Review fire and evacuation protocols in wake of recent hospital fire near Boston
Review fire and evacuation drills to ensure you can get all patients and visitors out without injury or death, just as a Massachusetts hospital did on Tuesday, February 7, after a transformer caught fire in the basement of a connecting building.
Signature Health Brockton Hospital, just south of Boston, was alerted to the fire at 8 a.m. Officials cut electrical power as well as generator power to the facility, initiating the need for a full hospital evacuation.
All 160 patients, including babies, were evacuated safely and transferred as needed to other facilities, according to the Boston Globe.
The evacuation occurred during the day and morning shifts. But remember staff must be educated on fire procedures and go through randomly scheduled drills once a quarter, according to NFPA and CMS requirements.
Just within the last year, CMS has cited more than a dozen hospitals nationwide for not holding the required drills or for not scheduling them on all shifts, according to the Association of Health Care Journalists hospitalinspections.org database. And surveyors will want documentation:
- A hospital in Texas was cited in April 2022 for missing three of four quarterly fire drills in 2020 and 2021.
- A hospital in Iowa was cited for failing to hold fire drills at least quarterly on each shift. “This had the potential of affecting staff preparation and experience in providing for the protection of all residents in the event of a fire.”
- A hospital in South Dakota failed to “ensure staff was familiar with the provider’s fire drill procedures (no drills were conducted on second or third shift, or two of three total shifts were not drilled).” CMS said that the maintenance supervisor at the time “was unaware of the requirement to conduct drills on all shifts.”
- A facility in New Hampshire was cited for, among other things, failing to “conduct fire drills at varied and unexpected times.” The facility also failed to show documentation of at least one drill it said was conducted.
Earlier this year, Lauris Freidenfelds, senior project manager for Wilmington, Delaware–based Telgian Engineering & Consulting, was among fire safety professionals who shared tips on fire drills with the Accreditation & Quality Compliance Center:
Freidenfelds emphasized that the drill was not the time for explaining the fire plan—education should come first. The drill should exercise participants’ understanding of the plan, he said.
He also encouraged making the realistic and interjecting something unexpected.
For instance, “what would you do when an evacuation is required, but you are working with nuclear materials?” Or “what do you do when staff must evacuate, but it is sub-zero outside?” he said.
Or—as was the case in Brockton— a power loss event provides an extra challenge. “What is the impact of a power loss in terms of an evacuation? What lights would stay lit, what won’t? Which equipment will not work?”
For other tips on conducting fire drills, go here. For other tips on conducting evacuation drills, including the challenges of vertical evacuations—think carrying patients down stairwells—see future issues of Healthcare Safety Leader.