The CNA Study Guide – Fire Safety and Preventative Measures
Section 5 – Fire Safety and Preventative Measures
One of the best ways in preventing fires within the healthcare community is by identifying potential fire hazards ahead of time and taking the necessary time to either correct the issue or prepare for the potential of a fire in the area. This holds true not only for workers of the facility but of patients and residents as well. The employees will receive training based on the fire policies of the building, while drillers will be conducted (quarterly, usually) to keep both the staff and patients informed on what happens in the vent of a fire. Each of the items listed is known potential fire hazards within the workplace.
- Long-standing electrically plugged in items. These objects can build dust and become dirty over time. It is important to unplug these items and clean the equipment to prevent this build up. Additionally, if the item is not working correctly it is important to disconnect it from power until it can either be replaced or repaired.
- Outlets should never be overloaded. This increases the chance of an electrical surge and electrical fire.
- Disconnect broken electrical cords. These cords should never be used
- Keep the area around heaters and vents clean. There should be three feet or so of space around heaters to prevent any kind of accidental interactions between the warm surface and other objects.
- In some healthcare facilities, candles and other open flames are off limits. In the event candles are allowed, the candles should never be left unattended. Candles should also be moved out of the reach of both children and pets, nor should the candles be left near windows (due to curtains easily catching fire) or by easily combustible material.
Certain cooking devices, ranging from electronic cook-top burners, stoves, and toaster ovens, are not allowed into some healthcare facilities. If the devices are allowed, there are a handful of different safety usage steps that need to be followed.
- Always remain watching the cooking surface
- Never begin cooking food if falling asleep or taking medication that can cause falling asleep
- When available, it is desirable to use the rear burner in order to avoid spills of hot liquids and oil over the front of the oven.
- In the event of a spill, everything needs to be cleaned up as quickly as possible.
- Handles of pots and pans need to be turned in toward the oven and not face outward, as this increases the chance of bumping into the handle when walking past.
- Towels should never be used as potholders or placed onto an in-use stovetop as the fabric is not fire retardant.
Should a cooking fire break out, there are different procedures to follow, depending on the kind of fire.
- Turn off the oven and close the door should an oven fire break out
- Place a pan over a grease fire as a fire extinguisher and water will not put it out (only spread it). If baking soda is available, pour this onto the fire.
- Close the door should a microwave fire occur. Unplug it as well.
All healthcare facilities are smoke-free. However, there is also likely a set smoking area somewhere on the exterior of the building. All employees and guests must use this area if they intend on smoking. It is also important to not smoke near anyone who uses an oxygen tank as the oxygen explodes.
Fires break out in healthcare facilities throughout the country, including hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice centers. Cooking equipment and appliances are the most common cause of the fires, although washing machines, clothes dryers, heating equipment, lighting equipment, smoking and problems with electrical distribution also cause problems and may lead to fires.
All workers must know where fire alarms are located within the building. This includes the physical handle alarms, fire extinguishers, and sprinklers. In the event of a fire, the fire itself is often not the most dangerous part of it but the smoke. Smoke travels quickly taking up the oxygen in a room and prevents people in the area from breathing. Due to this, it is important to help those with mobility problems, sick patients, and seniors out of the building first.
Practicing proper escape routes and evacuation protocol is a must. Whenever there is a fire alarm, it is crucial to treat it as an emergency. If the fire alarm system is activated it is important to call 911 and to begin the evacuation right away. In the event of a false alarm, the fire department may search the building just in case in order to make sure everything is alright.
Should a fire break out, it is important to remember: RACE
- R: Rescue yourself (and others) from the fire
- A: Activate fire alarms and call 911
- C: Contain fires by closing fire doors and windows
- E: Extinguish (the fire). Use available fire extinguisher, cut it off from oxygen with a blanket, use baking soda or another method for blocking the fire’s oxygen source
If the fire is large, do not use the extinguisher. Extinguishers have 10 seconds of fire retardant power. To use this equipment, remember: PASS
- P: Pull Pin
- A: Aim at the bottom of the fire
- S: Squeeze (handle)
- S: Sweep side to side
Fire extinguishers are broken down into several different classes. This includes A (green triangle symbol), which is for regular materials, like paper, plastics, and wood. B (red square symbol) is for liquids, like gas, grease or oil. C (blue circle) is for electrical fires. D (yellow decagon) is used for chemical fires (commonly found in labs). Class K (black hexagon) is for cooking oils (commonly found in restaurants).
The most common kinds of fire extinguishers are water extinguishers, which are usually air-pressurized water (APW). Only use the Class A extinguishers on woods, plastics, and other materials, otherwise, it might spread the fire instead of putting it out. The dry chemical fire extinguishers are found in Class A, B and C. B and C also come in a dry chemical that is filled with a foam material (made from sodium bicarbonate or sometimes potassium). ABC extinguishers (combination) are the most common devices. CO2 (carbon dioxide) extinguishers are also Class B and C devices.