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The fire on Huddinge University Hospital November 9, 1991 – KAMEDO-report 61

The Kamedo-reports are published by the Swedish Disaster Medicine Study Organisation (Kamedo), at the National Board of Health and Welfare. Observers study the medical, psychological, organisational and social aspects of disasters. The results, with a focus on experiences gained, are presented in the reports.

This report is entirely in Swedish. Only summary in English.

Summary

On November 9, 1991, at 12.10 a.m. a patient set fire to her bed in a psychiatric ward located on the ground floor of one of the buildings of Huddinge university hospital.
The fire rapidly spread giving heavy smoke. Therefore, all patients had to be evacuated from the building. Thanks to the hospital staff's initial measures and help no lives were lost but smoke divers from the fire brigade had to rescue four severely smoke poisoned people who were caught in the building.
In all, 18 people were transported to the hospital's emergency department. Five of them were taken to the intense care unit. Two were transferred to the Karolinska hospital to be treated in its pressure chamber.
The available resources during the rescue operation were large. From the fire brigade 51 men with 15 vehicles took part. Moreover there were some 40 policemen with 10 cars, eight ambulances and one ambulance helicopter, a medical team from the hospital and many other representatives of the hospital's staff including groups giving psycho-social support. A disaster office and a crises centre were established. The psychological problems appeared to be large. Two weeks after the fire there was still need of psychological support.
It is obvious that in connection with a hospital fire the heavy smoke can in a very dangerous way make the evacuation of the patients difficult. In this disaster all patients were able to walk. If they instead had been very old or ill, tied to the bed, the consequences had probably been very severe.
A special problem was that all doors and windows between the wards and the surroundings were locked.
Threatenings of fires at psychiatric clinics are rather common. Special routines and recommendations to prevent and minimize the effects of fires are needed. There must be plans ready for a medical disaster inside a hospital, too.

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