Top 10 Ways to Prepare Your Hospital for a Fire

Even with enough preparation and prevention, your hospital may experience a fire. In the event of a fire, you need to ask yourself a couple crucial questions:

  • Has your Emergency Management Plan (EMP) for such an unexpected occurrence been established and kept current?
  • Does it cover fire prevention and detection as well as incident response?

When looking at your EMP, consider these tips to ensure that your hospital is prepared to handle a fire of any size:

  1. Involve fire professionals in fire management planning. Communication and coordination with the fire department will be critical in minimizing damage in the event of a fire. Opening the lines of communication and working together in advance of a fire in your hospital will improve the chances of keeping damage, inconvenience and cost to a minimum.
  2. Develop an Incident Action Plan. A detailed plan of the step-by-step procedures for handling a fire emergency will eliminate guesswork and last-minute pressure to cover all bases. Involve members of all facets of hospital operations while developing a plan that covers all possible questions and needs.
  3. Develop a fire detection communication plan. Once your smoke and fire detectors have sensed fire or smoke, how are you communicating this information to your staff and patients? In addition to ensuring that fire detection equipment is functioning, be sure that fire alarms, emergency exits and loudspeakers are coordinated to convey the emergency procedures.
  4. Create an Incident Command Structure. Who will be responsible for coordinating the post-incident communication and decision-making? Identify the staff members who will be responsible for damage assessment, communication with patients and/or the media, and recovery planning.
  5. Develop a detailed damage assessment procedure. What are the key points to be assessed when measuring the extent of fire damage in your hospital? By creating this plan in advance, with the input of a cross-functional team within the hospital, you'll be able to promptly address fire, smoke, equipment, supplies and other operational and personnel damage when it occurs.
  6. Identify alternative care facilities. What if the damage is extensive enough to force you to change your level and/or amount of care you can provide? By identifying other care facilities that can relieve the pressure from your hospital, you can quickly react without a drop in quality of care you're able to provide.
  7. Control post-fire communications. Planning in advance can help you convey the necessary information about the fire to the media, the patients and their families. Anticipating a fire event and planning your message can help prevent a reactive message from being presented under stressful situations.
  8. Prepare recovery contact list. Who and what may need to be repaired or re-ordered if damaged or destroyed in a fire? By keeping control of inventory and the necessary vendors or repair professionals, the time that equipment is unavailable can be minimized.
  9. Don't forget your staff. Do you have a staffing plan for emergency situations? Identify essential personnel as well as programs to support all staff members immediately after a fire or other emergency.  And don't forget on-going fire safety education, training and evaluation for all staff members.
  10. Re-emphasize fire prevention. An ounce of fire prevention is worth a pound of cure. Think proactively about potential fire hazards and work to control the threat of fire. Training of employees, upgrading or updating equipment and regular safety assessments can help minimize the danger of fire outbreak in your hospital.