Recent fire related disasters, have once again highlighted the need for thorough fire risk assessments, suitable fire safety precautions and procedures to be in place, to avoid loss of human life – as seen in the Grenfell Tower blaze.
Care home owners have legal responsibilities, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, to ensure they have a detailed emergency plan for dealing with any fire situation.
This means carrying out a fire safety risk assessment that incorporates an emergency evacuation plan for all people likely to be on the premises, including disabled people, staff and visitors.
In no circumstances should the evacuation plan rely upon the intervention of the Fire and Rescue Service to make it work.
In a residential care setting, it is likely that there will be people who are unable to escape unaided due to illness, mobility, vision or hearing impairments or the effects of medication. Any resident unable to reach a place of safety unaided should have their own Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) - a tailor made escape plan.
A system of progressive horizontal evacuation may be used to progressively move patients or residents away from the fire, through fire doors into adjoining protected areas. This system of evacuation keeps vulnerable people inside for as long as possible, with evacuation to the open air as a last resort. Provisions for a full evacuation should always be included within fire safety plans – fire behaviour can never be predicted.
Evacuation aids reliant on mains electricity, such as lifts or stair lifts, should not be used in the case of a fire. If the buildings alternative escape route has steps or flights of stairs then it may be necessary to use evacuation aids and specialist evacuation equipment such as an evacuation chair, evacuation mat or evacuation sheet to allow non-ambulant residents to be safely and securely evacuated by designated staff.
When sourcing equipment, it is important to remember, that there is no ‘single piece of equipment for all’ when it comes to the movement of the mobility impaired. Some may have free mobility in the body which allows them to sit securely in an evacuation chair, were as others may need to be moved in a supine position (laying face up). The persons PEEP will identify their individual needs.
Once in place, evacuation aids should be easily identifiable, accessible and ready for immediate use. It is essential for the safe movement of individuals that staff are familiar with the chosen evacuation aids and have received full practical training in it correct use – this should be refreshed and practiced on a regular basis.
There is no ‘hoping for the best’ when it comes fire safety and means of escape. It is paramount that we prepare for the worst, in order to protect human life!