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bogdog
01-27-2014, 07:54 AM
Here's a senior residence in Quebec without a sprinkler system. Apparently they aren't required.
http://media2.s-nbcnews.com/j/MSNBC/Components/Photo/_new/140126-quebec-fire-840a.photoblog600.jpg

Flying Orca
01-27-2014, 07:58 AM
Not exactly true; it's just that when the regulations change, the government responsible at the time often exempts older facilities from having to meet new standards because it would have to spend zillions of dollars otherwise. Care homes are required to be sprinklered under the national fire code (and most if not all provincial fire codes, but I'm no expert there), but older homes may have been granted exemptions because it would be cost prohibitive to sprinkler them and we already have a shortage of care home beds.

bogdog
01-27-2014, 09:57 AM
Apparently provinces are not required to follow the whole national building code.
“There is a national building code, but not all provinces have to adopt it in full. Therefore fire codes are not regulated federally,” says Burrell, who is also a former president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. I gather the PM of Quebec has not plans to alter regulations in Quebec. Retrofitting by one, vested interest, account can run between 3 and 5 dollars per sq foot. Anyone know what the laws in Canada might be regarding liability in a case such as this?

Flying Orca
01-27-2014, 10:07 AM
Apparently provinces are not required to follow the whole national building code. I gather the PM of Quebec has not plans to alter regulations in Quebec. Retrofitting by one, vested interest, account can run between 3 and 5 dollars per sq foot. Anyone know what the laws in Canada might be regarding liability in a case such as this?

There are a couple of things to unpack here. While provinces are not *required* to follow the whole national fire code, it is often (even typically) adopted wholesale whenever it is updated. As an example, the 2010 national fire code updates were adopted pretty much wholesale by my province, although some of the provisions are now being scaled back due to unintended consequences. The figures given for retrofitting are ridiculously low - in Manitoba, to retrofit an ordinary three-bedroom bungalow (say, 1500 square feet) to meet the requirements for a B3 care facility costs upward of $100,000.

The liability is two-fold; first, there is the operator's liability, which is met by a combination of insurance and regulatory compliance. Because older facilities are often grandfathered, regulatory compliance can be a moving target, and a lawsuit may well end up with a judge deciding whether the operator had taken all reasonable precautions. The other liability is the political liability of the government of the day, which is not to be lightly dismissed; a minister's career can be all but ended by a bad outcome on his or her watch.

TomF
01-27-2014, 11:13 AM
...The other liability is the political liability of the government of the day, which is not to be lightly dismissed; a minister's career can be all but ended by a bad outcome on his or her watch.This is very true. I worked in policy shops for Child Welfare and Social Services for a few years early in my career, and there's simply no "good news stories" possible that can compete with the "bad news stories" lurking.

All it takes is one foster family abusing a child. One kid in care who commits suicide. One operator of a seniors' home who skims money ... or, as in this horrible case, one fire in what quite conceivably is a "grandfathered in" facility. All the really good work which people have tried to do across the remainder of their portfolio will be forgotten and swept away by the immediacy of a tragedy.

And there's always the potential for a tragedy to come up.

Flying Orca
01-27-2014, 11:21 AM
As I may have mentioned, I work pretty closely with our provincial Department of Family Services. They don't call it the "Ministry of Misery" for nothing - it's a rough go for any minister, with very few positive stories and chronic tension between social goals and cost containment. Even the Health and Finance ministers get off easier.

bogdog
01-27-2014, 11:28 AM
It's a real shame. The grandfathered portion of the facility was only built in 1997 and several additions and renovations have been done since then. So there's nothing that requires facilities who do renovations or additions to bring older non-compliant portions up to code?

Flying Orca
01-27-2014, 12:05 PM
Again, it depends on the jurisdiction, probably - these things are regulated at all three levels of government (national code, provincial code, and municipal by-laws). I seem to recall that there's a difference, at least here, between renovations and additions: when renovating, the whole thing has to end up meeting the latest code, whereas with additions, only the addition itself may have to meet the latest code requirements.

TomF
01-27-2014, 05:33 PM
That tends to be how it is with homeowner work too, eh? Open up a wall and your electrician has to bring whatever he touches up to current code. But do an addition, and it's only the new stuff.

It is a tragedy of huge proportions, no doubt.

Steve McMahon
01-27-2014, 11:22 PM
It appears that the death toll on this particular incident will reach 32 souls. The mental toll on surviving families, responders etc. will be exponentially higher in numbers. The sad reality is as pointed out - there are simply not enough seniors beds available to meet demand, and the cost of bringing older facilities up to code with sprinklers in particular is real money. Hence the reality of not requiring upgrades to today's standards for every case out there. It does come down to money, and not just the owner of the facility, but the government's (taxpayer's) and family of the resident's money.

This fire was the topic of a meeting I was involved with tonight at my fire department. In my district we have a very large seniors facility that is sprinklered, well staffed and which we conduct practices a few times a year. We also have a number of smaller seniors residences as well as assisted living for mentally disabled homes that are not sprinklered, and have very low staffing, especially at night. We try to do drills at these also, but alas there are only so many practice nights in a year so the higher profile ones tend to get the attention. Often too these smaller units are in converted big old houses.

The cost of retrofitting today has been drastically reduced recently because of the ease of use of pex pipe which can be used for sprinklers in most situations. It wasn't long ago that sprinklers had to be threaded black iron pipe - a very expensive retrofit. Maybe some day we will get there, perhaps at the same time we will have school buses with proper seat belts.