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Whose responsibility is it to evacuate the disabled and mobility impaired in the event of a fire?

by in Fire Safety, Health & Safety

Whose responsibility is it to evacuate the disabled and mobility impaired in the event of a fire?By Gary Hepburn – Sirius Business Services Ltd

Let’s dispel the myth that it’s the Fire Service’s responsibility to evacuate disabled people from your practice’s building in the event of a fire.

In 2006 a new piece of legislation called The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (known as the RRO) came into force.

It is the RRO that requires employers, building owners and other responsible organisations to carry out fire risk assessments on their buildings and to ensure that other fire precautions and procedures are in place. In particular the RRO requires that all emergency routes and exits must lead as directly as possible to a place of safety. A “place of safety” is a safe area beyond the premises.

In a healthcare setting you will have numerous staff and patients present during the day. Some of the patients will have mobility issues or other disabilities. So your fire safety procedures need to ensure that all building users, whether able-bodied or not, can exit the building safely in the event of a fire.

If your practice is a one-storey building, or patients have access to the ground floor only, it should be fairly straightforward to ensure that everyone can evacuate the building. However, if the practice has more than one floor then the situation becomes more complex. Of course, in the event of a fire we cannot use a lift to evacuate the building.

So how will a disabled person be able to evacuate the building safely?

In some practices, the use of “refuge points” forms part of an evacuation plan. These points are usually found at the end of a corridor or on landings. The design and construction of the staircase, walls and fire doors in these locations should ensure people’s safety from fire and smoke for a longer period of time. Consequently, many managers and building owners have believed that they only need to get less able patients and staff to refuge points, from where they will be rescued by the Fire Service.

This is a myth!

HM government’s Fire Safety Risk Assessment in Healthcare Premises guide (available to download from www.tsoshop.co.uk) makes it clear that the emergency evacuation of persons with mobility impairment should not rely on fire and rescue services. It states that it’s the responsibility of building operators and owners to ensure that all users of the building can evacuate it safely. I quote: “Your fire evacuation strategy should not rely on the fire and rescue service rescuing people waiting in refuges.”

So what can we do to ensure that mobility-impaired and other disabled people can effectively escape from the practice if there is a fire?

  • Recognise that it’s your responsibility to have effective arrangements in place to get ALL building users out of the premises to a place of safety. This includes mobility-impaired and disabled members of staff, patients and other visitors.
  • Ensure that your Fire Risk Assessment is in place and is kept up to date.
  • If the upper floors of your practice are used, have appropriate rescue equipment available. This may include Evac Chairs, rescue mats or other equipment.
  • Ensure that staff members are trained in the use of rescue equipment and regularly practise evacuating the building using the equipment (at least twice a year).
  • Any rescue equipment must be regularly checked to ensure it’s available for use, well maintained and inspected by a competent person.
  • Make sure that enough people who have been trained in the use of evacuation equipment are available in the practice during working hours.

Sirius Business Services Ltd can advise you on how to comply with the requirements of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. We can undertake fire risk assessments, advise on fire evacuation plans, train staff as fire wardens and in the use of evacuation equipment, as well as offering first aid, fire safety, health & safety, medical and safeguarding training. Contact us on (0800) 999 3998 or visit our website for more information.

By Gary Hepburn – Sirius Business Services Ltd

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