The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – In-Patient Mental Health & Learning Disability Facilities continued – Part 10

February 22, 2018 12:47 pm


In LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals, the aim is to give advice and information on best practice of fire safety in hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 9 of this series, the necessary actions relating to fire safety in premises falling under the in-patient mental health and learning disability facilities categories was begun. In part 10, we continue to look at those procedures which should be undertaken over and above any standard procedures in order to protect mentally vulnerable patients.


One such additional variable which must be addressed is the possibility that patients who exhibit behavioural problems may be more likely to tamper with the fire and security measures which have been installed to protect them.


Particular attention should be paid to fire alarms and escape routes. Interference with the detection system or manual call points may cause false fire alarms to be raised which must be investigated. Repeated false alarms can cause despondency in staff and can lead to genuine alarms being either ignored or the follow-up being too slow. In addition to fire safety concerns, a lack of security of fire doors and final exit doors can result in patients gaining unrestricted egress from the facility or designated part of the facility.


As stated in HTM 05-03 Part B, it is possible to configure the fire alarm system to only notify staff in the first instance, which can reduce the impact of such alarms on the patients. In such cases, the general alarm to evacuate would only be given as it was necessary.


The fire alarm system can be integrated with staff and patient monitoring and location systems to improve response times in situations where the alarm is sounded.


In some fire alarm systems outside of secure patient facilities, the final exit doors release automatically when the fire alarm is actuated. However, this would prove impractical due to security issues in more secure wards and buildings and some means of control by staff is necessary so that they can release the doors when the need to evacuate has been established. Robust facilities and procedures must be in place in this instance.


While outside evacuation is a last resort and many situations can be resolved with horizontal or vertical evacuation to a safe area, it is important that the option is available should it be needed. A designated and secure assembly point should be established that will be a safe place for both staff and patients.

Consideration should be given to the intended escape route to the outside place of safety to ensure patients are both secure and safe.


In part 11 of this series, LWF will look at those design requirements specific to the in-patient mental health and learning disability facilities categories outlined in previous blogs. In the meantime, if you have any queries about fire safety in healthcare premises or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings. 


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.


Share this post