Emergency Evacuation of Residential Homes
Over the weekend I had occasion to visit the care home where my mother in law now resides. She is heading gracefully towards her 99th birthday and we fully expect her to join the ranks of centenarians in due course. An infection had hospitalized the old dear for a few days. The experience had made her unsteady on her feet so much to her annoyance a wheelchair was the only way she could be moved around.

There have been many horror stories told of the poor treatment of the elderly in care but our experience has been the opposite. She considers the place as her home and calls it such.

That said maneuvering the wheelchair was quite difficult. The corridors were wide enough but not in the face of oncoming residents using frames or staff pushing medical trolleys, and the turn through the door to her room was a tight squeeze with the lady on board.

That set me wondering how staff would cope if an emergency evacuation was required. Residential and Nursing homes have been under the spotlight since the Regulatory Reform (fire safety) Order (RRO) came into force in 2006. I discovered there is a 155 page guide to fire risk assessment under the RRO just for care and nursing homes.

I mentioned this to the manager and she gave a big sigh. Yes it was a major issue particularly as her premises had two floors. The target set by the guidance notes was to complete an evacuation of all residents and staff to a place of safety within 2 ½ minutes and as she pointed out my own mum could not do that under her own steam even when mobile. Add the fear and confusion a fire event would cause to residents with mobility and mental impairments and it was a tall order. Even so they had to comply and pass regular inspection.

She detailed the provisions including ensuring adequate staff levels even at night, installing an evacuation lift and providing special evac chairs, shorthand for evacuation chairs that can transport residents down stairways. Anticipating my next question with respect to my own relative the home also had a special powered evacuation chair that one member of staff could use to transport a resident in a disabled wheelchair including down stairs..

The manager concluded by saying complying with the RRO had cost tens of thousands of pounds and was one reason why some major care and nursing home operators were in financial trouble. Not sure I agree with that as more likely it is chronic central and local government underfunding over many years that is to blame, but at least I left reassured that mum was in safe hands.