Sharing Knowledge to Improve standards

Hochiki Europe brings industry experts together to discuss the challenges and opportunities around life safety in care homes.

Over the last 18 months, the country has watched COVID-19 tear through care homes and leave devastation in its wake. With the sector experiencing the first major escalation in fatalities due to the close knit and closed off nature of homes, the importance of protecting society’s most vulnerable has been thrust firmly to the top of the nation’s agenda.

As well as the threat of the virus though, care home residents still face the risks they did pre-pandemic from a variety of other factors, including fire. And when it comes to making, installing, maintaining and supplying life safety technology, the care home environment presents a range of unique challenges.

Hochiki Europe hosted a roundtable made up of industry experts focused on the requirements and opportunities around life safety in care homes. The virtual conversation explored how the people responsible for keeping residents and care givers safe can work together, sharing knowledge and ideas to improve standards and best practice.

THE PANEL ● Ian Hill, Emergency Lighting Manager, Hochiki Europe ● Paul Adams, Marketing Manager, Hochiki Europe (Chair)

● Andy Hollingshead, Health and Safety Manager, Barchester Healthcare & Vice Chair NASHiCS

● Martin Green, Regional Sales Manager, Hochiki Europe

● Simon Titley, National Account Manager - Healthcare, Churches Fire & Security

● Ian Watts, Business Development Manager, Llumarlite Lighting Solutions


CARE ENVIRONMENT? The discussion began with a reflection of the last year and how COVID-19 has impacted the delivery of fire safety services within care homes – taking into consideration the battle of controlling infection and reducing visitors, while observing stringent safety standards and maintenance requirements.

“It’s obviously been a very difficult time within the industry, particularly in March and early April last year when people were being discharged from hospital without a test, as testing wasn’t the norm at that time”, stated Andy Hollingshead – who is part of the H&S Team for one of the country’s largest independent care providers. Like any other business, he

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stressed that those within the care sector had faced no choice but to adapt almost overnight.

“Fire and evacuation drills are a vital part of any fire safety strategy, but they encourage people to gather together, which is a challenge in the current climate. To combat this, we turned drills into desktop training where scenarios were given and staff had to describe the actions they’d take. This has been extremely well received and we’ll be continuing to run these exercises even aſter restrictions are liſted.

“We also had a number of fire and rescue crews that were concerned about how they’d know which residents had tested positive or were suspected if they arrived to support with an emergency. We overcame this by putting red letter Cs on personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPS) to identify who was high risk, which made things immediately clear to fire fighters.”

On the topic of maintenance, all parties agreed that the legal requirement to inspect and test systems over the last 12 months has been challenging. Sharing his experience, Simon Titley said: “By law, risk assessment and method statements (RAMs) must be updated regularly, so we had no choice but to continue. We altered our approach to offer more virtual appointments via WhatsApp video calls to maintenance staff or care home managers to ascertain whether or not a site visit was necessary.

“When they are, all appointments are pre booked and technicians are instructed not to enter a care home until they’ve called from the vehicle to ensure it’s still appropriate to visit. We have put certain protocol in place where contractors can’t enter bedrooms and with smaller properties, we’ve prearranged for the carer to take the patient out into the garden while we are on site. We’ve also produced a letter for staff which states that they provide an essential service to support them with accessing the vaccine as a priority.”

Everyone agreed that new processes are key and looking to how life safety technology itself can support. Hochiki’s Martin Green commented: “Hybrid wireless systems are a great fit as they are designed to reduce installation time, which minimises the time installers need to spend in people’s rooms. The wireless technology that’s on offer now is so much more robust than it was a few years ago – it’s ideal for the care environment.”


VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS Albeit obvious, one of the most challenging considerations of providing life safety systems to the care sector is the fact that

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