Part 1: The Importance of Fire Safety in Healthcare Facilities

Fire safety holds importance in healthcare facilities because it poses risks, to vulnerable patients, staff and valuable medical equipment. The urgency to implement fire prevention measures is highlighted by the National Fire Protection Associations report of 6,000 structure fires occurring annually in healthcare facilities, where nursing homes and hospitals are primarily targeted.

The presence of medically fragile patients makes evacuation during a fire particularly challenging in these settings. To minimize the likelihood of fire outbreaks and their impact it is crucial to have fire prevention measures in place. These measures include fire drills ensuring functioning fire alarms and maintaining available fire extinguishers.

As a Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) having an understanding of fire safety protocols is essential for ensuring the safety and well being of patients. Being familiar with evacuation routes knowing how to handle patients with mobility issues and ensuring that everyone is accounted for during evacuation procedures can significantly contribute to saving lives and preventing injuries during a fire emergency.

By prioritizing fire safety healthcare facilities can establish an environment for patients, staff and visitors alike. With a prepared and educated healthcare team that can efficiently handle fire emergencies, risks and potential harm caused by fires can be minimized through efforts.

Fire Safety in Hospitals

Part 2: Types of Fires

The main thing we should know is that fires are classified according to the combustible material, the location and magnitude.

Class A (Solids):

They are generated after the formation of embers, either by wood, cloth, paper, rubber or plastic. This type of fire is extinguished by cooling, that is, with the application of water, water spray, foam, or chemical powder.

Class B (Liquids):

It is generated by fats, oils, paints, alcohols, gasoline, petroleum. The way to control and put out this type of fire is through the combination of removing oxygen and cooling it with foam. 

Class C (Gases):

These involve flammable gases, such as natural gas, hydrogen, propane or butane. The way to put out this fire is with conventional and polyvalent powder. 

Class D (Metals):

Caused by combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, zirconium, sodium, potassium, among others. This type of fire is one of the most difficult to extinguish, since water cannot be thrown at it, because it produces an explosion, and the only way to put it out is with a specific powder for the metal that caused the fire. 

Class E (Electrical):

They are generated by energized electrical equipment, such as computers, industrial machinery, power tools, microwaves, or other electronic devices. This type of fire is internationally known as type C, given that those caused by liquids merge with solids.

Likewise, this fire should not be extinguished with water for any reason, since it conducts electricity; In this case, a water spray extinguisher, with carbon dioxide, chemical powder, or a halogen replacer-based extinguisher, which is similar to chemical powder, but leaves no residue, will be used.

Class F (Oils and cooking fats):

These are the fires that arise after the use of these fuels, in kitchen appliances (such as fryers). This fire is very difficult to put out and control, since with any fire extinguisher it could spread, in addition, water in this case is not an ally, and a specific fire extinguisher must be used, which is known internationally with the letter K, and is based on potassium.

When healthcare professionals and others have an understanding of the fire classes and the suitable extinguishing agents for each type they can confidently handle fire emergencies thus enhancing the safety of everyone, in the vicinity. It is imperative for healthcare facilities to implement fire safety programs that incorporate training and awareness regarding these distinctions.

Common fire hazards in a healthcare facilities

Electrical Equipment

Hospitals face the challenge of managing an amount of equipment which can put strain on sockets and cables. In some cases extension cords are used to connect devices but this practice is actually, against regulations.

Kitchen facilities

Kitchen facilities in hospitals often experience fires due to cooking oils, electrical ovens, toasters and open flames.

Cigarette Smoking

Although smoking is prohibited in healthcare facilities some individuals still manage to sneak cigarettes or improperly dispose of them while smoking outdoors.

Specialized Medical Equipment

Specialized medical equipment such as lasers and electrosurgical tools pose a fire hazard especially when they are near oxygen tanks, surgical attire and flammable sterilizing liquids.

Extension Cord Daisy Chains: To accommodate the need for power supply to equipment hospitals sometimes resort to connecting extension cords, in a chain fashion. However this practice violates regulations. Can potentially lead to fire incidents.

Fire Door Compliance: The data collected by  the Fire Marshal highlighted violations related to fire doors. Many doors were found not closing or latching correctly. Additionally several doors had holes that compromised their capabilities.

 Fire Exit Obstructions: Instances were observed where carts, wheelchairs and medical equipment obstructed fire exit doors.

Hand sanitizers are commonly found in hospitals. Its important to remember that they are flammable. To ensure safety it’s necessary to maintain a distance of 6 feet, between the sanitation station and any potential sources of ignition.

When it comes to gas cylinders and medical oxygen proper storage and security is essential. Taking precautions will help ensure compliance with safety regulations.

4 Steps to Evacuate during a Fire

In the event of a fire it’s important to remember the RACE acronym;

1. Safely remove residents from harms way.

2. Activate the alarm to alert others about the fire.

3. Contain the fire by closing doors and windows in the area.

4. If possible, extinguish the fire using measures.

Use of a Fire Extinguisher

When operating a fire extinguisher keep in mind the PASS acronym;

1. Pull out the pin to activate the extinguisher.

2. Aim at the base of the fire, with the hose or nozzle.

3. Squeeze down on the handle to release the extinguishing agent.

4. Sweep back and forth towards the base of flames with controlled movements.

Having knowledge about fire safety and following procedures helps prevent fires and ensures an environment for both healthcare professionals and patients.