CMS finalizes fire safety updates for long-term care facilities

The final rule includes updates on sprinkler system regulations
The final rule includes updates on sprinkler system regulations

Updated fire safety rules for long-term care facilities were released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Tuesday, including provisions to “modernize” care environments and make them more welcoming to residents.

The finalized rule, first proposed in 2014, relaxes some operational and construction requirements for long-term care facilities in order to give providers more flexibility and make the atmosphere more homelike, CMS officials said.

Cooking facilities will be allowed to have openings to hallway corridors under the updated rule, which will allow residents to “make food for themselves or others if they choose to” under staff supervision, CMS said.

The new rules also allow for long-term care facilities to place fixed seating in corridors. Facilities also can now hang “combustible decor” like pictures residents' rooms, as long as that decor is flame-retardant or treated with fire-retardant coating. Fireplaces are also permitted under the updated rules.

“This final rule meets healthcare facilities' desire to modernize their environments while also ensuring the necessary steps to provide patients and staff with the appropriate level of safety,” wrote Kate Goodrich, M.D., MHS, director of CMS' Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, in a press release. “Healthcare facilities can now be more homelike while ensuring that the most modern fire protection practices are in place.”

The updates also require healthcare facilities in buildings taller than 75 feet to install automatic sprinkler systems within 12 years of the rule's effective date, if they haven't already. Facilities will also have to have a fire watch, or evacuate the building, in the event that their sprinkler system is out of service for more than ten hours.

The final rule is slated to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register. Providers must comply with the rule's provision within 60 days of publication, CMS said.