More than a Week: Best Practices for Year-Round Fire Safety

Every October, Fire Prevention Week serves as a critical reminder of the importance of fire safety in our day to day lives. During this time, schools, organizations, and communities participate in fire drills, awareness campaigns, and various initiatives to educate people about fire prevention and preparedness. Unfortunately, many OR clinicians know all too well that fire safety is not a concern that should be only confined to just one week of the year. In fact, it’s important that clinicians take daily precautions to protect patients from the risk of surgical fires and related burns. Best practices for year-round fire safety include fine tuning your processes and procedures to create a culture of fire safety. 

Keep the Momentum Going: If You Recently Did a Fire Drill, Schedule Your Next One

Fire drills are a fundamental aspect of fire safety training. They prepare people to respond swiftly and efficiently in the event of a fire emergency. One common mistake made by many organizations is to conduct a fire drill during Fire Prevention Week and then forget about it for the rest of the year. It’s crucial to schedule regular fire drills and give staff a heads-up before the drill takes place. By planning accordingly, employees can mentally prepare for the drill, ensuring a more realistic simulation of an actual emergency. When is your next surgical fire drill scheduled?

Take a Preventative and Proactive Approach

Prevention is always better than cure. Instead of waiting for a fire or burn to occur and then responding to it, it’s essential to adopt a proactive approach to fire safety. Asking 3 simple questions when your teams run their surgical safety checklist is a straightforward way to reduce risk.

  • Is an alcohol-based skin antiseptic or other flammable solution being used preoperatively?
  • Is open oxygen or nitrous oxide being administered and/or is the operative site above the head, neck, chest, or in the oropharynx?
  • Is an electrosurgical unit, laser, fiberoptic light or other ignition sources like defibrillators, drills, saws, or burrs being used?

Depending on the answers, teams then have a list of actions to consider to protect the patient.

People are another key factor in fire prevention. Ensuring that traveling staff members are familiar with your fire safety protocols is vital. Providing comprehensive training and resources for all employees can significantly enhance their ability to respond effectively to fire emergencies. Check out our Surgical Fire Safety Toolkit for more preventative tips.

Use Technology that Supports Your Prevention Efforts

When an electrosurgical unit, laser, or fiberoptic light cable is used, it’s important to take necessary steps to reduce the risk of fires and burns. For example: 

  • Avoid the use of electrosurgical devices in high risk areas
  • Manage light cable ends so they do not contact drapes
  • Use lowest possible power settings 

Another key way to prevent surgical fires and burns is to use a protective cover on light cables. Light cables generate extreme heat, often as high as 500°F. An integrated ceramic heat shield provides protection coverage, reducing temperatures and protecting patients and staff from thermal burns.


Provide a Culture of Safety

Creating a culture of safety within an organization is essential for long-term fire safety success. This involves fostering an environment where employees prioritize safety, are willing to speak up, and actively participate in fire safety initiatives. Encourage open communication about safety concerns, including near misses, conduct regular safety training sessions, and recognize and reward employees who contribute to a safer workplace. When safety becomes a shared value, everyone becomes an advocate for fire prevention.

Fire prevention is an important part of overall patient safety and healthcare quality and deserves attention daily. By scheduling regular fire drills, taking a proactive approach to prevention, leveraging engineered technology, and fostering a culture of safety, facilities can significantly enhance their fire safety measures. Let’s commit to following best practices for year-round fire safety every day, not just during Fire Prevention Week.

Latest AORN Surgical Fire Safety Guidelines Hot SheetDownload