Monday, May 28, 2012

Having banned junk food in schools, McGuinty dithers on fire safety

Matt Gurney: Having banned junk food in schools, McGuinty dithers on fire safety

  May 28, 2012 – 12:01 PM ET Last Updated: May 28, 2012 12:20 PM ET
Last Friday, two more elderly Ontarians died in a fire at a seniors home. Their home did not have a sprinkler system. The two victims, identified as Anne-Marie Bonin, 84, and her husband Jean-Paul Bonin, 87, were killed when flames engulfed their residence in Hawkesbury, Ont. Two firefighters were injured while helping residence staff evacuate the building.
The Bonins are the 45th and 46th Ontarians to die in blazes at seniors homes that lack sprinklers since 1980. This is not a huge number in a province of some 13 million souls, but it is frustrating because of how preventable these deaths are. Three inquests had previously recommended that automatic sprinklers be installed into all seniors residences that do not have them — they became mandatory across Canada in 1995, but thousands of residences predate that. Ironically, a fourth inquest released its findings on the very same day that the Bonins died, reiterating the need for these life-saving retrofits. And yet so far the government has yet to act. That’s indefensible on its own merits, but it’s especially perplexing when one considers that this is Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government, one that has never hesitated to legislate and regulate in the name of far less pressing public-safety concerns.
When a fire strikes a seniors home, the dangers of panic, smoke, disorientation and entrapment are exacerbated by the sad fact that many seniors can’t move as fast as they once could, or see as well. They may be suffering from dementia. And yet these frail seniors must still react swiftly and calmly in a life-or-death situation where seconds count. Since that clearly is impossible, it falls on staff and first-responders to rescue the residents.
And sprinklers have been proven, time and again, to make a difference. After a similar 2009 fire in Orillia, Ont., Fire Chief Ralph Dominelli said in a statement, “The benefits of sprinklers are indisputable. A combination of smoke alarms and automatic fire sprinklers can cut the risk of dying in a fire by 82%. In any fire, every second matters. But in a care facility, time is even more precious … Automatic sprinklers buy critical time for the both the staff and firefighters to save lives and property.” In that fire, four seniors died. As their home burned, only half of the residents were able to get out on their own. The rest needed rescue, requiring Dominelli to order half a dozen of his men to crawl into the burning building to search for survivors.
Canada’s Atlantic provinces, and 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, already require automatic sprinklers in  senior care facilities. Ontario insists that it is studying the problem. But in the time it has been studying the problem, it has taken such public-safety measures as removing junk food from schools to combat childhood obesity, banning smoking in a car with a child to spare them not just second-hand smoke, but the negative influence of being near a smoker, tried and failed to limit the number of passengers a young driver may have in a car to cut down on distractions and has outlawed the use of hand-held mobile devices while driving (again, to limit distraction). During Mr. McGuinty’s time in office, Ontario has banned residential use of pesticides, smoking in restaurants or bars — including those with separately ventilated smoking areas, and even the display of cigarettes in convenience stores. They must now be kept hidden behind plastic covers.
All these things have accomplished under Mr. McGuinty’s leadership. But thousands of seniors continue to live in care facilities that lack a basic, life-saving device. Why?
Retrofitting automatic sprinklers into existing facilities can be expensive. Ontario could start by mandating that all care facilities install sprinkler systems within a reasonable period and make financing available, at zero interest, to any home that would be unable to otherwise absorb the cost. Such would be an entirely justified use of public money and would allay the financial concerns of the operators of older care facilities.
Whatever the final arrangement is, Ontario has dragged its feet for far too long on this issue, ignoring the sound advice of three (now four) inquests looking into how to avoid these tragedies. It is time to end the analysis paralysis and act. Putting automatic sprinklers in every senior care facility in the province should be an absolute priority for Mr. McGuinty — and will be a far better use of his time than many of the other public-safety “accomplishments” he has already achieved.
National Post

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Showing 7 comments
  • john carman
     McGuinty's priorities are often skewed and misdirected and the failure to enact safe living conditions in retirement and nursing homes by putting sprinkler systems into the building code is a classic example.
  • Rick Bonsteel
    I'm not convinced that the gubmint should stick its nose into yet another area. Surely nursing homes that have sprinkler systems -- and, more importantly, good smoke alarms -- could use it as an advantage, and the concerned families of these seniors could make a rational decision.
  • Smokey_fortyfive31
    We can pretty well guess that when Premier Dad becomes ex-Premier Granddaddy he’ll get the residence with the sprinklers. By that time, his government will have legislated a death penalty for smokers, gun owners, citizens that aren’t green enough, eaters of junk food, and every married man that is eviscerated through divorce laws enacted by his minions. We can hardly wait for the book and the movie to come out “Dangerous Dalton McGuinty Destroys Ontario” a sequel to “The Blob That Ate New York”. What do you expect from a bunch of miscreants who would rather teach sex to youngsters rather than economics?
  • Rational
    Why haven't McGuinty and the Liberals done anything?  Why should they?  Seniors in retirement homes are not organized and unlike to vote against McGuinty, whereas the owners of the homes are organized and would vote against McGuinty if he raised their costs.
    This is exactly how McGuinty makes decisions.  The Greens are organized, so lets put in an arbitrary Green belt that costs farmers millions in lost value, but they don't vote Liberal anyway.  And to make the farmers look bad, the Liberals funded Friends of the Greenbelt to do their dirty work for them.
    The Working Families Coalitian is well organized, so let's give all these quasi-public sector workers (teachers, fire fighters, police, etc.) huge unsustainable wages beating up on the parents of children with autism. 
    The Greens are so organized, lets give them the Green Energy Act, with Feed in Tariffs that hammer small businesses and the average house owner while claiming to do something about pollution.
    Gays are oganized while people are down on religion, so lets force Catholic Schools to have groups called Gay Straight Alliance regardless of their religion. (note, this is nothing to do with schools supporting human rights,...
    show more
  • Nanowit
    With you 100%.  Most cost-effective way to save lives!
  • northern vigor
    Why doesn't Dalton legislate sprinklers? Check the Liberal membership, and donation lists...probably one owns a old folks home without sprinklers.
    There is a pattern here...when a Liberal big cheese owns wind farms...wind farms get subsidized. Also, it was a Liberal fund raiser, that was a director in the Toronto Cricket Club that wrangled the $270,000 provincial grant for the club.
  • Always Ask
    Developers don't want them.
    Developers are amongst the biggest contributors to the Liberal AND Conservative parties in Ontario.
    Which is both why Dalton is doing nothing, and Hudak isn't calling him on the carpet over it.
    What's some dead seniors when there's elections to win, and pockets to line.
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