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Florida Nursing Home Fires Can Result in Liability Lawsuit

A heartbreaking tragedy is unfolding in Canada, where 32 nursing home residents are presumed dead and another eight are confirmed, following a massive fire that broke out in the three-story structure in Quebec.

Although the cause of the blaze remains under investigation as officials continue the painstaking search for remains, there are reports that the fire began in a room where one of the residents was smoking a cigarette.

Our Martin County nursing home negligence lawyers note many of the dead residents at the facility were over the age of 85 and used walkers or wheelchairs. A good number also suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

No one should have to die this way. Disaster preparedness in nursing homes – whether it is for fire or flooding or hurricanes – should be a top priority for all elder care facilities. In Florida, it’s the law.

Florida Statute 59A-4.126 deals with disaster preparedness guidelines for nursing homes. The law requires that every nursing home facility must have a written plan with procedures that are to be followed in the event of an externally-caused disaster. It’s the responsibility of the facility administrator to make sure this plan is initiated, developed and maintained according to the minimum standards in consultation with the state’s Department of Community Affairs and the local county’s emergency management agency.

At a very minimum, these plans have to meet the guidelines specified in Florida Statute 400.23(2)(g), which provide for emergency evacuation transportation, adequate sheltering arrangements, emergency power, food and water considerations, staffing, emergency equipment and response to family inquiries. (Facilities that accept minors have to have even more extensive disaster plans.)

With regard to fire prevention, protection and safety, nursing homes are bound by Florida Statute 59A-4.130. This law requires that every nursing home has to comply with building code standards and life safety code requirements at the time the facility was constructed. This means that nursing homes operating in some older buildings might not meet current fire safety codes.

It is the responsibility of the facility administrator to ensure that all fire safety practices are in line with those laid forth by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. Additionally, any and all fire-related incidents or explosions have to be reported immediately to the local fire department, and a written report must subsequently be submitted to the AHCA.

In the Quebec case, officials are saying that the home did have a proper evacuation plan and that the building was up to code (though it only had a partial sprinkler system). However, that may not release the company from liability entirely. There is the possibility that the plan wasn’t properly followed or that safety protocol may have been ignored.

Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Quebec Retirement Home Fire: 32 Presumed Dead, 8 Confirmed, Jan. 25, 2014, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:
Nursing Home Neglect Case Will Move Forward, Dec. 31, 2013, Martin County Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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