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FIRE SAFETY


connected to the switchboard and relayed between the existing and active panel, thus guaranteeing overall system integrity when having a split system. The contractor then worked in phases changing over one loop at a time, with an active fire watch during the changeover, again guaranteeing full system coverage at all stages. The new system was able to be fully programmed and zoned according to the fire safety officer’s requirements, and offers many of the beneficial features described in this article that make it adaptable, and ensure compliance, and, most importantly, occupants’ safety. Since the upgrade, the latest ERIC data shows only eight false alarms with fire service call-outs in 2018, making the Luton and Dunstable University Hospital currently one of the best-performing acute hospitals of its size in the UK.


Manual call point activations Additionally, none of the false alarms at the site have been due to the system itself; rather they have been attributable to manual call point (MCP) activations, which the Trust is taking steps to reduce. The system upgrade has eliminated false alarms from detectors. Disablements can be made on the system via a mobile app to easily accommodate HPV cleaning, while a stock of spare heat detectors is exchanged for smoke detectors when works are being carried out by contractors.


PFI buildings


The Private Finance Initiative put large public sector infrastructure projects out to tender, and private developers raised capital to construct the buildings, before leasing them back to the government. The lease arrangements are typically unbeneficial for the public sector, with repayments being made over 20 to 30 years, with a very high rate of interest.


Good intent 7%


Environmental – cooking fumes 18%


Malicious 6%


Environmental – insects 6%


Unknown 5%


Accidental damage 5%


Activated by patient or public 5%


Environmental – smoking 5%


System procedures not complied with 2%


System fault/design 18%


Environmental – other 22%


Management procedures not complied with 1%


Figure 3: Reported causes of false alarms in healthcare premises (HTM 05-03 Part H).


There are currently 716 PFI or PF2 projects either under construction or in operation in the UK, of which 127 are health or social care projects. The anticipated total cost of PFI to the NHS is £80 bn by 2050. These buildings pose their own unique challenges in terms of management, since many fire detection systems’ management is kept separate from the NHS Trust. The integration of systems is the best and safest option, and in the case of the fire detection system will likely improve performance. Where two different fire systems are in operation, it is possible to interface them together to ensure complete protection and configure appropriate cause and effect. In addition, having cloud-hosted data for fire alarm systems is ideal, and enables a hospital to monitor testing on one platform.


Evacuation and fire strategy Due to the complex nature of hospitals, an evacuation strategy needs to be carefully considered. Progressive horizontal evacuation procedures are combined with phased vertical evacuation to ensure the safety of patients and staff, while


minimising movement of dependent and high-dependency people. In order for this phased evacuation strategy to work, it is important to have robust compartmentation throughout the building, combined with corresponding fire zoning of the detection system. Due to the ongoing evolution of a hospital site it is not uncommon that, over time, fire zones will no longer correspond to the correct compartments. This is potentially very dangerous, as building occupiers could be given misinformation about when to evacuate. Easy-to- configure sounder grouping, and any fire panels that support the most complex ‘cause and effect’ – such as the ones chosen in the Luton & Dunstable Hospital refurbishment – are ideal.


System performance issues within specific environments Hospital environments have unique challenges that affect the fire system, and can put more stress on the system than a normal building function. Considering these challenges at the design stage will improve the overall performance of the system in terms of: n Integrity of overall protection. n Fewer false alarms. n Lower maintenance costs. n Improved system longevity.


Clearly labelled door release and manual call point units. 82 Health Estate Journal September 2020


The number one issue relating to fire detection systems in hospitals remains false alarms – defined as the activation of the fire detection and alarm system resulting from a cause other than fire. A false alarm becomes an Unwanted Fire Signal (UwFS) at the point that the fire and rescue service is requested to attend. This is defined in the Healthcare Technical Memorandum 05-03 (HTM). The primary problem with false alarms within hospitals is the immediate risk of disruption to care. There are further issues associated with an UwFS, such as the waste of the fire and rescue service’s time. However, even more dangerous is that there is a prioritisation to attend fire signals from hospitals over other building types, meaning that Unwanted Fire Signals within hospitals can


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