Feds May Mandate Sprinkler Systems in Older Nursing Homes

WASHINGTON — The federal government is considering a directive that would require about 3,500 older homes to install sprinkler systems, according to a recent report in USA Today.

A rule proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would end an exemption in existing law that mandates sprinklers for new nursing homes but not older facilities, according to the report. The exemption has left about one in five facilities nationwide without full sprinkler coverage, federal data show.

The newspaper says patient advocacy groups and fire officials, including the National Association of State Fire Marshals, have increased their calls for a universal sprinkler requirement since 2003, when 31 patients died in two fires at nursing homes without sprinklers in Hartford, Conn., and Nashville, Tenn. Since then, at least a dozen other patients have died in nursing home fires around the country, according to a USA Today analysis of federal statistics.

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