Firestopping Contractors London
Fire Safety Guide #3
Fire Prevention in Hospitals
This fire safety technical guide discusses the fire risks in hospital buildings and the measures required to keep hospitals safe.

Fire Prevention in Hospitals

Hospital buildings are complex structures. They have a substantial number of permanently present staff, occupied by vulnerable patients and enjoy large number of visitors. Activities in hospital buildings present a range of major fire hazards. These threats endanger the safety of patients and staff alike, whether they are wiring issues or storing dangerous chemicals, and can bring a hospital to a standstill. Therefore, we discuss some of the fire hazards applicable to hospital buildings in this article, and how to minimise them by efficient passive fireproofing techniques.

Fire Hazards in Hospital Buildings

As stipulated by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the following hazards should be examined during a frequent risk assessment by the 'responsible person'.

A. Medical and surgical equipment
While constructed with fire protection in mind, there are many combustible materials used in hospitals. In particular, flammable gas cylinders and oxygen canisters should be properly stored and treated, and energy-intensive machinery should meet electrical loading protocols.

B. Hospital kitchens
From cooking with fats to open fires, kitchens have a number of fire hazards. It is essential to regularly clean pans, grills and other appliances, and kitchens are fitted with the appropriate fire protection equipment.

C. Overused sockets and cables
One of the leading causes of hospital fires is defective or overloaded electricity. There are different risks involved due to the vast amount of electrical equipment required in a hospital. Short-circuits, overloaded power points, and defective or worn wiring all pose major fire hazards.

D. Smoking
Despite the fact that vast majority of NHS hospitals are now fully banning smoking within buildings, a major fire risk exists. Ashtray fires can be triggered by non-extinguished cigarette stubs, which can spread rapidly if not handled quickly. Smoking areas in a safe location away from the main buildings of a hospital should be installed.

Fire Protection in Hospitals

Although there are numerous ways to minimise hospital fire hazards, below are 3 standard fire proofing strategies to ensure that fires are managed efficiently.

Hospital fire compartmentation
In order to prevent fire from spreading vertically and laterally into various spaces, fire compartmentation in a hospital is important. Hospitals are divided into fire areas, each of which, through fire-resistant walls and flooring, acts as a self-contained unit.
There should be no gaps between the doors, walls or ceilings in the hospital to guarantee the integrity of fire compartmentation within the hospital buildings. If there are holes between the door and its frame, it isn't ideal to have a fire-resistant door. Toxic gases and smoke can certainly flow through ordinary doors, so regulations say that they need to be sealed.

In order to delay, and potentially completely eliminate, the spread of fire, smoke and toxic gases from one part of a hospital building to another, a number of fire stopping techniques are used, involving the installation of suitably tested fire-resistant barriers, boarding, curtains and systems to structures around the shared wall and compartmentation doors.

Fire doors
Not only are fire doors strategically designed for escape, but they also have to be fire-resistant. For NHS fire doors, the minimum security time is 30 minutes, but in some locations where evacuation is estimated to be slower, this can be longer.

The regulation allows for the manufacture of fire doors with a variety of materials (wood, aluminium, steel, gypsum) and also with windows, as long as they comply precisely with their respective degree of time security.

For evacuation purposes, they should also be clearly identified as fire doors and fitted with a self-closing mechanism to ensure the safety of the compartment of the house. In addition, cold smoke seals are needed to seal the area between the door and the frame.

Sprinkler system
The effect of a fire can be minimised by a high pressure sprinkler device, and without providing a lot of water. They are currently reported to decrease accidents by up to 80 percent and minimise damage to property by up to 90 percent.

Fire Risk Assessments in Hospitals

Hospitals need to complete routine fire risk assessments (FRAs) through an independent partner to fully comply with the current fire safety regulations. A trained assessor can review existing fireproofing measures during a FRA and consider any possible fire hazards to the buildings during a FRA. Their validity test will provide a concise summary of the current state of the building's fire safety, and what needs to be done to strengthen and bring it into line with regulations.

Over the last decade, ALERON Fire Protection has worked to develop itself as the UK's market leading firestopping contractors and experts in passive fire protection. We remain passionate about fire protection, implementation of fire safety and fire stopping compliance. ALERON is a team of expert IFC-accredited installers and also maintain accreditations from a number of industry specific professional bodies.

Would you like to find out more about our passive fire protection specialist services? Get in touch today with ALERON team for a free technical advice.

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