The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – The Basic Principles – Part 1

December 14, 2017 3:48 pm

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a provider of Fire Engineering services and producer of informational resources on the subject of Fire Safety for organisations and companies. Fire Safety for Healthcare premises is a blog series aiming to give guidance on healthcare-based standards and best practice in fire safety and will refer to and draw from sources such as the HTM documents, building regulations, Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and other relevant regulations and standards.


Part 1 aims to introduce the basic principles of fire safety in healthcare premises, along with some of the challenges of a healthcare environment, as opposed to other operational environments.


The ‘normal’ rules of fire safety might be simplified to the following points; discover fire, raise alarm, evacuate premises, extinguish fire, make safe and clean up. In a healthcare environment, the practical implications mean that evacuation of the premises would be logistically difficult and could be detrimental to the safety and welfare of the patients.


Patient care must come first and for this reason, it would be highly unusual to have a full evacuation model in place as a part of the emergency plan in a large healthcare premises. Some patients would be unable to leave the building unaided due to mobility issues and some people simply cannot be moved due to their reliance on equipment for their survival.


In the case of a collection of smaller buildings, or healthcare premises which are smaller, it might be possible to use evacuation in all or part of the site.

For the reasons given, total evacuation is not usually a part of the emergency procedure. Progressive horizontal evacuation is more commonly used as a process which allows those patients and others situated in an area at risk from a fire to be moved from that area into one which is lower risk.


In high dependency areas, compartmentation may be utilised. Compartmentation is a method of fire safety construction in which fire-resistant materials are used to construct walls, ceilings and floors and fire-resistant and self-closing doors are installed in order to stop smoke and fire from passing from one area to the next. Fire resistance is usually rated in terms of the time that the material will withstand fire. For example, a door rated FD30 is a fire door which will withstand fire heat and smoke for 30 minutes. The time allowed by construction using such materials can be used by the Fire Service to put out the fire and make the area safe.


Consideration must also be given to the evacuation of very high dependency patients to an area of safety where treatment can continue to be given. The distance of travel (and time taken to travel) are the most crucial factors in this calculation.


In part 2 of this series, LWF will look at fire evacuation strategies and the main stages of the process. 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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