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Fire Safety in Hospitals

On any given day a hospital is buzzing with people, patients, doctors, nurses, ward personnel and more. There are patients in critical care, intensive care, elderly patients, disabled patients, infants, new-borns and surgical patients. In addition to the problems posed by patients who are not able to evacuate on their own, there are critical surgical procedures that cannot be stopped midway.

In the event of a fire, the loss of so many human lives would be an irreparable tragedy. This makes it imperative for a hospital and its staff to adhere to fire safety practises. In the initial stages of construction itself, indicators like architecture, interior designs and electrical wiring, equipment planning and proper waste management must be considered while planning overarching fire safety measures. Adequate precautionary measures need to be considered, designed and practiced to ensure the safety of all those within the hospital. 

Fire Safety through Architecture and Layout Planning: While planning the construction and layout of the hospital, architects must ensure the following:The design of the building structure should be so planned that it allows pressurized exclusion of smoke in case of fire or any smoke leak.The design of the each building should also incorporate sufficient open space around it to minimize the spread of fire from or to neighbouring structures.Lobbies, staircases, aisles, etc. in the hospital buildings should be wide enough to facilitate the flow of human traffic at all times and be able to permit an easy and orderly evacuation in case of a fire.Within the premises, there should be enough space for movement and parking of fire fighting vehicles, ambulances, etc. in the premises itself.Adequate emergency rescue aids and suitable refuge area should be incorporated in the design. The critical areas should be well protected with precautionary measures. For e.g., the use of self-activating fire extinguisher systems and fireproof doors. 

Fire Safety through Interior Design

When an interior design firm is commissioned for a hospital, the designer needs to keep in mind to ensure the minimal use of combustible materials, while ensuring the use of high-quality fire retardant material for furnishing and decoration purposes. Appropriate waste management systems also need to be designed to prevent accidents due to hazardous waste.

Fire Safety through Electricals:  

Electrical contractors must employ precautionary measures while designing the electrical network for a hospital; some of which are: All electrical wiring must be enclosed in metal/ heavy gauge screwed conduits.Cables passing from one floor to the other should be sealed off to minimize the spread of fire.A master control switch for each floor should be located at the ground floor so that systems can be switched of easily from a central location during a fire.Individual air conditioning or space heating systems should be used for each floor in large buildings. However in the case of centralised systems that are generally used in hospital infrastructures; care should be taken to provide appropriate automatic fire dampers for each floor in the common ducting system. Proper cooling facilities to dissipate heat should be provided for overheated equipment/ plants and machinery.Boilers, Plant Rooms, Freezers, Operating Theatres and similar confined spaces should have safe entry and exit points.All equipment should be bonded and earthed properly to dissipate static chargesTotally enclosed switchgear systems/miniature circuit breakers should be incorporated instead of ordinary fuses.Appropriate, high-quality fire fighting equipment, fire detectors, smoke detectors and heat detectors and alarm systems from reliable brands like Ceasefire should be incorporated in the design. 

General Fire Safety Practices:

After taking adequate precautionary measures in the conceptual and design stages, it is imperative that the following stringent fire safety norms and protocols are provided as well. Preparation of fire safety guidelines, which are followed by all the staff for prevention and precaution against fire and fire-related accidents.A fire safety manual should be effectively designed and followed stringently by all.The staff must be trained to handle fire emergencies and chaotic situations that may arise due to a fire. Fire safety audits and drills must be conducted regularly in order to train the staff effectively. A fire audit survey should be conducted as per standard norms and the changes if any should be implemented diligently.Appropriate delegations of tasks should be implemented for safety management protocols. Fire doors must be checked for proper functionality and fire exits must be checked for obstructions regularly.Gas cylinders and medical oxygen cylinders must be secured and stored properly. Using a medical oxygen monitoring system also serves to better protect the facility.Besides installing automated smoke detectors throughout the hospital along with a central, cutting-edge, self-actuating fire extinguishing systems from a reputed brand like Ceasefire, it is also important for high quality portable fire extinguishers to be installed on each floor and in corridors. These can help to swiftly extinguish a small outlet fire and prevent it from turning into a building-wide blaze. Regular maintenance checks for the same will ensure help is at hand in the event of fire. By following fire-safety codes, norms and procedures right from the inception to operation, a hospital ensures it stays safe against fire and can focus on its core competency - saving lives. 

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