Hospitals are target hazards posing a considerable risk to occupants because of the large numbers and non-ambulatory nature of these facilities’ residents and the inability for the patients to evacuate as soon as possible. Fire emergencies can occur when you least expect them.

That is the reason why hospitals have to be ready for this kind of emergency. If not addressed as swiftly as they appear these situations can cause severe damage to hospital structure and contents. Most critically though, they are able to also result in loss of life. Private and public healthcare organisations are personally accountable and have a duty of care for maintaining a safe environment for employees, patients, members of the public in their health facilities, fire safety in hospitals and other related care facilities.

Emergency Procedure

These plans fall under the Work Health and Safety Regulation, wherein a person conducting a business should create an emergency plan effective in the workplace. Building managers are encouraged to involve all staff in the test runs for an assessment of the effectiveness of the plan and to create a smooth flow of evacuation.

hospital fire evacuation diagram

Photo Credit: P.V. Sivakumar

Your emergency plan should cover the following:

  • Immediate response to potential hazards
  • Staying calm in the event of emergencies
  • Assigning persons-in-charge to raise the alarm
  • Contacting emergency rescue teams (firefighters, ambulance, police)
  • Step-by-step guide upon hearing an emergency alarm (when and how to evacuate)
  • Knowing who gives orders and instructs what to do
  • How to use communication systems

Training Guidelines


hospital emergency staff training

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Fire evacuation training among all staff is a standard requirement, which obliges employees to participate. The training process consists of the following:

  • A set of instructions given to each staff of the building as a guide to follow in the event of an emergency
  • Evacuation signs installed correctly at designated areas where nurses, doctors, patients and all other staff members can easily locate.
  • Evacuation procedures especially made to match the building’s design, to be followed by all building personnel in the event of an emergency
  • An exercise carried out for everyone to practice on a regular basis, as mandated by the Building Fire Safety Regulation

Essential Steps for Fire Response


fire fighters in a hospital

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As you go along the hospital fire safety training, you will find the appropriate responses to more specific situations. Start by studying these four essential steps that make up the facility-specific emergency response guidelines.

1. Call the fire brigade

The concern at hand establishes the question when to call for help. As per facility emergency response procedures, starting from suspicion of fire, one should immediately call the fire brigade. No one has to neither wait for authorities nor ask permission from anyone to report a suspicion. The act is followed by an automatic telephone call to confirm receipt of alarm and take further necessary action.

2. Raise the alarm

Apart from calling the fire brigade or as part of standard practices, if the alarm is not already sounding, hit the fire alarm button or shout “FIRE!” to immediately spread awareness and advice other hospital personnel to respond properly to a fire. Having smoke detectors is an advantage as it is built to readily alarm all building staff and the firefighters at the same time.

3. Secure everyone’s safety

Securing everyone’s safety in the premises is the foremost step, where each one (especially patients) is guided away from the burning place.

4. Fight the fire

In the subject pertaining to the required fire safety equipment in hospitals, there should be the maximum distribution of information on fire extinguishers, fire blankets, what/what not to use and how to use them. For instance, do not use water or foam to put off an electrical fire. Only the fire control trained person should handle situations involving immediate action against fire. However, if there should be high risks in attempting to control the flames, occupants should withdraw, leaving the doors closed but not locked.

5. Evacuate

In a fire situation, a specific response procedure shall include all possible persons directly involved.

1. Effective warning arrangement

Give immediate advice to patients and visitors about the emergency.

2. Assessment of all evacuation routes

Routes should be inspected and evaluated for complete accessibility including persons with disabilities. The effects of smoke may also hinder the passageways for patients with health restrictions. An alternative egress route may be required.

3. Safe approved assembly area

There should be predetermined locations where access to emergency services and tools are not scarce. These areas require complete protection from flying debris and smoke inhalation.

Evacuating the area should be done by walking calmly but quickly to the assembly area. Stay in the designated assembly area until confirmed otherwise that it is safe to go back.

Guidelines for handling patients

Assigned medical practitioners should be alert in prioritising, transferring and assembling the patients. While every situation is different, it is important to assess by considering the following:

  • location of the fire and its level of seriousness
  • proximity of the patient to the fire and any hazardous or flammable material nearby
  • Nature and type of patient being managed
  • Layout of the facility

Undergoing a quick assessment of the situation should consequently determine if the patient should be evacuated immediately.

Prioritising patients


hospital patient evacuated

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A certain order is given to health care employees for an organized evacuation:

  1. Ambulatory patients who require ongoing physical assistance
  2. Semi-ambulant patients who need some physical assistance
  3. Non-ambulant patients who are physically disabled and need to be carried or moved
  4. Aggressive, violent or resistive patients

All clinical employees need to have a strategic method for predetermining the order of patients, their necessary medical needs and whatnot in any given circumstances including the level of danger and location of a fire.