OBJECTIVE: The aim of the study is to identify and synthesize existing published and gray literature reporting on hospital fire outbreaks before and during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
METHODS: A 2-phase narrative review approach was used. The search covered peer-reviewed, gray literature sources, and news outlets. The pre-COVID-19 hospital fire outbreak search period was January 2000-December 2019 while that for during COVID-19 was December 2019-July 2021 (repeated in December 2021).
RESULTS: Thirteen and 24 media reports were identified for the pre-COVID-19 and during COVID-19 periods, respectively. Although varied fire risks existed before the emergence of the COVID-19, this article demonstrates that the incidence of hospital fires has increased more than two-folds in recent times in COVID-19 wards and intensive care units causing death, injuries, and extensive damage to properties. The main risk in the pre-COVID-19 era was identified as electrical faults. During the pandemic, other issues such as oxygen explosions, inefficient cooling systems, and lack of fire control measures in makeshift pre-COVID-19 centers were identified as additional risks/causes of the hospital fire outbreaks.
CONCLUSIONS: Additional risks have emerged during the COVID-19 era, which increased the occurrence of hospital fire outbreaks. Guidelines, protocols, and policies regarding the prevention of hospital fire outbreaks and strategies for attenuating its effects need to be highlighted across settings and adhered to. Existing policies need to evolve to help resolve these risks. Beyond the preventive strategies, context-specific psychosocial support is also required for healthcare staff, families, and patients who survive episodes of hospital fire outbreaks.