The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – Fire Alarm System Design – Part 124

April 21, 2020 9:45 am

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 123, LWF looked at the zoning requirements for fire detection and fire alarms. In part 124, we will discuss how alarm systems are designed to work specifically in a healthcare environment, and how variances are possible depending upon the type of care given on the premises.

The nature of a healthcare environment means that it is often desirable for patients not to be aware of a fire alarm, but instead for the staff to be alerted. This is most common in healthcare venues where staff intervention will be necessary when assisting patients in evacuation procedures.

The audibility of the alarm in patient access areas, where patients will require assistance to evacuate should therefore be sufficient to warn staff. The alarms should initially be restricted to those areas involved in the first phase of evacuation of the building (evacuation may also be undertaken within the building rather than evacuating the building as a whole).

A two-stage alarm arrangement is commonly found in healthcare patient access areas, where the compartment of alarm origin receives an ‘evacuate’ signal and adjacent sub-compartments/compartments receive an ‘alert’ signal. For this process to work, it is necessary for the areas to be suitably compartmented from each other and for there to be sufficient acoustic separation between the area where the ‘evacuate’ signal is heard and the adjacent area(s) where the ‘alert’ signal is heard.

In some healthcare properties, there are areas of the building which would be difficult or protracted to evacuate from. When planning the alarm system and evacuation protocols, consideration should be given to providing an ‘alert’ or ‘evacuate’ signal to those areas, even when the alarm signal origin is not adjacent to that area. The alarm system must have facilities to enable the manual triggering of ‘evacuate’ and ‘alert’ signals in other areas to permit staff or Fire Service control over the evacuation procedure.

Staff in the building who are required to assist with particular tasks in the event of a fire should be notified by alternative means, for example pagers or text messages to mobile phones, rather than the sounding of a general alarm to avoid unnecessary disturbances.

In Part 125, LWF will consider the fire alarm system and how it should be used when dealing with dependent patients in a healthcare environment. 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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