The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – In-Patient Mental Health & Learning Disability Facilities continued – Part 11

March 1, 2018 11:17 am

Fire Safety for Healthcare premises is a blog series by LWF which aims to give guidance on healthcare-based standards and best practice in fire safety. In part 10 of this series, the additional fire safety measures required for in-patient mental health and learning disability facilities was outlined, particularly in relation to the dual demands of fire safety and security. In part 11, specific design requirements for such facilities are considered.


In order to protect sleeping patients, sleeping and day quarters should be compartmented separately. Sleeping accommodation should comprise bedrooms, bathrooms/WCs, cleaners room, a small office for overnight duty staff and linen storage only. Any other elements of the department must be in other compartments.


Sleeping quarters should be sub-compartmented and each sub-compartment should contain no more than 10 beds, including any swing bed provision (short-term use beds).


If swing beds may be moved between male and female sub-compartments, the number in each must number no more than 10.


Where it is necessary to maintain segregation of patients during an evacuation, the routes should be designed with such processes in mind. This process should also be taken into account in the design of secure places of safety from fire outside the building and after evacuation.


All bedrooms must be classed as fire hazard rooms and where it is necessary to have rooms which can be locked from the inside, the doors must be fitted with a lock not requiring a key. Any door which can be locked from the inside must be accessible by staff with a standard key, to avoid any delays in opening the door in a fire situation.


As in the case of all healthcare facilities, some patients who have restricted mobility may require moving on their beds and evacuation routes must take the movement of beds as a part of the evacuation process.


Where bed evacuation is likely, the corridors including junctions and turning spaces must be designed in order that both the bed and the staff members involved in moving the bed can negotiate the space easily. This involves the corridors being of sufficient width to do so. Specific guidance on corridor widths including handrails and doorways is provided in Health Building Note 00-04 – ‘Circulation and communication spaces’.


Potential alternatives to the guidance given are possible if evidence is provided by an architect and approved by the client, building control officer and fire officer.  Additionally, alternative methods of evacuation may be possible where it can be shown that the proposed plan recognises the limited mobility of the patients and provides a design solution enabling staff to safely manage the evacuation.


In cases where communal bathrooms are provided, these must be classed as fire hazard rooms.


In part 12 of this series, LWF will look at the effective separation of areas accessed by patients from other parts of the premises. 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.



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