Why Do We Continue to Put Our Vulnerable Populations at Risk?

 Photo from Irish Examiner

Photo from Irish Examiner

Recently, the National Children’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland was mandated to install fire sprinklers into their new facility.

Originally, the design of the building excluded this necessary safety feature as the building was 10 cm below the required height for this life saving feature.

The fact that the hospital, despite it’s slightly smaller size, was required to install the sprinklers is a good thing. This facility is designed to protect the most vulnerable population, sick children, and so, fire sprinklers should be mandated.

However; the mere fact that it was even considered not to include these features baffles me. How can a development team create an infrastructure without including fire sprinklers as a mandatory element?

We need to change the way that we think about fire sprinklers. These systems should not be looked at as a nice to have piece of equipment. They are not a luxury item.

But instead, they should become a mandated item, particularly when building infrastructures to house vulnerable populations.

The fact that this was even a discussion point clearly demonstrates that there is still a massive lack of education about the tools/techniques needed to protect clients from fire.

Fire alarms do not protect. They warn people to get out of buildings.

In a building, where employees (in this case doctors and nurses) will have to manually relocate the individuals (like hospitals or retirement homes), you are putting several lives at stake.

In North America, we seem to be slightly more aware. Sprinklers are mandated in the majority of facilities that house children, including schools, community centres and hospitals. 

However, we are still putting a price on lives.  The most recent example is the mandate to retrofit fire sprinklers in retirement homes in Ontario. 

As of October 2014, due to a coroner inquest on a 2009 devastating blaze in a retirement home in Orillia, Ontario, sprinklers were mandated to be retrofitted in all retirement homes by 2019.

Currently 20% of retirement homes in Ontario do not have fire sprinkler systems in place.

It took five years to make this decision! And they have given another five years to put these life saving devices into place.

How many lives could potentially be lost in those 10 years?

Most recently, the liberal government pledged $20 million dollars to help these smaller homes, with under 49 beds, overhaul their sprinkler system prior to the January 2019 deadline.  But why did it take so long for the government to make this investment?  

We need to stop nickelling and diming the safety of our vulnerable populations. There is no question that retrofitting fire sprinklers is expensive. But we need to start prioritizing our investments. Safety should not be something that is delayed.

Fire safety legislation is designed to protect the most vulnerable.  The question is, are we doing enough to protect the lives that are most of risk?