Blunt signs fire safety requirements at deadly fire site

Friday, June 1, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Gov. Matt Blunt signed into law new fire safety requirements for Missouri's long-term care facilities on Friday in response to a deadly fire at a group home for the mentally ill and disabled.

Blunt signed the bill at the site of the former Anderson Guest House in southwest Missouri, where 11 people died in a Nov. 27 fire that smoldered in the attic before sweeping through the building.

"The lessons learned by what happened last November will not be forgotten," Blunt said in a written statement. "With this legislation we are enhancing the safety at our long-term care facilities."

The legislation requires complete fire alarms and heat detector systems by the end of 2008.

It mandates sprinkler systems for existing buildings by the end of 2012. But lawmakers concerned about the installation costs exempted many residential care and assisted living facilities from the new sprinkler requirements.

Sprinklers already were required for all facilities opened after October 2000 and for some additional buildings, depending on the type of construction and number of stories.

Of the state's 616 long-term care facilities, about half don't already have sprinkler systems. Lawmakers required that only facilities with more than 20 residents must meet the new sprinkler requirement. The Department of Health and Senior Services said that would force an additional 120 facilities to install sprinklers.

The exemption only applies to sprinkler requirements. All facilities would need to install heat detectors; manual alarms at every exit; and smoke detectors that connect to a fire department and provide audio and visual warnings throughout the entire building whenever smoke is detected by one sensor.

They would also need to divide individual floors into at least two sections with a smoke barrier in between.

Those skilled nursing, assisted living and other residential care facilities not already inspected by local fire departments would be inspected by the state fire marshal.

The Anderson facility had smoke detectors but no heat sensors in the attic and no sprinklers.

Later, it was learned that the owners had been cited for fire safety violations at several of their facilities. All the Missouri facilities are now closed.

The legislation also creates a loan program to help facilities pay for the safety upgrades. The program is linked to the Medicaid rates the state pays facilities to care for poorer residents. The lower the Medicaid payment rate, the longer the facility would have to pay back the loan.

The bill passed the Legislature with one dissenting vote. It takes effect Aug. 28.


On the Net:

Sprinkler bill is HB952.

On the Net:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

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