After you take this class, you will be able to:

  1. Discuss ways to prevent fires and how to act if a fire occurs (R-A-C-E).

  2. Use the proper fire extinguisher in the correct manner (P-A-S-S).

  3. Practice fire safety, electrical safety and safe evacuation with your patients and residents.

Nursing assistants, personal care aides and others who work in a hospital or nursing home must know about fires and fire safety. They must know how to prevent fires and how to act when a fire starts. They must also tell their patients and residents know how to prevent fires and what to do if a fire starts.


Fire needs three things. It needs:

  • Something to burn. It needs a solid, liquid or gas that is able to burn.
  • Air. Air is always present. It cannot be taken away.
  • Heat

Fire needs ALL three of these things.

If you take one of them away a fire cannot start. Air cannot be taken away but heat and something to burn can be taken away in order to prevent a fire.

You can prevent fires by keeping heat away from something that can burn. It is as simple as that. Keep heat away from something that can burn!

You can prevent fires by keeping the patient's clothes (something that can burn) away from a damaged electrical wire (heat). You must keep cigarettes (heat) away from bed sheets (something that can burn). A fire will start if you do not keep heat away from something that can burn.


If a fire starts, you must act very fast. You must R-A-C-E and follow your fire plan. You must:

R- Rescue all the people that are in danger. The first thing you must do is rescue people that are in danger. Follow your fire plan. Get your patients and residents out of danger. Move them to a safe place inside if you can. Move them outside if there is no safe place indoors. Get them out of the area and keep them out.

A- Alarm. You must then pull the fire alarm.

C- Confine or contain the fire if you can. Close all of the doors and windows. Do NOT ever prop doors open. Fire doors must be able to freely close when there is a fire or smoke. These doors confine fires into small areas when they are free to move.

E- Extinguish the fire if you can safely do it without causing any danger to yourself and others. If the fire is a very small one that you can quickly and safely put out using water or a fire extinguisher, do it. If the fire is too big, get everyone out and pull the alarm.

All personal items should be left behind. No one should go back to get personal items. They may never get the chance to leave again.


Every nursing home and hospital must have fire extinguishers.

There are several kinds of fire extinguishers:

· A. An A fire extinguisher can only be used to put out fires on some common things like paper, wood and cloth. They CANNOT be used on oil, grease or electrical fires.

· B. A B fire extinguisher can be used to put out fires on liquids and gases like gas, oil and grease. It can be used on kitchen grease and fat fires. It CANNOT be used on electrical fires.

· C. A C type fire extinguisher can be used to put out electrical fires.

· AB. An AB fire extinguisher can be used for paper, wood, cloth, like the A type, as well as liquid and gas fires, including kitchen grease and fat fires, like the B type does.

· BC. A BC fire extinguisher puts out electrical, liquid and gas fires, like the B and C types do.

· ABC. An ABC fire extinguisher is the BEST of all. It puts out all kinds of fires. Since an ABC fire extinguisher can be used on any type of fire, it is highly recommended that these be in every hospital and nursing home. They can be bought at almost every home improvement store for very little cost.

All fire extinguishers must be checked on a regular basis to make sure that they are fully charged and ready to use in case of an emergency.


Use the P-A-S-S method to use a fire extinguisher:

P- Pull the pin

A- Aim at the base, or the bottom, of the fire or flame

S- Squeeze the trigger while holding the extinguisher up straight and

S- Sweep, or move the spray, from side to side to completely cover the fire


Be Able to Evacuate Your Patients and Residents Quickly and Safely

All hospitals and nursing homes must have stairway exits that are clearly marked with signs that are lit up so that all can see them. Nursing assistants must tell patients and residents to use the stairs and NOT the elevator if a fire starts in the area and they have to be moved to another floor of the facility for safety. Everyone must use the stairs.

If a patient or resident cannot walk down the stairs, the nursing assistant and other healthcare providers or a fireman must carry them down the stairs or gently slide the person down the stairs so that they can leave when they are in danger.

Know and Practice Your Fire Response Plan.

All health care providers must know how to respond to fires and other emergencies. All hospitals and nursing homes have a fire safety plan. If a fire starts we must all follow the plan.

It is also helpful to teach our patients and residents about fire safety and the proper response if a fire starts. They should know:

· How to leave their room and area. Patients and residents must be shown the escape route. They must also be told to use the stairs and NOT the elevator.

They will also have to know what to do if a fire is blocking the door way of their room. If a fire is blocking their room they should shut the door to keep the fire out. They should also put a towel or blanket at the bottom of the door to keep the smoke out of their room. It is also a good idea to yell for help or signal for help at the window.

If a fire alarm sounds and the patient or resident is in their room with the door closed, they should be told to feel the door BEFORE opening it. They should not open the door if it feels hot. A hot door means that the fire is just on the other side of the door. Opening the door will spread the flames and smoke into the person's room. If the door is hot, the patient or resident should put a towel or blanket at the bottom of the door to keep the smoke out of their room and signal or call for help at their window.

Nursing assistants should practice fire drills very often to make sure that they know and are able to follow the fire plan and escape. Practice makes perfect escapes. Practice saves lives!!!

Nursing assistants must also know how to:

  • use a fire extinguisher
  • use the fire alarm
  • evacuate patients and residents
  • call the fire department


GET LOW AND GO if you are in a room is filled with smoke.

  • Yell FIRE and R-A-C-E! Immediately begin the fire plan.

  • Instruct your residents and patients to stay low and crawl to the door. Smoke fills a room from the ceiling down. The safest air is near the floor

  • Instruct them to touch the exit door with the back of their hand to check whether or not it is hot.

  • If the door is hot, tell them NOT open it. Go to another exit. If that door is cool, open it slowly and leave the area.

  • If an exit is unsafe to use, the patient or resident should shut the room's door and block off the bottom of the door with a towel or blanket.

  • They should be taught to cover their nose and mouth with a wet cloth and to yell for help. They should yell or signal from a window if they can.

  • If there is a phone in their room, they should call 911 and tell the fire department where they are blocked in with smoke and a hot door.



If a person's clothes catch fire, tell them to STOP and NOT run. Tell them to lay down on the floor and cover their face with their hands. They should be told to then roll over and over to smother the flames. The nursing assistant should also cover the person with a blanket or another item to put out the flames.

Do not fan a fire with your hands. This will only make the fire worse!


  • Smoke detectors and fire sprinklers. Smoke detectors and fire sprinkles save lives. They are required by law in all nursing homes and hospitals.

  • NEVER disable a smoke detector. If you hear a periodic "beep" or "chirp" from a smoke detector, it means that the battery is low and it must be changed immediately. Report it to your supervisor or charge nurse.

  • Sprinklers must be free and not obstructed in order to work. Do NOT store any items near the sprinkler heads. Storing items near the sprinkler head will prevent the water from spraying on the fire.

  • Practice electrical safety. Never overload electrical sockets. Do NOT use extension cords or any item that has a damaged cord or wire. Damaged electrical wires start fires.

  • Also, make sure that all patient equipment is inspected and safe before you use it. Many hospitals and nursing homes put a sticker on electrical equipment to let you know that it is safe.

  • If at any time you have a concern about a piece of equipment, do NOT use it. Report it to your supervisor or charge nurse.

  • Insure cigarette and oxygen safety. All cigarettes should be smoked outdoors. Also, keep oxygen tanks secure and far away from any open flames.


Most fires can be prevented. Nursing assistants should always use and teach their patients how to use fire prevention skills. They must also make sure that they can keep all patients or residents free of injury if a fire starts. A well planned and practiced fire safety plan can insure the safety of our customers. Practice this plan often.


National Electrical Safety Foundation. (2002). “Home Electrical Safety”. [online]

National Electrical Safety Foundation. (2002). “Work Electrical Safety”. [online]

Pulliam, Jolynn. (1998). The Nursing Assistant: Acute, Subacute & Long-Term Care. New York: Prentice Hall.

United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2010). “Electrical Standards” [online].

United States Fire Administration of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (2010). “Public Information”. [online]

Copyright © 2010 Alene Burke