Legislators OK fire safety measure for long-term care facilities

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | 8:42 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Legislation easing the burden on the Missouri fire marshal to conduct fire safety inspections at long-term care facilities won final approval Tuesday.

The measure partially revises a law enacted after a November 2006 fire killed 11 people at the Anderson Guest House, a southwest Missouri facility for the mentally ill and disabled.

The 2007 law put the state fire marshal's office in charge of fire safety inspections for nursing homes and similar long-term care facilities.

But demand has overwhelmed that office, state officials said. The legislation now on its way to Gov. Jay Nixon would allow inspectors from the state Department of Health and Senior Services to conduct the fire safety checks after being trained by the fire marshal's office.

The Department of Health and Senior Services is responsible for inspecting nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

A separate section of the bill is designed to prevent conflicts of interest among state inspectors among long-term care facilities.

Inspectors would be barred from overseeing a facility where they had worked within the two previous years. They would have to disclose the names of every facility at which they or an immediate family member have worked.

In the deadly blaze at the Anderson Guest House — which lacked sprinklers — investigators think a fire smoldered in the attic before bursting through the ceiling. The 2007 law mandating fire safety inspections also required installation of sprinklers and fire alarms at many long-term care facilities

The owners of the Anderson Guest House had been cited for previous fire safety violations at several southwest Missouri facilities they operated. All four of their group homes are now closed.

Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, whose district included the Anderson Guest House, said his primary concern was to ensure that properly trained people are checking the facilities. He called this year's changes a compromise that he could accept.


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