Fire Prevention & Safety in Healthcare Settings

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Fire hazards exist in all healthcare settings, including hospitals, offices, and outpatient facilities. Read this lesson to learn how to appropriately prepare and respond to fires as a healthcare worker.

Healthcare Fire Hazards

Hospitals and healthcare settings have become complex facilities requiring high-tech equipment, various chemicals, electrical wiring, food preparation, and other heat sources for comfort and the promotion of healing. Steve, the safety manager of a local hospital is responsible for teaching new employees about fire safety. Because of these complex environments and the nature of their roles, Steve knows that healthcare workers expose themselves to potential hazards on a daily basis. Examples of fire hazards in healthcare include:

  • Extensive wiring systems
  • Large electrical needs to operate machinery and equipment
  • Cooking and food preparation
  • Chemicals
  • Arson

While the risk of fire remains relatively low, thousands of fires occur in healthcare facilities each year and lead to significant facility damage, and sometimes even death. Steve knows how critical it is for healthcare professionals become familiar with the safety standards of the facility to prevent fires and to learn how to best respond to this type of emergency. Due to a recent increase in facility fires, Steve prepares to teach the new employees about fire safety and prevention in the workplace.

Preventing Fire

The best way to prepare for a fire is to learn how to prevent one. This means locating, knowing and understanding facility protocols on fire prevention should be a priority during orientation. Steve explains that fire prevention protocols may be found in paper or electronic policies or documents, as well as on a list of approved actions and equipment posted in particular facilities, units, and buildings. Some specific examples of fire prevention policy include the prohibition of things such as microwavable popcorn and electric space heaters, and prohibiting the use of certain personal items like hair dryers as they increase the risk of fire in the healthcare environment.

Responding to a Fire

Steve shares with the group that during crises situations hospital or facility specific codes have been developed for use to communicate important internal messages. These codes usually use the word 'code' with a color and include 'Code Red' or 'Code Yellow' for fire emergencies. The codes are in place so that once announced, assistance can be sent to the affected area and unaffected areas can continue to operate even if there are major issues in another part of the facility.

Environment

Steve further instructs the group that knowing what code to use is not the only action they can take. He explains that there are areas at high risk for fires, including kitchens, cafeterias, electrical rooms, and any location with a combination of oxygen, heat, and source of fuel (wood, gas, chemical, electricity).

Steve takes the time to explain that fire safety is everyone's responsibility, and explains that every facility has a series of safety mechanisms in place used to notify others, prevent the spread of a fire, and evacuate when needed.

  • Alarm - Manual fire pulls alert the local fire department that a potential fire emergency exists. Facility based codes like 'Code Red' or 'Code Yellow' may be announced over the loudspeaker to indicate a fire emergency allowing the in-house team to respond. A flashing light may exist to alert individuals with a hearing deficit that an emergency is happening.
  • Preventing the Spread - Building regulations require sprinkler systems and fire doors to close automatically once the fire alarm is initiated. Doing so helps to contain the fire and minimize damage. Fire extinguishers are also present at the ends and the middle of long hallways, as well as close to stairwells.
  • Evacuation - Evacuation plans are posted in every area and by every stairwell. Routes are highlighted in red. To transport immobile patients, plastic sled transport devices are located on every inpatient unit to move patients down flights of stairs safely and efficiently if it becomes necessary.

Processes

It is easy to become confused and flustered during an emergency situation, so several acronyms have been developed to guide healthcare professionals in how to respond during a fire. Steve instructs the group on the use of the acronym RACE.

R - Rescue

A - Alarm

C - Confine

E - Extinguish

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