Heather Glen Senior Living Center, a personal care facility near Upper Macungie, caught fire on Sunday
morning, forcing the evacuation of 82 residents. Six of the residents required hospitalization for injuries
sustained during the fire. Unfortunately, reports of fire incidents in senior housing communities have
hit newspapers around the country. These fires are often preventable, should the senior living
community take appropriate actions.
Many personal care homes lack sprinkler systems that would extinguish a small fire and prevent it from
spreading. Because the Department of Welfare doesn’t require sprinkler systems in all assisted living
facilities, some providers choose not to install them. This is particularly dangerous, as seniors in
personal care homes are often at higher risk of accidentally starting a fire than the general population.
Some residents have cognitive deficits and may be unsafe using the stove or oven in their residence.
Residents who smoke may accidentally drop the cigarette into a bed or sheets sparking a fire. A resident
with mobility deficits and cognitive loss may be unable to effectively respond to contain or control an
When a fire does occur, unsafe staffing levels and inadequately trained staff are sometimes unable to
respond in a way to prevent resident injury and death. Many residents in personal care homes have
cognitive of physical deficits and are unable to evacuate without physical assistance or verbal cues. Yet,
many personal care homes operate at minimum staffing levels, especially on overnight shifts. Staff
members who are unfamiliar with the facility’s fire policies may respond incorrectly during a fire
emergency. Laundry room fires are often the result of staff members who do not properly care for the
equipment in a way that maintains safety.
If you are considering placing a loved one in a senior care facility, ensure that the facility has adequately
addressed fires safety. Be sure to ask questions regarding the smoking policy, resident access to cooking
equipment, staff training on fire safety, and the presence of fire extinguishers and sprinklers.
Philadelphia’s seniors deserve the protection from injury and wrongful death from fire within their
senior living facilities.