There have been no deaths or injuries from fires in Prince George's County nursing homes since the suburban Maryland county began a special fire safety training program for health-care employes five years ago, the county's fire chief told the national fire conference here this week.
All nursing home workers, as well as student nurses graduating from Prince George's community colleges, are taught how to evacuate patients, confine fires and sound alarms, said Fire Chief M. H. (Jim) Estepp. The result has been that, in potentially disastrous nursing homes and hospital fires in recent years, no injuries have occurred, he said. In the early 1970s, before the training program began, several patients in the county died in similar fires, the chief said.
He cited fires in recent years at two Manor Care nursing homes and Prince George's General Hospital where personnel drew on this special training to safely evacuate patients.
Estepp told those attending a conference sponsored by the U. S. Fire Administration that nurses and others are exposed to the realities of fire and smoke danger in the mandatory seminars his department conducts at the Cheltingham, Md., Naval Communications Unit. They are taught how to smother fires in bedding and in clothing, how to use portable fire extinguishers and to evacuate patients from smoke-filled rooms -- and, most importantly, how to take charge in a crisis situation, he said.
The training program stresses what he said are the "RCAs" of fire safety: "Rescue, confining the fire by closing the door, and sounding the alarm."
The educational process has to be continuous, he noted, because the turnover in nursing home personnel is "tremendous" -- 30 percent a year in Prince George's and the rest of the Washington metropolitan area. There are 17 major nursing homes in Prince George's employing 10,000 workers, he said.