Residential care homes are particularly complex environments when considering fire safety. But all too often many of these risks are overlooked. If you don’t have adequate fire doors installed, well-trained staff, and planned escape routes, a small fire has the potential to spread quickly and injure or kill large numbers of people. This was highlighted by the recent London Fire Brigade Inspections.
The London Fire Brigade Inspections
In 2019, the London Fire Brigade visited 177 care homes in a series of one-off in-depth inspections. The inspectors were shocked to find huge numbers of serious fire safety failures, such as:
- – One in three premises with inadequate or poorly maintained fire doors
- – Widespread confusion about fire evacuation strategies
- – Fire risk assessments being carried out by people without the proper skills and experience
- – Roofs being omitted from fire risk assessments – roof voids often increase the spread and severity of a fire
The Fire Brigade was so concerned that they wrote to every care home in the capital demanding they urgently review their fire risk assessments, emergency plans, and staff training.
The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner, Dan Daly, said:
“Over half the care homes we inspected had to make improvements to their fire safety arrangements despite them housing some of London’s most vulnerable residents. My main concern is that this audit is only the tip of the iceberg.”
Common causes of fires in residential care homes
The main cause of fires in residential care homes is said to be cooking and cookers (41%); followed by kitchen appliances (21%); then smoking-related (13%). But arbitrary figures won’t help you with your fire safety planning. Here are just a few of the things you need to consider when making your residential care home fire safe.
1. Your residents
In the event of a fire, many of your residents may not be able to make their way unaided to a safe place. This requires planned evacuation routes and adequate staffing numbers, even at night, and regardless of fluctuating shift patterns. Consideration regarding the placement of residents should always be a factor; place more mobile residents on the upper floors and those less mobile must be a consideration when planning staff numbers on the night shift. If staff numbers are restricted to two or three, ensure the fire plan for the night shift differs from the day shift. During night operations the first course of action should be to call the fire authority without delay, consideration for the installation of a monitoring station can also improve the response time by the fire authority.
It is the responsibility of the Responsible Person to ensure they can demonstrate that residents can adequately be moved as part of the fire strategy in the event of fire. Leaving residents for the fire authority to rescue is not an option.
2. The building
Residential care homes pose many challenges. You need compliant fire doors in corridors separated at correct distances. You need clearly marked evacuation routes. You need the correct fire extinguishers in the optimal locations. You need well-trained staff that should also be trained in the use of extinguishers. You need a L1 fire alarm system properly installed throughout the building, in some cases, even in cupboards. These are just a few of the many different considerations. So, unless you are professionally trained in fire safety, it is easy for something to be overlooked.
3. The roof
Roof spaces are often omitted from fire risk assessments yet pose a huge fire risk. This was tragically highlighted in 2017 when two people died in a residential care home. The fire and smoke travelled through voids in the roof which allowed it to quickly engulf the entire building. Fire crews found many residents trapped in rooms, too frail to move themselves to safety. Smoke is the biggest killer in a fire situation; you must ensure roof void compartmentation is correctly installed and remains intact. Often contracts will breach roof void fire compartmentation with no consideration for fire stopping or the client’s requirements. All roof voids need to have adequate fire detection installed as part of the L1 fire alarm system.
But the greatest risk of all
The greatest risk of all to fire safety in residential care homes is an inadequate fire risk assessment carried out by an untrained person. This leaves all your residents, staff, and the entire building, at risk of fire, injury and possible death.
Arrange for a professional fire risk assessment
By law, all residential care homes are required to have a fire risk assessment. This must be completed by a suitably competent person. You need to ensure this person is able to identify all possible fire risks and hazards. The easiest way to ensure this is done is by using a professional. After receiving your fire risk assessment all recommendations must, by law, be implemented. And your staff all require proper fire safety training. You must also ensure you can carry out evacuation drills simulating residents with use of staff. You need to demonstrate that staff can adequately be evacuated in a timely fashion and they should not become a casualty as a result of not moving them, if it is safe to do so.
Benfield Fire Safety – call us now for a free initial chat
Benfield Fire Safety works with a lot of residential care homes has over 28 years of professional experience as a leading fire safety, fire risk assessment and fire safety training provider. Our mission is simple. We want to save lives. We can complete your fire risk assessment and provide you and your staff with fire safety training.
Call us now for a free initial chat and to book a consultation by calling 0300 303 3277 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org