It is often difficult to make the decision to put your loved one in a nursing home. Sometimes people make the decision to go there on their own. Regardless of who makes the decision, the important thing is to make sure the place is safe. Nursing home fire safety is not necessarily at the top of the list when it comes to those things you look for in a highly-rated establishment, but perhaps it should be.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), during 2012-2014, there were approximately 5,700 fires reported in medical facilities across the country every year. Of that number, 2,700 occurred in nursing homes. Out of that number of nursing home fires, fewer than five deaths occurred. There were also fewer than 125 injuries, however, that is still twice as many as the number of injuries in other medical facilities. Considering the population, nursing home fire safety strategies must be in place in order to keep the number of injuries and fatalities low.
Where There’s Smoke
The USFA broke down the source of fires in nursing homes. Sixty-six percent are confined to cooking pots. These smaller, contained fires usually don’t result in life-threatening or injurious situations. Trash bin fires, incinerator, and trash compactor fires make up another 5 percent of fires, and 3 percent are due to fuel burner or chimney fires. 26 percent of nursing home fires are attributable to non-confined fires, which are fires that affect the building itself.
What’s the Plan?
Residents and staff both have a stake in nursing home fire safety. Proper fire safety plans need to be in place to assure the safety of the residents and staff should a fire break out. Written procedures need to be posted and distributed to all staff. These instructions need to be clear and understandable for all staff, from doctors to maintenance workers, kitchen staff and volunteers. A clear evacuation plan needs to be in place so all staff members know how to help the residents – what to do and where to go.
Regular fire drills will help reinforce the plan, so people will know instinctively what needs to happen. There should also be a meet-up location and a method to make sure all residents are accounted for. This can be difficult should an actual fire happen, but it is a necessary piece of the puzzle.
Nursing Home Fire Safety Is Proactive
A big part of nursing home fire safety is common sense. Working fire alarms are mandatory. The system should be able to detect a fire and initiate the alarm and/or suppression system. Fire and life safety equipment and emergency plans need to comply with safety codes and standards. Have a back-up plan in the event the automatic fire sprinkler system or fire alarms fail.
Fire doors serve a purpose. They should be closed at all times and inspected occasionally to make sure there are no holes or breaks in the surface of door frames. Portable fire extinguishers should be easily accessible and in good working order. Staff members need to know how to operate them also.
As a consumer, you can inquire about the safety precautions of a nursing home that’s housing your loved one. You want to know that, should a fire happen, the person you care about is going to be all right.
At Frohlich, Gordon & Beason, P.A., our attorneys specialize in personal injury law. If you or a loved one has been injured, call us to find out how we can help. We provide cost-free initial consultations. We are the lawyers who care, serving Port Charlotte, Englewood, North Port and the surrounding areas of southwest Florida.