What Happens If There's A Fire In A Hospital

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Fire risk assessments and awareness training are an important part of any business. They ensure that employees are educated as to the hazards and fire risks within a workplace. They educate staff in ways to reduce these risks, how to act in the event of a fire, and how to identify people that are most at risk in a fire situation.

Inside a hospital, a significant number of people are vulnerable should a fire break out. These can be people that may not be able to move by themselves or people where smoke inhalation is a greater health risk than usual.

A hospital is potentially a relatively hazardous environment. Hospitals are filled with large amounts of mobile equipment, electrical equipment and most notably sources of oxygen, other compressed gases and chemicals. This creates a dangerous environment for evacuation of personnel and fire suppression.

So how is a fire situation handled inside a hospital?

One of the most important parts of handling a hospital fire is communication, both before a fire breaks out and if one does. Before a fire breaks out, staff are fully trained on how to handle the situation, through multiple days of training for numerous scenarios. Secondly, staff are always aware of where patients are and their condition. Finally, the nature of the fire alarm is clearly communicated to staff either before or during the alarm, be it alarm test, drill or genuine fire. This allows staff to react at the correct level. For example it would be inappropriate to attempt to evacuate an unstable patient for a simple fire alarm test.

How the nature of the fire is communicated to staff is that the alarms are ‘coded’ to indicate the vicinity of the fire. Areas close to the fire will have a different alarm sound when compared to areas in a different part of the building. For example, the zone that contains the fire will have a continuous alarm, indicating that staff should react accordingly. Adjacent zones (horizontally and vertically), will sound an intermittent alarm, indicating that staff should be alert and prepare for an impending evacuation (this can also be for the whole hospital, depending on its size).

This is where zoning or ‘compartmentation’ comes in. If you’re not familiar with compartmentation, you can read our blog about it here. Hospitals and most other buildings are divided into ‘compartments’ which can withstand a fire for a specific amount of time, either inside the compartment or outside. This ‘fire barrier’ gives a chance for occupants to be evacuated and for emergency services to arrive and extinguish the fire, or for the fire to extinguish on its own.

Due to compartmentation, a hospital will employ a ‘horizontal phased evacuation’. Those able to be evacuated from the building (in relevant zones) without assistance will be evacuated immediately. In a compartment that has a fire, patients who cannot be moved far are moved to an adjacent compartment. This allows patients to be moved only a short distance if necessary, drastically reducing 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 necessary, if at all. Should delicate patients need evacuation due to the scale of the fire, this can be facilitated with the help of the now present fire services.

Hospitals are well prepared in the event of a fire, how prepared is your business?

Contact us for your fire service needs.

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