Six steps to avoid a fire safety disaster in your care premises

fire safety services

London Fire Brigade published figures earlier this month that revealed more than half of London’s care homes had failed their safety checks.

Inspections of 177 of the capital’s care homes found that one third have poorly maintained fire doors, fire risk assessments were being carried out by people without the necessary experience and there was widespread confusion regarding evacuation strategies.

Fire risk assessments and evacuation strategies are vital to the safe running of care homes. Not only are they legal must-haves, but they’re essential to keeping your residents, your employees and your care service safe. To help you get to grips with your responsibilities, we’ll talk you through the six steps you need to follow.

1. Appointing responsibility

First things first, you and your assessor should discuss and decide who’s responsible for your overall fire safety.

Ideally, you will be the person who’ll fundamentally implement any recommended actions from the fire risk assessment itself. In some instances, this might be a company or managing agent rather than an individual.

2. Identifying fire hazards

You should take a look at potential sources of ignition, combustible materials and structural features.

Identifying potential sources of ignition includes looking at things like whether smoking is permitted, if hot surfaces are present, or whether there is a risk of static electricity.

The combustible materials and structural features side involves looking into things like:

  • The use of highly flammable materials
  • Sources of stored oxygen
  • Elements that could promote rapid spread of fire, heat or smoke
  • If the building has features that’ve been purpose built for fire protection
  • The overall construction of the building – including consideration of the materials used, and parts of the building that might have been built at a later date.

3. People at risk

Once you’ve identified fire hazards, you should recognise who could be at risk. To do this, you should work your way through questions like:

  • Can all employees react quickly to a fire or an alarm?
  • Is anyone (employees, visitors or contractors) working in a high fire risk area?
  • Could a fire outbreak impact any other occupants, tenants or those in the vicinity?

You’ll then need to create a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan for each resident, which you can find more information on here.

4. Evaluating required fire measures

 There are three elements to this stage: fire detection and warning, means of escape and provision of fire-fighting equipment. Here’s a flavour of what you should go through in each:

Area Procedure
Fire detection and warning
  • Do you have arrangements in place to detect a fire?
  • Will these arrangements provide sufficient early warning?
  • Can everyone easily recognise your evacuation warning signals?
Means of escape
  • Do all your escape routes lead to a place of safety?
  • Are all your fire safety and exit signs clear and easy to understand?
  • Are your escape routes wide enough for the number and type of people using them?
Provision of fire-fighting equipment
  • Are your portable fire extinguishers and fire blankets stored in a suitable place?
  • Have a reasonable number of employees been trained on how to use your fire-fighting equipment?

5. Records, emergency plan and training

When it comes to training and your emergency plans, a sample of the things you need to consider include:

  • Who’ll liaise with the emergency services?
  • Have you got designated and signed evacuation muster and fire assembly points?
  • Are enough people trained and nominated to make sure a roll call is taken in the event of an evacuation?

6. Review, review, review

Fire risk assessments are living documents and should be reviewed either annually or after:

  • Enforcing authorities or your responsible person recommends you do so
  • A serious fire incident – including arson and vandalism
  • There’s been a change of working practices or use of premises
  • There’s been a change of occupancy or tenant activity
  • A change in the type or number of people working within your premises
  • A change in work shift patterns
  • Structural alteration
  • A change in the quantity and type of stored combustible/flammable materials
  • New work equipment or processes are introduced
  • There’s a change in the neighbouring premises and/or their activities that might affect the assessed hazards or risks
  • Last but not least, any other significant or material change to the previous assessment details.

We can help

Here at Citation, we understand the time and resource constraints you face every single day. We hope our support is already making your life easier, but we’re always looking at ways we can further help you.

That’s why one of our competent and qualified fire risk assessors can visit your premises to support you, giving you the security of knowing that 100% of your fire risk assessments are peer-audited by our internal team for quality assurance.

For more information on our Health & Safety Support or Fire Risk Assessment service please fill out the form to get in touch.

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