Fire Risk relating to the use of Dynamic Air Mattresses or "Airflow mattresses"
Dynamic Air Mattresses (or "Airflow mattresses") are provided to prevent people from developing pressure sores and are often found in people’s homes. They are assessed for, and provided by Health workers (District Nurses, hospital Nursing Staff or Tissue Viability Nurses).
There has been a recent fire fatality in Nottinghamshire involving a dynamic air mattress, and a number across the country. It is now widely accepted that these items present a high risk of fire where the person is a smoker who smokes in bed. New guidance has been issued to try to prevent any further incidents.
Dynamic Air Mattresses are filled with air by an electrical pump. If the mattress becomes punctured, the pump works harder to keep the mattress inflated. Where the puncture is caused by an ignition source, the escaping air acts as a bellows and can cause the fire to increase in intensity and to quickly spread.
It is important that all community workers are familiar with these items, and what you need to do if you become aware that there is one in place AND the person using it is a smoker. They are easy to identify by the pump which will be visible at the bottom of the bed, as highlighted above.
- ensure that the person is aware that smoking in bed is a high risk activity and wherever possible, they should smoke elsewhere. Ensure that this is well documented
- refer the person as soon as possible for a Home Fire Safety Check from Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS). This can be done online at www.notts-fire.gov.uk or by telephone 0115 967 0880. The Fire Service will carry out a home safety visit with regards to fire and if deemed necessary can supply fire retardant bedding and single point battery operated un-monitored smoke alarms free of charge. If not already considered by health colleagues, NFRS can refer to the appropriate telecare service for monitored smoke alarms, which may be supplied at a cost (dependent on circumstances)
- where you are working closely with a Service User, or commissioning a package of care, a risk assessment to consider smoking may need to be completed. Care agencies and PAs need to be aware of this
- for an assessment or reassessment of the mattress– please contact the patient’s community health care professional (District Nurse/Community Matron or GP Practice).