3 December, 2015
“It is vitally important to have a holistic view on preventive and active fire protection.”
We meet Mats Eklöw, project Manager at Veolia, in a crowded subterranean workplace beneath the Handen hospital in southern Stockholm. This is no coincidence. Mats and his team are responsible for all technical maintenance at three of Stockholm’s local county hospitals – Haninge, Dalen and Nacka – as well as some smaller buildings related to the activities there. This includes any preventive and active fire protection required.
“Hospitals require a significantly higher level of fire protection than most other real estate”, says Mats Eklöw. “Bedridden patient must also be evacuated fast in case of a fire or smoke. In addition it is an unusually difficult environment to work in. “There are, for example, sensitive instruments, flammable chemicals and medical gases and other things to consider whenever something needs to be done in these buildings. At the same time we must make sure to minimize any disturbance to the ongoing activities.”
Closing a hospital ward for reconstruction, repairs or improved fire protection affects the healthcare service capacity as well as costs.
Mats Eklöw constantly has many different irons in the fire. At the time of our visit he and his team had 59(!) different projects on their agenda. They are also responsible for checking all fire protection equipment at regular intervals, which in this case means a never-ending rolling schedule. Fire doors must be controlled and, if needed, sealed. Guiding and emergency lights must be in order and extinguishing equipment must be in perfect condition. And so forth.
General requirements are defined in the Law of Systematic fire protection (SBA), and on top of that there are special regulations for hospitals.
The operating staff routinely checks every conceivable space within the various buildings, check and remedy any flaws, and when everything is checked there is always the next round.
Old buildings and new requirements
“Many of our buildings are getting old, and the requirements have been significantly increased since they were built, so there is always something for us to do.”
Every time somebody drills a hole for an electrical, telecom or data cable – maybe no more than one mm in diameter – it must be fire sealed. And in a hospital many new holes will be drilled every year”, says Mats Eklöw.
Sometimes the work is way more extensive than that. Recently, for example, the entire sewer system at the Handen hospital had to be fire protected, an assignment stretching over 2-3 weeks. As soon as a project potentially affects fire safety there must be a specific fire safety plan for that, and a satisfactory level of fire protection must be reset every night until the project is finalized.
Special competence and resources
“Our own employees can manage most of the work”, says Mats Eklöw. “This includes, for example, the ongoing review and controls, and basic fire protection measures. But for any major job we usually call in a subcontractor with special know-how and whatever resources are required to carry out the work as swiftly as possible. Täby Brandskyddsteknik helps us with preventive as well as active fire protection.”
“The way I see it, we are part of the healthcare team”
Mats Eklöw has nearly 30 years of experience from maintenance, renovation and reconstruction work in hospitals and over the past 10-15 years more and more emphasis has been on effective fire protection:
“I don’t see myself primarily as a technician”, says Mats Eklöw. “We are part of the healthcare team, that is what makes this job so special. We take our part of the responsibility for the patients, shortening the healthcare queues and saving the taxpayers’ money. I could not imagine a more meaningful job.”
Veolia is an international group with more than 300,000 employees in 48 countries. The Stockholm council owns the three hospitals mentioned above, and a wholly-owned subsidiary is responsible for their management.