Fire Protection and Safety

January 24, 2018 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance


Between 2011 and 2015, NFPA estimates that U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 5,750 structure fires in all types of healthcare facilities per year. These fires—which include only fires reported to public fire departments—caused an annual average of 2 civilian deaths, 157 civilian injuries, and $50.4 million in direct property damage. Almost half (48%) of these fires were in licensed nursing homes providing 24-hour care, 20% were in hospitals or hospice facilities, 22% were in mental health facilities, and 11% were in clinics, ambulatory care facilities, freestanding dialysis units, or doctors' or dentists' offices. Most of these fires were small, and only 4% spread beyond the room of origin. Cooking was the leading cause of fires in all healthcare properties (65% of all fires). (Campbell)

Although a number of deadly fires in healthcare facilities occurred throughout the 20th century, such fires are rare today, and most do not occur in public areas or patient rooms. (See Deadly Hospital and Nursing Home Fires in the Last 100 Years for notable examples.) For example, NFPA estimates that in 1980—the earliest year of detailed national data on healthcare facility fires—fire departments responded to 8,330 hospital or hospice fires, with 315 civilian injuries; by 2015, these numbers dropped to 1,080 fires and 36 civilian injuries (Campbell).

Emergency Management

The Hospital Incident Command System

Fire is one of the hazards for which healthcare facilities must prepare when doing comprehensive emergency management planning using an "all hazards" planning process. This process shifts the emphasis from planning for a particular type of emergency to delineating common features of and common strategies to be used when responding to all types of emergencies. When an emergency incident occurs, healthcare facilities use their incident command systems to manage their response to the emergency. (See the guidance articles Emergency Management and The Hospital Incident Command System for more information on this topic. )

Responding to a fire has many features and strategies common to responding to any disaster—for example, evacuation planning, ensuring continuity of services, managing interactions with the media, and working with fire departments and other outside agencies. However, fire safety plans must also address many unique fire-related concerns and regulatory requirements. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), OSHA, and many state and local...

Access Full Content

Contact us today at 610.825.6000.