Fire Sprinkler Controls Fire at Skilled Nursing Facility in Des Plaines, Proving Value of Federal Rule

On February 19, a single fire sprinkler controlled a mattress fire at Ballard Rehabilitation, a skilled nursing facility at 9300 Ballard Road in Des Plaines, until North Maine Fire Protection District crews provided final extinguishment. The fire sprinkler system contained the fire to a single room on the second floor and prevented major damage and possible deaths, thereby validating the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) decision to require fire sprinklers in all new and existing long-term care facilities nationwide.

The CMS federal rule requiring fire sprinklers in long-term care facilities became effective on August 13, 2013, following a five-year phase-in time frame after publication in 2008. The rule, which applies to Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF) that are regulated by CMS for Medicare and Medicaid licensure, is a direct result of two deadly nursing home fires in 2003 — one in Hartford, Connecticut, and the other in Nashville, Tennessee.

“The success of the fire sprinkler controlling the fire should be a reminder to the state of Illinois to follow up on any remaining skilled nursing facilities that have deficiencies,” says Tom Lia, executive director of the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board.

If cited for deficiencies, SNFs must submit a plan of correction and achieve fire sprinkler installation within three months. After the three-month period, the Social Security Act requires that any facility that is not in substantial compliance will be subject to a denial of payment of new admissions and termination from Medicare participation at the end of six months.

“Fortunately, the Ballard Rehabilitation facility was compliant with the federal rule and protected by a fire sprinkler system,” adds Lia. “This successful fire sprinkler activation proves the value of the federal rule and the ability of quick-response fire sprinklers to save lives and property.”


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