Fire safety at issue in Ontario Retirement Homes

LONDON, Ont. — Their lives ended in smoke, fear and confusion, trapped by disability in retirement and nursing homes with no plans to get them out safely.

Fires have taken a deadly toll in Ontario facilities for seniors — 48 deaths in all since 1980 — but despite a push by inquest juries and firefighters for safety measures, little has changed — and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office is recommending citizens screen homes for fire safety. “The concern is retirement homes have residents who are not able to evacuate on their own,” said Bernie Silvestri, Ontario’s acting deputy chief fire marshal.

Residents depend on inadequate safety regulations and enforcement that’s left many at the mercy of fires.

Two residents were killed last month in a home in Hawkesbury while the ink was still drying on 39 rec-o mmended changes by an inquest jury that examined a blaze three years ago at Muskoka Heights Retirement Residence inOrilliathat killed four and critically injured six.

Four times inquest juries have called on the province to require sprinklers in all retirement homes, a request repeated by the fire marshal just before the fire that killed four at Muskoka Heights that lacked sprinklers, automatically closing doors and staff to evacuate residents.

“(Before the Muskoka Heights fire) there was no appetite for change,” Silvestri said.

But that tragedy and the one that followed in Hawkesbury appeared to have given provincial politicians a greater sense of urgency.

The fire marshal will recommend changes in October and Silvestri believes they might lead to tougher regulations as soon as next year.

“I have hope there will be a change,” he said.

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Questions to ask

* Do they have automated sprinklers?

* Do doors automatically close? Can doors be set to stay open?

* Do rooms have smoke detectors?

* Do they have an approved fire safety plan?

* How direct is the route?


Source: Ottawa Sun, July 5, 2012

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