Ensuring safety in healthcare facilities proves to be a challenging feat – and for many reasons. Not all building occupants are ambulatory or able to walk by themselves. Aside from having reliable fire alarm systems in place, training the hospital staff and developing a strategy to be defensive inside the building – rather than evacuating the site – are critical parts of fire safety and protection plan for hospitals and healthcare facilities.

Effectiveness and Reliability

Fire safety and prevention is paramount in any environment. However, imagine a fire emergency in a hospital or healthcare facility. A severe and massive fire would be a cause of major disruption and chaos to the patients and staff that evacuation is the topmost concern. This part could be life-threatening as it is, let alone the effects of a fire. Thus, there are many factors to keep in mind when installing a fire alarm system in any healthcare building. The effectiveness and reliability of these systems – including the audible fire alarms – must be placed to sound correctly and accurately in all the correct areas; and not in areas of the building where there is no risk, and the occupants don’t need to be moved.

NFPA’s Life Safety Code

One of the main concerns is the inability of most healthcare facilities occupants to adequately respond or react to fire alarm warnings on their own accord. The National Fire Protection Association‘s Life Safety Code states that “All healthcare facilities shall be designed, constructed, maintained, and operated to minimize the possibility of a fire emergency requiring the evacuation of occupants. Because the safety of healthcare occupants cannot be ensured adequately by dependence on the evacuation of the building, their protection from fire must be provided by appropriate arrangement of facilities, adequate staffing, and development of operating and maintenance procedures.”

When it comes to building construction, local building codes are the guidelines that should be followed. However, fire protection requirements for hospitals and healthcare facilities are adopted from the NFPA 101’s Life Safety Code. The NFPA also cited standards for sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, and HVAC equipment, among other building requirements.

NFPA’s Life Safety Code explains that a healthcare occupancy is “an occupancy used for purposes of medical and treatment or care of four or more persons where occupants are mostly incapable of self-preservation due to age, physical or mental ability, or because of security measures not under the occupants’ control.

Aside from the NFPA’s guidelines, the requirements for fire protection from the following entities must also be considered: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) or formerly the Healthcare Finance Administration, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and the Joint Committee on Accreditation of Healthcare Facilities.

Keep These Factors in Mind:

  • When you work with a fire alarm system installation company, they should be able to guide you throughout the installation process. However, it will help immensely if you know these additional factors that need to be considered.
  • Plan regular meetings between the healthcare administrative staff and fire alarm installation company to talk about how the installation would occur in the different parts of the facility.
  • Consider the daily functions of a hospital environment when planning the installation schedule. Ideally, minimum disruption should occur so the patients’ health and recovery won’t be compromised.
  • Plan to minimize downtime by ensuring there is sufficient supply of the necessary devices on hand.
  • Don’t forget to assess the existing fire alarm system. Make sure that it was still operational and maintained while installing the new system. Don’t deactivate it until you have the new system good to go. This step will ensure the facility’s maximum protection at all times.
  • Some older hospital and healthcare building might use the old type of wirings and cables, which requires careful handling. Make sure that the fire alarm installation company you are working with is aware of this situation.
  • Sound tests should occur at all times during the installation process.

Teamwork and Cooperation

The safety and protection of healthcare facilities offer a set of unique challenges. With that being said, teamwork and cooperation across all parties – including the fire alarm system company and healthcare staff – these challenges can be overcome.