Fire crews put to the test to help safeguard patients and staff at a Kent hospital

October 3, 2016

Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) tackled a ‘fire’ in an operating theatre at Darent Valley Hospital last month, to test the joint response of fire crews and hospital staff.

The exercise involved four fire engines and around 20 firefighters and officers, who provided assistance to Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust (D&G NHS Trust) medical staff, to evacuate the smoke-filled theatres of ‘patients’, who were undergoing surgery to ensure the best possible casualty care.

Devised by KFRS and the D&G NHS Trust team, the ‘disaster’ unfolds after smoke activates fire alarms, triggering a 999 call to KFRS’s emergency control room on Wednesday morning. Smoke machines will add to the realism of the fire scenario.

While fire crews make their way to the scene, hospital staff started the theatre evacuation of five high dependency ‘patients’, which included stabilising them part way through surgery to enable them to be moved safely.

Firefighters, hospital staff and KFRS’s control room operators were all tested on their response to resolve the incident quickly and effectively. This included setting up successful communication channels and the movement of equipment and patients in a smoke-logged area around firefighting equipment.

As the incident unfolded, breathing apparatus crews searched the theatres to ensure they were all empty and from the information provided by on-site staff, they pinpointed the location of the blaze and quickly extinguish it, to ensure a minimum of disruption to the hospital.

KFRS Station Manager and Exercise Director, Lee Abel said: “Putting our well-rehearsed plans to the test in a live-exercise like this is hugely beneficial to our crews. It enables us to familiarise ourselves with the site and ensure our plans and tactics are fit for purpose, should the need ever arise.

“We are grateful to the D&G NHS Trust for providing our firefighters with this valuable training opportunity, enabling us to practice the fundamental tasks and priorities for dealing with a fire in a hospital and the challenges that this brings. Lessons learnt from this exercise will advance our procedures at other sites.”

Hayley Lingham, D&G NHS Trust Emergency Planning Officer and Exercise Director said “The aim of this exercise is not only to test each organisations response arrangements to a fire in a hospital setting but also to promote collaborative working and a familiarity of the command, control and priorities for each organisation.

“The challenges that staff will face will test their evacuation plans and how they manage the acute clinical needs of the patients, as well as invoking the Trust’s command and control arrangements.

“This is a great opportunity for a whole host of Trust staff to become engaged in a live exercise involving Kent Fire & Rescue Service. Theatre staff, intensive care nurses, the communications team, senior management and executive directors, as well as the Hospital’s facilities management company, Carillion and Indigo Car Parks took part in the exercise that will test the Trust’s emergency response arrangements and local business continuity plans”.

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