The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering for Healthcare Premises – The Human Element – Part 56

October 11, 2021 12:21 pm

In LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals, our aim is to give information on best practice of fire safety in hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 55 of Fire Engineering for Healthcare Premises, LWF discussed pre-movement time. In part 56, we look at speed of movement, patient dependency and disabilities.

It is a fairly obvious fact that not all people move at the same speed. Young adults walk faster than either older people or children. Men tend to walk faster than women. In a situation where a person can walk without obstruction, they reach greater speed than if crowd density is increased and their movement is slowed. If the amount of people in an area continues to increase, progress will eventually be halted altogether.

The ability to evacuate to a place of safety in a fire situation depends on various criteria and one of those which should be addressed in a healthcare environment is that of patient dependency and people with disabilities.

Patient dependency and/or degree of disability in a person varies considerably. People who are dependent or who have disabilities may be affected in terms of their ability to be aware of a fire, to react to it and to escape from a developing fire situation.

Sensory disabilities can affect or negate the benefits of early detection and alarm and also prevent the person being able to recognise deteriorating conditions. Mental disabilities may mean the individual is unable to respond appropriately to the situation. Physical disabilities or dependency affect the patient’s speed of movement or mean that they cannot use stairways, open self-closing doors or need to stop and rest frequently. A person with disabilities cannot be assumed to have a companion who can assist them in a fire situation.

Dependent patients are reliant on the assistance of staff in order to move and therefore, the number of staff and fatigue may become important factors in planning safe escape in a fire situation.

Additional measures may be necessary to address the needs of very high dependency patients and disabled people.

In all the above circumstances, the travel distance is not as relevant as the time taken to reach a place of relative safety after the discovery of a fire.

In Part 57 of LWF’s blog series, LWF will discuss the use of risk assessment in fire safety engineered healthcare environments. 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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