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Fire safety


How can we improve life safety in care homes?


In April, fire detection and emergency lighting manufacturer 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


Over the last 15 months, the country has watched Covid 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. When it comes to making, installing, maintaining and supplying life safety technology, the care home environment presents a range of unique challenges.


Roundtable panel l Hochiki Europe marketing manager Paul Adams (panel chairman).


lHochiki Europe regional sales manager Martin Green.


lHochiki Europe emergency lighting manager Ian Hill.


lBarchester Healthcare health & safety manager & NASHiCS vice-chairman Andy Hollingshead.


lChurches Fire & Security national account manager – healthcare Simon Titley .


lLlumarlite Lighting Solutions business development manager Ian Watts.


The discussion began with a reflection


of the last year and how Covid 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,” said Andy Hollingshead. Like any other business, he 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,


It’s extremely important to communicate an exit plan right the first time to minimise confusion – especially when dealing with people with dementia


June 2021 • www.thecarehomeenvironment.com


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 after restrictions are lifted. “We also had a number of fire and rescue


crews that were concerned about how they’d know which residents had tested positive/suspected if they arrived to support with an emergency. We overcame this by putting red letter Cs on PEEPs (personal emergency evacuation plans) 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 15 months has been challenging. Simon Titley shared his experience: “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


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