February 1, 2018


Safety regulations and requirements vary around the world. Something that might seem commonplace in a workplace or home in the United States might not be utilized the same way internationally. A terribly sad, and deadly, example of this variance in safety regulations was the recent fire in Japan. A fire engulfed a group home for welfare recipients in Sapporo, the main city on the northern island of Hokkaido, on the night of January 31, 2018.

The building typically catered to elderly residents, and so far, police have identified 11 victims to the incident. Five residents were rescued and three are being treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

According to an article on CBS News, Noriyoshi Fujimoto, the head of the support group that operates the facility, said he regretted it had no sprinklers. "I wish we had made the facility more properly equipped." The building was unstaffed at night and sprinklers were not required.

The facility is one of many low-rent dormitories in Japan that generally caters to the poor and elderly. Many of these types of residences do not operate under adequate safety or hygienic conditions.


Fire Safety Tips:

Preventing and surviving a fire is possible if you are properly prepared. The Red Cross recommends these tips:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.
  • Talk with all family members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year.
  • If a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL FOR HELP. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.
  • Know how to safely operate a fire extinguisher
  • Remember to GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 9-1-1 or your local emergency phone number.
  • Yell "Fire!" several times and go outside right away. If you live in a building with elevators, use the stairs. Leave all your things where they are and save yourself.
  • If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke blocks your primary escape route, use your second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch.
  • If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit. Close doors behind you.
  • If smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call the fire department or 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help.
  • Once you are outside, go to your meeting place and then send one person to call the fire department. If you cannot get to your meeting place, follow your family emergency communication plan.


The National Fire Protection Association also provides resources about fire safety in nursing homes. A few key tips they recommend include:

Adequate planning

  • Every facility should have written fire procedures that are understood and practiced by all staff. Staff should be responsible for knowing and carrying out their part of the plan. That includes doctors, nursing staff, kitchen staff, maintenance, volunteers, and others.
  • Response procedures should be practiced regularly.
  • There should be a clear "code word" agreed upon beforehand for the facility to alert other staff in case of fire.

Quick response

  • Call out the code to alert staff.
  • Activate the fire alarm.
  • Evacuate everyone in immediate danger.
  • Close doors to contain smoke and fire.
  • Once the fire is contained to the room of origin behind closed doors, never reopen the door or reenter the room to extinguish the fire.
  • Close all doors to patient rooms.
  • In evacuating, make sure no patient is left behind.