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Maintaining good fire safety in care homes

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Maintaining good fire safety in care homes

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (BFRS) would like to continue to help care home residents and workers by providing a useful insight into how they can maintain good fire safety.

Last year, BFRS provided a programme to assist care home workers with the use and disposal of their personal protective equipment while responding to patients.

Group Commander Phill Mould said:

“We recognise the hard work, dedication and care that these individuals put into their profession.

“We have identified areas that remain a concern in terms of fire safety and recognise the importance of sharing this information to inform our community.”

Fire risk assessment

This should be reviewed on a regular basis. When changes are made within the premises, the fire risk assessment should be updated accordingly to reflect these changes.

Maintenance and testing

Fire safety features within the premises, such as fire alarm systems, emergency lighting, fire doors and fire extinguishers, should be serviced and maintained. These features are designed to give warning and protect lives by enabling residents to escape in an emergency. If they are not looked after suitably, the risk of harm is increased.

Evacuation strategy

Training should be in place to ensure that all staff and residents within the care home are aware of what actions to take in the event of an emergency. Any escape routes should be kept clear and escape route signage should be visible. Residents within the premises may have specific personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs), which should be kept safe and understood.

Air flow mattresses

These items are designed to assist in movement of the patient by adjusting the pressure on sores and ulcers often acquired my immobility. The mattresses are filled with air from a pump and powered by an electronic power supply. If air flow mattresses are exposed to a heat source, such as a cigarette, the mattress could burst. The effect that the air can have on a heat source can rapidly develop a fire.  For this reason, we strongly advise against any form of heat source coming into close proximity to an air flow mattress.

Oxygen therapy kits

Some residents within care homes require the use of oxygen therapy kits due to respiratory conditions. This presents a similar risk to that of air flow mattresses. The oxygen supplied can cause a fire to develop rapidly, should they become involved.  Therefore, smoking should not take place near oxygen therapy kits. Any source of heat such as candles, stoves and pans should be kept clear from oxygen therapy kits.

Emollient creams

Emollient creams and paraffin-based creams are regularly used for the treatment of dry skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema. Although these creams are generally safe in their use, if used in large quantities on areas of the body they can soak into clothing, bedding and dressings. On occasion a flammable residue may be left on items. If this residue is then exposed to a heat source such as a naked flame from a cigarette, cooking or a candle it may assist in the development of fire spread.  Individual risk assessments should be carried out for those that use emollient creams, where control measures can be put in place such as regular washing of items, removing heat sources and seeking medical advice for alternative creams.

Mobility scooters

Storage of mobility scooters can be difficult due to their size. Their storage must not compromise residents’ ability to escape from a fire in an emergency. Research through the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) website has found that within three minutes of ignition, a mobility scooter can reach temperatures 375 degrees Celsius and quickly fill the room with thick smoke. Dedicated storage facilities for mobility scooters should be in place.


BFRS is hosting a number of virtual seminars which are designed to help managers and workers within the care sector maintain appropriate fire safety measures.  For further information on how you can attend these, please use the links below.

Protection Team: Reducing fires in care homes

Wednesday 23 June 2021 – 11.00-12.00

Prevention Team: Empowering you to identify and reduce risks in the home

Wednesday 30 June 2021 – 14.00-15.30

Tuesday 6 July 2021 – 14.00-15.30

Thursday 15 July 2021 – 10.00-11.30

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