Working towards SAFE at Heatherington House

June 28, 2018

With the tragedies happening at Grenfell in mind and other serious fires having an impact on residential services we wanted to ensure that did not happen at Heatherington House.

In May, individuals and colleagues hosted a discussion with Service Manager Margaret Elliott regarding the opportunity for supported individuals to have a more active role in the fire evacuations. It was suggested that each supported individual take an active role in planning a fire evacuation.

We designed an orange tabard that one person would wear depicting the “fire” and then challenged the people we support to problem solve and overcome any possible obstacles.

We encourage the supported individuals to think in a “SAFE” way to safely evacuate from the building so, during the practice fire drills a nominated person wears the orange tabard and informs supported individuals they are the fire!!

A second nominated person pretends to be injured, possibly blocking an exit. This is done to challenge the supported individual and encourages them to think what to do in an emergency, which can present with many diverse challenges and obstacles. We also made some signs to assist with the evacuation.

This project has been a progression from another similar project whereby supported individuals all take turns to carry out systems maintenance, taking responsibility for the safety in their home.

When we ran the test fire drills we considered lots of factors, including;

  • Did having “the fire” and the “injured person” cause a negative reaction from supported individuals?
  • Would the supported individuals be able to report to colleagues if there was an injured person?
  • Would the supported individuals panic?
  • What would happen if their chosen route was blocked, would they be able to exit safely from another exit?

At the beginning of June, MB was the “fire marshal” for the day, his keyworker had previously chatted with him to inform him about the running of an evacuation and what it entailed. We also discussed the possibility of the individuals being challenged to be more innovative and creative in their thinking when exiting the building.

  • Eddie, our Operations Director, was asked to stand at the front door wearing the orange tabard {to depict the fire}
  • James, our Managing Director, was asked to be the injured person by the back door.
  • As the fire marshal MB {supported by Emma} was asked to activate the fire alarms.

The fire bells were activated, and all the supported individuals went to exit, however because James was blocking the door as the injured person, all supported individuals walked back to the fire panel in a bit of a panic not knowing what to do.

They asked Emma what to do, she then reminded them this was a fire and that they must GET OUT. They informed Emma they could not, so she asked them, what did they think they could do?

Emma took them to the back door and showed them how to lean over James and push the door open. Then to step over James to exit the building. We have one individual who has some issues stepping over things and he would not, so instead they moved James’ legs to enable the individual to exit safely.

Carrying out the evacuation in this way has created a lot more questions and has highlighted that some individuals are not able to forward think or plan a different exit, should their chosen exit become blocked.

Everyone joined in and participated in the evacuation and we plan to carry out the evacuations in this way every month.

To follow this up, we invited Jo the local fire inspector to the home, who gave advice and a talk on what we all need to be doing to exit the building safely. Jo spoke about some causes of fire and discussed the fire doors in the building. She was very helpful and has invited the people we support to a trip to the fire station.

Jo also spoke about the dangers of chargers for mobile phones and tablets. A discussion was also held about lap tops becoming over heated.


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