Fire Safety Guidelines for Hospitals
Fire safety protocol is one of the top safety priorities institutional, commercial, and personal properties. In hospitals, where the number of fire risks and people are particularly high, proper fire safety is especially important. Ensuring that your hospital practices proper fire safety means understanding fire safety guidelines for hospitals and participating in hospital fire safety training courses. In this guide, we discuss everything you need to know to keep your property fire safe—whether you work in a nursing home, hospice center, or different healthcare facility.
Hospital Fire Prevention
First on the list of fire-related topics to talk about is hospital fire prevention. A good hospital fire prevention plan will stop nearly all hospital fires from ever sparking up in the first place. Here are a few essential rules to follow to ensure that your medical facility is fully fire-proofed.
- A smoke-free building is a safe building. In a hospital, you may have patients who have been smoking in their homes for more than half of their lives. These patients can pose one of the biggest risks to fire safety in your building. Inform them that smoking is a complete no-go in a hospital environment. Being careless with cigarettes is one of the top causes of hospital fires. Don’t let it happen on your watch. Educate your patients the minute they enter your care, and be sure to have your staff keep a watchful eye on anyone who may be predisposed to smoking. If you have patients that absolutely cannot (or will not) stop smoking, politely direct them to the smoking section of your hospital. When creating a smoking section, be sure to remove all electrical equipment and flammable materials.
- Be kitchen conscious. One of your very top priorities for fire safety at a hospital is going to be the kitchen. Most medical facilities have at least one kitchen where staff, visitors, and patients can go to eat food prepared by on-site cooks. Where there is cooking, there is heat—and often open flames. This means fire risks. Make sure your hospital kitchen is always 100% up to the health code regulations and that your fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are current and checked regularly. Make sure grease traps and fryers are cleaned regularly, and make sure cooks are educated on fire safety.
- Look into your laundry room. The laundry room is another less-than-obvious part of a hospital complex that is highly susceptible to fires. Here, again, heat is the culprit. As you probably know, dryers get extremely hot as they are drying sheets and clothes. Mix that aggressive lint buildup in the lint trays and vents, and you have a potential fire waiting to happen. Have a system in place to make sure your laundry room isn’t a potential fire hazard waiting to happen. We recommend a lint-cleaning schedule sheet that cleaners check and fill out to ensure that dryers are always lint-free.
- Check your cords and outlets. Electricity travels through outlets and cords to power appliances of all kinds within a hospital. While typically not a risk, electricity can start a fire if faulty equipment or improper connections are involved. Start by making sure that each and every appliance is properly plugged into a wall or our power strip. Don’t daisy chain power strips, as this can overload a wall outlet and potentially cause an electrical fire. Make sure no cords are frayed and no wires are exposed. On the outlets, check the plates for any cracks or holes. Replace broken plates as necessary to keep wires protected from potential fire-starting harm. Lastly, make sure that there is no standing water anywhere near your cords and outlets.
- Keep your alarms and fire suppressant systems serviced and working. Alarms and fire suppressant systems are some of the best ways to keep small fires from turning into large emergencies. Stay up to date on checking your fire alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke alarms, and fire suppressant systems to make sure every area of your building can alert you to threats the moment they start. Keep up to date with local and OSHA regulations on all detectors and systems to ensure that they will function properly if and when things go awry. These systems are going to be the difference between a spark that quickly gets suppressed and a destructive blaze.
Stopping Fire in Its Tracks: Action Plans for Hospital Fire Safety
Creating an action plan for any hospital fire is vital to preserving the safety of your patients, your personnel, and your property. Historically, the acronym RACE has been used as a general plan for fire safety; however, this plan often does not work, as its shouldn’t always be performed in the RACE-specific order. RACE stands for “Rescue, Alarm, Confine, Extinguish.” These tenets are incredibly important for any action plan, but they don’t necessarily need to be performed in this order. Not all fire situations are the exact same, which is why a flexible action plan is needed for optimal fire response. That’s where the 4 Principles of Fire Safety come in.
Each of the four principles — Life Safety, Notification, Extinguish, and Relocate/Evacuate — is a crucial step for any hospital fire safety action plan. You’ll notice that some of these steps are similar or identical to those in RACE. Slight differences have been mad to accommodate nuanced situations. (For instance: sometimes total evacuation isn’t the safest move. Sometimes, relocation is safer and more practical.) What’s most important to stress is the 4 Principles of Fire Safety do not need to be completed in any specific order. Understanding these principles means knowing how to use each of them in any order, depending on what the situation calls for. Below, we cover each principle in detail.
Life Safety. Life safety refers to the personal safety of those near you. In the event of a fire, take steps to ensure life safety; whether that means moving a patient’s bed away from a fire, disconnecting him or her from oxygen, or extinguishing the fire itself. You’ll see that each step in the 4 Principles of Fire Safety can blend with another. Sometimes, ensuring Life Safety requires evacuation, or notification, or extinguishing. Sometimes, extinguishing requires notification, and so forth.
Notification. When a fire starts, the faster everyone knows about the threat, the safer everyone will be. Notification can start within your hospital, where you can pull an alarm or use your hospital’s intercom system to notify hospital personnel. Be sure you know exactly where fire alarms are located and how to engage them. If you’re using the intercom, be sure you know how to use it and the right code to use (if applicable). Notification also encompasses notifying the fire department. Make sure that everyone on your team knows how to call 911.
Extinguish. Extinguishing a fire can help save lives and equipment. Sometimes, extinguishing a fire is necessary to take an individual out of immediate danger, or clear a path for evacuation. Sometimes, it’s the clear first step of action when a small fire starts. Sometimes, it shouldn’t be attempted until everyone is evacuated. Always use your discretion before beginning to extinguish a fire.
When extinguishing, it’s important to remember that you should never put your life or the lives of others in your team at risk. With this rule firmly in mind, it’s best to try and extinguish a fire by using one of the hospital’s conveniently located fire extinguishers. Always ensure that whomever is operating the fire extinguisher has a clear path to safety from wherever they are extinguishing. Also, remember that the “extinguish” step may be best left to the fire department. Your job is to help save the lives around you. When it comes to hospital fire safety, people are the number one priority, not property.
Relocate/Evacuate. Last on our list—but not necessarily the last step you should take—is evacuation and relocation. This step covers moving personnel to safer locations in the event of a fire. Making sure that every member of your hospital team knows the protocol for your hospital evacuation plan is important to ensuring that evacuation and/or relocation is executed quickly and successfully. The best way to do this is schedule annual or bi-annual reviews and drills of your hospital’s evacuation plans (a step we’ll cover in detail below). It’s also important to have printed maps of all fire evacuation routes in each of your hospital’s rooms so that everyone knows where to go in the event of an emergency.
Conduct Hospital Fire Safety Training
When creating a hospital fire safety plan, it’s not enough to merely understand the fire risks in a hospital and the steps of the 4 Principles of Hospital Fire Safety. You and your hospital personnel need to be familiar with carrying out safety actions—from prevention all the way to evacuation and fire emergency response. The best way to do this is by conducting hospital fire safety training. Proper training will give your staff the opportunity to practice evacuation drills, life-saving techniques, and extinguishing best practices firsthand. Unlike schools or other commercial locations that may schedule full evacuation drills once or twice a year, your hospital should refrain from evacuating everyone for the sake of a drill. Many patients are connected to life-saving machines or in very fragile states. Moving them all for the sake of a drill is far too risky. Your hospital fire safety training drills should be designed to get your staff acquainted with the procedure of hospital fire evacuation so if and when a fire does occur, everyone on your team will be calm and prepared to handle the threat. Learn what you can do to conduct proper hospital fire safety training in the sections below.
Schedule On-Site Meetings to Review Evacuation and Alarm Procedures
Every hospital has a fire evacuation route (or several). Making sure your team understands yours is vital in ensuring that they know exactly what to do when and if a fire does occur. Schedule on-site meetings at least once a year to review your routes and walk your hospital staff through them. Make sure that nurses and doctors moving to new hospital wings are briefed on the closest hospital fire evacuation routes as soon as they move.
Once you’ve covered evacuation, take some time to make sure every hospital staff member knows how to sound the alarm in your hospital. Cover relevant hospital fire safety equipment, including your fire alarms and your intercom system. All staff should know how to pull the fire alarm, and those with clearance should know how to operate the intercom and calmly dictate the relevant safety codes. It’s a good idea to review hospital fire prevention, containment, and extinguishing too — but those are best covered in depth by a proper hospital fire safety course. Learn what’s covered in a hospital fire safety course and how you can enroll your team in one below.
What’s Covered in a Hospital Fire Safety Course?
Hospital fire safety courses are special training programs designed to educate medical personnel on all aspects of hospital fire safety. Led by instructors with extensive emergency-response experience, the best hospital fire safety courses will cover everything from fire prevention to proper hospital fire safety equipment usage. In addition to learning a wealth of vital knowledge, enrollees will get a chance to practice important fire-response techniques firsthand. Here’s a list of the main topics covered in our hospital fire safety course here at SureFire CPR.
- What to Do in Case of a Fire at Your Hospital
- Patient Rescue (Including drags and carries)
- How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
- Different Types of Fires and How to Control Them
- Hospital Fire Protection Systems and Equipment
- How to Evacuate Safely
- Home Fire Safety
- Pre-Fire Planning
Our course takes just four hours to complete, and by the end, all enrollees will earn a hospital fire safety card. The Blue Fire Safety Card is for Acute Care Settings and is valid for 4 years.
Enrolling Your Staff in Hospital Fire Safety Courses
Getting your workers prepared for a potential fire is hands down one of the most important preemptive actions you can do as a hospital administrator. In addition to scheduling on-site fire safety meetings, the most important thing you can do is sign your staff up for hospital fire safety courses. With a lot of courses out there, it can be difficult to know which one to choose. Here’s a list of some questions you should be for when searching for the right hospital fire safety training for your staff to take.
- Will they come to you? The best way to ensure that your workers don’t have to work super hard in order to get trained in to conduct your training courses on-site. Ideally, you can find a company that can come to your hospital to administer the training program.
- Do the instructors have field experience? Many people can tell you about fire safety. Not all that many have actual experience in fire safety and management. As you would expect, firefighters are going to be your best bet for having real-world fire experience. Look for hospital fire safety courses led by instructors who have experience working in hospitals or other medical facilities. These instructors know these facilities inside and out — they may have even dealt with a few hospital fire risks in their time — and they’ll focus on what, exactly, your team needs to know and do in the event of a fire.
- Do the courses accommodate large groups? Most medical facilities have tens to hundreds (if not thousands) of staff members. In order to get everyone trained in a timely manner, it’s important to partner with a team capable of leading large groups. In your search for hospital fire safety courses, look for a provider with the infrastructure to teach large groups at once.
Partner With Our Team at SureFire CPR
Interested in learning more about hospital fire safety? Ready to get your hospital fire safety card? Our team here at SureFire CPR has you covered. As Southern California’s premier provider of emergency response courses, we are proud to offer a comprehensive hospital fire safety course for personnel that work in hospitals and medical environments like skilled nursing facilities, psychiatric hospitals, clinics, retirement homes, and more. Explore the link above or contact us directly to learn more, and earn your Blue hospital fire safety card (valid for 4 years) with our award-winning team!