SDS Accreditation Update

Make sure your staff are ready if fire breaks out

Have supplies and information at hand

Although it is important to focus upon fire prevention in the operating room, don’t forget to look at your staff’s readiness to fight fire and treat a patient if a fire does occur, recommends Leanne Bales, RN, CNOR, administrator of Effingham (IL) Surgery Center.

"If you don’t act quickly when you first detect a fire, you risk harm to the patient and staff members," she points out. The first step is to turn off oxygen immediately, Bales says. "Even if the fire doesn’t begin near the airway, the oxygen will support combustion," she explains.

The most basic supply to keep immediately available is a bowl of water or saline, Bales says. "We make sure this bowl is restocked after every case because it can be enough to put out the initial fire," she adds.

If you do have to douse part of the drapes when there is a spark that starts to burn them, be sure to remove all drapes and re-drape the patient, Bales recommends.

"This is the only way to make sure that no other sparks have occurred under the drapes where you can’t see them," she says.

Be sure your employees have a system that easily alerts other staff members that a fire has occurred. "In addition to pull boxes, we have a wireless system that requires the push of one button to send a message to a panel in our post-op area that indicates the location of a fire," Bales notes.

"Our post-op nurses are the most likely group that can leave the area to offer assistance and to make sure the appropriate emergency response plans are activated." If there are patients in recovery, a nurse stays with them while others go to help, she adds.

The one-button system is preferable to having to pick up a telephone and dial a number to trigger the alarm because it saves time, Bales says.

Also place instructions on how to care for a burn patient in the operating room, she suggests.

"Although we have the telephone numbers for the local hospital burn unit and the helicopter or ambulance service in a central area in the surgery center, in an emergency, the operating room staff who are caring for the patient needs the information immediately," Bales says.

One guide that the managers compiled from various sources includes this information along with care instructions regarding fluid control, pain control, and wound care prior to transport will make sure that the staff has the information needed to care for the patient, she adds.