The health and safety of your residents should be a top priority, so it is important that your facility is proactive in ensuring that the proper fire safety precautions are in place. According to USA Today, more than half of the nursing homes in the United States are in violation of federally-established standards for fire safety. The newspaper reports that inspectors often ignore major safety deficiencies, even in facilities that have had a fire in the last five years.
Without a sufficient fire safety program, you are exposing your organization to huge losses and lawsuits that could potentially bankrupt your business. The following tips outline ways in which you can help improve fire risk and safety at your facility.
Creating a Fire Safety Program
There are two key measures for nursing homes to establish a sound fire safety program: installing a sprinkler system and establishing a fire safety program.
Sprinklers are essential because many residents cannot move quickly or without assistance and are dependent on ventilators, IVs and feeding tubes. Though the equipment is costly, it is worth the extra expense. Sprinklers diffuse a fire more quickly, allowing residents and staff additional time to exit the building safely.
However, a facility cannot rely on sprinklers alone to cover their risk of fire; it is also critical to have a solid fire prevention program in place. To establish a plan, consider the following three steps.
Step 1: Evaluate the Building
First, conduct a survey examining the structure of the facility.
- Your plan will depend on if the building has a sprinkler system. If it does not, your evacuation will need to be quicker and more efficient, so your plan should take that into consideration.
- Evaluate the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) to determine if the vent system will disperse smoke.
- Inspect the elevator to determine if it has fire-resistant gaskets, if pressurization has been used to prevent smoke from entering the elevator shaft and if the vertical utility shafts have adequate sealing.
- Evaluate whether the facility has enough smoke detectors, and determine if it has an automatic fire department notification system in place.
- Inspect the doors of the residents’ rooms. Doors that are 1.75 inches thick provide 20 minutes of fire protection. Also, door latches installed outside of the door prevent the door from opening even under the pressure of fire.
Step 2: Create Evacuation Procedures
Another important step in the process is to provide employees with specific instructions in the event that they discover a fire or hear a fire alarm. This information should be clearly posted for staff members and also a part of the employee handbook. The procedural information should include the following:
- Appropriate actions when discovering a fire
- Guidelines for removing residents from the area affected by the fire
- Explanations for how to activate the alarm
- Instructions for how to greet fire department staff
- Directions for where to take firefighters in the building while residents are being evacuated
- Instructions for how to safely remove feeding tubes, IVs, catheter drains and ventilators before evacuating residents and how to continue these functions in another designated area
Step 3: Staff Training and Drills
In order for staff members to understand the proper procedures and have the ability to perform them quickly, the facility must conduct thorough staff training and periodic fire drills.
Protect Your Residents and Your Facility
A solid fire prevention plan eliminates your risk of penalties from the government, lowers your risk of negligence lawsuits, protects your building and business, keeps your residents safe and is a major selling point for prospective residents and their families. With the appropriate technology and procedures in place, your facility can be prepared in the event of a fire and avoid a potentially catastrophic situation.