Fire awareness training and risk assessments are an essential part of any business. Having these in place ensures that your employees know what the hazards and fire risks are within your workplace. Training teaches staff ways to reduce these risks, what to do in the event of a fire, and how to identify those that are high risk in a fire situation.
In a hospital, there are always many people who are extremely vulnerable if a fire breaks out. There are often many people there who are unable to move by themselves or people for whom smoke inhalation poses more of a health risk.
A hospital is also potentially a relatively hazardous environment. They are filled with large amounts of electrical equipment, mobile equipment and most significantly many sources of oxygen, other compressed gases and chemicals. This creates a higher fire risk than usual as well as a dangerous environment for evacuation and fire suppression.
So how do hospitals handle fire situations?
One of the most important elements of dealing with a hospital fire is communication. Staff must be fully and regularly trained on how to handle a fire situation so that they are well prepared should one break out. They attend multiple training days annually and prepare for numerous scenarios. Staff are always also aware of exactly where patients are and what their condition is. The nature of the fire alarm is also clearly communicated to all staff either before or during the alarm – whether it be a test, drill or genuine fire. This allows hospital staff to react at the appropriate level. For example, they wouldn’t evacuate an unstable patient for a simple drill. However, it’s important that drills are carried out regularly so that staff have practised their evacuation procedure thoroughly.
Alarms are ‘coded’ to indicate the area of the fire. Areas close to the fire have a different alarm sound than areas that are further away. As an example, the zone that contains the fire will usually have a continuously sounding alarm, letting staff know that they should act immediately and efficiently. Nearby zones will sound an intermittent alarm, indicating that staff should be alert and prepare for an impending evacuation.
This is where compartmentation comes in. Hospitals and most other large buildings are divided into compartments that can withstand a fire for a particular amount of time. This fire barrier gives occupants a chance to be evacuated and provides time for the emergency services to arrive and extinguish the fire.
Due to compartmentation or ‘zoning’, a hospital can have a horizontal phased evacuation. This means that those who can be evacuated, from the zone that contains the fire, or those closest, without assistance will be evacuated immediately. In a zone that contains a fire, patients who are difficult to move can be relocated to an adjacent compartment. This means patients only need to be moved a short distance if necessary, and this drastically reduces the dangers of being away from life support machinery during an emergency.
When the emergency services arrive, they will assess the situation and establish the scale of the evacuation that is needed, if indeed an evacuation is needed at all. Should fragile patients need to be evacuated due to the scale of the fire, this can be facilitated by emergency fire services.
If you are in hospital as a patient or visitor and a fire breaks out, the best thing that you can do is to stay calm and listen intently to the instructions of the hospital staff and the fire services when they arrive. Trust that these people are well prepared for this event, that they know exactly what to do and that there is a multitude of measures already in place to keep you safe.
Hospitals are well prepared in the event of a fire, how prepared is your business?
Call us at Swift Fire today to discuss your fire safety needs.