The health and safety of your residents should be your top priority, so it is important that your facility is proactive in ensuring that proper fire safety precautions are in place. Without a sufficient fire safety programme, you are exposing your organisation to huge losses and legal actions that could potentially bankrupt your business.
Creating a Fire Safety Programme
There are two key measures a care home can take to establish a fire safety programme: installing a sprinkler system and establishing a fire safety programme.
Sprinklers are essential because many residents cannot move quickly or unassisted because they are dependent on ventilators, IVs and feeding tubes. Though the equipment is costly, it is worth the extra expense. Sprinklers diffuse a fire quickly, allowing residents and staff more time to exit the building.
However, a facility cannot rely on sprinklers alone to cover their risk of fire; it is also critical to have a solid fire prevention programme in place. To establish a plan, consider the following three steps.
Step 1: Evaluate the Building
First, examine the structure of the facility.
- Your plan will depend on whether the building has a sprinkler system. If it does not, your evacuation will need to be faster and more efficient, so your plan should take that into consideration.
- Evaluate the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) to determine if the vent system will disperse smoke. Additionally, determine if the HVAC has an automatic shut-off in place for the air handlers should the fire alarm sound.
- Inspect the lift to determine if it has fire-resistant gaskets, if pressurisation has been used to prevent smoke from entering the lift shaft and if the vertical utility shafts have adequate sealing.
- Evaluate whether the facility has enough smoke detectors and determine if it has an automatic fire service notification system in place.
- Determine if the facility has smoke barriers that will trap the fire in a certain area until the fire service can put it out.
- Inspect the doors of the residents’ rooms. Doors that are 4.5 centimetres thick provide 20 minutes of fire protection. Also, door latches installed outside of the door prevent the door from opening even under the pressure of fire.
Step 2: Create Evacuation Procedures
should provide employees with specific instructions in the event that they discover a fire or hear a fire alarm. This information should be clearly posted for staff members and should also be part of your employee handbook. The procedural information should include the following:
- Appropriate actions when discovering a fire
- Guidelines for removing residents from the area affected by the fire
- Explanations for how to activate the alarm
- Guidelines for how to exit the building while assisting residents
- Instructions for how to greet fire service staff
- Directions for where to take fire fighters in the building while residents are being evacuated
- Instructions for how to safely remove feeding tubes, IVs, catheter drains and ventilators before evacuating residents and how to continue these functions in another designated area
Step 3: Staff Training and Drills
In order for staff members to understand the proper procedures and have the ability to perform them quickly, the facility must conduct thorough staff training and periodic fire drills.
On a frequent basis, supervisors—such as department heads and charge nurses—should conduct fire drills with their staff. While doing so, each department can determine how well the employees are prepared in the event of an actual fire. From there, each department can conduct additional training in areas that need improving.
Protect Your Residents and Your Facility
A solid fire prevention plan eliminates your risk of penalties from the government, lowers your risk of negligence legal actions, protects your building and your business, keeps your residents safe and is a major selling point for prospective residents and their families. With the appropriate technology and procedures in place, your facility can be prepared in the event of a fire and avoid a potentially catastrophic situation.