Failure to require sprinkler retrofits putting seniors in danger, say New Democrats

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VICTORIA – The New Democrats are raising concerns that more than 1200 seniors living in care homes with inadequate sprinkler systems are at serious risk in the event of a fire.

“In the wake of the fire in a Quebec care home that killed at least 28 seniors, it is inconceivable that 1200 seniors are still living in care facilities without sufficient sprinkler systems in B.C., with no plans from the Liberal government to make changes,” said New Democrat seniors critic Katrine Conroy, noting that nearly 300 seniors are living in facilities with no sprinkler systems at all.

Though all new buildings are required to have sprinklers, the law doesn’t apply to older buildings.

“We know what the problem is, and we know how to fix it,” said New Democrat public safety critic Kathy Corrigan. “We could fix this problem today, and by failing to take action, the B.C. Liberal government is failing in its duty to seniors in this province.”

Corrigan noted that New Democrats are standing with federal and provincial fire chiefs who are calling for immediate action on this issue.

“The province of Ontario recently brought in legislation to retrofit senior complexes with sprinklers and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs believes the other provinces and territories should follow this lead,” said Stephen Gamble, president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.

“The Fire Chiefs’ Association of B.C. supports all initiatives that improve public safety and protect lives and property and, in particular, recognizes the benefit of fire sprinklers in care facilities,” said fire chiefs of B.C. spokesperson Tom DeSorcy. “Anybody who is living in care and unable to evacuate themselves should be protected by fire sprinklers.”

Conroy added: “It’s not good enough to keep most of our seniors safe, we need to keep them all safe. Rather than waiting for another tragedy to occur, we need to act today to retrofit all of these residences and ensure the safety of all seniors living in care homes in this province.”