Fire safety is of utmost importance for aged care facilities because the patients are so vulnerable and lacking in mobility. Fire Safety for Aged Care Facilities is not only important for the health of the patients but required by Australian regulatory reform laws. Properly operating sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, emergency exit signs and other safety hardware is now mandated. There are other safety measures that must also be addressed such as clear pathways to exits, proper training of staff, and good maintenance and housekeeping.
New Safety Legislation for Fire Safety for Aged Care Facilities
- Some Aged Care Facilities in Australia will be affected by new Government Sprinkler Legislation. Aged care facilities may need to replace or retrofit new sprinkler systems at great expense. Properly functioning sprinkler systems are an important part of Aged Care Fire Safety.
- There are also stricter requirements for automatic smoke detection and alarm systems that are connected to local fire brigades. The Department of Health and Aging oversees this. It falls under the 1997 Aged Care Act.
- The Harmonised Occupational Health and Safety Laws or the Australian Standard AS3745 revision require that there be a properly written emergency response procedure manual in place at each facility. Many areas require facilities to give one of these emergency response manuals to the local fire brigade.
These and other regulations are designed to ensure Fire Safety for Health Care Facilities. Facilities for the care of the aged that have been lax in safety procedures and equipment will be required to retrofit and update facility equipment such as sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, and other safety equipment. They will be required to improve the housekeeping and maintenance procedures so that a clear path is always available for emergency exits in case of emergency. These facilities will all be required to have a printed safety manual for all employees that includes exit plans,evacuation procedures and evacuation floor diagrams for all facility areas.
Training Staff In Fire Safety Procedures
Staff always mean well, but if they are not trained in evacuation procedures, panic may ensue. When a smoke alarm sounds, every staff member should know exactly what to do. A decision will need to be made quickly on whether to evacuate the patients. The source of the smoke must be quickly found. Staff training should happen upon hiring and then at intervals after that. Each staff member should have access to the facility emergency response manual and have read it. Fire Safety Training should cover these points.
- Every staff member needs to be able to properly use fire blankets and fire extinguishers.
- Staff must know how to unfurl the fire hose reel and aim the nozzle at the fire properly.
- The warden must be able to identify the alarm zones from the fire panel.
- The assigned fire warden must have a fire evacuation pack that is quickly accessible. This includes a torch, whistle, horn, first aid kit, instructions,and an up-to-date list of employees and residents.
- The staff must be trained to meet the Building Fire Safety Regulation requirements. Fire safety officers must be appointed and have extra training.
- The ECO or Emergency Control Organization must be established, with members being trained and identified to staff. They must meet at least every six months.
- Regular fire emergency and evacuation exercises must be undertaken regularly involving all staff.
All of these regulations and training are meant to keep everyone safe in case of fire emergencies, but will be helpful during other emergencies as well. In addition to the good training and fire safety equipment, patients rooms must also be kept safe of fire hazards such as small electrical appliances, furniture and paper goods. All items in patient’s rooms should be tested for safety and meeting appropriate fire safety ratings. Meeting all these safety standards and training requirements can ensure a safe facility. For more information on Fire Safety for Aged Care Facilities, contact FCF Fire and Electrical Sunshine Coast today.