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What causes fires in senior living communities?

In recent years, news stories across the country have described tragic instances of senior living facilities catching fire. The consequences of these fires have included the displacement of senior residents, the hospitalization of some seniors, and even deaths of senior home residents. Because many New Mexico seniors have reduced physical mobility, they cannot escape from a burning building easily, with some requiring assistance to even move at all. Experts have identified several causes of fires that are common to senior living communities.

Senior Housing News describes a lack of a sprinkler system as a major reason for fires to break out in senior living facilities. With a sprinkler system, a facility has a chance to put out small fires before they spread. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has mandated that all long-term care facilities should have sprinkler systems installed by the year 2013, but there is a chance older buildings may still not have systems in place due to the length of time it takes to retrofit a sprinkler in existing structures.

Some locations in senior living communities are more prone to fire dangers. Kitchens, for example, feature the use of stoves and ovens. Also, where seniors are involved, kitchens can become even more dangerous since many seniors have diminished physical abilities.  Additionally, laundry rooms can present fire hazards, as well as any place in a senior facility that handles dirty clothes and sheets, due to the flammable potential of clothing, as well as lint that is found in dryers.

In some cases, a lit cigarette can be the culprit. Many seniors spend a lot of time in or near their beds, which makes a lit cigarette a real menace. The fire from a cigarette can catch onto blankets and sheets, or if the cigarette is dropped on the floor, the flame from the cigarette might latch onto curtains, drapes or a wall. A senior who is in bed or near the fire might not be able to escape before becoming severely injured or killed from the smoke or flames.

Anyone looking to place their elderly loved one in a senior living facility should ask about fire safety and rules that govern smoking indoors. With proper construction of a senior facility, the implementation of safety measures, as well as rules that govern the use of cooking and laundry appliances, a senior living facility or nursing home can be a safer place for seniors and prevent the wrongful death of elderly persons and care workers from a fire. 

While this article is written to provide information on senior living facilities, it does not constitute legal advice.

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