Seniors' deaths prompt call to speed up fire safety review 0
The deaths of an elderly couple at a retirement home in Hawkesbury last Friday has prompted calls for the Ontario government to speed up completion of a review of fire safety in seniors' homes.
Ironically, the latest deaths occurred less than 24 hours after a coroner's inquest into the 2009 deaths of four seniors in Orillia called for retroactive installation of sprinklers in vulnerable occupancies like retirement homes.
Earlier this year the government announced a technical advisory consultation for vulnerable occupancies with a targeted completion of next summer.
Ontario Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur says the consultations will examine annual inspections, staff training and additional retrofit requirements, including sprinklers.
Midland Fire Chief Kevin Foster, president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Ontario, said Monday he would like to see the review completed this year.
"Much work has already been completed and the Association is hopeful that government recognizes the urgency to expedite the completion of the project and revises the target for implementation of the results prior to the end of this calendar year.
"The two (latest) fatalities and injuries in a non-sprinklered retirement home further identifies the necessity to mandate this important improvement as soon as possible for the protection of the occupants and the firefighters who respond to these incidents.
"These facilities are entrusted with the care of the majority of our most vulnerable citizens: our parents, grandparents, and people with special needs. To us, these buildings are institutions. To their residents, they are home," Foster said.
The Orillia coroner's jury made a number of recommendations related to automatic sprinklers and the retrofitting of automatic sprinklers for Ontario's care occupancies. Any nursing or retirement home built after 1997 must have sprinklers, but those built before that year aren't required to install them.
"This issue is of the utmost importance to the OAFC and is one which we have actively promoted over the last number of years," Foster said. "This marks the fourth coroner's jury to recommend automatic sprinklers in care occupancies."
In addition the Orillia coroner's jury recommended increased flexibility for fire services to issue tickets with regards to fire code violations, increased fines under the Provincial Offences Act for fire safety violations.
Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop says the firefighters "are on the right page."
Dunlop, who recently escaped a fire in his home, said the government has to address the issue. "It's public safety. The government cannot ignore this.
I've been through it. I'm in good shape. I can run like hell, but the room got smokey real quick. I've been thinking about seniors ever since the fire."