Developing an Effective Fire Drill Program

February 20, 2015 | Aging Services Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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The physical dangers of fire are obvious—burns, disfigurement, inhalation of smoke, bodily injury, and death. The emotional impact of surviving a fire can also be significant, such as posttraumatic stress disorder. Failure to conduct effective fire drills increases the likelihood that in a real fire or smoke emergency, healthcare workers will not be able to respond quickly enough to protect patients and residents from such dangers.

While total evacuation of a facility is rare, the need to relocate patients or residents to a safe area is not uncommon. If healthcare workers do not know how to transfer nonambulatory patients or residents, those individuals may be harmed during transport, or worse yet, not evacuated from the area of danger in time. The fire incident at Montefiore clearly demonstrates the value of fire drills when it comes to maintaining resident safety within the building.

NFPA estimates that of the 6,240 healthcare facility fires that occur each year, nursing home fires cause the most deaths or injuries—2,840 fires per year, with an average of 5 deaths and 110 injuries. The 1,430 hospital and hospice fires per year cause an average of less than 1 death and 32 injuries, and the 1,280 mental health facility fires per year also average less than 1 death and 23 injuries (Ahrens).

Failure to perform effective fire drills exposes workers to the same risks as residents. Additionally, workers who are not properly prepared due to lack of drills could face further injury if, for example, they try to inappropriately fight a fire...

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