The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – Intensive Care & Operating Area Protection – Part 27

June 21, 2018 12:15 pm

In LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals, we look to give information on best practice in fire safety for hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 26 of the series, fire protection in areas of healthcare premises which provide intensive care was discussed, including how the areas should be compartmented to avoid the spread of fire. In part 27, the particular requirements relating to intensive care in terms of the heating and ventilation systems will be laid out before looking at the requirements for operating departments.


In departments of a healthcare venue providing intensive care, the heating and ventilation systems (HVAC) should be designed so they continue to operate if a fire has been discovered.


The reasoning behind this is that the HVAC installed in those areas is designed to ensure that pressure within the department is maintained at a slightly higher level than the adjacent areas. If a fire occurs, the intensive care area HVAC system and the elevated pressure produced will prevent smoke and other fire detritus entering the area.


If it becomes necessary for the system to be shut down, the controls can be found either at the entrance to the intensive care department or close to the main fire-alarm indicator panel.


Perhaps the only other area within a hospital that would be as difficult or even more so to evacuate promptly as intensive care is an operating department. The evacuation of high-dependency patients undergoing surgery would be life-threatening and for this reason, additional measures must be put in place to protect the patients and those members of staff who must remain in the area to care for them.


The aim of the measures should be to allow an extended amount of time to prepare patients for evacuation. It may be necessary to consider dividing the operating department into sub-compartments which would enable the movement of patients a small distance from an area of threat to one of temporary safety.


Each sub-compartment should have 30 minutes of fire resistance, or alternatively, life safety sprinklers and smoke retardant construction could be used.


Decisions regarding sub-compartmentation and fire protection measures should be risk assessed and issues such as the size of the department, the number of operating rooms and the potential for continued use should all be considered.


Where the design incorporates smoke-retarding construction and the operation of fire and smoke dampers, the provision of clean air-flow paths and room air dilution rates must be taken into account for day to day operation as a lack of clean air can lead to the potential for infections. Experts in theatre ventilation systems must be consulted when designing the fire safety measures of operating areas. HTM 03-01 Part A gives further guidance on specialised ventilation.


Where possible, plant rooms should also be sub-compartmented to separate essential services serving very high dependency areas from other plant equipment and machinery.


In part 28 of this series, LWF will look at emergency and escape lighting. 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 Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.


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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