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Is Your Hospital Safe From Fires?

Is Your Hospital Safe From Fires?
Christian J. Amendt

Patients in hospitals are particularly vulnerable to disasters like fires.For the two-year period from 2012 to 2014, roughly 5,700 fires occurred at medical facilities across the United States. Of that total, almost one-fifth, or 1,100, happened in hospitals. Authorities estimate that fewer than five people lost their lives in the fires, 25 were injured and $5 million was lost in property damages each year.

Many hospital patients are not ambulatory, so during a fire emergency, they require assistance from staff in order to vacate the hospital premises safely. Others are tethered to highly flammable oxygen, making them, especially at risk when fire threatens the wing or floor where they are receiving treatment.

Because the majority — 60 percent — of hospital fires are small, contained fires usually related to cooking, there is less of a chance that they will become major conflagrations that will pose a real threat to the patients.

However, 27 percent of the fires that occur at hospitals are large, nonconfined structure fires that can quickly become deadly.

During the two years that were studied, nearly 84 percent of all fires remained confined to the original object where the fire broke out. Just over 13 percent spread to, but remained confined in, the room where the fire originated. Under 2 percent of the fires went on to engulf the floor, and only 1.4 percent spread to an entire building of a hospital.

While overall those statistics are reassuring, if you are a patient in a hospital wing or floor that catches on fire, your perspective may differ. Depending on various factors, if you are injured or your condition is worsened due to the smoke or flames, you may have grounds for filing a premises liability lawsuit against the hospital and other defendants.

Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Data snapshot: Hospital fires,” accessed Feb. 09, 2017

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