The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – Fire Alarms in Dependent Occupant Environments – Part 116

February 24, 2020 2:02 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 115, LWF looked at how fire alarms and fire detection systems in healthcare buildings relate to BS 5839-1. In part 116, we consider the function of fire alarms in dependent occupant environments.

As dependent or highly-dependent patients cannot be expected to evacuate a healthcare building without assistance, or indeed, to adhere to an evacuation plan of which they are not aware, it is common for fire alarms in such premises to give warning to staff only. The staff are then able to call the fire and rescue service, undertake any possible first-aid fire-fighting actions and follow the steps of the evacuation plan, which is likely to take the form of horizontal evacuation to a nearby place of safety.

The extent to which control over public alert signals is necessary will depend upon the overall fire safety strategy which will have been compiled to reflect the likely occupant profile.

The design and operational requirements for the system must be established in the early stages of fire alarm system planning. The fire safety strategy and specific evacuation procedures must be taken into account. For example, where mental health patients are being cared for, there may be a potential for absconding and so it would be inappropriate to simply release all magnetically locked final exit doors.

Communication and consultation with all relevant parties should therefore be undertaken to ensure that the resulting fire alarm system design is suitable for the purpose to which it will be put. It will be necessary to have discussions with managers, fire safety advisers, estates and facilities management staff, building control officers/approved inspectors/local authority fire officers, relevant healthcare staff and even the insurers of the premises, where appropriate. In addition, the requirements must be discussed with the installing contractors and equipment suppliers to ensure the system provided and fitted will achieve the aims of the design.

The companies used for manufacture, supply and installation of the fire alarm system for healthcare premises should be certified to the appropriate part of Quality Standard BS EN ISO 9000, and preference should be given to products and systems which have been independently tested for conformity against a relevant product standard and also third-party accredited. Installers should also have been similarly assessed.

In Part 117 of the series, LWF will talk through the definitions of HTM 05-03 Part B on Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems. 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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