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November 17, 2022


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How care homes can benefit from wireless fire safety technology

Protecting vulnerable residents from fire is a key aspect for any care home to consider – just last month a home in Warrington was fined £60,000 for ‘serious breaches’ of fire safety regulations, underlining the importance in getting measures right. Tom Crane, International Director at Hyfire, explains how wireless fire devices and solutions can improve the safety of care homes, residents and their staff.

Tom Crane, International Director at Hyfire

With the introduction of the Fire Safety Act 2021 (FSA) and the Building Safety Act 2022, most of the focus is on domestic homes, so it’s easy to overlook the problems faced by those in charge of fire prevention, safety and evacuation for care homes. These are subject to many of the same challenges as mainstream domestic units, with the added complications of ill-health and limited mobility among the residents, as well as the COVID-19 crisis.

Such buildings can be a major headache for fire installers and building managers, although many issues can be overcome by using wireless fire devices.

In any care home environment, the installation and upgrade of fire systems can be complex, but the process can cause even more upheaval when residents are in place. Traditionally, this type of work was done alongside wider refurbishment projects such as rewiring and redecoration, but with rapidly evolving regulations in the post-Grenfell world, it’s not always possible to wait for such an opportunity.

Whereas traditional wired fire systems are highly complex to install, however, involving long run cable loops and all the upheaval that their installation creates, a wireless device can be pre-programmed offsite and installed in minutes, with almost zero impact on the building’s fabric.

With COVID-19, installers working in care homes faced further challenges as it became necessary to limit close contact with residents and staff even further, but even the pandemic has not freed care homeowners and operators from their obligations to meet the latest fire regulations.

Once again, wireless technology is the obvious solution, allowing installations and upgrades to proceed with minimal time on site. Teams will also spend most of their time fitting wired components in non-public service areas and voids, while patient areas receive wireless devices.

Effective fire systems viral in care home environments

There are, on average, over 1,800 fires in UK care homes every year, the vast majority of which are contained and extinguished before they cause widespread damage or harm to residents and staff. Over 62% of these relate to kitchens or domestic appliances, with 13% attributed to smoking by residents.

Care homes are not only hard to evacuate, they are also more prone to fire risks than many other building types. With complex electrical networks, older and untested electrical items owned by residents, and large open spaces for day rooms and communal areas, there is always a chance of fire incidents occurring, no matter how vigilant the staff may be, and the buildings can benefit greatly from the latest fire technology.


As with all multi-occupier residential buildings, care homes are subject to fire risk assessments covering fire hazards, risks to building users, measures adopted to mitigate risk, actions to be taken in the event of a fire, and training requirements for staff. In 2019, 57% of care homes inspected by the London Fire Brigade failed basic fire risk assessments and a survey for Safety & Health Practitioner (IFSEC Global’s sister title) claimed that 56% of care home workers had flagged up fire safety concerns, many of which were not acted upon.

Unlike care home buildings, which are covered by an NHS-specific supplement to the BS5839 Part 1 standard governing the design and installation of fire alarm systems, care homes are primarily subject to mainstream legislation, focused on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The Care Home Regulations Act 2001 also makes provision for safeguarding vulnerable residents, who will often need special attention and care during fire emergencies.

The primary role of the fire system is to inform staff so that they can call the Fire Service and take a judgement call on whether there is a need for immediate evacuation of any residents, only activating sounders and strobe light alerts as a last resort in order to avoid panic and other risks, such as the causation of epileptic fits.

Care home owners and operators need to appoint a Responsible Person for each premises, who will nominate at least one fire warden for every 50 residents and occupiers of the building, which would include staff. The RP will also be responsible for the training of care home staff, and the organisation of regular fire drills to practice evacuation procedures; all drills must be recorded, as should any equipment testing.

Overcoming installation challenges

Whereas most of the UK’s current care home buildings were built in the 1960s or later, with allowance made for cable runs and other infrastructure, there are still many buildings dating back to Victorian times.

Also, while other regulations, such as the DDA, have made some older homes unsuitable for care home use, many more modern care homes still have an extended period property at their core. This makes them inherently unsuited to modern wired fire systems, which often need to be placed along the walls of corridors if attics, false ceilings or other voids are unavailable. These cables are not only unsightly, they are also complex to install, hard to replace when life-expired and can be dust traps.

In any care home environment, the advantages offered by wireless fire devices are clear, with up to 90% less cabling, minimal intrusion in the building’s fabric and far less disruption to the daily working of the facility. In fact, once the system has been specified by expert teams, with digital technology used to pinpoint the optimum position for each device, each individual device can be programmed offsite and installed in minutes, minimising inconvenience and time spent on site. This saves not only time and disruption, but also costs, both for the installation of the system itself and for making good afterwards.

A niche product that has become a mainstream solution

Wireless fire devices have come a long way since their introduction in the early-2000s, moving from a niche product to a mainstream, everyday solution that can often cost less than the wired alternatives, once installation costs and making good are taken into consideration. For UK care homes, under intense pressure to deliver fire improvements without compromising on patient care, and anxious to avoid further delays to already overstretched waiting lists, they are an ideal solution.

The truth is that modern wireless devices, such as those manufactured by Hyfire, are the equal of their wired competitors in every way, and can often exceed them in capabilities and performance. Historical concerns, such as battery life, are now a thing of the past, with batteries lasting up to 10 years on the latest products and, when faced with the triple whammy of post-Grenfell regulation, the need to minimise disruption to residents and the COVID-19 pandemic, wireless is looking more and more like the first choice for care home managers and fire installers in the sector.


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