Q: Do you think adding tons of signage, and coat hooks would be acceptable on a patient room door?
A: Well…. That depends. Coat hooks on a non-fire rated door? Yes, that would be allowed. Tons of signage? That depends… if the signs were considered ‘decorations’ then section 184.108.40.206 of the 2000 LSC applies and combustible signs that are considered decorations would not be permitted. Signs that were informational (i.e. contact precautions; oxygen administered; diet restrictions, etc.) would be permitted, even if they were combustible.
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Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals….
This picture shows an architectural design that was mounted from the ceiling to give the hospital nursing unit a more aesthetic look. It probably was installed before the sprinkler heads as it had that “1970’s” look, and the sprinkler heads appears to be of a more recent vintage.
But if that is the case, wouldn’t the sprinkler installer realize that the placement of his sprinkler head was impaired by the architectural design?
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Q: If the corridor doors are only required to resist fire for 20 minutes and someone plasters signage all over them or loads them up with coat racks adding to the fuel load, then who decides if they would still resist fire conditions for 20 minutes?
A: The doors are not required to resist fire for 20 minutes. They are required to be 1¾ inch thick, solid-bonded, wood core, or of such construction that resist fire for not less than 20 minutes. That is not the same as saying they are required to resist fire for 20 minutes. Therefore, nobody has to decide if they still resist fire for 20 minutes, because the construction of the door was determined acceptable before any items were added to the door. This may sound like a technical loop-hole, but the point I’m trying to make is there should not be a reason for anyone to determine if a corridor door resists fire for 20 minutes. NFPA has indicated that a 1¾ inch solid-bonded, wood-core door is of such construction to resist fire for up to 20 minutes (see section 220.127.116.11.3.2 of the 2000 LSC).
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Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals….
This is a picture of a fire extinguisher that was located in a laboratory. The staff did a terrific job of cleaning the lab, but the chemicals they used where too harsh on the extinguisher label. Take a close look and you will see the printed instructions were all blurred from the corrosive chemicals in the cleaning agent.
While the extinguisher would still operate correctly in an emergency, it no longer met the requirements of NFPA 10-1998, section 1-6.11 that requires the instructions to be facing outward and be clearly visible.
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Q: I have read that corridor doors to patient rooms are not required to have closers. If they do have closers, I was told they can have the type that have hold open closer arms, then someone must physically close them. Hospitals are defend in place facilities so why rely on people to accomplish this?
A: Corridor doors to patient rooms are not required to have closers, according to 18.104.22.168.2 of the 2000 LSC. The concept of having corridor doors to patient rooms without closers allows staff to visibly see into the room to detect any fire or smoke condition. If the door had a closer, then the Annex section recommends the room be protected with a smoke detector. The basic premise of a healthcare occupancy is there is adequate staff on hand to make these observations.
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I thought you might be interested in seeing some of the strange things I have observed as a consultant for healthcare organizations. This is a picture of a cage that a hospital built inside the stairwell. It was their attempt to create a locked door to prevent access to the roof.
It was successful in keeping unauthorized people from having access to the roof but it is not compliant with section 22.214.171.124.4 of the 2000 LSC which says you cannot lock doors in the path of egress. Also, section 126.96.36.199.3 says you cannot have anything in the stairwell that could interfere with exiting.
A cage with a locked door would certainly interfere with exiting.
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Q: We have an old shower room that our administration wants to use for a maintenance workshop. In this room they will be storing paint and supplies. The walls and floors are lined with ceramic tiles. I read where ceramic tile has a fire-resistant rating. Would these ceramic tiled walls and floor comply with the requirement to have a fire-rated room for the maintenance workshop?
A: No. The Life Safety Code requires a new maintenance shop that stores paint to have 1-hour fire-rated walls, with doors that are ¾-hour fire rated, self-closing and positively latching. While ceramic tile may have some sort of fire resistance value, the actual walls and floors must comply with an approved assembly that is listed by an independent testing laboratory. The fact that the walls and floors are covered with ceramic tile does not meet this requirement. If you are unsure if your walls meet the 1-hour fire rating, I suggest you consult with a design professional to make sure.
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Q: A question came up recently on the NFPA 72 semi-annual visual inspections required for fire alarm system devices. Would the printed records from an intelligent fire alarm system suffice for the visual inspections on devices such as smoke detectors, pull stations and heat detectors?
A: I would say no, the printed records from an intelligent fire alarm system would not suffice for a visual inspection on the fire alarm system devices. Items such as the following must be visually inspected twice a year on a semi-annual basis:
- Duct Detectors
- Electromechanical Releasing Devices
- Fire-Extinguishing System(s) or Suppression
- Fire Alarm Boxes
- Heat Detectors
- Radiant Energy Fire Detectors
- Smoke Detectors
The reasoning for this decision is found in the NFPA 72 handbook, which states: “The visual inspection is made to ensure that there are no changes that effect equipment performance. Equipment performance can be affected by building modifications, occupancy changes, changes in environmental conditions, device location, physical obstructions, device orientation, physical damage, improper installation, degree of cleanliness, or other obvious problems that might not be indicated through electrical supervision.”
It is not uncommon to find ancillary hospital equipment placed or installed in such a way as to affect or obstruct the normal operation of some of these devices. Semi-annual visual inspections will find these issues before they affect the performance of the fire alarm system.
Generally speaking, the printed records from an intelligent fire alarm system would only suffice for documentation on the 2-year sensitivity testing requirement. Everything else would have to be confirmed through direct observation.
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Q: Is it not the case that in new hospital construction, clean storage rooms between 51 and 100 square feet need only have a self-closing door meeting 188.8.131.52.4? Only clean storage rooms greater than 100 square feet need to be 1 hour rated. Since not mentioned in table 184.108.40.206, I’m assuming storage rooms smaller than 50 square feet need not be rated nor have a self-closing door. If all of that is correct, I have an engineer telling me that I need a smoke detector in a small storage room less than 50 square feet. My hospital is fully sprinklered.
A: You are correct. Chapter 18 of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code for new construction does not require storage rooms containing combustible materials, that are larger than 50 square feet but not exceeding 100 square feet to be fire rated, but just be equipped with a self-closing device on the door. Storage rooms containing combustible materials less than 50 square feet are exempt from hazardous area requirements, so a self-closing device on the door would not be required. There is no Life Safety Code requirement for a smoke detector in this type or size of room. Perhaps the engineer is citing a different code or standard. I suggest you ask him/her to provide a code reference for review.
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Q: We have an Urgent Care facility that is classified as business occupancy. Do I need to lock the door to a storage room?
A: The Life Safety Code does not require a door to a storage room to be locked, in an occupancy classification used by healthcare providers, including business occupancy.
However, one of your authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) may require the door to be locked, depending on the risk to safety for your patients and staff. If you are accredited by a national accreditation organization, they usually have a standard that requires the healthcare provider to assess the safety and security risks in the environment to your patients and staff. Depending on the contents and layout of the storage room, there may be a significant risk to unauthorized individuals (especially children and behavioral health patients). You may be required to assess the perceived risk in all areas, including the storage room and determine the best course of action to mitigate that risk. The easiest and safest decision may be to lock the door.
Also check with your state and local AHJs as well. They may have regulations that require the door to be locked.
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