Bill Clabough and Reps. Doug Overbey and Joe McCord – along with Maryville Fire Chief Ed Mitchell and Wayne Waggoner Southeast Regional Manager for the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) and Executive Director for the Tennessee Fire Sprinkler Contractors Association. “I applaud our Tennessee lawmakers for passing this bill,” Walker said, “especially Rep. Overbey and Sen. Clabough who introduced the bills in the House and Senate. Ms. Walker said Representative Overbey and Senator Clabough came to Vanderbilt Medical Center to offer their support to the families of the victims flown there by Lifestar after the fire.

“They offered to do whatever they could to help us and to ensure that this would not happen again, then went to work to change the law. I praise God for them and the support this law had here in Blount County, Tennessee, the people who signed petitions, those who prayed for us and for something to prevent others from suffering as the five ladies and their families have.” Fire Chief Ed Mitchell said, “Clabough and Overbey stepped out as champions for life safety and fought through it all despite intensive lobbying in opposition to this law. It could not and would not have happened without them.”

“I consider my small part in helping get this bill passed a benchmark in my career in fire safety. This law will save thousands of lives in years to come,” Mitchell said. The legislation that will become law on July 1, 2004 requires smoke detectors and fire sprinklers in both assisted living facilities and homes for the aged with two or more stories and those with 12 or more beds in a one-story facility. All facilities must have electronic smoke detectors with battery back-up power in all sleeping rooms, day rooms, corridors, and support areas within 90 days after July 1, 2004 when the law will take effect. The law requires the facilities it covers to submit a plan for fire sprinklers and to install them within a certain time frame. The bill also provides a grant program to subsidize a portion or all of the cost for homes for the age.

For a complete summary of this and other fire sprinkler bills in the state of Tennessee, contact NFSA Southeast Regional Manager Wayne Waggoner at (845) 947-3393 or email waggoner@nfsa.org.

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