Unfortunately, senses and mobility deteriorate slowly as people get older, making it increasingly difficult to do the things they found easygoing in their youth. Ultimately, this puts the elderly at greater risk of injury or worse if a fire started than the youthful. As such, it is of the utmost importance that we prepare our properties and businesses for the potential outbreak of fire adequately and thoroughly to ensure the elderly we care for remain in the safest hands at all times.
In this article, we will be discussing the fire safety methods you should employ to increase the safety of the elderly in your business or property, with a particular focus on those commercial properties with lots of elderly customers and care homes.
There is no such thing as too much preparation when it comes to fire safety, especially when the safety of the vulnerable is in jeopardy. Firstly, you should seriously consider hiring a fire safety professional to come to your building to inspect it for potential fire hazards and to help coordinate an effective fire safety plan you can implement.
One such thing they will suggest involves installing fire doors throughout the building in order to impede the spread of the fire. Fire doors are designed to withstand extreme temperatures, and they feature a seal that cushions them in the doorframe which expands under such temperatures and blocks smoke from infesting other rooms.
Where you position the fire doors is also critical because the fire doors will provide a safe route along which you can evacuate the building. You should prepare for the possibility of encountering a fire even along this route by placing fire extinguishers along the route. For more information on where and how to mount fire extinguishers, you should consult our article last month here.
Further preparation you could undertake in your building involves the proper signage and lighting of escape routes and exits. The lighting should allow even the most impaired to find their way along the route and the signs should be clearly visible and easily understood.
You will also need to ensure that you have a universal evacuation plan in place known by at the very least all of your staff. We will address this more closely later in the article.
The next step would be to ensure that your building has sufficient fire detection devices in place.
It can be very difficult for the elderly to detect fire themselves or to heed the alarms when they sound due to their impaired senses or mobility, reducing their ability to act. You can combat this in your property through a number of methods.
Firstly, you should purchase detectors that are designed with the elderly and impaired in mind and have features to accommodate their needs. These features could involve a louder than normal alarm, but more importantly, it could involve a strobe light that provides an extra method to alert those in the building with hearing problems.
Following this, you should also ensure that there is an alarm on every floor of the building and that these are appropriately placed around the floor so that no area remains unmonitored. These detectors should then be linked together so that if one goes off all will follow.
It may also be worth investing in personal alarms for elderly residents in care homes to further ensure that they are alerted in the event of a fire. These could be placed under the residents’ pillows at night and vibrate when the universal system is triggered, waking the resident up so they can evacuate themselves or ready themselves for aid with evacuation.
Moreover, you could install a monitored alarm system that notifies the local fire service when a fire is detected, thereby ensuring that the fire service can be on the scene as soon as possible.
The preparations you have made beforehand will help you to safely exit the building upon the detection of a fire. Here there a couple of areas that are of the most importance that we shall cover, but when formulating your own evacuation plan you should run it by a professional to ensure it is foolproof. It is paramount that you have a rigorous evacuation plan in place so that you know how to exit the building safely, or that your staff are fully trained to deal with the event of fire and able to help those inside who may struggle to leave the premises; a fire safety assessment by Protect & Detect can help you to achieve this.
One area you will need to pay particular attention to during the preparation stage that will make or break your evacuation plan involves the suitability of your refuge areas. Regrettably, it may not be possible for fire services to rescue all residents quickly enough, making it essential that they are protected from danger until rescue arrives through fire safety measures, like accessible refuge areas and fire doors along evacuation routes, to protect them by preventing conditions from becoming life-threatening.
Exit doors are also something you need to pay heed to when it comes to care homes. These should normally open in the direction of travel and be quickly and easily openable without the need for a key, but wherever premises require extra security, such as in a retirement or care home where there is a risk of the elderly wandering out of the building unsupervised, then some form of security latches on final exit doors can be installed instead. The area before the exit door should also serve the same function as a refuge area.
Finally, you will need to account for the lack of mobility some of your customers or residents may have, and factor this into both your evacuation time and route. Do you need to invest in apparatus to safely escort disabled people downstairs from the refuge area once the fire service arrives? Do your staff know who will need help and who is more able to look after themselves in an emergency? Answers to these questions and more are what you need to consider, and a fire safety assessment carried out by professionals is the best way to ensure that people are at their safest whenever they’re in your building.
At Protect & Detect we offer a range of services to ensure your property or business meets all fire safety regulations, including a comprehensive installation and safety check on fire extinguishers and fire detection devices in a variety of business fields. For more information on our services, contact us today.