Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
February 12, 2015

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Sector Spotlight: Fire Safety in Care Homes

care home 2Housing vulnerable residents the care home sector is one which the fire-safety industry pays close attention to.

Residents are invariably frail and can only evacuate very slowly.

All the more important, then, for fire doors to be manufactured and fitted properly, fire exits to be kept clear, risk-assessments to be conducted by appropriately qualified professionals and all other fire-safety best practice followed rigorously (not that the aforementioned is anything less than essential in any sector!).

The Rosepark care home tragedy of 2004, in which 14 elderly residents lost their lives, attests to the sector’s particular challenges.

“If you think about it from a risk-profiling point of view, these are places where the most vulnerable live so you have to make sure they’re OK,” says Nick Coombe, who provides fire-safety management support, audit and performance at the London Fire Brigade. “We work with the CQC [Care Quality Commission] to make sure they’re aware of any issues we find.”

Dave Sibert, an IRMP advisor at the Fire Brigades’ Union, has two recommendations for care-home owners:

“If you are opening a new care home, install a life safety sprinkler system,” he says.

Not that having sprinklers is some sort of panacea that permits complacency.

“Without or without sprinklers, if you already have a care home, carry out fire drills twice a year. The residents’ safety comes first, but make fire drills as realistic for the staff as possible and learn lessons so that every fire drill goes better than the last one.”

Even someone complacent about the risk of fire might consider how poor fire-safety management reflects on wider competence, if Coombe’s comments are accurate.

“We’re looking at the management of fire risk and it’s proven that if they’re poorly managing their fire risk then they might be poorly managing some of their other services. So we share data with the CQC about where we’ve found poor management.”

He believes there are lessons to learn from elsewhere in the UK.

“The other thing we’re looking at is lobbying. Northern Ireland’s version of the CQC has made it a requirement that if you do a fire-risk assessment for a care home then you must be registered with one of the approved groups as part of their licensing.

“That’s something we would like to push in England and Wales because this would ensure you get a competent  fire-risk assessor – this is a bit like a third-party accreditation.”

 

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4 Comments on "Sector Spotlight: Fire Safety in Care Homes"

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Shelley452
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I totally agree with fire risk assessors being registered by one of the approved groups but another area of concern which I feel is totally overlooked is Fire Safety training for care staff.  Does anyone ever check on the standards of the training being delivered? With more and more care staff being trained by way of e-learning with no practical training in evacuation equipment, extinguishers etc how can staff ever be fully expected to understand the complexity of a live fire situation involving vulnerable people who may have to evacuated to a place of relevant safety within the building.

trv8mike
Guest
Several important improvements in care home practice arose following Rose Park. UK wide, new homes over 10 beds should have a fully addressable fire alarm and no delay should be made in calling 999. I believe it is also very widespread in Scotland for residents’ room door to have a ‘free swing’ door closer. This makes day to day use of the doors easy and should ensure all fire doors do fully close in that future fire incident. This should become compulsory just on a frailty issue alone. Only more jail terms and painful fines will discourage the cowboy assessor,… Read more »
KentClark1
Guest

I think that it is important to practice fire safety no matter what living situation you are in. If you are elderly, you want to have a really great plan. It takes a little longer for people of my generation to get around. If we have a plan, we should be safe. http://www.fireprotectionspecialist.com.au/services

shenoiekaant
Guest

Thanks for this wonderful blog! Many home residents are going with modern techy home and fire safety systems. http://www.firecabinetsdirect.ie/