Fire safety is important in any building or profession, but due to the vulnerable patients and the sheer number of people living and working in hospitals, fire safety is arguably more important in hospitals than it is in many other workplaces. This article will look at specific problems, risks, and possible solutions for fire safety in the healthcare industry.
One of the biggest problems in most healthcare facilities – especially hospitals – is that there are many patients who are either too injured, sick, or unconscious to react effectively in the event of a fire. Should an alarm go off, these people are slower than others, and they may be unable to tackle stairs or even particularly heavy doors.
It becomes much more difficult when you factor in that some patients will be receiving vital treatments or connected to machines that they rely on to survive. Life-support machines, dialysis machines, and any respiratory machinery may need to travel with the patient as they exit the hospital, so their escape routes ought to account for this added baggage and staff must be briefed on how to help them leave safely. This added mobility restriction dramatically changes fire safety plans and it differs from ward to ward, as different patients require different levels of assistance.
Common Fire Hazards in a Hospital or Healthcare Facility
Hospitals are very busy places, full of electrical equipment, flammable chemicals, and other fire hazards. This section of the article will cover some of the common fire hazards in hospitals and healthcare facilities, but it is most certainly not an exhaustive list.
The numerous healthcare machines, computers, televisions, etc. on every floor mean that electrical fires are more likely in hospitals than in many other premises. This danger is compounded when sockets are overused. The hospital’s fire safety officers, or someone else in a responsible position, ought to work out exactly how many electrical sockets are needed and to pay for an electrician to fit in more sockets if required. This also applies to guests who sometimes bring plug extension cables to charge phones, laptops, and tablets. Keep an eye on all the sockets, and communicate the risks to patients and their visitors, as well as to staff.
There are various medicines that contain flammable chemicals in hospitals and healthcare facilities. These materials are often stored together; this is why it is important to make sure there are no potential ignition sources nearby. Otherwise, as a medical supplies store has enough raw material to burn faster and hotter than most other areas in a hospital, the fire may spread too quickly for people to escape or to enable the first service to fight it.
Another possible ignition source is the larger medical equipment, such as lasers and electrosurgical equipment. These machines all get very warm, and heat is one of the main sources of fires in domestic and commercial properties. If these machines are close to any of the flammable materials mentioned above, then fire can spread exceptionally quickly.
Healthcare facilities, somewhat ironically, run into problems with people smoking cigarettes. And even though people smoke outdoors now, there are still open flames and the added risk of fires starting outside and spreading into the building. For this reason, it is very important to keep smoking areas far away from the main buildings. It is also extremely risky to allow people to smoke at the main entrances as these areas are often the main fire escape exits.
In hospitals and healthcare facilities, there are often oxygen tanks and other compressed gases, such as nitrous oxide. Although the canisters for these compressed gases are designed to withstand high temperatures, none of them are fireproof. As such, they can overheat and potentially explode. These explosions can fire small pieces of metal and other debris out with considerable force, potentially injuring people.
As we have explored in this article, fire safety is of vital importance in hospitals and healthcare facilities. These buildings come with their own fire hazards and you need to be especially careful given the vulnerability of many of the building’s residents. If you’d like to take fire safety a little more seriously in your medical facility, please feel free to get in touch with us. We have a range of fire curtains and fire shutters that can severely impede and sometimes even stop the