Fire inspection uncovered major safety issues at country's busiest maternity unit
The report on the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin said it was clear the system would not provide the minimum light levels or escape signage that would be needed to provide safe escape in the event of an emergency. Picture: Colin Keegan/ Collins
A fire inspection at one of the country’s busiest maternity hospitals found the emergency escape light system was not being routinely maintained, that most of its fittings were falling or faulty, and that some exit signage for use in the event of a blaze was not operating at all.
The report on the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin said it was clear the system would not provide the minimum light levels or escape signage that would be needed to provide safe escape in the event of an emergency.
It said it would not be financially viable to repair, update, or extend the current system and recommended the installation of a completely new system of emergency lighting.
A board meeting last year heard the total cost of a project to fix all fire safety issues at the hospital could be in the order of €2.4m and would take between two and three years to implement.
The investment was approved following a report carried out by expert consultants Titan Fire at the hospital in late 2021. The Rotunda had originally refused to release a copy under FOI laws but was directed to do so by the Information Commissioner.
The report said the main danger was the system of emergency escape lighting, which was not getting maintenance because there were no service providers available to carry out the work.
It said it worked off of an old central battery system, where the battery was supposed to be replaced at least every decade, but had already been in operation for 14 years.
The inspection found a basement area canteen contained no emergency lighting at all in escape corridors while in others barely enough illumination was provided to help people find their way out in the event of a fire.
It found non-compliance in most areas of the hospital, with broken signage evident in multiple places around the Rotunda.
The report said current fire safety requirements meant each area should have two lights for use in the event of an emergency so failure of one of them “does not plunge the route into total darkness”.
It added: “A large extent of the hospital would not meet this requirement. In practical terms, a large amount of escape route compartments only [have] a single emergency luminaire [light] fitted.”
It said, for instance, a nurse sleep area only had a single light available despite the higher risk in an area where staff were resting.
The inspection report said the fire detection and alarm system was more robust and was “working and functional as designed”.
It said there were some issues with where detectors were located, while other areas required additional alarm sounders to make sure people could hear them.
The report said, however, that the type of radial network in use was not the “preferred or recommended” system and could result in loss of communications between all fire safety panels.
It also raised concerns over some of the cabling that was used for the alarm system, saying it needed to be replaced.
The report also queried the age of some fire detectors, which are intended for use for about 10 years although they can work safely for longer.
“Currently, there’s 273 devices over 20 years [of age],” said the safety report.
A note from a Rotunda board meeting from last July said full implementation of the findings from the report would cost in the region of €2.4m, and that it would be funded by the HSE.
It added €250,000 had already been allocated in 2022 for engaging fire consulting contractors and that the work would be phased in over a two-three year period.
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