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Fires in Healthcare Facilities throughout the U.S.

Last Updated: September 16, 2013

While many think of health care facilities as safe places—where you go to get well or for professional medical help—health care centers are not immune to one disastrous hazard: fires.

In a study conducted on data taken from 2006-2010 from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 6,240 fires in or on health care properties every year. Health care facilities cover a broad range of businesses and organizations, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Hospices
  • Nursing homes
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Clinics
  • Mental health facilities
  • Substance abuse issues

Causes of Fires in Health Care Centers

Although a kitchen is not the most used area of health care properties, cooking equipment was involved in three out of five fires and was the leading cause of fires in all health care centers.

Of the fires in the NFPA’s study:

  • 61 percent involved cooking equipment
  • 7 percent involved dryers and laundry facilities
  • 6 percent were set intentionally
  • 6 percent started from smoking materials
  • 6 percent involved heating equipment

It was found that nursing homes are more likely than other properties to have fires caused by clothes dryers or laundry facilities. Centers caring for those with developmental disabilities, mental illnesses, or substance abuse saw more fires intentionally set.

Damage from Fires in Health Care Facilities

According to the NFPA, the estimated 6,240 fires each year also caused an annual average of:

  • Six civilian deaths
  • 171 civilian injuries
  • $52.1 million in direct property damage

Loss of lives, property damage, destruction of expensive equipment and other assets, and possibility of downtime for cleaning up are all risks associated with fires of any building. But in health care facilities, many patients and customers cannot help themselves in the event of a fire emergency. Is your health care facility properly protected from a fire?

Fire Safety for Health Care Centers

Could more fire protection—such as sprinklers, alarms, and suppression systems—have helped prevent damage and loss from these past health care facilities fires? It was reported that fire sprinkler systems were present in 55 percent of health care fires studied. While only about half of the facilities had fire sprinklers, of those, property damage per fire was 61 percent lower than in properties with no automatic fire extinguishing equipment.

Effective, inspected, and tested fire protection equipment and systems are even more important for health care centers such as hospitals, hospice, and nursing homes. Families and loved ones have trusted the safety of patients in these places within the hands of the health care facilities staff—often times the patients cannot help themselves.

Every health care facility should do the following in preparation of a fire emergency:

  • Familiarize all staff with the building’s fire emergency plan
  • Locate and test fire alarms regularly
  • Locate and test fire extinguishers monthly
  • Train staff in the proper use of fire extinguishers
  • Know how to shut off oxygen machines and other compressed gas systems that could worsen a fire
  • Create plans for moving patients safely and quickly when necessary
  • Have kitchen equipment professionally cleaned and inspected
  • Regularly remove lint from laundry facilities
  • Watch for cracked or split cords on electrical equipment

With the help of a professional fire protection company in combination with regular inspection and knowledge of fire protection equipment, the number of fires in health care facilities can decrease.

Installation of Full-Fire Protection System for Health Care Facilities

Memphis and the Mid-South area are home to some of the highest ranked hospitals and medical research facilities in the nation, and State Systems knows how to take care of its health care clients. In addition to technology services—including nurse call and paging, access control, and CCTV systems—we offer some of the best fire protection systems around.

Contact State Systems today and our certified and experienced fire protection professionals will help you make the best decision for your health care facility’s fire protection plan. That can include:

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