Hospitals have very strict fire safety guidelines in place for several reasons.
Most importantly, the people within hospitals are in a vulnerable state, and may not be able to evacuate without assistance. Secondly, hospitals are home to all sorts of medical equipment, oxygen tanks, and flammable chemicals.
Uncontrolled fires in hospitals can spread very quickly and lead to a devastating loss of life, injuries, and significant property damage.
These are just a few reasons why hospital fire safety guidelines are in place for detection systems, suppression protocols, evacuation plans, staff training, and other regulations. Modern fire alarm systems for hospitals are designed, installed, and maintained to adhere to these requirements.
In this article, we want to provide a professional overview of the fire safety guidelines in hospitals – and the available options for these organizations. Let’s get moving.
Overview: Fire Safety Guidelines for Hospitals
Hospitals in Pennsylvania must comply with the following requirements regarding fire safety:
- Compliance with local fire codes and regulations
- Adequate fire detection and alarm system installation
- Emergency evacuation plans and procedures
- Fire-resistant building construction and materials
- Proper storage and handling of flammable materials
- Maintenance and testing of fire safety equipment
- Staff training and education on fire safety protocols
This post will examine each of these points – and how to ensure hospitals are keeping the premise safe.
Importance of Fire Alarm System Installation
Fire alarm systems are an integral aspect of hospital safety.
On a basic level, they must provide early fire detection to trigger a response. Hospitals generally have higher concentrations of people – most of whom may be unable to take proper action on their own.
The fire alarm system needs to alert staff, patients, and visitors with enough time to evacuate while the fire department is dispatched.
Today’s fire alarm systems are designed with incredibly advanced features to minimize risks. This includes capabilities to indicate the exact location of the fire inside the building. This does wonders to make the response and evacuation process more efficient.
Now, every hospital is different – meaning each will need a customized fire alarm system to fit the requirements. Additionally, regular testing and maintenance are essential to ensure the system functions properly in the event of a fire.
We’ll put this bluntly:
Implementing a fire alarm system in a hospital is not a job for the general maintenance staff. Hospitals need professional fire alarm installation services to ensure the system is designed, implemented, and maintained properly. Cutting costs in this area can lead to violations and fines.
Customized Fire Alarm System Installation in Pittsburgh Hospitals
Hospitals – and other high-risk occupancies – in Pittsburgh are held to strict fire prevention regulations by the City of Pittsburgh. Systems are subjected to inspections to find/eliminate hazards under the International Fire Code. The common violations include:
- Inadequate sprinkler systems
- Erroded fire pumps
- Faulty alarm systems
- Improper cooking suppression
- Inadequate emergency lighting
- Missing/expired fire extinguishers
- Unidentified addresses for emergency staff
- Deteriorated fire escape
Read the Fire Inspection Checklist for more information.
Requirements of Custom Fire Alarm Systems in Hospitals
When considering a custom fire alarm system, hospitals need to consider the following factors:
- Size and Layout: Number of floors and rooms.
- Zoning: Hospitals must be divided into zones for fire detection and alarm purposes.
- Types of Occupancy: Different areas of a hospital may have different requirements – areas with flammable substances may call for more sensitive detection.
- Integration: The system should be integrated with other systems in the hospital, such as the HVAC system to prevent smoke from spreading.
- Alarm Types: Hospitals require both audible and visual alarm indicators due to the health conditions of patients and staff.
- False Alarm Prevention: Hospitals need systems that minimize false alarms, as unnecessary evacuations can compromise patient safety and disrupt care.
- Maintenance: The system must account for regular testing, maintenance, and updates without causing disruptions to hospital operations.
- Backup Power: To ensure functionality during power outages, the fire alarm system should have a reliable backup power source.
A local fire alarm system provider will be up to date on all the requirements and demands of hospitals in the area. They will direct you on every aspect of the installation and maintenance process.
The Role of Emergency Evacuation Plans and Procedures
Every hospital needs a well-defined emergency evacuation plan. This is to keep patients and staff safe – as well as help facilitate the response from the fire department.
Now, given the nature of hospitals – which includes handling potentially immobile patients and hazardous materials – fire evacuation plans can be life-and-death scenarios. This means the plans must clearly define roles, procedures, evacuation routes, and assembly points.
Moreover, regular training and drills are required to ensure all staff is familiar with the plans. Lastly, there must be foolproof coordination with local emergency responders and authorities. The authorities are automatically dispatched when the alarm is triggered in most hospital fire alarm systems.
Fire-Resistant Building Construction and Materials
Fire-resistant construction is a critical safety requirement in hospitals across the United States.
The materials and architectural design must minimize the spread of fires and allow time for safe evacuation.
The common elements of fire-resistant construction include the use of flame-retardant materials in walls, ceilings, and floors. Additionally, fire doors must close automatically to compartmentalize the building and inhibit the spread of smoke and flames.
There must also be adequate protection of escape routes and stairwells to ensure staff and patients can exit the building safely.
Other features typically include fire-resistant glazing, protected zones for vulnerable patients, and the use of non-combustible materials for fixtures and fittings.
Fire safety guidelines require these features to be maintained and regularly inspected by professionals.
Proper Storage and Handling of Flammable Materials
Storage and handling of flammable materials – including oxygen and nitrous oxide, combustible liquids, aerosol, etc. – are extremely important in hospitals. The fire safety guidelines for these tasks generally include:
- Approved & properly labeled containers
- Adequate ventilation
- Control of ignition sources (smoking, open flames, etc.)
- Segregation from oxidizing agents
- Proper disposal protocols
- Precise inventory control
Most importantly, necessary staff must be properly trained on safe handling procedures. This includes how to respond to spills, breaches, and of course, how to use extinguishing equipment in the event of a fire.
Maintenance and Testing of Fire Safety Equipment
Regular maintenance and testing of fire safety equipment is required in hospitals.
If anything fails to go off during the event of a fire, it can lead to serious consequences – which may land the hospital in legal trouble. For instance, fire extinguisher pressure can decrease over time, sprinkler systems can erode or become obstructed, and alarms may malfunction.
Regular inspections work to identify these issues – and take proper action to maintain the effectiveness of the fire safety system. Moreover, maintenance and testing are typically mandated by local fire codes and regulations, and non-compliance can result in fines or other penalties.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, commercial fire alarm systems (including hospitals) must be tested at least once a year. Fire extinguishers are required to be tested when they are initially installed – and once per month after that.
As hospitals have unique requirements, we strongly recommend having your fire alarm system inspected multiple times throughout the year.
Staff Training and Education on Fire Safety Protocols
Simply put, fire safety protocols are only effective if the staff is properly trained. Their actions play a critical role in the safety of patients, visitors, and other staff members.
There are basic fire safety training requirements for all hospital employees – which primarily include explaining the nature of fires in hospitals, general prevention, and evacuation protocols.
For certain staff, there may be more detailed training and education, including:
- Fire extinguisher training
- First-aid training
- Fire detection training
- Fire response training
- Training in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Handling of flammable materials
Training programs and fire safety guidelines must be regularly updated and repeated to ensure new and existing staff is prepared. most hospitals use a mix of in-house training and external programs by fire safety professionals or regulatory organizations to make sure everyone is up to speed.
Hospitals have many fire safety guidelines in place to protect staff, patients, and other visitors. In Pennsylvania, these policies are very strict and hospitals face serious consequences if protocols are breached.
Whether it’s a hospital or other high-occupancy organization, the importance of fire safety cannot be understated. The reality is many organizations do not prioritize safety protocols until it is too late – meaning they either get hit with a violation or a fire occurs.
A professionally-implemented custom fire alarm system ensures every square inch of the facility is accounted for – and there are proper procedures in place to take action. 2 Krew Security and Surveillance specializes in fire alarm system installation in Pittsburgh and the Tri-State Area.
If you are looking for a new system – or an upgrade to your existing system – get in touch with our experts today.