Hospital fire prevention is the first topic on the list of fire-related topics to discuss. A well-designed hospital fire prevention plan will virtually eliminate the possibility of a hospital fire igniting in the first place. The following are a few critical guidelines to follow to ensure that your medical facility is completely fireproof.
A smoke-free structure is a secure structure. In a hospital, you may encounter patients who have smoked for more than half of their lives in their homes. These patients can be one of the most serious threats to your building’s fire safety. Inform them that smoking is strictly prohibited in a hospital setting. Carelessness with cigarettes is a leading cause of hospital fires. Allow it not to occur on your watch. Educate your patients from the moment they enter your care, and instruct your staff to keep an eye out for anyone who appears to be predisposed to smoking. If you have patients who are unable (or unwilling) to quit smoking, politely direct them to your hospital’s smoking section. When establishing a smoking area, ensure that all electrical equipment and flammable materials are removed.
Keep an eye on the kitchen. The kitchen is going to be one of your top priorities when it comes to fire safety in a hospital. The majority of medical facilities have at least one kitchen where staff, visitors, and patients can eat food prepared on-site. Wherever cooking occurs, there is heat—and frequently open flames. This entails fire hazards. Ascertain that your hospital kitchen is always compliant with all applicable health code regulations and that all fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are current and regularly checked. Maintain clean grease traps and fryers, and educate cooks about fire safety.
Take a look around your laundry room. Another less-than-obvious component of a hospital complex that is highly flammable is the laundry room. Once again, heat is to blame. As you are probably aware, dryers reach extreme temperatures while drying sheets and clothes. Combine that with the aggressive lint buildup in the lint trays and vents, and you have the makings of a potential fire. Establish a system to ensure that your laundry room does not become a potential fire hazard. We recommend that cleaners check and complete a lint-cleaning schedule sheet to ensure that dryers are always lint-free.
Conduct a visual inspection of your cords and outlets. Electricity is distributed throughout a hospital via outlets and cords to power a variety of appliances. While electricity is generally not a danger, it can start a fire if faulty equipment or improper connections are used. Begin by ensuring that each appliance is properly plugged into a wall outlet or our power strip. Avoid daisy chaining power strips, as this can result in an overload of a wall outlet and possibly an electrical fire. Ascertain that no cords are frayed or exposed wires. Examine the plates on the outlets for cracks or holes. Replace damaged plates as needed to protect wires from potential fire-starting damage. Finally, check for any standing water near your cords and outlets.
Maintain the operation and serviceability of your alarm and fire suppression systems. Alarms and fire suppression systems are two of the most effective ways to prevent minor fires from escalating into major emergencies. Maintain an up-to-date inspection schedule for your fire alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke alarms, and fire suppression systems to ensure that every area of your building can alert you to potential threats immediately. Maintain compliance with local and OSHA regulations for all detectors and systems to ensure they operate properly if and when something goes wrong. These systems will mean the difference between a harmless spark and a destructive blaze.
Developing an action plan in the event of a hospital fire is critical to ensuring the safety of your patients, staff, and property. Historically, the acronym RACE has been used to describe a general fire safety plan; however, this plan frequently fails because it is not always performed in the RACE-specific sequence. RACE is an acronym that stands for “Rescue, Alarm, Confine, and Extinguish.” These tenets are critical for any action plan, but they do not have to be followed in this order. Because no two fire situations are identical, a flexible action plan is required for optimal fire response. That is where the Four Fire Safety Principles come into play.
Each of the four principles outlined above — Life Safety, Notification, Extinguish, and Relocate/Evacuate — is a critical component of any hospital’s fire safety action plan. You’ll notice that several of these steps are identical to or similar to those found in RACE. Slight variations have been introduced to account for nuanced situations. (For instance, total evacuation is not always the safest course of action. Occasionally, relocation is the safer and more practical course of action.) What is critical to emphasize is that the Four Fire Safety Principles do not have to be completed in any particular order. Understanding these principles entails being able to apply them in any order, depending on the situation. Each principle is discussed in detail below.
Safety of Life. The term “life safety” refers to the personal safety of those in your immediate vicinity. In the event of a fire, take steps to ensure patient safety; this may include relocating the patient’s bed away from the flames, disconnecting him or her from oxygen, or extinguishing the fire itself. You’ll notice that each step in the Four Fire Safety Principles can be combined with the next. Occasionally, ensuring Life Safety necessitates evacuation, notification, or fire extinguishing. Extinguishing occasionally necessitates notification, and so forth.
Notification. When a fire begins, the sooner everyone is aware of the danger, the safer everyone is. Notification can begin within your hospital, where you can activate an alarm or communicate with hospital personnel via the hospital’s intercom system. Ascertain that you are familiar with the location and operation of fire alarms. If you’re going to use the intercom, make certain you understand how to use it and what code to use (if applicable). Notification includes notifying the fire department as well. Ascertain that everyone on your team understands how to dial 911.
Extinguish. Extinguishing a fire can assist in the preservation of lives and property. Occasionally, it is necessary to extinguish a fire in order to remove an individual from immediate danger or to clear a path for evacuation. Occasionally, it is the obvious first step to take when a small fire begins. Occasionally, it should be avoided until everyone has been evacuated. Always exercise caution when extinguishing a fire.
When extinguishing, it’s critical to keep in mind that you should never jeopardize your own or the lives of others on your team. With this rule in mind, the best course of action is to attempt to extinguish a fire using one of the hospital’s conveniently located fire extinguishers. Always ensure that the person operating the fire extinguisher has a clear path to safety from the location where the fire is being extinguished. Additionally, keep in mind that the “extinguish” step is probably best left to the fire department. Your mission is to assist in the rescue of those in your immediate vicinity. When it comes to hospital fire safety, the priority should always be on people, not property.
Relocate/Evacuate. The final item on our list—but not necessarily the last—is evacuation and relocation. This step entails the relocation of personnel to safer areas in the event of a fire. Assuring that every member of your hospital team understands the protocol for your hospital evacuation plan is critical for a successful evacuation and/or relocation. The most effective way to accomplish this is to schedule annual or biannual reviews and drills of your hospital’s evacuation plans (as detailed below). Additionally, it is critical to have printed maps of all fire evacuation routes in each of your hospital’s rooms to ensure that everyone knows where to go in an emergency.