Risk Management: Fire Safety at Long-Term Care Settings
Clothing fires at long-term care facilities occur more often than one may think. This is due to a number of factors, including smoking habits of the elderly, cognition impairment loss of manual dexterity and poor impulse control. A fire can happen when clothing catches fire as a result of: a resident smoking in bed, falling asleep while smoking in a comfortable chair, loose clothing near a flame while on a serving line, improper handling of an ashtray, or embers spilling into one’s lap.
What can be done to help prevent clothing fires? Here are some tips:
- Prohibit lighting mechanisms in apartments where residents may doze off in a chair or in bed with lighted smoking materials.
- Restrict smoking to areas where supervision is provided for all smoking activities.
- Provide smoking aprons.
- Install and maintain an alarm in the designated smoking area.
- Place a fire extinguisher in the designated smoking area.
- Require staff empty ashtrays frequently.
New Fire Safety Rules in Full Effect
In addition, as of 2013, all nursing homes and long-term care facilities must have comprehensive sprinkler systems in place as mandated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This regulation became effective on October 14, 2008, with all nursing homes having to be fully sprinklered by August 13, 2013. The rule allowed all existing nursing homes that are not fully sprinklered up to 5 years to install the new sprinklers. All new nursing homes are currently required to be fully sprinklered.
Other rules include: Emergency light that provides lighting for a period of 1 1/2 hours, enabling those inside to move about safely in an emergency; vertical stairways with fire protection to prevent the spread of smoke up stairwells; and fire alarms that automatically notify emergency forces.