Fire Alarms in Care Homes
Our Professional Opinion
The fire safety within Care Homes presents several unique problems and challenges when it comes to protecting the residents within their homes.
The primary objective, if a fire was to occur, is to alert the local Fire & Rescue as quickly as possible and to be able to identify the location of the fire.
In larger premises with several residents, you will need an automatic fire detection and warning system with a control panel which is able to identify either zone or the specific location where the alarm has been raised. In more complex premises, particularly those that accommodate a large number of residents over a number of floors, it is possible that a more sophisticated form of evacuation, e.g. phased evacuation, will be used. In these cases it will be necessary for the fire detection and warning systems to automatically trigger the action that people need to take (in accordance with the pre-determined fire procedure) e.g. by a two stage audible warning or voice alarm system. You need to consider how residents, in particular non-ambulant residents, would or should respond to an alarm. Residents who require carer assistance to make their escape can do little except wait for rescue and the sound of the alarm could be distressing. The sound-level provided for residents then becomes of less significance. Communication procedures should be in place so that residents, who can hear the alarm but no respond, are notified as quickly as possible about what is happening. It is of critical importance that staff know how to respond to an alarm and have well-rehearsed procedures in place. Although the main risk will be to people when they are asleep you may still need to consider special arrangements for times when people are working alone, or are disabled or when your normal occupancy patterns are different, e.g. maintenance staff or other contractors working in the building. False alarms from electrical fire detection and warning systems are a major problem (e.g. false activation of a detector due to poor system design) and result in many unwanted calls to the fire and rescue service every year. To help reduce the number of false alarms, the design and location of activation devices should be reviewed against the way the premises are currently used.
British Standards (BS5839:1 2017) recommend that a Category L1 systems be installed. Automatic fire detection (AFD) and warning systems provide the means to notify you of the presence of fire at the earliest possible opportunity. It offers you the possibility of carrying out firefighting (because the fire is still small) and the maximum period of time to implement your emergency plan and to evacuate your residents and staff. The AFD system can be linked to other active fire safety systems in your building (e.g. door closing devices and smoke control vents) so that they operate automatically.
** Category L1: systems installed throughout all areas of the building. The objective of a Category L1 system is to offer the earliest possible warning of fire, so as to achieve the longest available time for escape.
If you would like further advice on the fire safety within your Care Home, whether it be Fire Alarms, Fire Extinguishers, Passive Fire Protection or Emergency Lighting, please feel free to contact us.