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How to keep your care home safe from fire

How to keep your care home safe from fire

There are now more people in the UK over the age of 60 than there are under 18. With an ever-growing ageing population, fire safety for older people has never been more important.

In a 2014/15 government report, it was found that 41% of all fatalities from fires in England were people aged 65 and over. This makes the elderly 10 times more likely to die in a fire than younger people.

There are many factors which contribute to older people being at greater risk from fire. As we age, our senses can start to deteriorate, which can affect awareness if there’s a fire. If your hearing is affected, you may not hear the alarm. If your sense of smell is impaired, smoke can go unnoticed.

Some of the most vulnerable people can have a slower reaction time to events such as a fire. Conditions such as dementia will cause confusion and forgetfulness, leading to ovens not being turned off, or cigarettes not being properly extinguished.

Impaired movement will hinder escape, and for someone who is bedridden, evacuation is difficult.

What does the law say?

Care home owners and managers need to be aware of the Fire Safety Order (FSO); the current law in England and Wales. The FSO nominates one individual as the ‘Responsible Person’ for a building — generally deemed to be the owner, occupier or employer. The ‘Responsible Person’ has a duty to fulfil the requirements of the FSO.

Those requirements all stem from having a suitable fire risk assessment. The care home manager will need to prove that they have reduced fire risk as far as is reasonably practical and show that they have taken precautions to protect residents and employees.

Click here for the Fireco guide to fire risk assessments.

Staff training

Providing adequate training to care home staff on how to identify and report fire risks will give the owner or manager the power to reduce and remove those risks. Training should start as part of an induction, with regular updates from then on.

Top tips

  • Ensure that the fire risk assessment is kept as a live document and regularly updated.
  • Regular checks of the building need to be made, e.g. that fire doors are still closing properly and evacuation routes are clear of obstacles.
  • Spread out fire training throughout the year and keep an online diary of fire safety training with a sign-off for employees.
  • Make sure that everyone who comes into contact with the building is also trained in fire risks including agency staff, builders, cleaners and gardeners. They also need to understand the importance of keeping a fire door closed and not wedged open.

Evacuation strategy

There should be a personal emergency evacuation plan (PEEP) in place for each individual resident, detailing their needs and requirements. It can be useful to set the fire alarm off and record each resident’s response and reaction to it. In some cases, a loud continuous noise can provoke unexpected reactions including violent outbursts or even seizures. All staff should have access to, and be made aware of, these PEEPs.

Silent evacuation strategies can be very useful in a care setting. Click here to find out more.

Employees also need to have faith that fire doors will actually resist fire for 30 minutes. In the event of a fire, they will have the hard task of going around and informing the residents. Faith in the doors can help instil a sense of calm.

Common fire hazards in care homes

In general, care homes for the elderly are at greater risk of fire. In September 2015, the London Fire Brigade stated that it was dealing with over 10 fires a week in care homes and sheltered accommodation alone. One of the main hazards they found was fire doors wedged open.

Doors are one of the most important fire safety features in a building and also, sadly, the most commonly abused. Research carried out by Fireco found that 64% of premises visited by the fire service had fire doors wedged open. A practice that can prove devastating as the case of the Rosepark Nursing Home in South Lanarkshire showed.

A fire broke out at Rosepark in a cupboard in 2004 and ripped through the building. The Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) conclusion for this case listed a catalogue of precautions that could have prevented the fire becoming so destructive.

One of these precautions was for all bedroom doors to have door closers and smoke seals fitted. Simply put, the loss of life would have been significantly reduced had the bedroom doors been closed. The Fireco product Dorgard was actually quoted in the trial as a solution.

Wedging open a fire door is a serious risk to people and buildings, as it allows fire and smoke to spread. With this in mind, the importance of fire doors becomes clear. But they can be heavy. They cause injuries for the less able-bodied and trap people in their rooms. They can make it difficult to move around. Fire doors can be obstructive, so it’s easy to see why people wedge them open.

Installing a free-swing door closer, such as Freedor, on each bedroom door will allow care home residents to safely keep their bedroom doors open, but the door will automatically shut when the fire alarm sounds. Freedor also takes all weight out of the door, meaning it can be opened with minimal effort.

Reducing the risk

Care homes represent one of the most high-risk establishments when it comes to fire safety. The strategies for these buildings are therefore more complex than others.

What simple checks can you make? Making sure exits are clear, fire doors aren’t wedged open, and evacuation plans and risk assessments are up to date. These help provide a safer environment — one that can save lives.

What other things can you look out for?

Housekeeping

Everyday products can turn into lethal materials if they come into contact with the heat of a fire, so something as simple as keeping areas tidy can help reduce that risk and keep people safe.

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Cigarettes

Just simply dropping a cigarette can prove fatal, as seen at the blaze at a Brentford care home last year. Use smoking risk assessments for all smokers.

Wedging open fire doors

There are more beneficial uses for a fire extinguisher and a door stop isn’t one of them! Fire is fast, and in seconds this wedged open fire door will allow a fire to spread rapidly through the building.

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Fireco makes compliance easy with simple solutions for difficult fire safety problems; making care homes safer, more accessible and ensuring compliance is one less thing to worry about.

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How to keep your care home safe from fire

There are now more people in the UK over the age of 60 than there are under 18. With an ever-growing ageing population, fire safety for older people has never been more important.

How to solve five common fire door problems

Closed fire doors save lives. They prevent fire spreading through a building, which gives people more time to evacuate. But closed fire doors also hugely hinder access throughout a building.

Silent evacuation of a care home

Evacuating a care home has its own unique challenges. Elderly residents could be bedbound, suffering from dementia, hard of hearing, or unable to move without assistance. Added to this is the distress that a loud fire alarm can cause to vulnerable residents.

School fires — reducing the risks

School fires — reducing the risks

Schools are a high risk group when it comes to fire. As schools are unoccupied for long periods of time, arson attacks are not uncommon and accidental fires can get out of control if measures aren’t in place.

There are countless ways a fire can start, but for schools, arson is unfortunately quite common.

Arson is the act of intentionally setting fire to buildings, areas, vehicles or any other type of property. Nearly half of fires in schools during school time are started deliberately and with any fire, the effects can be devastating.

There were 68,400 deliberate fires in total in 2014 and it accounted for 44% of the fires that the fire service attended.

South Yorkshire Fire Services suggested that schools install sprinkler systems after 50 school fires broke out in the area in just over two years. The main cause of these was arson.

How do children injure themselves?

Children have a natural tendency to be inquisitive. They like to explore and experience new sights and sounds and at times this can lead to clumsy accidents.

You name it, they’ll do it — walking into tables, opening cupboards and pulling everything out, climbing onto everything and putting everything they can find in their mouths.

One little mistake however, like burning a splint on the bunsen burner that little bit too long or falling off a chair, can lead to something more dangerous. With fire being one of the main health and safety risks, here are some safety statistics that might surprise you

  • In 2013/14, there were around 1,000 fires in schools
  • 50,000 children under the age of 14 go to A&E because of burns or scalds
  • Trips and falls are the most common — making up 40% of reported injuries
  • About 1,700 children are injured in climbing frame accidents each year
  • More accidents happen in school grounds than on school trips
  • Boys are more likely to be injured than girls — sorry lads!
  • 3,000 injuries a year are caused by tripping over toys left on the floor
  • Accidents are more likely to occur during break and PE — any reason to get out of PE, eh!

One of parents’ (many!) concerns about their children at school is what happens if a fire breaks out.

The damaging effect of fire

On the morning of Sunday 21st August 2016, there were over 60 calls to 999 as fire broke out on the roof of the Selsey Academy near Chichester.  

An eyewitness who lives near the school said there were “plumes and plumes of black smoke towering above the house, rather like an apocalypse”.

Firefighters drove through miles of dense, black smoke as they rushed to the scene. Up to 100 firefighters tackled the fire, which is thought to have started at around 8am, bringing it under control in the late afternoon. The school suffered extensive damage, leaving it in ruins.

While the school begins the long and expensive task of rebuilding, the pupils are starting the year in temporary classrooms.

What happens if fire safety is ignored?

Hekmat Kaveh, the owner of one of Britain’s top independent schools has been ordered to pay nearly £50,000 for risking pupils’ lives by having inadequate fire safety measures.

Kaveh, who owns and manages Abbey College in Malvern, Worcestershire, admitted 15 fire safety breaches when he appeared in court. He was fined £24,000 for the offences and ordered to pay £25,000 court costs.

Worcester Crown Court heard that the school allowed children to sleep in boarding houses which had faulty smoke alarms and non-functional fire doors.

Judge Michael Cullum commented that Kaveh’s fire risk assessment was “woefully inadequate” and that he had “both a moral and legal responsibility for the staff and children. The consequences of a fire would have been disastrous”.

Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service brought the prosecution against Kaveh after inspectors visited the school in March 2011. Kaveh told the court: “Clearly, I was let down by those people employed and instructed to review the fire assessment at the start of the year, but the law is clear in that the employer is the responsible person and for that reason I had no option but to plead guilty.

“The college now meets all regulatory requirements. Obviously the fire assessments were reviewed when I was made aware of this by external contractors.”

Following sentencing, deputy chief officer Richard Lawrence said: “This was an extremely serious case where those living and sleeping inside the premises were being put at risk.

“Business owners have a clear responsibility to ensure that both the public and their employees are as safe as possible from the risk of fire.

“This verdict sends out a clear message: in severe cases where responsibilities are ignored, we will prosecute, as it is never acceptable to put lives at risk.”

These are some very simple measures to make sure your school is safer in the face of a fire. However, it’s often simple measures which can make the difference between saving a life and losing one. Here are things you can actively do to prevent risks to the lives of others and property by ensuring the following:

  • Fire doors are in good working order
  • Evacuation plans are up to date
  • Means of escape routes not blocked and kept clear
  • Fire doors not wedged open

Without an organised and efficient evacuation plan, situations like this might occur!

 

Photo source. Source. Campsmount Technology College, Campsall, after the fire. Photo by Chris Lawton

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School fires — reducing the risks

When it comes to fire, schools are high risk. Arson attacks are not uncommon as schools are unoccupied for long periods of time and accidental fires can get out of control if fire safety measures are inadequate.

How to solve five common fire door problems

Closed fire doors save lives. They prevent fire spreading through a building, which gives people more time to evacuate. But closed fire doors also hugely hinder access throughout a building.

Go SmartSound — trade in your Dorgards

Go SmartSound — trade in your Dorgards

Upgrade your old Dorgards for our brand new product Dorgard SmartSound and receive £20 off each new unit.

Dorgard SmartSound™ is the latest addition to the Fireco product range. Keep your fire doors open legally, safe in the knowledge that Dorgard SmartSound will automatically enable them to close if a fire alarm sounds.

Vacuum cleaner friendly — New SmartSound technology means Dorgard SmartSound is not triggered by the sound of a vacuum cleaner.

Fit and forget SmartSound technology means there’s no need to waste time training your Dorgard SmartSound to learn the sound of your alarm. It works right out of the box without any complicated programming.

Carpet friendly — Anti-drag technology means that Dorgard SmartSound won’t damage your carpets. If someone tries to pull the door, the unit’s plunger will automatically release, and not drag along the carpet.

Three-year battery life Dorgard SmartSound has a three-year battery life for added peace of mind.

Suitable for heavy doors — No more struggling with heavy fire doors. Dorgard SmartSound can be fitted to heavy doors, which is great for improving access throughout a building.

Once your new SmartSounds are installed, send us your old Dorgards to get your discount.

We can even collect them for you, contact us to find out more.

 

 

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Closed fire doors save lives. They prevent fire spreading through a building, which gives people more time to evacuate. But closed fire doors also hugely hinder access throughout a building.

Are fire doors and access a contradiction?

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The SIMPLE guide to workplace fire safety

The SIMPLE guide to workplace fire safety

Every workplace is different with its own unique fire safety needs. It’s important that all premises have an ongoing fire risk assessment document to identify any dangers and keep people safe. Here’s a few general tips that can anyone can use to get started. It’s SIMPLE!

  1. Store stock safely: so keep corridors, stairs and exits clear to aid easier evacuation. The last thing you need is an obstacle course on your way to safety!

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  1. Identify alarm points: make sure everyone knows where the fire alarm points are, so if necessary, people can raise the alarm quickly.

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  1. Make sure doors are closed to stop fires from spreading: the picture below shows an unfortunately common occurrence, a fire door being wedged open. Wedging a fire door will allow a fire to spread relentlessly throughout the building, damaging property and putting lives at risk.

 

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  1. Place things that catch fire away from things that cause fire: things you use every day can turn into deadly materials when they come into contact with flames, so something as simple as keeping flammable items stored safely can reduce the risk and keep staff and visitors safe

 

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  1. Let someone know if you spot fire safety problems: do you or your colleagues know who to speak to when you spot a fire hazard? Are you the responsible person? Speaking to the responsible person or an expert about any potential risk you see could save lives.

 

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  1. Ensure everyone knows what to do if a fire alarm sounds: do your staff know where to go when the fire alarm sounds? Down the pub? Run for their lives? Making sure that everyone knows what to do when the alarm sounds can save lives in a real fire situation.

 

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All businesses must ensure they have an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment. Click here to find out more.

 

Fire warden duty

Every workplace needs fire wardens. If you’re the chosen one, it’s possible you may be feeling like this:

 

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or even

 

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Fire Wardens play a vital role in a company’s fire emergency plan. They make sure that everyone is prepared should an emergency situation occur.

If a fire alarm sounds, fire wardens:

  • Direct everyone to leave the building by using the nearest and most appropriate exits
  • Make sure exit doors are clear of obstructions
  • Check all areas to ensure everyone has evacuated
  • Close all doors behind them to contain any fire and smoke
  • Guide everyone to the assembly point and check that everyone has arrived safely.

It’s a big responsibility and it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed. Practice evacuations may not always go to plan.

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We understand how you feel! However, with communication with the Responsible Person and the right measures in place, a fire drill can go from #wheresjoyce to a smooth running and safe evacuation.

For more detailed information, click here for government guidance on fire safety in the workplace.

What happens if there’s a fire?

The alarm sounds. A fire has broken out. Do you know what to do?

 

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Not the best advice!

It only takes two lungfuls of smoke to kill you, so it’s vital to have an evacuation plan in place

Fire spreads fast; so there is not much time to think about your next action.

So what can you do?

  • Act quickly. Alert everyone, get together and take your planned route out
  • Don’t waste time saving valuables
  • Test to see if a door is warm with the back of your hand before opening, fire may be on the other side
  • Don’t investigate the fire unless trained to do so
  • If there’s smoke, keep as low as possible
  • Close any open doors behind you
  • If you’re trapped in a fire, get behind a fire door and block the bottom of the door with a towel, sheets or clothing to prevent smoke getting through.
  • Call 999
  • Don’t go back into the building.

There are lots ways to provide a safer environment at work. Common sense and easily accessible information are vital. Make sure there’s an evacuation plan in place, and undertake regular fire drills to ensure everyone knows what to do when the alarm sounds.

 

fireco helps with fire safety

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Fire Door Safety Week

Fire Door Safety Week

Fire Door Safety Week is a time when the fire industry works to raise awareness of the critical role fire doors play in keeping people safe. The campaign aims to educate the public about the regulations around fire doors and fire safety.

This year’s main focus was fire doors in high rise buildings, houses of multiple occupancy and other types of shared accommodation. Fire Door Safety Week campaigners are renewing their call for a publicly available national register of Responsible Persons for fire safety in rented accommodation.

Hannah Mansell, spokesperson for Fire Door Safety Week, said:

“When we start digging, the identity of the Responsible Person is often a mystery. Our research shows that tenants don’t know who to report fire safety concerns to. Even worse, when we surveyed those who are responsible for fire safety, half of them didn’t even know or were unclear about their role.”

Fire Door Safety Week research from 2016 found that 58% of all flat tenants surveyed and over 70% of lower income tenants had no idea who the Responsible Person was in their building. If tenants have no idea who the Responsible Person is, they will be unable to report any fire safety concerns. This means dangerous breaches of fire regulations could go unchecked putting residents at risk.

One of the roles of the Responsible Person is to undertake a fire risk assessment. Click here for our quick guide.

Why are fire doors so important?

There are about three million new fire doors bought and installed in the UK every year. They are often the first line of defence against the spread of fire, however they remain a significant area of neglect.

Many people don’t understand the purpose of fire doors and why they need to remain closed. They just see them as a heavy door that gets in the way. This can lead to them being propped or wedged open, rendering them useless if a fire does break out.

Click here for an interactive fire door guide which explains how to comply with regulations.

Life is easier if a fire door can be held open. It makes it easier to get around a building and allows circulation of air for improved ventilation. It prevents injuries from heavy doors closing too quickly, and allows less mobile people more freedom of movement.

According to a 2017 survey by Ironmongery Direct, 49% of people surveyed had seen a fire door propped open and 36% admitted they would prop a fire door open if they needed easier access.

 

The fact is, fire doors save lives. They are a building’s armour in a fire, blocking fire and smoke from spreading. Closed fire doors give people a route to evacuate safely, and the emergency services have a protected route into the building, if required.

What are the penalties for wedging open fire doors?

Poor fire door safety causes damage, injury and loss of life. Last year a care group was forced to pay a fine and costs totalling £410,000 after putting the lives of their residents and staff at risk. Donwell House Care Home in Washington had serious fire safety breaches including fire doors wedged open. The risk assessment had identified the need to install hold open door devices that closed in an emergency but this had not been actioned.

The breaches came to light after a fire in September 2014 where a pensioner had to be rescued from her window and taken to hospital. The door was wedged open in the room where the fire started, which allowed smoke and heat to spread to the communal corridor and into a bedroom which also had a wedged open door.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Community Safety Chris Lowther, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“This fine imposed by the judge is one of the most significant we are aware of for a case of this kind. It should serve as a warning to businesses, and especially care home operators, that failure to carry out their responsibilities regarding fire safety can and will have serious consequences.”

What other penalties have been given for wedged open fire doors? Find out more in our blog here

Click here for more information on Fire Door Safety Week.

 

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Fun Friday fire quiz

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