What are the key points to note from the HIQA Fire Safety Handbook?
Is your residential home prepared for a HIQA inspection on Fire Safety? Not sure? Then read our blog below to find out more on the latest HIQA requirements for fire safety.
On the 26th January 2021, HIQA published the Fire Safety Handbook – A guide for providers and staff of designated centres. The Fire Safety Handbook applies to designated centres currently regulated by the Chief Inspector of Social Services within the Regulation Directorate of HIQA.
HIQA published the guidance document to assist providers to develop, implement and sustain an effective fire safety programme, and to create a strong fire safety culture that drives quality improvement.
This handbook aims to support Registered Providers to meet their fire safety obligations under:
- the Health Act 2007 (as amended)
- the relevant regulations under the Act
- the relevant national standards related to fire safety
- National Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People in Ireland (2016)
- other relevant legislation and guidance
- Fire Services Acts, 1981 and 2003 amendment
- Building Control Acts 1990 and 2007
- Technical Guidance Document B: Fire Safety (2006)
- Technical Guidance Document B: Fire Safety Volume 2: Dwelling Houses Volume 2 (2017)
- Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005
Common themes in the Fire Safety Handbook
Throughout the document, there are four intrinsically linked key themes that are central to developing a fire-safety culture in a designated centre.
These themes include:
- Governance and management.
- Risk management.
- Diverse care and support needs of residents.
- Staff knowledge.
Key Points to Note from the Fire Safety Handbook
The guidance will have a significant impact on the current structures within residential homes, with the requirement for fire safety to become a central focus throughout the service provision.
Below are some of key measures detailed within the Handbook that Registered Providers should be aware of:
- Governance and Management: The Registered Provider is required to have a good fire safety programme in place within the residential home to ensure they are able to demonstrate good governance of fire safety to the Chief Inspector in HIQA. The assistance of a competent fire safety professional may be needed to advise on the residential home’s compliance and provide technical advice in the development of fire safety management strategy. Should the Registered Provider seek a competent fire safety professional they must ensure sufficient training, qualifications, experience and knowledge of fire safety. The Fire Safety Expert must also have sufficient experience of assessing similar services in order to enable them to accurately assess the level of fire safety risk in the residential home.
- Support and Assistance needs of residents: The Registered Provider must ensure that the care, welfare, support, assistance and evacuation needs of residents are considered when deciding on the types of fire precautions required in the residential home.
- Staff Education and Training: The Registered Provider must ensure that staff are aware of the relevant fire safety policies and procedures and fire precautions, and that they know what their role is in the evacuation of residents from the residential home in the event of a fire. If the Registered Provider engages the services of a trainer to provide training to staff, then this trainer must be competent to deliver the training in the areas of fire procedures, evacuation techniques and evacuation aids and training as set out in the Regulations.
- Fire Evacuation Drills: The Registered Provider must ensure that fire drills in the residential home reflect real-life scenarios and are carried out as often as is necessary. Fire drills in the residential home demonstrate that:
- Everyone in the residential home can be evacuated within the safe evacuation time.
- Staff in the residential home know the evacuation procedure that is to be followed.
- Evacuation is practised so that it becomes an automatic response to a fire alarm.
- Fire Safety Risk Assessment: The Registered Provider must ensure a comprehensive fire safety risk assessment is carried out to allow decisions on the full range of fire precautions that are required in the residential home. The fire safety risk assessment should be an organised and methodical look at the residential home, the activities which happen in the home, the occupants, the potential for a fire to occur, the harm it may cause, the existing precautions and the overall fire safety management.
- Reducing the likelihood of fire: The Registered Provider must ensure that areas at higher risk of fire are enclosed in a fire-resistant construction.
- Fire Detection, Alarm and Emergency Lighting: The Registered Provider must ensure that there is an effective fire detection and alarm system and effective emergency lighting system in place in the residential home. Fire detection and alarm systems and emergency lighting should be installed, maintained and reviewed in accordance with the relevant standards.
- Means of Escape: The Registered Provider must ensure adequate arrangements for the evacuation of all occupants in the residential home in the event of a fire. Escape routes throughout the residential home must be suitable for the evacuation needs of the residents.
- Safe Evacuation: The Registered Provider is required to determine a safe evacuation time to allow a measurable reference point to be used for assessing the adequacy of fire procedures, fire precautions, fire drills, compartment sizes, staffing numbers or staff training.
- Restricting the spread of fire: The Registered Provider must ensure compartmentation structures are inspected by a fire safety professional to ensure they are adequate.
- Fire and smoke containment: The Registered Provider must ensure the fire-containment of compartment walls, fire doors, door closers, cavity barriers or fire dampers are effective and a fire safety professional that is engaged by the Registered Provider carries out a detailed inspection of the residential home.
- Building Maintenance: Inspection and maintenance of the residential home is essential to ensure that the building’s structural fabric, furniture and fittings and building services are safe to use and do not increase the risk of a fire occurring.
- Firefighting equipment and alerting the emergency services: The Registered Provider must ensure that the residential home has the appropriate fire fighting equipment and that staff in the residential home re trained in how to use the firefighting equipment. The Registered Provider must also ensure that there is a process in place for calling the emergency service in the event of a fire.
The HIQA Fire Safety Handbook is a substantial document, placing the requirement for fire safety as a centre focus throughout the care provision. In light of the significant obligations detailed within the handbook, it is likely that Registered Provider will require the assistance of competent fire safety professional in order to ensure the residential home’s compliance.
HCI have recently updated all relevant policies and procedures on HCICareTools.com pertaining to the HIQA Fire Safety Handbook. New templates relevant to the handbook are:
- CE-032 Fire Safety Management Policy
- CE-RF-020 Fire Safety Programme
- CE-RF-021 Fire Safety Risk Assessment Register
HCI recently held a webinar to help Registered Providers understand the key elements of the Fire Safety handbook.
The aim of the webinar is to:
- Understand the background to the development of the Handbook.
- Have clarity on the type of issues identified to date by HIQA in relation to fire safety.
- Understand the expansive fire safety requirements arising from the Handbook, specifically relating to Governance, resources, training and planning.
Click here to access webinar.
Health Information and Quality Authority (2021). Fire Safety Handbook – A guide for providers and staff of designated centres. Dublin: Health Information and Quality Authority.