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CFO Gallagher Commends Legislature for Passing Nursing Home Sprinkler Bill

5/5/2005

CONTACT:
Tami Torres or Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE—Florida's Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher commended the Legislature for passing legislation to protect some of Florida's most vulnerable citizens – the elderly.  Sponsored by Sen. Daniel Webster and Rep. John Stargel, the legislation requires all of the state's nursing homes to have automated fire sprinkler systems by December 31, 2008.  The bill also establishes a loan guarantee program to help nursing homes defray the cost of installing sprinkler systems.
 
The legislation, House Bill 1267, heads to Governor Bush for his signature.  If signed, a loan guarantee program would be available to the estimated 35 nursing homes, mostly older facilities, which currently are not protected by any kind of sprinkler system. 
 
 "This legislation will save lives.  Just in the last couple of weeks we saw firsthand how an automated sprinkler system can mean the difference between life and death," Gallagher said, referring to an April 24 fire at the Palm Terrace of Lakeland nursing home.  One resident died in the fire, but fire officials credited a sprinkler system with saving many other lives.  There were 167 patients in the facility at the time of the fire.
 
"Nursing home residents are least able to help themselves, and the Legislature has acted with these residents' special needs in mind," Gallagher said.  "I commend all of the legislators who voted for this bill, and I especially thank Senator Webster and Representative Stargel for their commitment and dedication to getting this legislation through."
 
The nursing homes without fire sprinkler systems represent 4,200 beds, but regulators have estimated that there could be as many as 5,000 unprotected nursing home beds.  This represents about 5 percent of Florida's nursing home beds.