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Fire safety


simple approach of ‘you do whatever it takes to save a life.’”


Minimising false alarms Next, the panel discussed the importance of reducing occurrences of false alarms – due to the reoccurring issue of the frailty of care home residents. Titley reminded the group that this can be supported by regular, planned preventative maintenance programmes which extend the life expectancy of equipment, in particular sensors. In addition, visual checks of electrical equipment that come into a premises are vital to monitor for scorched plugs or broken cables. Hollingshead said: “Toasters are a huge


issue – they usually cause smoke rather than fires, which cause activation of alarms. Halogen floor lights have recently cause problems too, so we only use LED bulbs across our homes now. It’s so important to be smart in order to avoid bad relationships with local fire brigade, as the work they do is incredible and it’s vital to keep them on side.” Turning to how technology can


help avoid false alarms, Green said: “Investigation delays can be set to give staff a few minutes to respond before the fire brigade is alerted and cause and effect programming in multi-sensors can also help, particularly with common causes such as toasters. “For example, you can programme the multi-sensor to provide an initial alert at the fire control panel to inform a manager that there is smoke present and then, while also monitoring for the presence of heat, begin to determine whether it’s a real fire and whether a full alarm condition should be initiated.” When asked what companies can do to


improve system design and engineering, Titley stressed that every design should be built around a fire risk assessment (FRA) provided by the owner of the care home. “Creating a robust fire safety strategy relies on a partnership between contractor and operator”, he said. Picking up on a potential design flaw, Hollingshead explained that people living with dementia often set off call points. “We do everything we can to try and stop this with covers and howlers and it still happens. Within BS 5839-1, there’s a proviso that all manual call points are fitted with covers to reduce false alarms but when you’re dealing with people living with dementia, it’s almost impossible to


avoid them completely,” he said. The group were in agreement and


Fire Industry Association trainer, Ian Watts, advised that it is possible to write something into the care home’s risk assessment to override this issue. “There’s so much ability to create variations to the British Standards and this is something that I’m always keen to stress during training courses,” he said. “Of late, there has been a real uplift


in the take-up for training, which is wonderful to see. People are taking their knowledge and applying it to individual buildings successfully – it’s a lovely movement.”


The role of regular risk assessments Expanding on the subject of risk assessments, all parties agreed that they do not just offer an understanding of fire safety, but also the people that use a home and the unique difficulties of each care home. “This isn’t often appreciated within the industry. An ex-fire officer isn’t necessarily a risk assessor,” said Hollingshead. “We have a full survey every three years and an additional review annually that looks at the people and the environment, not just the system.” Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire


Safety) Order 2005, the responsible person is required to – following a risk assessment – implement appropriate fire safety measures to minimise the risk to life from fire, and to keep the assessment up to date. However, within the industry, there is often confusion around how a responsible person is defined. Hollingshead continued: “Under


June 2021 • www.thecarehomeenvironment.com


legislation, it’s officially the CEO but typically it’s down to managers to make sure remedial work from assessments are carried out.”


Energy efficiency While it is clear that fire safety must not be disregarded in the quest for energy efficiency, there is a clear link between the two. The panel discussed ways that new build homes are more energy efficient and fire safe by design – through the use of products such as LED bulbs and USB charger ports. However, when it comes to older buildings it can be more challenging, as it is hard to put demands on people regarding their own belongings. Hollingshead said: “We wouldn’t like people to come into our bedrooms and start altering things, so it can be tricky! There are ways to overcome this though, for example, we’ll quite often replace the halogen bulbs in residents’ reading lamps for cooler running LEDs, so you’re not taking someone’s belongings away, just changing them to make them safer and more efficient.”


The benefits of wayfinding technology At this point, Hochiki’s emergency lighting manager, Ian Hill, raised the topic of wayfinding technology and emergency lighting, which is also now designed to use LED – not only more efficient but also long-lasting, meaning products are much more reliable, reducing the chance of failure and simplifying maintenance. Hill explained: “The majority of fire risks in care homes are at night, when there’s


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