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Specialist health equipment.

It's important to be aware of the fire safety implications of this vital equipment – discover the risks and what you can do to reduce them.

What is it?

What do we mean by healthcare equipment?

Health care equipment and products used in the home allow people to be cared for in familiar surroundings. Whilst these items can ease discomfort and improve healthcare outcomes, it is important to be aware that in the event of a fire they may increase the spread and intensity of the fire. On this page, we talk about: 

  1. Home oxygen therapy (oxygen tanks).
  2. Dynamic airflow pressure relieving mattresses and overlays.
  3. Incontinence products (pads and underwear).

There is a separate page for emollient creams – and there is specialist advice to support you if you care for a person who is a smoker, or someone who is a hoarder

Healthcare equipment and products video

Healthcare equipment and products – and how they can increase a vulnerable person's fire risk

Understanding and reducing the risks

How can you use specialist healthcare equipment more safely?

If you care for someone who needs specialist healthcare equipment, make sure that you always follow the manufacturer's safety advice. Let's take a look at different kinds of equipment in a little more detail...

 

Home oxygen therapy

Understanding the risks

Used by people with severe respiratory conditions, oxygen therapy provide air that contains more oxygen than normal. Specialist equipment (which can include cylinders and portable units) is used to pipe medical oxygen through either a nasal cannula or face mask to the patient.

Unfortunately though, the addition of concentrated oxygen into the room or surrounding environment will greatly increase the intensity of a fire should one start

Fire safety suggestions

  1. Smoking or the use of any naked flames such as candles, fires and cooking anywhere near oxygen is extremely dangerous and increases the risk of significant injury in the event of a fire.
  2. Never smoke – or enable the person you care for to smoke – whilst using oxygen equipment. This includes e-cigarettes (vapes).
  3. Don't use matches or any naked flame such as candles, incense sticks or oil burners in the same room as oxygen equipment
  4. Keep well away from gas stoves, portable or open fires
  5. Do not use paraffin based emollient products.
  6. Make sure oxygen is turned off when not in use.

 

Dynamic airflow pressure relieving mattresses and overlays

Understanding the risks

These items are used for the prevention and treatment of pressure sores and ulcers that can be caused by extended periods of immobility. The mattress is filled with air by a pump which adjusts pressure according to the patient’s needs.

When punctured by a heat source such as a match the escaping airflow can cause a fire to spread rapidly. The emergency battery back up may continue to pump air which can cause the fire to burn longer.

Fire safety suggestions

  1. Never smoke near an airflow mattress, or let the person you care for smoke in bed.
  2. Keep ignition sources (candles, incense sticks or oil burner) away from airflow mattresses.
  3. Never use an electric blanket on an airflow mattress.
  4. Ensure that electrical equipment is well maintained and kept a safe distance from airflow mattresses.
  5. Keep fires and heaters away from airflow mattresses.
  6. Never place hot items like hairdryers or hair straighteners on airflow mattresses. 

 

Incontinence products

Understanding the risks

Incontinence pads and pants help people live at home with more dignity. However, these products are often supplied in large quantities when people who have continence problems. They can be bulky and difficult to store, can catch fire and will add fuel to a developing fire.

Fire safety suggestions

  1. Always store incontinence products away from heat sources such as heaters, candles, chargers or anywhere else that they are likely to be subject to heat or flame.

  2. Try not to store the supplies all in one place – ideally not next to the person’s bed or chair.

Getting extra help

Get expert advice with a home fire safety visit

We can provide more specialist advice based on the person you care for's home and individual needs during a home fire safety visit. These free sessions are an opportunity to talk to you and the person you care for about how to prevent fires, the importance of smoke alarms to detect a fire and escape plans in the event of a fire.

Visits can be arranged at any time (24/7), and we even fit free smoke alarms if the person you care for needs them. Specialist alarms can also be fitted – for example, strobe light and vibrating pad alarms for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Firefighter explaining how to use a fire alarm to two elderly community members

Book a visit

Find out more about home fire safety visits and book one for the person you care for.

Home fire safety visits

Extra information for support workers and social workers

If you are a support worker providing care there are some extra steps you need to take:

  1. Complete the Person Centred Risk Assessment at the bottom of this page – this will help you identify areas of risk to the person you care for.
  2. Report the risks to your line manager and ask them to discuss a referral for a free home fire safety visit with the client.
  3. Make sure that fire risk is included in the care plan for your client including things like using fire retardant bedding, appropriate management of emollient creams, and how to care for people who smoke.
  4. Communicating with the person’s family or other supporting agencies to consider how Telecare can help to keep vulnerable people safer.
  5. Consider training to help you spot signs that may indicate the person you care for is at risk of injury from fire – and learn what steps you can take to reduce those risks.
FREE e-Learning with Telecare Services Association

 

Consider limited mobility

If the person you care for is bed bound or spends most of their time in a chair, they are particularly at risk. Please consider their needs and make sure appropriate measures are taken so they can safely escape if there is fire. Learn more about escape plans from homes here, and from workplaces (like residential care homes) here.

Some useful reading

Person centered fire risk assessment checklist

Download PDF (53kb)

Fire safety in the home

Download PDF (2,410kb)

Advice for users of healthcare equipment

Download PDF (325kb)

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