Care home fire procedures – good practice example


Many residential care homes carry out regular fire training for staff. This will probably include theory extinguisher sessions, evacuation theory, practical fire extinguisher training, tour of the building detailing protective and preventive measures, emergency evacuation manual handling and fire drills.The aim of such content is to provide an efficient procedure and that staff know exactly what to do when a fire alarm operates in their building.

A typical residential care home fire plan may look like this:

When the fire alarm sounds:

  • All care staff go to main fire panel
  • Other staff – turn off kitchen equipment / appliances and then report to the panel
  • A member of staff should be allocated to call the fire service
  • Manager / senior staff on duty to send  first pair of staff  to arrive at fire panel to the affected fire zone (investigation team) (they may take an emergency transfer sling or similar equipment / care home phone / radio)
  • Manager / senior staff to send additional staff in pairs when they arrive at the fire panel (these persons may take additional slings / wheelchairs in case they are needed for evacuation)
  • When all staff have arrived at the fire panel (optional – manager may silence alarm if this distresses residents / dementia service users) (All staff should be aware that this does not mean that the event is over)

If the fire alarm resounds this may mean that an incident has operated another smoke detector and staff should be extra vigilant

At the affected fire zone:

  • First staff (investigation team) to enter zone using the correct door procedure
  • Start checking rooms / area looking for incident / smoke detector that has operated (This will be a thorough check including on any en-suite rooms
  • Shut any door that may not have shut when alarm operated – ie bathroom doors / toilet doors etc
  • Member of the investigation team should direct other staff to rooms that have not yet been checked as they arrive at the affected zone
  • Staff to offer reassurance to residents in rooms that are not affected by fire
  • If a member of staff detects a fire / smoke / smell of smoke  in a residents room  or other area they must –“Call for help from colleagues” and move any person in that room / area immediately, provided it is safe to do so – Good communications is key!
  • If a fire is detected / smoke is seen / smell of smoke the investigation team should inform manager / senior by care home phone / intercom or runner
  • If the fire alarm has not resounded when a fire / smoke / smell of smoke has been discovered, the fire alarm call point should be located and the fire alarm raised again
  • Start the appropriate fire evacuation procedure – this may be delayed evacuation / progressive horizontal evacuation / full evacuation procedure depending on the stage of the incident
  • Utilise personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPS) where necessary – These may need to be distributed to arriving emergency services if the evacuation is not yet complete

Other:

  • Ensure visitors ( relatives of residents, visiting health workers, delivery persons etc) are evacuated to the assembly point outside of the building
  • Kitchen staff to turn off appliances and leave kitchen in safe condition
  • Domestic staff – turn off appliances and report to fire alarm panel

On arrival of the fire service:

  • Manager / senior staff to tell officer in charge of fire service what the incident involves and location
  • Take instructions from fire service officer on whether to change evacuation procedure (delayed / progressive horizontal / full)
  • Move residents affected by the incident to a safe area using wheelchairs, hoists, safety slings etc.
  • Using residents PEEPS consider relocation of persons if necessary (part of a post incident plan)
  • Account for all staff and residents

Night shifts:

  • The same fire procedure will apply – one person at the fire panel – two investigating / implementing the evacuation plan
  • Additional persons (if any) to assist evacuation
  • Ensure the fire service is called
  • If there is a fire, smoke or smell of smoke move any resident in immediate danger  provided it is safe to do so. Resound fire alarm if it is not already operating
  • Ensure all doors are shut

Additional note: Be aware that a fire alarm will probably open all secure doors in any “Dementia wing”. Some service users may try to wander from the area. Post incident head counts should be carried out after the incident.

For more details of this type of training call Fire Training London or Fire Training Course . Com and discuss how we can help your care home. Our care home fire training can be delivered in 2 or 3 hour formats.

Do buildings need fire evacuation chairs?


The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) came into force over six years ago and included a requirement to take special note of fire safety relating to disabled persons and other vulnerable users. Despite the fact that this legislation became law in October 2006, many managers are still unsure or unaware of their exact duties.

Government guidance books can help managers carry out fire risk assessments for their buildings, produce fire emergency plans, evacuation procedures and implement adequate and effective fire safety measures. One book specifically covers “Means of Escape for Disabled People” and should help building managers and responsible persons make adequate provision for disabled staff, visitors and residents in buildings.

On a fire marshal course held by Fire Training London the question asked by an attendee was “Do we need evacuation chairs in our building?” The simple answer could have been “What does your fire risk assessment say?”, but instead the fire marshal training course attendees were asked what they thought the answer was. These were their answers!

“We do not need disabled procedures as we never have disabled visitors and do not have disabled staff!”

“We were told you can leave disabled persons in the refuges in the staircases and let the fire brigade get them out!!”

“We have skid chairs but no-one likes getting in them or using them!”

“We have a fire lift and evacuate disabled persons in them.” (Further investigation revealed it was a fire fighting lift which grounded when the alarm operated)

These answers demonstrate a clear lack of knowledge of not only the FSO and fire safety measures, but also issues such as disability and equality legislation.

So how should a fire safety manager or nominated person answer the question posed above? Well it really does depend on the fire risk assessment, on the type of building, the types of activities that are carried out and the people in the building! Every premise will have different risks and hazards, but they must have adequate arrangements to evacuate all persons from the building. Therefore, it may be best for organisations that have disabled staff, visitors or clients to provide themselves with the equipment needed to deal with any emergencies that arise.

Evacuation chairs are an efficient way of evacuating disabled or less mobile occupants in stair areas, but if this type of equipment is used it must be accompanied by a robust procedure that includes:

•Sufficient number of evacuation chairs and slings for all persons requiring evacuation – multi use of equipment that involves re-entry should be avoided wherever possible.

•Regular training for those that will operate the equipment. This should be first carried out by equipment specialists and then at least monthly by the operatives (Monthly refresher training should take less than 5 to 10 minutes for each person).  Training is best carried out without involving the disabled person in case transferring to the equipment causes an injury. Evacuating any disabled person should only be carried out during real evacuations and fire drills.

•A full assessment of all disabled persons working in the building to ensure that the equipment is suitable for their needs should be undertaken. This will be part of the Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEPs) process carried out for the individual. It is recommended that the individual also takes part in this assessment. Standard PEEPs should also be developed for occasional visitors.

•A robust and well-practised communications procedure to ensure that buddies and evacuation chair users meet disabled persons in suitable pre-arranged refuges, at their work station or room. They will also need to know all locations where evacuation chairs are kept.

•That any disabled evacuation / evacuation chair policy is part of a full system of escape and accounting procedure for the building.

Managers should  pay regard to the health and safety ramifications of not providing such evacuation chairs, as well as giving consideration to potential legal action and the personal dignity issues of carrying down a disabled person manually.

For further details and information why not book on one of fire marshal courses London or book a disabled evacuation course.