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Quakers Hill nursing home fire: Nine months after fire no word on sprinkler systems #FRNSW

NINE months after the Quakers Hill nursing home fire killed 11 residents the state government is yet to outline how it plans to ensure all of NSW’s 900 nursing homes are fitted with sprinklers.

The government has been working with stakeholders on how to implement a strategy to cover the more than 600 homes without sprinklers at an estimated cost of $140 million.

The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association said sprinklers should be mandatory in all homes and needed to be retrofitted immediately.

It has started a “dob in a nursing home” campaign to list homes that don’t have sprinklers to force the government and home operators to install them.

Tracey Onley, whose grandmother Lola Bennett died, said all nursing homes should have sprinklers.

The CPSA’s Paul Versteege said NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins made it clear at a forum of aged care stakeholders in February that sprinklers save lives.

The CPSA obtained footage of a test by firefighters which showed a room with a sprinkler extinguished a fire in five minutes, while a room without a sprinkler was engulfed in 20 minutes.

“Nursing homes are business and if you operate a business you should operate it safely,” Mr Mullins said.

FIGHTING FIRE

Quakers Hill nursing home fire reached temperatures of 1167 degrees. People over 65 four times more likely to die from fire fumes.

Sprinklers are activated at 70 degrees. Investigation of fire showed rooms with sprinklers extinguish flames within five minutes.

More than half of nine homes surveyed in Blacktown have sprinklers and all homes built since 2002 must have them.

WHAT THEY SAY

Aged Care Association Australia NSW CEO Charles Wurf said smaller regional operators wouldn’t be able to afford to install sprinklers but said the industry was working with the government to improve “fire prevention and suppression in residential aged care”.

Federal Ageing Minister Mark Butler (pictured) said fire safety in nursing homes was a state issue and while he was willing to talk to the NSW Government about how a statewide retrofit might be funded the Commonwealth would not simply “just hand over money”.

About Darin Sullivan (1967 Articles)
President of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union and a professional firefighter with more than 25 years’ experience. Father of two daughters, he lives and works on the NSW South Coast, Australia. He is a strong advocate for firefighters and emergency service workers with an interest in mental health issues and caring for those around him. He is a Director on the NSW Fire Brigades Death and Disability Super Fund and works with charities including ‘The Movember Foundation’. As a leader and activist he has long been active in the campaign for action on climate change. Now a Station Commander in the fire and rescue service in NSW and has decades of experience fighting fires, both rural and urban. He is passionate about highlighting the impact climate change is having on fire preparedness and fire behaviour in Australia, and the risks associated with inaction on climate change. Darin is also a spokesperson for the Australian Climate Media Centre.
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