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Federal Government Issues Proposed Rule

MPLP Winter 2007 Elder Law Section Newsletter Article

Issue 32, Winter 2007

Federal Government Issues Proposed Rule
Requiring All Nursing Homes to Install  Sprinkler Systems and Provides
Information on the Web about Nursing Home Fire Safety

            The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently published a proposed regulation that would require all nursing facilities to install sprinkler systems but it has not yet  determined how quickly facilities must comply with the new requirement.  See CMS notes that the presence of sprinkler systems decreases the chance of fire related deaths in nursing homes by 82 percent.  This regulation will be particularly important in Michigan since we are reported to have the lowest percentage of fully sprinklered facilities in the country and since four residents died in nursing home fires here last year.
    CMS is soliciting comments on what a reasonable phase-in period should be before all facilities are required to have sprinklers.  CMS notes that installing a sprinkler system could be a costly and time-consuming process and that some facilities may choose to relocate to a new building rather than retrofit an old building.  While the proposed rule does not suggest possible time frames, information about the impact of the rule includes examples of 5, 7, and 10 year implementation plans.  It is likely that the nursing home industry will generate thousands of comments seeking the longest possible phase-in period.  Advocates may therefore wish to submit comments requesting swift implementation of this long overdue requirement.
    CMS must receive all comments by December 26, 2006. You can submit comments electronically or send an original and two copies of your comments to CMS, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-3191-P, P.O. Box 8012, Baltimore, MD 21244-8012.

            CMS now includes on its “Nursing Home Compare” website fire safety information about every nursing home in the country that participates in Medicaid or Medicare. Consumers can check the website to determine if a facility is fully sprinklered, partially sprinklered, or has no sprinklers and to see if it was cited for any fire safety deficiencies. The site also notes how the number of deficiencies compares to the state and national averages, what the nature of the deficiencies was, and how severe the fire safety risk was determined to be.  To check fire safety information about a nursing home, go to, scroll down the screen, and click on “Compare Nursing Homes in your Area.”  Follow the directions to select the nursing home(s) you are interested in and, after you have selected the facility, click on “View all information on this nursing home.”   You may then read all the information on the home including the number of health violations, quality indicators about the facility, staffing information, and fire safety information or you can click directly on “fire safety inspection” and scroll down the page to see the information about the facility you select. This information should be very useful to clients who need to select a nursing home or want to check the safety of the facility in which their family members reside.

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