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Fire Prevention in Healthcare Facilities

With a large amount of residents physically unable to move themselves, fires are a particular problem for the healthcare industry. Many facilities have been designed to be fireproof, however because burning materials often release toxic vapors fire prevention has and always will be a top priority. All employees can make a difference with fire prevention. With the proper training all healthcare facilities can become much safer institutions.
To help prevent fires employees need to know what starts them. All fires involve three elements: Heat, Fuel and Oxygen. Removing any of these elements will stop a fire. Fires are started with heat as the ignition and heat can be generated by anything that is hot – open flames, chemical reactions, Faulty electrical, overheated equipment and hot surfaces. Once a fire starts it will grow hotter and it will not stop until one of the three elements has been vanquished.
Flames are created by vapors coming off of a flammable material. The temperature at which a material gives off flammable vapors is known as a flashpoint. The flashpoint can change depending on how much oxygen is in the air. For instance an ordinary cleanser that would have a high flashpoint in normal air might be flammable in an area where a patient is being given oxygen.
What fuels a fire determines what will be used to extinguish it. Anesthetic gases can be extinguished by shutting off the gas, however most fires are extinguished by applying a material that eliminates the oxygen or the fuel. Applying the wrong substance can be devastating though. For instance, using water can cause burning liquids to spread and water conducts electricity at electrical fires.
Fires are separated into four classes: A, B, C & D. Class A fires involve normal substances like wood, paper or cardboard. These fires can be extinguished with water. Class B fires are fueled by flammable liquids and gasses. Chemical foams are the best way to extinguish these types of fires. Class C Fires are electrical and involve electrical equipment. They are extinguished by non-conductive agents. Class D fires are fueled by combustible metals. These type of fires are extremely difficult to put out and must be left to professional to take extinguish.
When a fire starts healthcare workers need to act quickly. The best way to insure this is an emergency action plan. The plan will carefully define how to report a fire, who will fight the fire, who is responsible for patient safety, evacuation procedures and lastly care of patients during an emergency.