The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – Fire Alarm System Design – Part 121

March 30, 2020 1:26 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 120, LWF looked at the alarm system and how it should be comprised. In part 121, we will consider the design philosophy of fire alarm systems in healthcare venues, starting with how it is designed to protect.

While fire alarm systems in healthcare buildings are always designed primarily to protect life (and are therefore category L alarm systems) they can also have a role in protecting property. While property protection will always be a secondary consideration in hospitals, the benefits of early warning of fire mean that valuable resources may be saved and the impact of fire on the functioning of the premises can be minimised, to ensure service can be resumed as quickly as possible.

The inclusion of fire and smoke detectors in non-patient areas to protect property will depend upon decisions made locally about priorities and circumstances. It may be appropriate to include some areas of a building in the protection of the fire alarm, while omitting detection from outlying, low-risk areas, where the risk assessment has determined they are not required.

When the fire risk assessment is being undertaken, it is acceptable to consider the economic consequences of a fire on the premises, although not for this to take precedence over the safety of the occupants of the building.

A fire in a non-patient area can impact the care given to patients by increasing the risk of fire spread from a non-patient area to a patient area. It can disrupt an essential service or function upon which patient care depends, such as heating, power or pharmacy.

Fires in non-patient areas can lead to the evacuation of parts of the building during firefighting activities and subsequent clean-up and rebuilding efforts. While short-term evacuation will disrupt patient care for a manageable amount of time, rebuilding can disrupt for months and would mean certain areas or the entire building could not be used for an extended amount of time.

Critical records can be destroyed, reserve and back-up lifesaving equipment can be damaged or destroyed when it is kept in storage and that area isn’t monitored by the fire alarm system.

In Part 122, LWF will continue to look at the placement of fire alarm detectors in healthcare venues by considering the non-patient areas where detectors can potentially be omitted safely. 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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