The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering for Healthcare Premises – Fire Strategies – Part 62

November 22, 2021 1:04 pm

LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals aims to give information on best practice of fire safety in hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 61 of Fire Engineering for Healthcare Premises, LWF considered the objectives of fire strategies. In part 62, we continue to look at the practical implications of fire strategies in a healthcare environment.


When a progressive horizontal evacuation (PHE) strategy is in place in a healthcare building, the main systems required to ensure viability are fire detection, management and compartmentation.

The occupants must be alerted to fire promptly and the detection system must be able to isolate the fire signal received from the detector to an area in order to facilitate partial/PHE evacuation of that area.

Effective evacuation management is required so that staff know what procedures to implement in a fire situation and how to carry out PHE.

Compartmentation is required to ensure the fire is contained within the area of fire origin for the intended period of time. In the case of PHE systems, the next area of evacuation will be accessed as the previous one is compromised. However, the first line of defence is that compartmentation should allow sufficient time for adjacent compartments to evacuate horizontally and the Fire Service to arrive and put out the fire.

The fire-resistant construction of compartments should be maintained as intended and any gaps fire-stopped as required.

For the ‘defend in place’ (DIP) strategy, it is usually necessary for a sprinkler system to be in place. The same system can perform different roles in different strategies and multiple roles in the same strategy.


The types of component required to ensure the success of systems common to both strategies are similar. However, their performance level may vary depending upon their importance to the strategy. E.g. The necessity for prompt fire detection is common to both strategies.

Where PHE is used, which is common in buildings with vulnerable occupancies who may need assistance with their escape, staffing levels should be adequate to support the evacuation requirements. This enhanced staffing level is likely to bring additional benefits, for example, staff will become additional detectors of fire and can react to the situation, rather than full reliance on an automatic system. Staff members have the ability to differentiate between genuine and false alarm signals. For example, staff can differentiate between burnt toast and a genuine fire. Staff acting as additional detectors should be considered an enhancement to the overall fire detection capability.

Any fire safety system should not be reliant on a situation that is not consistent.

In the case of DIP, automatic fire suppression systems require automatic detection and therefore a higher level of cover will be required.


In Part 63 of LWF’s blog series, LWF will look at fire drawings and their use in assessing fire precautions. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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