A Fire In 2001 Helped Make A Claremore Group Home Safer

Monday, November 27th 2006, 10:06 am
By: News On 6

A Rogers County group home, very similar to the one in Anderson, Missouri, burned to the ground not long ago.

Everyone at Copp's Residential Care in Claremore was able to make it out safely. The owners say they're actually grateful for the fire.

News on 6 anchor Tami Marler says on March 10th, 2001, the state Fire Marshal paid a visit to Copp's Residential Care for a safety inspection. The group home got a clean bill of health. "We had no deficiencies. And the next day we pretty much burned to the ground." Tracy Copp can laugh about it today, but it was no laughing matter 5 years ago when thirty mentally ill residents had to perform a real-life version of their monthly, surprise fire drills.

Copp says that's why they didn't have a much worse tragedy on their hands. "Being familiar with what they're supposed to do and how they're supposed to do it. We do it the same way every time." Much has changed since the fire at Copp's.

Building codes are much stricter and the owners say, all of the changes are for the better. "There's emergency lights over the exit signs like over here."

Jerry Copp's family has been in the residential care business for fifty years, with only one fire. "At the time we had the fire I thought, 'oh my God, what are we gonna do?’” Copp says new building codes have made his group home safer than ever.

State law requires new facilities to have numerous safety features, such as battery-back-up for exit lighting, as well as sprinklers every few feet, even in residents' rooms. Because their former home was older, none of those safeguards were required. "Because we had the fire it forced us to build this new building which I'm very proud of."

The Copps say they do conduct fire drills frequently, so that all 47 of their residents are able to make it out of the building to their designated safe zones within two to three minutes. They say that includes drills in the middle of the night.