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Ensuring Fire Safety in Care Homes: A Comprehensive Guide

Fire safety holds a position of utmost importance in the well-being of care home residents.  Ensuring fire safety in care homes is crucial; they are home to many vulnerable individuals whose safety is paramount. By implementing safe practices outlined in fire safety regulations, care home residents can remain confident that their home is a safe and secure environment. Dive into our blog detailing everything you need to know regarding fire safety in care homes, from relevant regulations to passive protection measures that should be put in place to protect residents. 



Importance of Fire Safety in Care Homes

A fire safety procedure is essential to ensure that all residents can leave the building calmly but effectively in the event of a fire. This procedure is crucial in care homes where some residents may have limited mobility, cognitive impairment, or hearing difficulties. 


Many residents will need assistance understanding fire safety procedures. This can make the process of evacuation difficult, so there is an increased risk of accidents or fatalities during the evacuation process for both residents and staff members. If a fire occurs, staff members should be well equipped to evacuate residents safely by preparing for a fire outbreak as carefully as possible.


Care Home Fire Safety Regulations

All care home owners and managers must be well versed in the UK regulations regarding fire safety in care homes. Two significant acts cover fire safety for care homes in the UK:


The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The Regulatory Form (Fire Safety) Order 2005 carves out appropriate fire safety measures, from fire risk assessments to the quick detection of fires that should be implemented in non-domestic properties such as care homes. Under the order, each building must appoint a responsible person to ensure the premise complies with fire safety regulations. 


The responsible person for a care home will be tasked with maximising the safety of the residents, staff, and visitors by introducing passive fire protection measures and delivering a fire safety protocol in the event of a fire. If a care home provider breaches any regulations, they may either be given a fine or stripped of their licence to operate a care home.


The Health and Social Care Act (2008)

The Care Home Regulations Act (2001) details fire safety regulations for care homes. The act explains how the manager of a care facility is responsible for implementing mechanisms that allow for quick fire detection and containment, organising regular maintenance of fire safety equipment within the care home, and ensuring that all members of staff are adequately trained on how to respond in the event of a fire. This act was amended in 2003 but has since been replaced by the Health and Social Care Act (2008)


The Health and Social Care Act (2008) outlines specific guidelines for care home owners and managers to follow to keep their premises safe. It established the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as the UK's independent health and social care regulating body, separating healthcare facilities like care homes from other business premises. The CQC will assess the fire safety of care premises. A care home failing to comply with fire safety recommendations will negatively impact its CQC rating.


Fire Safety Responsibility in Care Homes

A responsible person will be assigned to ensure that a care home is fully compliant with fire safety regulations; this responsibility tends to lie with the owner or manager. 


Responsible person duties include:


  • Regularly carry out fire risk assessments on premises

  • Adequately train their staff so they are prepared in the event of a fire

  • Install effective passive protection measures such as fire doors

  • Develop a fire safety protocol that will be carried out during a fire

  • Ensure the home has enough fire detection systems and fire extinguishers

  • Eliminate hazardous materials that can lead to a fire within the premise

  • Provide residents with training on how to act during an evacuation


Care Home Fire Risk Assessment 

A fire risk assessment is a legal requirement to be completed by the responsible person. A fire risk assessment involves 6 key steps:


  1. Identify fire hazards 

  2. Pinpoint individuals at risk

  3. Analyse or reduce the risks

  4. Record all findings

  5. Prepare an emergency protocol for the event of a fire and provide training

  6. Review the fire risk assessment at least every 6 months


As of October 2023, Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022 declares that responsible persons must record all of their findings and their fire safety arrangements regardless of the size or purpose of the building. If, as a responsible person, you fail to conduct a risk assessment and meet the legal duties of keeping residents safe, you could face time in prison. Instruct a specialist to complete a thorough assessment, meeting fire safety guidelines.


Common Fire Risks in a Care Home

Smoking

Smoking is one of the most common causes of a fire in a care home. Cigarette butts being disposed of carelessly or an unattended lit cigarette in an ashtray can both pose serious fire risks in a care home. Care home managers should impose restrictions where residents only smoke under supervision in a designated outdoor space.


Cooking

One of the other most common causes of a fire in a care home is electrical equipment found in a kitchen. Many fires start in the kitchen due to faulty appliances, including cookers, microwaves, and toasters. The responsible person should regularly inspect all cooking appliances for fire hazards and store them away from flammable materials. 


Electrical Appliances

All electrical appliances can pose a fire risk, not limited to the kitchen. Care home managers should regularly check any electrical equipment found in all care home rooms, specifically in residents' bedrooms. The responsible person has to ensure the safety and well-being of their residents; therefore, they should check residents' electrical appliances for fire hazards. 


Medical Oxygen

Some care home residents rely on medical oxygen to help their respiratory health. Oxygen tanks are highly flammable and pose a severe fire risk. Medical oxygen sources should be stored in well-ventilated areas, away from heat, light, and flammable materials. Residents should refrain from smoking close to where oxygen is being used, and all staff members should receive training regarding the safe storage of medical oxygen.


Mobility Scooters

Mobility scooters pose an obstacle to a fire escape route and are a fire risk in themselves. If involved in a fire, they can release excessive smoke and get extremely hot. The primary fire risk is the lithium battery used to charge a mobility scooter; there is a heightened risk of explosion as lithium is highly flammable due to its high energy density. Safe storage of mobility scooters is essential to prevent the risk of fire.


Fire Prevention Measures for Care Homes

Fire Alarms

Fire detection equipment such as alarms will warn staff and residents immediately if a fire ignites in a care home. Some care home residents may have vulnerabilities that make it challenging to decipher between a fire alarm and a different alarm. Training should help staff and residents identify alarms and what they mean. Fire alarms should be installed in high-risk areas, and weekly fire drills should be conducted. Regular firm alarm servicing and maintenance by accredited professionals is essential to improve fire protection.


Fire Doors

Fire doors are an essential aspect of passive fire protection. Fire-rated doors can provide between 30 and 60 minutes of fire resistance and are masters of compartmentalisation. These specialised doors are purpose-built to withstand fires' immense heat and smoke. They slow the spread of fires by containing them within a designated area, providing precious time for staff to evacuate residents safely. All rooms in a care home should have a fire door with a self-closing mechanism, and they should be kept closed at all times to ensure maximum protection in the event of a fire.


Evacuation Protocol

The responsible person must develop a solid evacuation protocol to be actioned during a fire. An effective fire evacuation plan will detail the following:


  • Designated fire escape routes, ensuring that they are not obstructed at any time

  • Implementation of fire safety signs and lighting that will enable residents and staff to evacuate safely

  • A personalised evacuation process that considers the individual vulnerabilities of each resident and the safest way to ensure their wellbeing

  • The frequency of fire alarm testing and fire drills to ensure that staff and residents are prepared 

  • Ensuring that all staff and residents are aware of the protocol 

  • Training staff members on how to respond in the event of a fire and how to manage each resident's needs


The protocol must be comprehensive to meet all fire safety regulations and guidelines.


Fire Extinguishers

Under UK legislation, care homes must be fitted with firefighting equipment such as fire extinguishers. This equipment enables staff members to minimise the spread of a fire if it is safe to do so before the emergency services arrive. Fire extinguishers must meet the recommended quality assurance standards and be placed strategically around the care home in high-risk areas but easily accessible. Staff and residents should receive training on how to use a fire extinguisher in the case of an emergency.


Care Home Fire Safety FAQs

How often should fire drills be carried out in a care home?

As per legislation, fire drills must be carried out once a year, as a minimum. All employees must take part in a fire drill once a year. If new staff members are recruited, more fire drills must be carried out so that every employee receives at least one fire drill a year.


What fire alarm needs to be in a care home?

Care homes should contain an L1 Fire Alarm System. This system is essential to meet fire safety regulations in a care home as it provides the highest level of cover that a fire system can provide.


How many fires occur in care homes each year?

As of 2022, there were 388 care home fires annually in the UK. Out of these fires, 41% were caused by cooking, kitchen appliances caused 21%, and 13% were smoking-related.


Improve Care Home Safety with LFS


Your commitment to ensuring your care home's and its residents' safety is paramount. Share your responsibility with LFS. Our team prides itself on providing a one-stop service offering passive fire protection methods for all premises. Protecting lives is at the heart of our business, and we thrive on ensuring that a building is as prepared as possible to deal with a fire outbreak. From fire alarms to fire doors, our qualified team will ensure your care home is fitted with accredited equipment, maximising the safety of your staff and residents. Contact us today to discuss your fire protection needs.


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