Monday, March 25, 2013

Japan Confronts Fire Safety Issues for Elders with Dementia

Twenty 25% of small facilities for dementia patients in Japan unequipped for fires

More than 500 small group homes for dementia patients (including elders) or about a quarter of such facilities across Japan, are not equipped with sprinklers, a survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun has found.   Because  small homes with less than 275 square meters of total floor space are not legally required to install sprinklers, the government has urged those facilities to install them by providing subsidies according to size.

A nationwide survey was conducted in February and March following a fatal fire at a small group home for dementia patients in Nagasaki. Five patients died in the incident.  According to a survey, some 524 facilities, including the Nagasaki home, were not equipped with sprinklers. The survey covered 2,047 facilities in 44 prefectures. The three remaining prefectures--Akita, Yamanashi and Tottori--said they did not have the total numbers of small group home facilities.

It is estimated that about a quarter of small group homes are unequipped with sprinklers.
Most group homes with 275 square meters or more of floor space are equipped with sprinklers, the Yomiuri survey found.   In 2009, the ministry made it mandatory for such facilities to install sprinklers. The measure was taken after seven people were killed in a fire at a group home with about 280 square meters of floor space in Omura, Nagasaki Prefecture, in 2006. Smaller facilities became eligible for subsidies from 2010.An official said the ministry is also investigating the actual conditions for sprinkler installment. "Based on results [of the investigation], we hope to consider improvement measures, including how financial assistance should be provided," the official said.

Prof. Yasumichi Kurata of Nishikyushu University, an expert in social welfare affairs, said: "As various types of buildings including private homes are used as small group homes, it isn't always possible to install sprinklers at low costs. The subsidy system must be improved, for example, by having it cover a certain portion of actual costs spent [for installation], rather than providing subsidies according to the amount of floor space."

What is the situation in your country?  Are older and/or handicapped persons protected against fire in their living facilities? 

Susanne Paul for Global Action on Aging

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