Quebec retirement home fire: Are we prepared locally? - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Quebec retirement home fire: Are we prepared locally?

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Photo courtesy Info Dimanche. Photo courtesy Info Dimanche.

Five people are known to be dead and police continue to search for 30 missing people after a nursing home fire in Quebec, Canada yesterday.

Cold temperatures are hampering efforts to search for those missing and police fear some were burned and frozen into ice that formed from the water used to fight the fire.

Officials say 20 people escaped. But many residents used walkers, wheelchairs or couldn't get around on their own.

The tragedy sparked our curiosity about safety procedures in local retirement communities. Valley News Team's Mellaney Moore investigates how prepared one of them is:

157 residents call Fargo's Bethany on 42nd retirement living community home.

With various levels of independence among those residents, the 200 staff know it's important to have organized safety procedures.

"That's 100 percent of our focus to make sure they're cared for and accounted for," says Human Resources and Safety Director Adam Broers.

Every month, one of the day, evening or overnight shifts will have a fire drill, equaling one drill in each quarter.

"Staff members on each shift will go through four each year," he says.

In skilled nursing areas, the building is broken down into neighborhoods of13-19 residents. The design speeds up evacuation and moves residents to other areas- keeping them out of the cold.

"We want them beyond the safety of two fire doors. So we would close or isolate the door with the fire and then get all of our residents beyond another door, so we effectively create two fire doors of protection," says Broers.

Residents like Coty Smith know the drills well.

"The alarm goes off and it rings...and rings and rings," she says.

At the same time, the system notifies nearby fire departments and Bethany staff of the fire's exact location.

"I think our Fargo Fire Department response time is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-5 minutes," Broers says.

After evacuation from a neighborhood, all residents can be accounted for. Smith says the organized plan helps her feel safe.

"I'm sure that there would be a lot of lives saved," she says.

 In the event of an extremely large fire, Bethany also has plans for evacuating entire buildings and floors. If all residents had to evacuate, staff say they have plans at their second Fargo location and local churches.

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