The biggest challenge faced by hospitals when it comes to fire risk is that a large number of occupants are either incapacitated or immobilised, which renders them extremely vulnerable, ASP Fire CEO Michael van Niekerk highlights. Hospitals must be able to compartmentalise wards in the event of a fire so that patients can be moved to another section where they can take refuge safely while the fire is put out effectively in the area where it originated.
A recent example was when the first floor of the Cape Gate Hospital in Brackenfell in the Western Cape had to be evacuated after a fire broke out on Tuesday 13 October 2020. Firefighters were dispatched as far afield as Kraaifontein, Durbanville and Belville after Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Department received an emergency call at about 20:00.
ASP Fire can assist architects upfront during the design phase of hospital projects by offering its specialist fire-engineering expertise and experience. For example, a high-rise hospital building definitely requires a fire sprinkler system, while evacuation routes in such a multi-storey structure also have to be considered carefully.
Appropriate fire detection and suppression systems for hospitals, from sprinklers to water mist systems, can be designed. Hospitals also have high-risk areas such as LPG gas storage, boilers, kitchens and server rooms that require special attention. In terms of existing hospitals, a fire-risk assessment can highlight any causes of concern for management. These range from non-functioning fire doors to equipment that has been vandalised or not maintained properly.
“We are able to offer assistance in order for existing buildings to be modified accordingly so they can be fully compliant with all of the necessary regulations and standards,” adds van Niekerk. ASP Fire has carried out work in this regard for Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and Helen Joseph Hospital, as well as for a number of private Netcare hospitals.