Your Guide To Fire Safety In Care Homes
Posted: 07/12/2023
7 minute read
Fire safety in care homes
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Your Guide To Fire Safety In Care Homes

The primary priority for any care home, whether for the elderly or vulnerable adults, is to keep residents safe. One major aspect of safety for care homes is fire safety.

Did you know that there were 276 fire-related fatalities in England last year? This is an increase from 249 fatalities in 2021. Clearly, fire safety needs to be taken more seriously in all buildings.

Fires can spread rapidly in buildings, damaging the structure itself but, more importantly, putting the health and safety of residents at risk. Whether it’s the flames themselves or smoke inhalation, a fire poses so many dangers, which is why this month at Surrey Tech Services Ltd, we’re giving you our ultimate guide to fire safety in care homes.

We’re going to run through different procedures and regulations, along with details on fire alarms and fire risk assessments in relation to care homes, helping you to protect the lives of society’s most vulnerable.

Fire safety in care homes

Fire safety procedures in care homes

Care homes are unique in that the residents may have a variety of physical or mental impairments to factor into safety procedures. When it comes to fire safety procedures in care homes, the priority is to minimise the risk of fire and ensure all residents can be evacuated safely and swiftly.

Five of the key procedures that should be included for all care homes as a minimum are:

Fire risk assessments

We’ll go into more detail later in this article, but they are a crucial review of your current prevention measures and will identify any shortcomings where you can improve.

Fire alarm systems

Much like any other building, the right fire alarm system needs to be in place (more on this later) and in full working order, but care homes also need to consider the volume of the alarm and any audio or visual impairments to ensure everyone gets this vital early warning.

Fire extinguishers

Putting the right fire extinguishers in place to meet the associated fire class is vital, as small fires can be suppressed before they have a chance to spread. These should also be well maintained to ensure they’re always ready for use.

Fire doors

Providing resistance in the event of a fire, fire doors help to contain the spread of a fire, protecting vital escape routes and giving staff enough time to evacuate all residents safely before the emergency services arrive.

Staff training

Fire safety training for those working in care homes is paramount as it gives them the skills to react calmly in an emergency. From the use of extinguishers to how to evacuate different residents, training helps prepare staff for any event, thereby saving lives.

Fire safety regulations in care homes

Fire safety regulations in care homes

Fire safety regulations will be in place for almost all buildings, but given the vulnerability of residents living in care homes, these institutions come with additional regulations to cover all aspects of fire safety. 

The following are the two main fire safety regulations for care homes to familiarise yourself with:

  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – This places the responsibility on the care provider to reduce fire safety risks, arrange staff training, appoint a responsible person (usually the manager) and ensure adequate detection and protection infrastructure is put in place.
  • The Health and Social Care Act (2008) – Replacing the Care Home Regulations Act (2001), this placed the Care Quality Commission as an independent regulator in England. Care providers are legally required to assess the risks to residents and “prevent avoidable harm or risk of harm”, doing everything to mitigate risk concerning everything from the premises themselves to staff training, along with contingencies for emergencies, such as fires.


What to do when the fire alarm sounds in a care home

Leaving the care home in the quickest possible manner is the goal for staff and residents when a fire alarm sounds. However, two different methods can be applied depending on the care home layout, the needs of the residents and the location of the fire:

  1. Simultaneous evacuation. This is the approach most buildings take in the event of a fire alarm sounding, with all people in the building immediately exiting calmly via the nearest exit or evacuation route. Staff may need to ensure specific residents are checked on if they have visual or auditory impairments as they could be unaware of the alarm sounding.
  2. Horizontal evacuation. Where there are multiple different mobility and impairment considerations for residents in a care home, the horizontal approach might be applied. This is where residents are grouped and moved, room by room, to keep ahead of any fire and to allow staff to gather and coordinate all residents. This is a useful tactic to help any residents who cannot evacuate without assistance and support.


What type of fire alarm system must be fitted in a care home?

To better protect residents and staff, care homes should be fitted with an L1 fire alarm system. 

This category includes automatic detection within all rooms in a building, and sometimes larger store cupboards, giving as much time as possible for staff and vulnerable residents to be evacuated. Manual call points will also be included to allow for the alarm to be raised, while a control panel can help emergency services identify in which areas of the building the alarm has been triggered to respond to the right zone.


How often does a fire alarm need to be tested in a care home?

How often does a fire alarm need to be tested?

The testing of a care home fire alarm should be carried out weekly by a responsible person to ensure all elements of the system are functioning properly. If there are any defects or issues, you should immediately get a professional technician to come and service the alarm.

In addition to this, you should have your fire alarm tested and serviced regularly by a qualified professional in order to comply with the law, which states that appropriate fire detection should be maintained. We recommend a schedule of fire alarm maintenance with us for at least one appointment every six months where we can carry out a range of checks and repair any equipment.


Fire risk assessments for care homes

A fire risk assessment is a vital tool in fire safety, as it helps to determine how likely a fire is in your care home and what you need to do to minimise that risk. There are five aspects to a fire risk assessment overall, and they are as follows:

  1. Identification of the hazards – This can include sources of ignition, fuel and oxygen (the latter of which might be in the form of canisters in a care home)
  2. Identification of the people at risk – This includes any physical or mental impairments for residents and staff.
  3. Evaluation, removal, reduction and protection – This is where action can be taken to minimise the risk of a fire (removing fire hazards), as well as steps to make a building safer when it comes to evacuation (emergency lighting and signage).
  4. Recording, planning, instructing and training – The action you take should be recorded, while any staff training and emergency planning should be carried out at this point.
  5. Review – Once complete, you should set a review date for your risk assessment or revise it if anything changes concerning the risks, vulnerable people or use of your care home.


Surrey Tech Services offers a range of fire safety services for care homes

Here at Surrey Tech Services Ltd, we provide a full range of fire safety services for care homes in London and the Home Counties in the UK – including in Maidenhead, Slough and Guildford. Whether you need a fire risk assessment for your care home, a new fire alarm or new fire doors, we’re here to help. Our technicians are trained and qualified, ensuring you get professional assistance for protecting the vulnerable residents and your staff.

Call us today and speak to our friendly team about any of the fire safety services you need for your care home.

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