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Fire Damage in Medical Facilities
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
Medical facilities include hospitals, clinics, and infirmaries, basically anywhere that patients are kept and cared for. A fire in any one of these locations could be deadly and they do happen about 3200 times each year across the country, resulting in about $3 million in property loss.
Fifty-five percent of medical facility fires occur around meal preparation time, with 89 percent of all fires occurring in facilities that provide 24-hour care. Amazingly enough, most doctors' offices and medical clinics are woefully ill-equipped with fire extinguishers or other prevention gear.
What Makes These Fires Particulary Dangerous?
Fires in medical facilities may be especially dangerous due to the presence of oxygen and other flammable materials coupled with the high number of patients who may not be able to move under their own power in the event of an evacuation.
Older medical facilities may be especially prone to fire damage as the result of highly flammable materials used in the original construction. More recent hospital construction makes use of flame resistant or retardant materials designed to minimize the spread and effects of any fire that may occur.
Flame retardant material may also be used in hospital gowns and bedding, both to prevent the rapid spread of any fire that may occur as well as cutting down on the possibility of further injury to patients and staff.
In addition, improvements in fire and smoke detection systems have helped cut down on the problems caused by unexpected fires in medical facilities with many locations installing fire doors designed to shut at the first sign of a fire, sealing off the rest of the facility and effectively restricting the fire to one area.
Targeted fire sprinklers may also be utilized, designed to deliver water to any specific area where a fire may be located without causing damage in other areas.
Steps to Take in the Event of a Fire
In the event of a fire in any medical facility, the first priority should be to rescue and assist those with impaired ability, getting them out of the danger zone. All employees should be trained in evacuation procedures and know which areas or which patients that they are responsible for. Periodic drills should also be conducted to make sure everyone knows what to do.
The second step should be to sound the alert, calling the fire department, or sending out a warning over the public address system. The first few minutes of any fire can mean the difference in life or death.
The third step is to confine the fire. If your location has fire doors, this should happen automatically. In any case, as you evacuation the last person from a given area, close the door behind you and seal it off. This may provide the necessary minutes or seconds required to save lives or preserve the property.
The fourth step is extinguishing the fire. Once everyone is safely out of the way, and if it is safe for employees to do so, utilizing fire extinguishers to knock down the fire is recommended. Only those staff members trained on this equipment should attempt this step.