Special series shines light on nursing home fire safety

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A special investigation into nursing home fire safety by USA TODAY took a hard look at provider practices and regulators late last week.

The series, which ran Friday in the national newspaper, said that government inspectors "rarely impose fines or other penalties" when they expose fire safety deficiencies.

"Fewer than 1% of nursing homes are fined when fire violations are found," the report stated.

Four of every five fires in long-term care facilities during the past five years were in homes known to be operating without sprinklers, smoke alarms or in violation of other federal fire safety standards, according to the report.

While federal law now mandates that sprinkler systems and smoke alarms be installed in all new nursing homes the report pointed out that nearly 3,500 nursing homes nationwide do not contain such basic safety features. Moreover, the report highlights financial constraints contributing to the difficulty retrofitting older facilities with sprinkler systems.