Getting fire safety right in your care home is essential. A recent news report revealed that more than half of care homes in a London Fire Brigade audit failed a safety inspection. How can we be leaving vulnerable elderly people in such precarious situations?
This fire at a care home is one of many stories reported in the first quarter of 2019. It teaches us that fire can break out when we least expect it. We hardly need reminding that just the shock of experiencing fire, even without physical harm, can have devastating consequences for an elderly person.
In this blog, we review fire safety in care homes. We’ll look at alarm systems and discuss what options are available. We’ll also review other technology which many care homes benefit from including nurse call and assistance systems.
It pays to get fire safety right
Residents and their families may want to know more about your fire safety protocol before moving in to your care home. Safety is usually a top priority and it will be reassuring for families to see that you take this seriously.
In the event of fire, you must demonstrate that all residents can evacuate safely and as quickly as possible. If this happened to you today, could you honestly say that you’re fully prepared?
Don’t leave it until a disaster happens to make necessary changes. Think of the devastation caused by Grenfell. Regrets were expressed and apologies were made after the event. By then, many people had lost their lives. Don’t let this be you and your business.
Who takes charge of fire safety in my care home?
When new legislation was introduced in 2005/6 – the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005– the rules about who was responsible changed. Since 2006, it’s the law that one person has designated responsibility for fire safety. They are known as the ‘responsible person’. In your care home, it may be the owner or a senior member of staff such as a facilities manager.
If you are the responsible person, it’s imperative that you understand your duties and carry them out to the letter of the law. Ignoring them isn’t an option; you could find yourself behind bars in the event of a fire.
We don’t want to scare or intimidate anyone. It’s not difficult to get this right but some people try to cut corners and save money. It just isn’t worth it in the long run. If you work with a third-party fire safety supplier, you are pretty much guaranteed to get everything right.
The two biggest priorities are:
If you haven’t one already, arrange to have a fire risk assessment. We recommend you keep it updated every 12 months, so if you have an old one, have it reviewed.
Install a fire alarm which is suitable for your premises. In all but the smallest of care homes, you’ll need an automatic detection system which has the highest possible life cover available. This is known in the industry as an ‘L1’ alarm.
There are so many alarm systems to choose from… Help!
Don’t panic. Although there is a huge variety of alarms on the market, once you know roughly what type you need, the choice becomes easier. What’s more, your fire risk assessment will identify any risks on your premises which may need special attention.
There are three main types:
1) Conventional – Ideal for small or low-risk environments. The building is divided into zones and in the event of a fire, the control panel which show which zone the fire is in. But it doesn’t show exactly where the fire started. And the control panel is limited to a maximum of 12 zones which is usually only enough for smaller premises.
Generally speaking, care home environments, unless small, aren’t suitable for conventional alarms.
2) Addressable – An addressable alarm offers a more accurate way to pinpoint the original site of a fire. All the smoke/heat detectors, sounders and call points are connected via a loop to the control panel. If a fire breaks out, you can identify which piece of equipment triggered the alarm and its location.
Even better, a more accurate system reduces false alarms. Addressable systems can filter out false alarms; conventional systems cannot do this. It’s important that you check your system is configured for filtering to avoid unwanted charges from the emergency services.
3) Wireless – Similar to an addressable alarm but without wires! However, this built-in benefit increases the price tag and is probably an unnecessary extra for a care home.
Nurse call systems for care homes (and other clever technology)
There’s no need for your residents to ever feel vulnerable again. Our range of assistive technology helps you protect your residents in any emergency, including fire-related incidents. Most importantly, they provide peace of mind to your staff and dignity to your residents.
In a care home this support tech is invaluable to staff, helping them keep residents safe around the clock. The Equality Act 2010 (which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) makes it unlawful for you to treat someone differently because of a disability. So, we’ve made sure that all our equipment complies with current legislation, ensuring you and your residents are protected.
All our technology is designed and installed to current British safety standards. What’s more, we focus heavily on integration so all your systems ‘talk’ to each other.
If fire breaks out, a refuge system helps you to cover every eventuality. Our services include:
Planning assistance: for example, you’ll need to designate a safe area which is suitable for disabled and immobile people. In an emergency, your evacuation procedures will direct them to wait there until the fire brigade arrive.
Alarm systems to accurately identify the location of an alarm call.
Two-way communication systems keep you in control, and in touch, at all times.
Assistance systems, also known as nurse-call systems, can be life-savers during a fire but are also ideal for other situations. You can choose from pull-cord systems or wireless signallers which raise the alarm from any location in your care home.
Often used in bathrooms, they are easy for residents to operate. And our systems have simple reset units so false alarms don’t turn into a headache. You can also link your assistance system to your fire and burglar alarms.
For hearing impaired residents, induction loops really are clever technology. By reducing background noise and transmitting amplified sounds, they help the wearer hear more clearly.
This simple device removes so many social barriers for those with hearing impairments.
Third party accreditation is worth checking out
Deciding who to trust with your fire safety can feel like a complicated next step. How can you be sure you’ve chosen someone appropriately qualified?
Third-party accreditation takes the heat out of the decision. Organisations like BAFE have years of experience in vetting fire safety companies. So, whenever you see their quality mark, you can be sure that’s just what you’re getting. Quality.
Contact us today to find out more. We’d love to help.