People commonly think of hospitals as places of healing and safety, but few realize how incredibly dangerous the prospect of a fire could be in a hospital. While several awful hospital fires stand out in workers’ and patients’ memories (such as the 1961 fire at a Hartford Connecticut Hospital which killed 16 people), people outside of the hospital business commonly don’t consider the danger of a hospital fire, or how easy it would be for one to break out.
Fortunately, people who learn about the risks seen in hospitals, and the steps that can be taken toward hospital fire safety are better-equipped to prepare themselves and their hospitals for the danger and the prevention of fires.
What Causes Fires in Hospitals?
Hospitals are no-smoking zones that are outfitted with some of the most advanced technological equipment on the earth, so what causes fires? Here are a few of the top culprits:
- Oxygen. Each year, an estimated 550 to 650 patients catch fire during surgery because of their oxygen lines. While oxygen seems like an innocuous component to many people, it can be incredibly dangerous in a hospital setting.
- Improper electrical wiring. IT departments in hospitals are some of the most common causes of fires, since many try to cope with increasing demand for technology and wiring by punching holes in walls to re-route wiring or expand wiring to other areas. This can violate fire codes and open the building up to enhanced fire risk.
- While it’s true that hospitals are non-smoking zones, that doesn’t always prevent people from smoking. In fact, the cause of the aforementioned 1961 fire at Hartford was cigarette ash that was flicked down a trash chute. This ash led to a flame that eventually compromised protective doors on the hospitals floors and created what prosecutors and investigators would later come to refer to as “a wall of flame.” While the restrictions on smoking and trash chutes have changed as a direct result of this fire, it still doesn’t stop people from smoking in improper places in a hospital.
How to Decrease Fire Risk in Hospitals
There are dozens of ways to reduce the risk of fires in hospitals, or to take precautions so that if a fire does break out, it’s easily contained and presents as little risk to human life and property as possible.
Here are a few of the most common approaches:
- Fire walls and doors. In a hospital setting, patients are typically movement-restricted, and may be on life-saving technology like respirators or feeding tubes that render them unable to be moved. As such, hospitals are designed to ensure that patients can stay inside of their rooms during a fire. This is an extraordinary feat of engineering, and requires patient rooms and wings to be outfitted with fire doors and fire walls – which are designed to resist flams when closed and keep patients safe in their rooms.
- On-staff firefighters. Some hospitals, like the Hartford Hospital in its modern inception, keep firefighters on hospital staff. This precautionary measure is designed to help hospitals respond quickly to blazes, and prevent them entirely in the first place.
- Fire training. Because fire standards in hospitals are different than they would be in schools or commercial buildings, fire training is essential. This is meant to educate both patients and staff members about how to respond to a fire, and what will help keep everyone safe.
Fire Safety in Hospitals: a Primary Concern
Today, fire safety is as critical as ever, and hospitals can benefit from partnering with an experienced fire services company. From fire suppression systems to extinguisher installation and system repairs and maintenance, the team at Fire1 is here to help you protect your business and offer the best fire protection services in New Orleans. Contact us today to learn more.