Taking Care of Fire Safety Provision

May 23, 2007

England

A new, purpose-built Hospice in Hertfordshire providing palliative care to people with life-limiting illnesses is proving a blueprint for other establishments in the UK and Europe thanks to its unique building design and innovative approach to fire safety.


Hospice of St Francis

Hospice of St Francis have lead the way with innovative approaches to fire safety and unique building design. 
Hospice of St Francis

All the patients’ bedrooms have doors leading straight out into the gardens to aid swift and safe fire evacuation.


This approach was inspired primarily by the leadership of Nurse Alison Briant, supported by the local fire service together with leading fire specialists, Chubb Fire.

In early 2007, the Hospice of St Francis moved within Berkhamsted to the new site. In the old building, they had been independently audited as being ‘high risk’ in terms of their fire safety provision – an assessment that Alison was determined to address with the move. An additional concern was how to deliver training to over 500 volunteers who are an integral part of hospice care. A full written fire risk assessment from Chubb Fire identified not only the fire safety equipment required, but also the role that staff could play in its plan to ‘prevent, detect, contain and escape fire.’

“I have used Chubb Fire since 1980 when I started out as a pupil nurse,” Alison explains. “Some of the Hospice staff were sceptical as there are cheaper brands on the market, but I was able to convince them that Chubb Fire offers a total service, including risk assessment, advice and guidance, which was exactly what we needed. I was given charge of the project, among a myriad of other projects, and wanted to work with a business that I could trust, that would deliver what was promised, and that would give us best advice in terms of current and future legislation.”

The Hospice cares for 14 in-patients at any one time and also provides out-patient care to a number of people. The relocation to a new building has given visitors and patients a purpose-built facility with its own grounds, a patient outreach programme and two reception areas – one for patients and another for staff and fundraisers.

“We had an independent assessment at our previous site in 2005, and unfortunately we were classified as high risk in terms of fire safety,” Alison continues. “Coming from the NHS to a charity organisation, I was rather concerned that this should be the case.

“Since then, with the move to the new site, we have put in place action plans to include equipment, evacuation plans and a comprehensive training programme in order to ensure that we are better equipped to deal with any fire related incident. Some 20 staff have been trained as fire marshals, and we now have the reassurance that we can get all the people out of the building, in less than three minutes.”

Following Chubb Fire’s advice, extinguishers have been installed alongside a fire detection system throughout the premises. Chubb is also running an ongoing maintenance programme and has given advice on the Fire Safety Order, providing up-to-date training materials and videos in order to ensure that the Hospice is compliant with all aspects of the new legislation.

“As a result of the combined efforts of the building design team and the work the hospice has carried out with Chubb Fire and the local fire brigade, we have been independently assessed and are classified as ‘low risk’ and the change has been dramatic”,  Alison adds.

“One example of the way the new building is equipped for health and safety is that all the patients’ bedrooms have doors leading straight out into the gardens. Should the need to evacuate arise, patients on their beds simply need to be pushed through the double doors, which is not only much quicker and less labour intensive but also allows for maximum consideration of their comfort levels.

“We are very flattered that other hospices in Switzerland and Denmark have visited and will be returning home with the intention of using our health and safety provision as a model. The transformation of the hospice was a massive undertaking, and it has been a long, hard process, but the rewards and peace of mind are immeasurable.”

The local fire service and Chubb Fire have been instrumental in achieving this, particularly local leading fireman Danny Allsopp and Chubb Fire account manager Simon Morgan who have helped and advised us every step of the way.

Suzanne Donovan, Marketing and Communications Director of Chubb Fire, comments: “We are delighted to have been involved in such a worthwhile project. We have been able to add value by helping an organisation grapple with the current legislative requirements. The fire safety provision at St Francis Hospice is an ongoing project and we look forward to being of assistance in the future”.


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