In April 2020, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Alpha Training was approached by a major London hospital, to provide Hot Fire training on site.

With the coronavirus pandemic taking hold and the number of hospital admissions rapidly increasing, the use of ventilation systems and oxygen became even more important.

Alpha’s Business Operations Manager spoke with the hospital’s Head of Fire, Health and Safety to ascertain the exact training requirement. It was established that the training was required to ensure all staff in the hospital – especially those working on the COVID wards where the use oxygen was now increasing – knew how to safely extinguish a fire in their working environment.

Internal conversations took place with Alpha’s Lead Trainers, whose previous role, as a USAR/Fire Fighter for Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service and who had attended gas and oxygen explosions during his career, about the training requirement.

An outline of the Hot Fire training was proposed to the Head of Fire, Health and Safety who then confirmed the training would be for approximately 150 members of staff. Following acceptance of Alpha’s proposal, 12 x Hot Fire training courses were scheduled in April and May 2020.

The preparations

A suitable training venue was confirmed at Royal London Hospital near Whitechapel Tube station where an outside courtyard environment had been allocated for the practical sessions.

Alpha’s Resource Management team began to look at the logistics of delivering the live fire extinguishers and PPE to the venue and liaised with the venue contact to ensure the safe delivery and storage of the live fire extinguishers in preparation for the training courses.

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, as there was a full lockdown in place, a Key Worker Letter was provided to allow accommodation to be booked and for confirmation that business critical training was taking place and why the trainer needed to be on site at the Royal London Hospital.

Prior to the courses, Alpha’s Lead Trainer did some research on previous incidents involving oxygen in UK hospitals and found in 2008 there was an oxygen cylinder explosion and subsequent fire at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital cardiac department, which resulted in around one million pounds of damage. The Lead Trainer later used this event to refer to during his Hot Fire training courses.

Training delivery – theory part

The first training course date had arrived, and the Lead Trainer made sure he was on site an hour before the scheduled course time to meet with the Head of Fire, Health and Safety. The Lead Trainer was shown to the training room where he set up ready for the course. As the delegates started to arrive, they were welcomed by the Lead Trainer.

In line with the government guidelines on COVID-19, both the Lead Trainer and the delegates had their temperature recorded, wore face masks, ensured they were socially distanced from each other at all times and regularly sanitised their hands.

Once all the delegates had arrived the Lead Trainer introduced himself and then went round the group asking the delegates to give a brief overview of their role at the hospital. The roles included Nurses, Doctors, Security staff, Cleaners and Facilities Staff.

As the course got underway, the Lead Trainer began by checking what kind of extinguishers were used in and around the hospital and most importantly on the COVID wards. It was identified that the hospital had Water and Carbon Dioxide extinguishers and Fire Blankets on site. This allowed the Lead Trainer to tailor the training to demonstrate the safe use and limitations of these extinguishers and fire blanket in their working environment.

The Lead Trainer started by providing a brief introduction to the Fire Triangle and Tetrahedron, explaining what is required for a fire to start and support itself and the hazards and dangers of using and storing of Oxygen. The question was asked about what the hospital had in place as safety measures with regards the use of the Oxygen on the Covid Wards and it was confirmed that the hospital had ventilation systems and oxygen gas monitoring in place to prevent a build-up of oxygen within the wards, plus there was also a sprinkler system in place.

As a group, the Lead Trainer and the delegates then had a discussion about the systems that the hospital had in place and how familiar they were with them and if there was an emergency, would they know what to do.  The Lead Trainer discussed how to use a Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher, Water Extinguisher, and the Fire Blanket and explained about the different sizes and weights of extinguishers, pointing out the manual handling aspect of handling a Fire extinguisher.

The Lead Trainer also showed and explained what the information printed on the extinguisher was for (Type of Fire the Extinguisher can be safely used on) and then discussed how to remove the pin and safely test the extinguisher prior to tackling the fire. The Lead Trainer highlighted to the delegates that they should only do this if they felt like it could be done safely and had enough extinguishing media to tackle the fire. He then explained how far the extinguishing media would be projected from the extinguisher, so the delegates understood that they did not need to get too close to the fire and put themselves in any danger.

The Lead Trainer continued to explain how to fight the fire, by aiming the hose or horn (with the CO2 extinguisher it was explained that the horn should be set prior to operating the extinguisher, and not hold the horn as it gets extremely cold). He also explained the hazards associated with using CO2 extinguishers. CO2 is an asphyxiant gas, so care should be taken when it is used in confined or restricted spaces.

The Lead Trainer further explained that CO2 extinguishers may also blow around embers or lightweight materials causing further fire to spread.  He then went on to explain about Water extinguishers and how they can be heavy and when water is applied to a fire it will create steam, and that the hose should be aimed at the base of the fire not at the flames. Finally, the Lead Trainer discussed the safe use of a fire blanket and how to use it to smother the flames if a casualty was on fire.

The Lead Trainer then discussed an oxygen explosion at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital which had resulted in a severe fire. The below images were shown to the delegates reiterating what can happen in the environment they work in where there is a high use of oxygen cylinders.

 

During the theory section of the training course, the Lead Trainer engaged well with the delegates and confirmed with the group that they had understood what had been discussed and answered any questions they had and also alleyed any concerns they may have had with doing the practical element.

Training delivery – practical part

The next part of the course was the practical application which was held outside in a safe courtyard environment where the Lead Trainer had already prepared and set up the Hot Fire Training Rig, as shown in the below photograph.

Before any delegates took part in the practical, the Lead Trainer demonstrated how to safely extinguish a fire using a water extinguisher, showing the delegates that they did not need to get too close to the fire when using the extinguisher.

The Lead Trainer then demonstrated the safe use of the CO2 Extinguisher, again highlighting the importance of setting the horn at the right level so there would be no need to touch the horn whilst extinguishing the fire. It was reiterated to the delegates that they did not need to get too close to the fire to extinguish it. It was also demonstrated to the delegates what the noise of a CO2 extinguisher sounds like when it begins to empty and becomes less effective.

The final part of the Lead Trainers demonstration was showing the delegates how to safely and correctly use a Fire Blanket to extinguish a fire, and the importance of leaving it in place and not removing it before the fire has cooled down.

The Lead Trainer then gave each delegate the opportunity to experience how to extinguish a gas-powered simulated fire with each of the extinguisher types discussed and the fire blanket. The Lead Trainer encouraged the delegates to tackle the fire safely and effectively using the extinguishing media.

At the end of the practical session, each delegate had safely extinguished the fire using each of the methods. All the delegates fully interacted in the practical session and showed their understanding of how to safely extinguish a fire, using various methods. The Lead Trainer ensured the Hot Fire Rig was safely turned off and stowed and everyone returned to the training room.

The Lead Trainer gave the delegates an opportunity to ask any questions that they had following the practical session to reconfirm any of their learning experience.

The feedback

The delegates left the training course feeling confident and competent in how to safely use a number of methods to extinguisher a fire and provided the trainer with feedback.

“A very enjoyable and worthwhile course, I now feel more confident in how to deal with a fire”

“The trainer was very knowledgeable, and it was interesting to hear his real-life experiences”

Feedback was also received from the Head of Fire, Health and Safety once all the training courses had taken place.

“Can I pass on my gratitude, the feedback from the training has been excellent.”

Following the training courses, each delegate was issued with a Certificate of Competency which is valid for a period of 3 years.

The hospital does have an automatic process in the event of an emergency, where the emergency services are called, however the training provided an additional level of support where the delegates feel confident to be able to deal with a fire in the hospital environment and keep themselves and their patients as safe as possible.

Communication was a key element in providing this bespoke training requirement to the hospital to ensure the safety of our trainer and all the delegates attending the training courses, amidst the height of the coronavirus pandemic and the continuing rise of cases.

The team at Alpha Training always provided the customer with a “can do” approach which ensured the bespoke Hot Fire training provided to all the members of staff from Doctors and Nurses to Security staff, Cleaners and Facilities Staff assisted the NHS Trust at a time of exceptional need.

You can find out more about our Fire Safety Training here.