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Fire Prevention Daily Focus at WRNMMC


Everyone Has a Role in Fire Prevention

By Bernard S. Little
WRNMMC Command Communications

While the nation observes National Fire Protection Week Oct. 8-14 this year, fire prevention remains a daily focus at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, explained Navy Cmdr. Robert Wadsworth, chief of the Facilities Management Department at WRNMMC.

The Facilities Management Department and the Naval District of Washington Fire Department manage WRNMMC Fire Protection Program, Wadsworth explained. He added that the program includes “multiple interdependent components creating a layered defense.” Some of the components include detection and alarm systems, safe egress, suppression systems, smoke control systems, fire separation, security systems, fire extinguishers and prevention programs.
Other aspects of Walter Reed Bethesda Fire Protection Program include detection and alarm testing, fire drills sprinkler system testing, rated wall assessments, rated door assembly assessment, fire protection drawing maintenance, fire extinguisher inspection and fire safety walkthroughs.
“According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the most common cause of fires in U.S. health care facilities [approximately 65 percent]. Prevention of these fires is similar to what you should practice at home: don’t leave cooking items unattended; keep cooking surfaces and equipment clean; keep flammable or combustible materials away from heat sources; and remove any unnecessary items from the vicinity of cooking equipment. Our Nutrition Services Department does an excellent job of following these standards,” Wadsworth stated.
Intact barriers are essential to WRNMMC’s fire safety efforts, Wadsworth added. “Fire and smoke barriers are assemblies specially designed to resist the movement of fire and smoke. They include walls, floors, ceilings and any openings in them such as doors, pipe or conduit penetrations, ductwork and access panels. Intact barriers resist the spread of fire, smoke, and toxic gases, helping to contain damage and protect occupants while allowing safe egress.”
Wadsworth explained that fire and smoke barriers are an important part of the layered defense methodology used in the WRNMMC Fire Protection Program. “While repairing and maintaining the barriers is a significant concern, the hospital is protected by other physical layers such as a fully supervised detection and alarm system, manual pull stations, wet and dry pipe sprinkler systems with redundant fire pumps, a mass notification system and a fire department that routinely responds in two minutes or less.”
Wadsworth encouraged all members of the Walter Reed Bethesda community to support its Fire Protection Program, stating, “As an organization, WRNMMC can continue to support the [program] with its many regularly scheduled tests, drills and inspections and act on the results.” He added WRNMMC has also undertaken a door repair and replacement effort to enhance its fire safety posture.
Staff members should also participate fully in fire drills, said the FMD chief. He furthered that staff should note any changes to their emergency exits due to construction or other situations.
“Help new staff members get oriented to their workspace and become familiar with their role in a fire drill,” Wadsworth stated. “Be aware of your surroundings and stay vigilant for fire safety hazards, such as items stored in egress corridors, fire doors propped open [and other dangers]. If something looks out of place, ask,” he said.
Wadsworth also urged staff at Walter Reed Bethesda to:
• Not tie open fire doors
• Not prop doors open by jamming something in the hinges
• Not hit doors with battering rams
• Not tape strike plates
• Not cover doors with signs
• Call 301-295-1070 to report problems with fire doors.
The NFPA has established this year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week as “Every Second Counts, Plan 2 Ways Out!” NFPA officials explain this theme highlights that in a fire, seconds count. “It reinforces why everyone needs to have an escape plan.” The NFPA recommends the following:
• Draw a map of your home with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
• Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
• Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
• Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
• Close doors behind you as you leave because this may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire.
• Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.