The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – Audible and visual alarms – Part 137

July 20, 2020 2:10 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 136, LWF unwanted fire signals in healthcare environments. In part 137, we begin to discuss audible and visual alarms in healthcare environments.

Alarm sounders for fire alarms can be made by bells or electronic sounders. Electronic sounders are capable of adjustable sound output which can be useful, particularly in a healthcare environment.

It is important that whichever style of alarm sounder is chosen, the fire alarm sound is common to all areas where alarm sounders are used. It would be confusing to have different fire alarm sounds and could lead to fire safety processes not being followed.

Alarms are also used in healthcare premises for other purposes, for example, monitoring systems with audible alarms. Because each sound must be distinct and recognisable, the choice of fire alarm signal and sounder must be chosen carefully to avoid any confusion.

There would be little benefit to having a voice alarm system generating spoken messages in patient care areas of healthcare buildings, where the aim is for the staff to be made aware of the fire alarm signal and to carry out the necessary actions for evacuation without alarming the patients. However, in areas of the building where large numbers of public congregate, they may be more useful and should comply with BS 5839-8.

Treatment areas for patients with mental health issues require special consideration and as such, alarm devices in those areas should be of reduced volume and with the aim of alerting staff without causing anxiety to the patients. It may be that a pre-recorded message could be played to alert staff, or in some cases, a short clip of music might be beneficial in environments where a discreet staff alarm is necessary.

Visual alarm beacons should only be used if full consideration has been given to those patients who may be photo-sensitive. Mental health patients are amongst those people who might suffer photo-sensitivity and any inappropriate use of flashing beacons could lead to an adverse patient reaction.

It should be noted that the same audible alarm devices should be used throughout the premises. Where voice alarms are used in only part of the healthcare premises, the voice message must be preceded by the standard alarm sound used elsewhere in the premises.

In Part 137, LWF will continue looking at the use of audible and visual alarms in healthcare premises. 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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