Nursing Homes Fire Safety

Fire safety in nursing homes
Fire safety in nursing homes

Nursing homes care for the most vulnerable of our citizens.  Having an excellent fire safety program is place is important because many residents are elderly, frail, or disabled and have limited mobility. They also sleep at the facility, and people, obviously, are far less alert to fire or smoke danger when they are sleeping. This article will identify some of the more common fire hazards in a nursing home and offer suggestions on improving fire safety.

Fire supression in the kitchen

The most likely place for a fire to start is the kitchen where grease is deposited by exhaust vapors throughout range hoods, filters, and ducts. Combined with gas service lines and high heat, grease build-up in the range creates a hazardous fire environment. Install an Ansul-type, wet chemical fire extinguishing system in the kitchen that covers both the grills and the ventilating equipment (hoods and exhaust ducts) of the gas ranges. Employees can activate such systems by hitting a manual switch; or they can activate automatically through heat sensors. These systems also have automatic fuel and electrical shut-off devices which will shut down the fuel supply if there is a fire. Have the system tested and serviced at least annually by a certified contractor. Resources that explain more about fire suppression systems are listed in the box at the right.

If such an Ansul-type system is not financially feasible in your facility, install a fire extinguisher containing “Purple K” extinguishing agent within reach of the range. Purple K is a specially fluidized and siliconized potassium bicarbonate dry chemical that is especially effective on flammable liquids and pressurized gases from kitchen fires. It is also electrically non-conductive. Supplement this with BC UL 300 listed fire extinguishers throughout the kitchen.

Proper houskeeping and maintenance

Have range hoods and duct work cleaned at least monthly and provide grease removal filters or extraction devices. Effective types of grease filters include baffle, water wash, and dry-cartridge removable filters. New exhaust hood systems are also incorporating ultra-violet (UV) treatment to break down grease molecules which are then removed through the exhaust system.

Your electrical systems should be periodically surveyed by a licensed electrical contractor to inspect for wear, overloads, and needed repairs.  It must be in compliance with NFPA 70 of the National Fire Code.

Oxygen tanks

Oxygen tanks for respiration therapy are common in nursing homes. They can pose a hazard in a fire because oxygen will “feed” the flames and cause the fire to intensify or spread. Store all oxygen tanks (full or empty) upright in carts or chained against a sturdy wall or other support. Only place in use the number of tanks necessary for patient therapy. Store all other tanks upright in a fire resistant or fireproof container or vault.

No smoking

Do not allow smoking within the facility or within 30 feet of the building. Provide a “smoke shack” or similar enclosure for employees, visitors, or residents who insist on polluting their lungs. Ensure the smoke shack has a non combustible floor, like concrete, and that there are ample ash buckets to extinguish ashes.

Flammable storage

Do not allow storage of flammable or combustible solvents or other chemicals inside the facility unless they are locked in fire proof containers. Only keep on the hand amount of chemicals you will need for a week. Store all other surplus supplies in a separate building or shed at least 30 feet from the nursing home.

General fire supression

The facility should have automatic fire sprinkler protection throughout 100% of the interior. If the exterior is constructed of combustible materials you should consider exterior protection as well. Have the sprinkler system inspected inspected at least once by the local Fire Marshall, and inspected and tested at least annually by a licensed contractor. Ensure that heat and smoke detectors are hard-wired (not battery operated) and connected to a central monitoring station. Sprinklers are especially important at the top of laundry chutes, inside laundry areas, and outside furnace, utility, and HVAC closets.

Your facility should also have an adequate number of ABC portable fire extinguishers located strategically throughout the building. Have them inspected and tagged annually by a licensed contractor. Provide employees "hands on" fire extinguisher training at least annually.

Other tips

Ensure that at least two employees are awake during every shift and that they make periodic rounds throughout the entire building.

Purchase only fire resistant fabrics for curtins, blankets, linens, resident gowns and other cloth furnishings.

Keep washers and dryers clean of lint and dust.  Clean dryer lint screens after every load and vacuum or blow out exhaust ducts frequently.

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Comments 6 comments

LeoSavage 6 years ago


This are some very good points that you brought out.

One thing for sure you can never be to safe and when you are taking care of other people that is one thing you want to be sure of.

I know to many older people that are put into homes and are not taking good care of.

FireSafetyForKids 6 years ago

This is a very well written hub on fire safety ! Thank you for sharing this.

One thing is for sure that we should never take safety for granted.. be it fire safety or any other issues in regards with safety. Complacency always causes accidents to happen.

and seriously.. fire safety for nursing is slightly more challenging and I believe one of the points that is quite challenging is the planning of the fire evacuation route.. which.. really.. is hard..

Jay Fire Extinguishers 5 years ago

I recently opened my own fire extinguisher store and i'm trying to find different brands and products that I could add to my supply. I'm also searching for news about fire accidents so I may show some figures for my advertising campaign, thanks for this.

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marimccants 5 years ago

Great hub! I'm glad I found this hub. My sister will surely love this.

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