Patients Guarded Against Danger of Fire by Modern Equipment and Methods

M. W. Bowman

WHEN Windsor Fire Chief Clarence DeFields, one of the most capable chiefs in the country, finished making a periodic inspection of East Windsor Hospital, Windsor, Ontario, he told Dr. P. J. G. Morgan, medical superintendent, “this hospital is extraordinarily well protected against fire. I can’t think of a thing that has been missed”.

High praise indeed from a professional fire-fighter. But praise is nothing new to Dr. Morgan. In his fourteen years as medical supervisor of this institution for the chropically ill he has laboured so whole-heartedly for the welfare of his patients that East Windsor is famed across Canada as a model of its type.

But of the numerous benefits brought to patients, many of them unusual, any objective view of Dr. Morgan’s work discloses that fire prevention and firefighting tactics are predominant. While Dr. Morgan is thoroughly informed on all aspects of his work he is particularly keen on keeping fire away from his patients and their hospital. No similar group of aged patients, average age 67, enjoys better protection against fire anywhere.

“Why?” he will enquire. “Patients in the hospital at the best of times are more at the mercy of fire than the normal ambulant human being. But I don’t know what would happen in case of fire to my patients without ample fire-protection. Most of them are very old, many scarcely able to walk and, because of their age, would become confused easily.”

The Morgan formula for preventing or fighting fire falls into two natural divisions; the mechanical and the human. Both are emphasized in this hospital; not just once in a while, but as a continuing process.

Off-hand, the danger of fire in East Windsor hospital would appear to be greater than normal in such an institution. For this is a hospital where smoking, and lots of it, is done every and all hours except sleeping periods. Tobacco is a mainstay and a pleasure for old people, Dr. Morgan feels, so smoke they do . . . much of it tobacco donated by kindly citizens. Despite this. East Windsor has had no major fires.

Fire prevention starts in the wards themselves. Every ward is equipped with steel containers holding paper and other refuse. Recognizing that smouldering tobacco ash dumped into these, as is frequently done, invites fire. Dr. Morgan has attached steel springs to the lids of these containers which keeps them closed, preventing ingress of air.

Should fire break out in these receptacles all nurses and other staff members have been instructed in proper procedures. It is impressed on them that the lid is not to be thrown open.

but merely raised sufficiently to insert the nozzle of a fire extinguisher.

East Windsor has segregated each ward by using six fire-doors which operate automatically. Thus fire breaking out in any one ward is isolated.

There are nine utility rooms on the ward floors of East Windsor hospital. Opposite each of these rooms a firesttftion has been placed. Every nurse and every staff member knows where these stations are. Each of these stations is equipped with a variety of equipment for effective “first aid” fire fighting.

There are two sizes of fire-extinguishers. a large one and a small one. It is the nurse’s job to use one of these. Should the large one prove too heavy to handle, it is her duty to call the engineer or janitor to come and help her.

All nurses in this hospital are taught the proper method of operating these extinguishers. The new nurse is instructed the first or second day after being hired. Neither old nor new nurses arc allowed to forget.

Every day Dr. Morgan, on his rounds, makes a practice to stop a nurse, any nurse, and say, “now what would you do in case fire broke out? How would you work one of these extinguishers?” When the nurse starts to explain Dr. Morgan says, “Don’t tell me. Show me.”

All nurses in this hospital are fireextinguisher conscious. So are the male members of the staff. Further, all extinguishers operate in this hospital because they are carefully inspected.

Each fire-station in the hospital is equipped with a public address system loudspeaker and with a telephone connecting directly to the front-office switchboard. There is also an alarm which connects directly into city fire department headquarters.

In the event of fire, the nurse jerks the lever sounding the signal in the fire department, following which an announcement is made both over the loudspeaker and the telephone to the front office. Thus three alarms are given on the one fire.

The dual system, PA and telephone, is used because “one of them might be out of order and we can’t take this chance,” said Dr. Morgan.

To be certain that the personnel knows the routine and to refresh their memories a test routine is undertaken once a month. At these times the fire department is notified that East Windsor hospital is going to hold a fire drill.

At no time is a nurse to fail to make these calls, and instantly. Chief DeFiclds has impressed that if firemen can get to a fire within two minutes they can lick it but if they have to wait for five minutes the fire will usually lick them and that there has been terrible

and needless tragedy in many institutional fires because precious time has been wasted in calling the firemen and properly notifying them of the location of the fire.

This does not occur in East Windsor hospital where the exact location of the fire in the building is given to the fire department. Should the firemen be responding on the initial call before this information can reach them. East Windsor posts someone at the entrance way to meet firemen and direct them to the location.

Any city or any institution with a good fire record will also show a marked degree of cooperation between fire department and public. This is true of blast Windsor Hospital. Inspections by firemen, either official or unofficial, are frequent. After inspection trips, the fire department writes Dr. Morgan warning of possible fire hazards. Dr. Morgan acts on these suggestions immediately. No second injunction has ever been found necessary.

In any successful fire-protection schedule the human element should always be considered. In East Windsor’s case this is considered just as important as the importance of mechanical aids. Periodically a fireman or other qualified person lectures the whole staff at East Windsor; suitable demonstrations are also held. These lectures are frequently attended by patients able to do so.

Lastly, the subject of fire is kept alive in the minds of the hospital personnel. In addition to lectures, Dr. Morgan’s impromptu fire-extinguisher drills, and routine fire instruction, every member of the staff receives little printed items on fire dangers in their pay envelopes.

Fire and its hazards are a continual source of interest to this hospital. Despite the great amount of smoking, East Windsor has had no serious fires of any kind; ample proof that if proper fire precautions are taken and are aUvavs in mind, fires seldom occur.

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