Montebello conducts course in hospital fire safety
Advance planning is stressed and every employee participates
“WHEN FIRE STRIKES, the actions taken during the first few minutes make the difference between containment and catastrophe.” With these words, Fire Chief Lorne R. Beech of Montebello, Calif., offered his department’s technical assistance to develop a fire safety and evacuation program in Beverly Community Hospital in Montebello. Chief Beech recognizes that an efficient fire protection program calls for long-range planning, based on the participation of the hospital employees. The Montebello Fire Department therefore conducted a course in fire safety evacuation at the hospital during December.
The hospital recently completed a building and modernization program, which increased its capacity from 80 beds to 165 beds, four major surgery rooms, an emergency receiving section and dental surgery office.
The Fire Prevention Bureau devised the course to fit the hospital and worked hand in hand with its administration in planning for evacuation of patients and fire safety procedures. Because of the difference in structural design of most buildings, a plan which might suit one hospital could be wholly unsuitable for another.
Special booklet prepared
The bureau prepared a 15-page booklet for distribution to all the hospital’s employees. The booklet, which contains a fire inspection report form, was used as the text for the course. It covers emergency procedures, evacuation organization, and fire control.
The Civilian Defense Office in Montebello coordinated its training program of radiation protection and disposal to coincide with the department’s course at the hospital to insure their ability to handle an emergency involving radioactive exposures.
The Montebello department, in its outline of the basic method of procedure, lists four steps to be taken: (1) If fire is in patient’s room, remove patient. Close the door, windows and transoms; (2) Co to nearest fire alarm box and transmit alarm, which notifies fire headquarters. Alert the switchboard operator by phone, giving location of fire by room number or section; (3) Return to fire and use extinguisher until the fire department arrives; (4) Remove patients from adjoining area.
The booklet expands on the outline, setting forth the general procedure to be followed. It points out that the first person to respond has a two-fold responsibility: To remove anyone in immediate danger and to sound the alarm. The next two or three to arrive assist in removing any other persons in danger, and use first-aid fire fighting equipment. The five or six persons in what may be called the third wave close doors and windows, shut oil equipment that might spread fire, reassure the patients, and assist the first group to accomplish whatever is most important at the moment.
It may be asked, where does all this help come from? As soon as a fire is discovered and the switchboard operator alerted, a coded announcement is made over the hospital’s paging system. In general, one person from each area adjacent to the fire location reports immediately to that section. The plan is in effect round-theclock, and the supervisor of each area is responsible for assigning personnel to this duty at the beginning of each shift.
The plan then gives detailed instructions for all hospital personnelprofessional, clerical, engineering and maintenance. Some are assigned to respond to any fire anywhere in the hospital, while others respond only it the fire is in their area or threatens it. For example, in the event of any fire, engineering and housekeeping personnel are required to take action which is spelled out in detail in the plan. On the other hand, those working in the business office or pharmacy are required to take: specific action only if fire or water threatens their areas.
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HOSPITAL FIRE SAFETY
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As far as possible, nothing is left to chance or on-the-spot planning. The Montebello plan attempts to prepare for any fire in the hospital. A section devoted to organization details the duties of the management safety committee, those of department heads and supervisors, and the duties of all employees.
Under “Fire Control Procedures,” the booklet gives a brief, clear definition of the three classes of fires, the three types of extinguishers, and tells which to use on each type of fire.
Evacuation is then defined. It is noted that hospital evacuation is an entirely different process than is recommended for schools and factories. Leaving the hospital is the very last resort, while in other occupancies the objective is to clear the building as quickly as possible. Familiarity with several types of evacuation is described as a necessity in any hospital.
The booklet then gives instructions for partial evacuation, horizontal evacuation, total evacuation and emergency removal. It concludes with information on bed fires.