(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., John Burzichelli, Mila Jasey and John McKeon sponsored to improve fire safety in group homes throughout New Jersey was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
The Group Home Fire Safety Act (A-1843) requires installation of automatic residential fire suppression systems and fire alarm protection systems in the common areas – including hallways and living, dining and kitchen areas – and bedrooms of all group homes in this state that are constructed or converted into a group home on or after the bill’s effective date.
“This is really a common sense bill,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “These facilities care for some of our most vulnerable residents, so we should do what’s right to give them the safest places to live, especially since it can be accomplished so readily.”
“These residents deserve our best protections and a safe place to live,” said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “Fire suppression systems are known to work and to save lives, so this bill aims to ensure that level of protection is given to those most in need.”
“We cannot stand idle when something as basic as this can save lives,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “We have to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
“Sprinkler systems work, and those in group homes need our protection,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris. “Nothing more really needs to be said about this common sense measure.”
The bill defines “group home” to mean a licensed community residence for the developmentally disabled or mentally ill, community residence for the terminally ill or community residence in which a person with traumatic brain injury resides, which has an approved service contract or an affiliation agreement with a state agency or department.
Specifically, the bill provides that a group home that is constructed, or a residential or commercial structure that is converted into a group home, on or after the effective date of the bill is to be equipped with an automatic residential fire suppression system and a fire alarm protection system in the common areas and bedrooms.
The Commissioner of Human Services, in consultation with the Commissioner of Community Affairs, is to adopt rules as necessary to implement the provisions of the bill, including rules that may exempt from the requirements of the bill any group home that may be determined to not warrant the level of protection provided in this bill based on the fire hazard risk.
The bill provides the state treasurer with the authority, after consultation with the Commissioner of Human Services, to apply state funds otherwise available to state departments, agencies or instrumentalities for the purpose of securing compliance with the requirements established pursuant to this bill.
Finally, the bill prohibits a municipal authority or water utility from imposing standby fees for any new fire protection system required to be installed pursuant to this bill, thereby providing for charges only for the costs of services actually used.
The bill was released by the Assembly Human Services Committee.