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Can your arrangements cope?

With the vulnerability of persons in care, be it the infirm, elderly or persons requiring supported living the fire evacuation procedures are paramount.

We have put together some evacuation advice for Care Homes. There are three main evacuation strategies that are implemented as part of the emergency procedures for care homes;

  • Simultaneous Evacuation

This strategy is appropriate for many types of care home, normally small premises where residents can escape quickly and immediately to a place of total safety in open air and where it may be expected that all people inside are able to (and will) evacuate quickly to outside the building to a place of total safety. This strategy may also be appropriate in more complex premises for visitors, wakeful mobile residents in day rooms and ancillary staff not required to assist with evacuation of other residents.

  • Horizontal / Progressive Evacuation where staff evacuate residents behind fire compartments away from the fire.

These are areas separated from each other on the same level by walls and doors that provide at least 30 minutes of fire resistance. If a fire occurs, residents can be moved away from the affected area to the adjoining protected area. The occupants may remain there until the fire is dealt with or await further evacuation to another similar adjoining area or down a protected route to total safety.

  • Delayed evacuation (Occupant(s) remain in their fire protected room(s) or refuges until the danger has passed or until they can be taken to a place of total safety)

Exceptionally, in some situations it may not be desirable or practical to evacuate some residents immediately (e.g. because of medical conditions or treatments). In these circumstances, it may be appropriate to allow them to remain in their rooms whilst the fire is dealt with and the danger has passed, or to allow for the additional time necessary to prepare them for evacuation. In such circumstances, it will be necessary to provide enhanced levels of structural fire protection to the individual room(s). However, where this strategy has been adopted; a suitable evacuation plan will still be required.

Whichever system of evacuation you use must be supported by suitable management arrangements. It is essential that your evacuation strategy is fully detailed in your emergency plan and included in your staff training programme. For these to work effectively it is important that certain points are addressed;

  1. Are there adequate numbers of staff available to implement the emergency plan?

This includes overnight staff either waking night or sleep in. It is often the case, that staff levels are greatly reduced overnight, which would have a significant effect on how the evacuation would be conducted.

  1. Where are the most vulnerable residents located in the premises?

In my experience as a fire risk assessor, I have come across serious failings where persons with limited mobility are located on the first floor or above. This particular home was a converted building with limited compartmentation and without a fire fighting protected lift. The procedure was for persons to be rescued by the fire service!

You should not depend upon the fire and rescue service to evacuate people; your escape strategy must be dependant only on the factors that are within your own control. However, you should consult with your enforcing authority when determining and planning an appropriate and effective evacuation strategy for your premises.

3.   In the event of the building becoming untenable is a contingency plan in place?

This can be achieved by neighbouring care homes being part of a scheme to evacuate to as a temporary refuge whilst plans are made for ongoing care.

It is important to regularly review your fire risk assessment and emergency plan and to ensure all staff remains vigilant to prevent fire in this type of environment.

If you would like to discuss evacuation for your care home, please contact us on 08000 234 114 or email us at enquiries@firesafetyservices.co.uk

Andrew Ferguson

Fire Safety Compliance Manager

Andrew is a professional life safety commercial fire risk assessor with 30 years’ experience. He is responsible for client fire risk assessments, fire safety training, consultancy and legal compliance.

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