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Fire safety in residential care homes during COVID-19

Residential care homes are particularly complex environments for fire safety, and this is now heightened under lockdown. The pandemic of COVID-19 has caused huge disruption to normal working practice and it may reduce staffing levels.

During this challenging time, your care home must maintain its statutory compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Care Home Regulations Act 2001.

You should start by reviewing your fire risk assessment and emergency planning and do this continually as the coronavirus situation changes. Make sure your plans are suitable and achievable during lockdown, you may need a contingency plan, and seek expert advice from a qualified and reputable fire risk assessor.

It’s necessary to reasonably balance the risk of cross infection of COVID-19 with ineffective fire protection measures. If a specific risk assessment needs to be carried out or fire safety equipment serviced or repaired, make sure the work is fully completed under strict hygiene and social distancing measures.

Here are some further points to help you maintain your fire safety during COVID-19:

Online fire safety training

All existing, new or temporary staff must receive robust fire safety awareness training, ideally tailored to the care home environment, and this can be fulfilled online.

Staff must be made aware of potential hazards and risks, particularly if staffing levels are reduced. They need to show extra vigilance to prevent accidental fires during this difficult time.

During the pandemic, Benfield Fire Safety has been delivering online fire safety awareness training to support residential care homes to help keep them compliant and focused. This comprehensive training includes learning about the common causes of fire in care homes, how to spot hazards, understanding fire classification and how to select the right type of fire extinguisher for a given situation. The session also covers what you should do when you discover a fire, with a video demonstration of how to use a fire extinguisher.

Finding a partner to deliver online fire safety training during COVID-19 enables you to fulfil your statutory requirements during lockdown and ensure your staff know how to prevent fires and handle an emergency, when it happens.

Staffing levels

Staffing levels in care homes must be maintained, where possible, to ensure emergency plans can be effectively managed and staff should constantly monitor the situation in your premises. If your staffing level is affected by COVID-19, you should review your fire risk assessment and emergency plan. Make sure you include the night shift in your evaluation. If you have insufficient staffing to support your evacuation strategy, you must seek advice from a qualified and reputable afire risk assessor.

More fire safety tips during lockdown

  • Ensure fire alarm systems and emergency exits are still accessible and that the alarm can be raised in the event of an emergency.
  • Continue with testing and maintenance of all fire safety measures.
  • Avoid propping open fire doors to minimise contact and spread of the virus. Keep fire doors closed, unless provided with a suitable approved hold open device that operates on activation of the fire alarm system.
  • Carry out regular checks to ensure accidental fires are prevented, such as separating ignition sources from combustible items and take necessary precautions for residents who smoke.
  • Stock piling essentials increases fire loading, ensure it does not come into contact with ignition sources and compromise the means of escape.

If you would like more advice or need to arrange online fire safety awareness training for your care home please call 0300 303 3277 or email