When our loved ones are no longer able to care for themselves or when we are not able to step in as caregiver, many of us rely on long-term elder care facilities to provide the assistance needed. We hope that when we move our loved ones in, that they will be safe and sound in this state-of-the-art facility. Tragically, that has not always been the case. Although not a common occurrence, fires have been known to start — and spread quickly — in nursing home facilities. What’s more, federal requirements have often lagged behind the times, which has allowed some facilities to provide inadequate protection for residents. If you operate an elder care home, it’s important that you consider the following tips to improve fire safety in your facility.
Install Fire Detection Equipment
The types of fire protection services mandated will usually depend on the kind of nursing facility in question. Manual fire alarm systems are required in nursing homes, though the location of fire alarm boxes may occasionally be moved to nurses’ stations or other common areas in lieu of being installed in residential sleeping areas. In nursing home corridors, automatic smoke detection systems must typically be installed, though they may sometimes be replaced with in-room smoke detectors. Many nursing homes are required to install manual fire alarm boxes along an area’s natural exit path, while automatic smoke detectors may be installed in open waiting areas. It’s a good idea to consult with your fire protection company to determine the kinds of fire detection equipment that will be required for your facility.
Prioritize Automatic Fire Sprinkler Maintenance
Since the 1990s, all new nursing homes have been required to install automatic sprinkler systems. But many nursing homes built before this time were not installed with sprinkler systems due to the prevalence of so-called “fireproof” building materials. Although a federal regulation was passed in 2008 to force older nursing homes to comply with sprinkler system mandates, these facilities had five years to make these adjustments. As of 2013, the requirement went into effect, but the New York Times reported that there were still more than 1,000 nursing homes nationwide that had partial sprinkler systems or no fire sprinkler installations at all. These days, it’s essential to have sprinklers installed — and keep them properly maintained. Since the combination of automatic sprinklers in early warning systems in all buildings could reduce property damage, injuries, and fatalities by at least 50%, this is one of the best ways to keep residents safe.
Develop Fire Safety Procedures
The importance of the technology installed and maintained by your fire protection company can’t be overstated. But in order to safeguard both residents and staff members, detailed procedures and evacuation plans must be developed and followed to the letter. All staff members, from doctors and nurses to cooks and volunteers, must thoroughly understand fire safety protocol and practice these plans on a regular basis. They must be written out and displayed visually in a prominent way, but they must also be prominently featured in ongoing training sessions. Periodic drills should be conducted to ensure that staff members are able to put their knowledge to good use and that the evacuation plan runs smoothly and efficiently. Because not all residents will be ambulatory, staff members must be well versed in how to properly transfer and evacuate residents in their care.
Do you know for certain that your nursing home is equipped with up-to-date safety measures? If you’re in doubt, you’ll want to contact your fire protection company as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could be taking a colossal risk that could have devastating consequences.