The exercise was sprung on staff at Colten Care’s Braemar Lodge in Salisbury in partnership with Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Service and training provider Franklins Fire and Safety.
The home’s safety procedures were prompted to swing into action when a ‘smell of burning’ was noticed coming from a ground floor room, the ‘incident’ escalated and urgent decisions had to be made.
Various aspects of the home’s response were tested including how well fire safety procedures were followed, how easily fire exits were used and how quickly people were accounted for.
The pre-arranged arrival of fire crews added to the sense of a real emergency taking place.
Colten Care even brought in ‘actors’ from other homes to pose as confused or passed-out residents amid the simulated smoke and flames.
Donna Nightingale, a Senior Health Care Assistant in the thick of the action, said: “I was one of a team of four who needed to determine the source of the fire and, if safe, get everyone out. The smoke and simulation was startling – we thought it was a genuine fire! The learnings we have taken from it will stay with us forever.”
Roisin Dunne, Colten Care’s Health & Safety Manager, said the aim was to see how the team reacted to what they thought was a genuine situation and learn from that as a result.
She said: “Our commitment to safety goes well beyond statutory requirements. Our homes are of course built to the very highest fire standards but it is still essential that all staff, visitors and contractors know what to do in an emergency. Thanks to our partnerships with the fire service and Franklins we can conduct such a highly realistic scenario over and above our routine, regular fire drills. Ultimately, it’s all about ensuring everyone’s safety in the event of a real fire.”
Alison Bremner, Home Manager at Braemar Lodge, said: “The drill was a well-kept secret in planning and worth it. It’s invaluable to see what you do well and where you could improve when you are put in at the deep end in a scenario designed to feel as real as possible.”
The exercise was co-ordinated by Steve Ruscoe, Fire Safety Officer for Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Service, who worked alongside Paul Franklin, Director of Franklins Fire and Safety.
Following a detailed debrief, Alison and Steve presented the findings at a meeting with the managers of Colten Care’s other 19 homes across Hampshire, Dorset and Sussex. The idea is that learnings are incorporated into group-wide policies and procedures around fire safety.
Steve said: “Overall we were very happy with the way the drill went. People took charge very well. Every premises has its own features and no two incidents will ever be the same, so a full evacuation drill such as this can help you deal with unexpected issues that might crop up. Our message to all managers of premises is that they should look at their training and staff and ask themselves honestly if they would be ready to cope in an emergency.”
Paul said: “As the external fire safety training provider for Colten Care, we can’t over emphasise the importance of face-to-face training. A well trained effective workforce is the best way to be prepared for a fire.”