Gateway Gazette

Prentice government makes seniors’ safety a priority

Sprinkler system upgrades coming for seniors care facilities.

The Government of Alberta is acting quickly to enhance safety in seniors’ lodges and apartments across the province.

“The issue of seniors’ safety is very personal for me, and I made it clear that when I became premier I would instruct my ministers to act quickly and decisively to remedy this situation.”

~ Jim Prentice, Premier of Alberta

The Ministry of Seniors is committing $70 million to Housing Management Bodies to make immediate upgrades to sprinkler and fire safety systems in older seniors care facilities.

All Housing Management Bodies are asked to submit property and operations assessments before December 1, 2014, to access funding. Projects will be prioritized based on these assessments to ensure seniors lodges and apartments facing the biggest safety risks are addressed first.

“This is a first step. We need to know about the status of the buildings, what their needs are, and the kind of community emergency response available to ensure facilities meet current requirements. This isn’t going to happen overnight but these assessments will help map out a long-term strategy to get the work done.”

~ Jeff Johnson, Minister of Seniors

“The Alberta Senior Citizens Housing Association and its members are pleased with this announcement. The health and safety of seniors living in our communities has always been ASCHA members’ primary focus. While newer builds are meeting and exceeding code requirements, this funding will ensure that buildings requiring retrofitting garner attention. We look forward to working with the government and ASCHA members through the self-assessment process, where higher risk buildings will be identified and necessary code upgrades implemented.”

~ Douglas Mills, Alberta Senior Citizens Housing Association, President

Many of the 24,000 government-owned and supported seniors units in Alberta were built between 1960 and 1990 before fire sprinklers became mandatory under fire and building safety codes.

This funding comes from the financial reserves of the Alberta Social Housing Corporation and is in addition to previously allocated investments for replacement of older facilities and capital improvements to existing seniors’ accommodations.

Since 2013, more than $70 million has been approved for improvements and more than $140 million has been committed to replace 14 seniors’ facilities across Alberta. Once these projects are complete, more than 1,000 units will have been newly created or renovated.

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