Fire Safety in Residential Care Homes – The two critical factors

Fire Safety in Residential Care Homes – The two critical factors

In December 2013, three North West care home owners were
prosecuted for fire safety failings. Richard Dickinson, was found guilty
of three breaches of Fire legislation following a blaze at the
Rangemore Nursing Home in Knutsford. He received 12 months
prison, suspended for two years, 200 hours of unpaid work and a fine of
Following a small fire at a Liverpool care home, the joint owners shared
a £48,000 fine. When fire fighters arrived they found the night duty staff
had evacuated leaving residents unsupervised. Rosepark Care Home in
Scotland saw fourteen residents lose their lives needlessly in a fire due
in part to the slow reactions of staff and their inability to locate the fire’s
It is clear that this high risk sector is plagued with issues other
businesses don’t have. Waking and evacuating sleeping and mobility
impaired residents during a night shift when the staff/resident ratios are
at their lowest, is an onerous task. Government funding cuts mean
owners must look at ways to save money. This may mean using less
experienced or under qualified contractors for the maintenance of fire
safety measures, or those who operate under the VAT threshold.
So, from the restricted fire safety budget, which part of the package of
fire protection measures must you focus on to ensure that you don’t end
up on the wrong side of jury service? To understand this you need

an appreciation of the behaviour of fire and how it interacts with the buildings protective arrangements.

Passive protection arrangements such as self closing fire doors and fire
and smoke seals carry out an important role during fire conditions.
However it is the performance of two more critical elements you are
depending on first; the fire alarm system and the ‘competent’ staff
member. Should these function appropriately you will have a window of
opportunity not afforded to the staff in care homes such as Rosepark or
the many others where fatalities have occurred. So my advice is simple:
1) Ensure your fire detection/alarm system is fit for purpose and
maintained by fire alarm specialists (not electricians or security
2) Ensure your employees are appropriately fire trained and that ‘at all
times’ there is one competent staff member on duty who can read the
fire alarm panel and reach the actuating detector
within a reasonable timescale.

Mike Pearson
Wirral Fire Protection

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