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Fire safety regulations in care homes: what do you need to know?

In a care home setting, it is extremely important to have the correct fire safety regulations in place. Not only are elderly people more vulnerable in general, but they may also have health conditions that make it difficult to evacuate the building quickly in the event of an emergency. Having a strict plan of action is paramount to ensure care home staff know what to do in the event of an emergency evacuation.

Why is fire safety in care homes so important? 

A fire can catch and spread quickly. In the worst scenarios, fires can lead to loss of life, health complications and property damage. Having an appropriate action plan in place in the event of a fire is paramount to ensure everyone’s safety. Having an astute fire safety procedure in place ensures that everyone leaves the building in a safe and calm manner and without delay. Without a procedure in place, people are likely to panic and run in all directions. 

Fire safety is even more important in establishments like residential care homes, where there may be lots of people in the building who are hard of hearing, have impaired vision or are unable to walk.

What is the Care Home Regulations Act (2001)?

The Care Home Regulations Act of 2001 sets out fire safety regulations for care homes, including how care homes should approach fire safety and how complaints about fire safety in a care home should be handled. It is the responsibility of the care home to comply with all the requirements set out in the act, including:

  • Consulting fire authorities for advice on the most suitable fire safety strategy for their care facility
  • Ensuring all the necessary precautions are in place to reduce the risk of a fire
  • Implementing policies that allow for quick fire detection, containment and extinguishment
  • Regularly checking and maintaining fire safety equipment
  • Appointing a properly trained fire marshall for the care home
  • Training all care home staff on how to react in the event of a fire
  • Organising regular fire drills and evacuation practice
  • Keeping an up-to-date fire safety log, with details of all training, emergency evacuation practices and incidents in the home

What is the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order (2005)?

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005 is a broad legislation that covers fire safety in care homes, including how to carry out fire assessments, how to detect fires, how to reduce the risk of a fire and staff training. The order also outlines the person responsible for fire safety in the care home, such as registered managers, risk accessors and fire alarm technicians. Local fire services should also carry out regular inspections in accordance with the order. They have the right to regularly inspect care homes to ensure they are fully compliant with the regulations laid out in the law. If a breach is found, they can be fined and have their licence removed, as well as imprisonment.

How else do care homes ensure fire safety regulations are met? 

Having regular fire risk assessments 

A fire risk assessment is a summary of the potential fire safety risks in a building and the fire prevention measures the building has in place. Professional advice is advised to ensure that every fire risk is detected and a plan is actioned to take them into account. An example blueprint of a fire risk assessment is:

  • Determining potential fire hazards
  • Identifying high-risk residents in the care home in the case of a fire
  • Deciding which fire precautions are necessary
  • Recording the results of the risk assessment
  • Reviewing and updating fire safety protocols regularly in line with previous risk assessments

Installing fire alarm systems

Fire alarms alert residents of a fire threat using a loud siren and lights. For care home residents with audio or visual impairments, special alarms can be installed to cater for their needs. Fire alarm systems must be regularly checked and maintained to ensure all is in good working order.

Installing fire extinguishers

Care homes are also required to have fire extinguishers on site to enable them to take immediate action on a fire hazard. Staff should be trained on how to use this type of equipment so that they can prevent a fire from spreading. Similar to fire alarms, fire extinguishers need to be checked regularly to ensure they meet the recommended quality assurance standards. They should be placed strategically around the care home to ensure convenient access in the event of a fire.

Installing fire doors

Fire doors are essential for fire prevention in care homes. Fire doors function to slow down or limit the spread of fire, which gives staff plenty of time to evacuate everyone in the home, including the residents. Fire doors are connected to the fire alarm system which enables them to automatically close once the alarm goes off. Fire doors should be tested regularly to ensure they are operating correctly.

Having regular evacuation training

Evacuation training is vital so that every individual understands what they have to do in the event of a fire emergency. Marshalls should be nominated within the care home so that orders can be given to ensure that everyone gets out safely. Staff will also be trained on how to use evacuation aids, including evacuation chairs or mattresses. These aids help residents who cannot stand or walk unaided to be safely evacuated. 

Having strict fire safety regulations in a care home is vital to prevent a fire and ensure the residents’ safety. There are many people responsible for care home fire safety including the care home manager, the fire emergency services and the Care Quality Commission. By implementing necessary fire safety procedures, determining an evacuation plan and carrying out regular fire risk assessments, care homes can minimise the risk of a fire and take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the care home residents.