Tenn. House passes sprinkler disclosure bill

Thursday, April 1, 2004

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - In early March, the state House of Representatives here unanimously passed a nursing home safety bill that would require all nursing homes to disclose to prospective residents whether their facilities have sprinkler systems.

The Senate, which passed an earlier version of the bill, must now confirm changes that were made in the House.

According to Lance Frizzell, press secretary for the Tennessee Republican House Caucus, a state Health Department survey of the 343 nursing homes in Tennessee last year found that 24 had no sprinkler systems at all, while 53 had partial systems.

Additional legislation currently before the House Health Committee would set a timetable for nursing homes to complete and submit their plans for retrofitting their facilities with sprinkler systems and smoke detectors, Rep. Phillip Johnson (R-Pegram) said in a statement. If the bill passes, facilities would have 90 days to install sprinklers and smoke detectors in all patient rooms.

These two are among 10 separate bills submitted to the

Tennessee legislature in the wake of a series of fatal fires at nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout the state (SSN, March 2004).

A bill that would require sprinklers in residential homes for the aged and assisted-care facilities may be put on hold until at least 2005, after a Senate subcommittee decided in March that it was important to distinguish between the two types of facilities. While assisted-living facilities are eligible for Medicaid reimbursement for such systems, RHAs are not.

According to the Clarksville Leaf and Chronicle, Tennessee has the second-highest rate of fire death in the nation. In 2001, the state’s rate was twice the national average, and in 2002, 104 people were killed in fires in Tennesee.

In June 2003, Gov. Phil Bredesen and state Fire Marshal Paula Flowers formed the Fire Mortality Prevention Task Force to study and reduce the state’s high fire mortality rate.