|Why does it take a catastrophe, like the Anderson group home fire on November 27, 2006 that killed 11 people in southwest Missouri, to review safety issues? Shouldn't that have been some bureaucrat's job on an on-going basis?
It's always about money. How many businessmen, even those benefiting from public assistance monies, will do what's right to insure the safety of those entrusted to their care without state regulations?
It's still about money. Consider the "Review of Resident Care Facilities Regulations" just completed by the Departments of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and Mental Health under their respective directors Jane Drummond and Ron Dittemore. Their report made at the request of Gov. Matt Blunt was submitted to him with a covering letter dated December 29, 2006.
“The tragedy at Anderson is a tragic reminder that we must do everything possible to help protect Missourians who cannot always protect themselves,” Blunt said, as he directed DHSS to enhance regulations requiring sprinkler systems in all residential care and assisted living facilities in the state of Missouri.
But the 10-page report by the DHSS mentions a concern for the potential loss of placement beds because of the cost of compliance for the installation of NFPA13 sprinkler systems in buildings licensed before October 2000, citing the 58% (367 facilities) that do not have complete sprinkler systems. So, we ask how much of a time-line should be allowed for compliance to satisfy these safety issues that have the potential to cost more lives.
The governor, according to his press secretary, "will consider the remaining recommendations" in the report. Who wouldn't think that besides having appropriate sprinkler and fire alarm systems in these facilities, that these suggestions should not be a matter of immediate concern:
- Mandated yearly inspection of electrical wiring by a regulated inspector, especially for structures built in absence of a proper electrical code
- Prohibiting residents from smoking in their rooms
- Mandating that all night staff be awake
- Requiring fire inspection training for everyone involved including DHSS officials
- Requiring unannounced fire drills to staff and cooperation with local fire agencies, including putting in place detailed emergency plans in the event of an outside disaster
- Instituting a fire watch when alarm or sprinkler systems may be non-functional
You see, the cost is still dear.