Life Safety Code and Fire Safety Tips from AHCA/NCAL

We would like to share some helpful tips from our national association AHCA/NCAL on Life Safety Code and Fire Safety.

Keep in mind there is still time to register for the
MHCA Life Safety Boot camp on March 9 & 10, 2022. MHCA has partnered with the Maine Fire Marshals' Office and national emergency preparedness experts All Clear Emergency Management Group to develop an intensive two-day program focused on the requirements of NFPA 101 Life Safety Code and NFPA 99 Health Care Facilities Code for skilled nursing centers.

Here are some helpful tips from our national partners:

In a time when a pandemic continues to consume our planning efforts and response, fire safety remains a critical component of emergency preparedness to ensure a safe home and workplace. 

Fires still occur regularly in health care facilities.  Fortunately, they are commonly contained to the room of origin by an automatic sprinkler system.  However, even small fires can lead to significant events.  Often, staff not only have to execute their fire procedures, but also their building evacuation plan.  Like many emergency situations, a fire can result in the implementation of multiple components of an organization's emergency preparedness plan. 
The importance of the three key components of emergency preparedness come to mind when considering any potential fire or disaster: 
  • Planning
  • Training; and
  • Testing. 
Here are a few specific items to consider when assessing your current fire safety program: 

Sprinkler systems save lives.  However, these systems require on-going testing, inspection and maintenance.  CMS has permitted many providers to pause inspection, testing and maintenance of their sprinkler systems during the pandemic.  While the waiver permitting this is still in place, it may be appropriate to allow sprinkler system vendors back into your buildings.  If you have continued to pause your sprinkler system maintenance, it may be worth conducting a risk assessment to determine when to re-engage with your sprinkler system vendor.   

While sprinkler systems often control the flames, a significant amount of smoke can develop even from a relatively small, controlled fire.  Health care facilities are designed to contain fire and smoke to the room of origin.  However, that requires the room door to be shut and to remain shut.  Do your staff fire procedures focus on smoke containment?  Procedures that highlight extinguishment or instruct staff to gather fire extinguishers may have the wrong focus.  The most important focus for staff is to remove anyone from the fire room, close the door and keep it closed.  Is this the focus of your fire procedures? 

Procedures may work on paper, but they are only as effective as the staff implementing them.  Fire drills can be the most effective method of staff education.  Do you just walk through the motions during a fire drill or do staff actively close doors, clear hallways, communicate and discuss the factors that may require further evacuation?  Participating in hands-on, critiqued fire drills can lead directly to competent and confident staff actions during a true emergency.   

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