A family who takes care of a physically and mentally disabled person in their home has been told by fire officials they need sprinklers installed.
Joe Sousa said he and his family have cared for a disabled person in their home for the last 15 years, and this is the first time the issues of sprinklers came up.
“Without the (safety) certification, they will pull the client from my home,” Sousa said.
But Health Commissioner John Stephen said his agency would certify the home despite fire officials’ concerns.
Fire Chief John DeSilva said officials are paying more attention to the safety of disabled persons in private homes after a fire in Tilton last winter killed two disabled people and their caretaker.
“According to the state fire code, a disabled person needs to be able to get out of a house in three minutes,” DeSilva said, “and if they can’t get out, the house needs to have sprinklers.”
As part of the re-certification process, DeSilva said he was asked to sign a form that states the home meets the state fire code.
“The action I’ve taken, on the advice of the state fire marshal, is in direct response to what happened in Tilton,” DeSilva said. “I have a responsibility to uphold the rules, and I’m not going to place my officers, myself or the town of Amherst in a situation where we could be held liable for someone’s death.”
However, DeSilva said he was told by health officials Friday that his signature isn’t required for the home to be re-certified.
“I don’t understand why I’m asked to sign off on this if it’s not required,” DeSilva said.
The trend away from institutions means more New Hampshire families are caring for disabled people in their homes. The state says almost 800 people like Sousa provide care for more than 1,000 disabled individuals in private houses.
The state pays room, board and expenses and each year, the homes are supposed to be inspected and re-certified.
Information from: New Hampshire Union Leader,
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