Hospital Biz: Fire Safety During the Holidays

December 7, 2016

It's that time of year for joyful gatherings, festive decorations, and... fires? Unfortunately, yes. The probability of a disastrous “fire” in your facility increases during the cold weather months. With the added decorations, fire safety requires more awareness and attention.

Residential fires during the holiday season are more frequent, more costly, and more deadly than at any other time of the year. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports more than double the number of open-flame fires on Christmas Day than on an average day, and about twice as many on New Year’s Day. And when those fires occur, they do more damage: Property loss during a holiday fire is 34% greater than in an average fire, and the number of fatalities per thousand fires is nearly 70% higher. 

Fire prevention can be achieved through continuing educational programs of all employees about  potential fire hazards and how to eliminate them, and by requiring safe practices in the operation and maintenance of your facility. Here are a few steps that should be taken to promote fire safety:

  1. Use only flame proof holiday decorations.
  2. Ensure that each employee knows how to initiate an alarm without delay, should he or she detect a fire. Stress the importance of notifying the fire department and ensuring that your detection equipment operates properly.
  3. With added emphasis, instruct employees on night shifts and weekends to be alert for smoke and fire.
  4. Emphasize Pre-planning: If evacuation of patients/residents is required, could your staff do it?
  5. Ensure that all corridors and exits are clear of any obstructions, such as furniture, decorations, wheelchairs, etc.
  6. Emphasize your “No Smoking” regulations. 
  7. Ensure that all fire extinguishers and extinguishing systems are in good working order.
  8. The International Fire Code prohibits live cut trees in health care facilities. Artificial trees listed as Flame Retardant by UL are approved. If lights are used, they must be UL listed and of the cool lamp variety. 
  9. Do not use electrical lights on aluminum or other metal trees.
  10. Carefully inspect all electrical decorations to ensure the wiring and other parts are in good condition.

Fifty percent more fires occur in December than any other month in the year. Don't let your facility contribute to that number. By proactively communicating with and educating your staff, you can reduce the risk of fire in your facility, helping to make it a more joyful holiday season for all. 

Horace Rauch contributed to this article. Horace is the Director of Facilities & Safety at Providence Health in Columbia, SC.