It’s a sad fact that those in our society who are the most vulnerable are also most at risk of being injured or dying in a fire.
In the case of residential care homes, and any other environments where vulnerable people rely on others for their safety, it is essential that the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is adhered to.
Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is responsible for enforcing the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 to ensure that you are keeping people safe from fire in your premises. We do this by carrying out fire safety audits of all residential and nursing care premises and our team of Fire Safety Inspectors may contact you to arrange to carry out a fire safety audit. Please see www.dwfire.org.uk/what-happens-when-you-are-audited for more information on this.
Fire Risk Assessment
The fire safety of your residential, or nursing, care home is underpinned by the fire risk assessment that you are required to have carried out. The fire risk assessment helps you to establish what fire safety you already have in place and what fire safety you need to keep people safe.
The Government has produced advice about completing a fire safety risk assessment for all employers, managers, occupiers and owners of premises where the main use of the building (or part of the building) is to provide residential care.
It is intended for (non-domestic) residential premises with staff in attendance at all times and where most or all of the residents would require carer assistance to be safe in the event of a fire (i.e. where residents would not be able to make their way to a place of safety unaided). These could include residential and nursing homes; rehabilitation premises providing residential treatment and care for addiction; care homes; and care homes with nursing (as defined by the Care Standards Act 2000).
The guide is not intended for day-care centres with no residential clients; sheltered accommodation where no care is provided; hospitals; or out-posted nursing care in single private dwellings.
It is strongly recommended that you appoint a competent person to carry this out for you. The National Fire Chiefs Council has guidance on its website about finding a fire risk assessor.
Some simple things to check for
- Ensure that fire compartmentation is good and that fire will not spread. This may involve a more invasive fire risk assessment, especially in older buildings (looking above ceiling voids and under floors etc).
- Ensure that you have a comprehensive fire alarm system that conforms to BS 5839 Part 1.
- Ensure there are sufficient trained staff/carers who know how to react in case of fire and who can safely evacuate residents.
- Ensure staff are trained in using emergency evacuation equipment (slides, evac chairs etc).
- If using beds to evacuate, ensure that they will actually fit through openings.
- Ensure fire safety measures are in place at all times and maintained (never wedge fire doors open).
- Ensure exit routes are clear at all times and available for use.
- Fit a sprinkler system – it’s like having a firefighter on duty 24/7 in every room!
- Make sure you know what to do in the event of a power outage that affects your fire detection and alarm system. More here.
- Ensure that you are appropriately managing the risk of fire for people who smoke.
- Please be sure to call or notify the Fire Service whenever there is a fire, even when the fire has been extinguished (by yourselves) and you don’t think it is necessary. We will attend and provide appropriate support, advice and information.
(This list is not exhaustive and there will be many areas, not listed, for you to consider as part of your fire risk assessment).
MoU between National Fire Chiefs Council and Care Quality Commission
In March 2021, a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to support the collective working relationship between them, and to safeguard the wellbeing of the public receiving health and social care in England.
The CQC and the NFCC are committed to working in ways that are consistent with the principles of this MoU. Click here to view the MoU. Our Business Fire Safety Team are working with CQC partners to implement the agreed MoU.
Smoking risk to residents – advice for care home providers and those caring for people who smoke
Following a recent fire in a residential care home, we are taking the opportunity to remind care providers of the need to have effective and well-documented procedures and training in place for the management of smoking by residents (and staff, where appropriate).
Please see Regulation 28 Prevention of Future Deaths report following an incident in London in 2016. The recent incident has some similarities.
The main areas of focus for care providers are:
- Ensure that smoking risk is documented in the Fire Risk Assessment, to include locations inside and outside of the building.
- Ensure that smokers are risk assessed and documents kept as part of their Person Centred Fire Risk Assessment (PCFRA). This must include any capacity, cognitive and/or mobility issues which affect their ability to safely manage their smoking.
- Ensure that control measures are in place for the safe storage of lighters and matches, and their safe disposal.
- Ensure that where smoking is permitted, that this is supervised at all times.
- Avoid the potential ignition risk from emollients on fabric and clothing.
- Avoid risks associated with medical oxygen (if used or stored).
- Ensure that any risk controls such as fire-retardant blankets, bedding, aprons etc. are available and used appropriately.
- Ensure that staff are aware of the risks, that their training covers all of the above, and that they adhere to any procedures.
Please note that whilst smoking is not generally permitted in most buildings due to legal restrictions, we are aware that some end of life or mobility restricted scenarios can lead to variance from established, “normal” practices. If any concessions are made in this regard, they must be documented with the rationale provided and suitable controls recorded.
Taking extra care with emollient creams
Scientific testing by Anglia Ruskin University has shown that fabric – such as clothing, towelling, bandages or bedding – contaminated with emollients creams burn quicker and hotter than uncontaminated fabric, with an average time to ignition of approximately six seconds. Regular washing of fabrics does not totally remove the risk. This puts people who smoke at greater risk of experiencing a fire.
Fire safety seminars and events
It is intended that the Business Fire Safety Team will be hosting some in-person fire safety seminars, aimed specifically at care home managers and owners, as well as care home staff nominated with fire safety responsibilities.
Please email the Senior Fire Safety Improvement Manager [email protected] to express an interest in these events and/or to receive an invite for any that we hold.
If you have any fire safety queries regarding your responsibilities, please contact us [email protected] – be sure to provide the name and address of your premises in your email and as much detail as possible about your query.