Post Indicator Valves

Q: I have 3 Post Indicator Valves (PIV) and 1 Wall Post Indicator Valve (WPIV). I’m not finding anything in NFPA in regards to the testing frequency. My PIVs and WPIV do not have Tamper Switches. Are these required to be tested once a week or once a month?

A: NFPA 25 (1998 edition), sections 1-3.9 and 9-3.1 define a control valve as a valve that controls the flow of water to a water-based fire protection system. A Post Indicator Valve (PIV) does control water to the fire protection system; so therefore, a PIV is a control valve by definition.

According to section 9-3.3.1 in NFPA 25 (1998 edition), all control valves are required to be inspected weekly, unless they are chained and locked, or ‘supervised in accordance with other NFPA standards’, then they need to be inspected monthly. The inspection is to confirm the following:

  • Ensure the valve is in the normal position (open or closed)
  • Properly sealed, locked or supervised
  • Accessible
  • Appropriate wrenches are provided (i.e. PIV)
  • Free from leaks
  • Properly identified

According to section 9-3.4 of NFAP 25, control valves are required to be tested on an annual basis (which is defined by the accreditation organizations to be 12 months from the previous test, plus or minus 30 days). Each control valve must be operated through its full range and returned to its normal position. In other words, each valve must be closed; then opened. After the closed/open exercise, PIVs must be opened until spring or torsion is felt on the rod, indicating that the rod has not become detached from the valve. PIVs and OS&Y valves must be backed a ¼ turn from the fully open position to prevent jamming.Control valves (and this includes PIV) must be electronically supervised, according to section 9.7.2.1 of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code (LSC). Chains and locks are fine if you want them, but they are not an acceptable substitute for electronic supervision (tamper switches). Tamper switches must be tested on a semi-annual basis, which means 6 months from the previous test, plus or minus 20 days.

I would say your 3 PIV and 1 WPIV are non-compliant with the LSC requirements for electronic supervision; and furthermore, it is extremely dangerous for your hospital not to electronically monitor those valves. What if an unauthorized individual closed one of those non-supervised PIV (or WPIV) and you had a fire in the facility? There would be no water for the sprinklers after the static pressure was released from the piping. My advice is to get this resolved as soon as possible, and to start an Interim Life Safety Measure (ILSM) today and continue until the valves are electronically supervised, that includes once-a-shift daily inspections of those valves to ensure they are open.

Medical Gas Shutoff Valves

imagesZ7K8PIAPI was recently a bystander amongst a discussion of healthcare facility industry experts, debating the NFPA requirements concerning the accessibility of medical gas shutoff valves in healthcare institutions. The original question asked was where does it specifically state that a medical gas zone valve box cannot have a wheeled obstruction in front it of it? While it is intuitive to keep the area in front of the shutoff valves clear, the question was a good one, as it appears the NFPA codes and standards do not specifically address the requirement to keep it clear.

The discussion that ensued was informative, as various standards were referenced as to support the opinion of the presenter. For example; Joint Commission standard EC.02.05.09, EP 3 says the valves must be accessible. But TJC does not define what ‘accessible’ means. According to the online dictionary, accessible is a place which is able to be reached or entered. So, if a wheeled gurney is placed in front of a medical gas shutoff valve, is it still accessible, if staff can reach over the gurney and actuate the valve? Or, is the shutoff valve still accessible if the gurney can be moved so staff can reach the valves?

The only one who can answer that question is the authority who is enforcing that standard, which is The Joint Commission in this case, but the other accreditation organizations have similar standards and they make their own interpretations as well. According to most of those in the discussion, Joint Commission and the other accreditation organizations are writing up hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers that have anything placed in front of the medical gas shutoff valves.

Another individual referenced NFPA 99, 1999 edition, which governs medical gas systems for healthcare institutions. Section 4-3.1.2.3 (i) which requires manual shutoff valves in boxes to be installed where they are visible and accessible at all times; the boxes should not be installed behind normally open or normally closed doors, or otherwise hidden from plain view. This description would seem to support the concept that the definition of accessible could include a wheeled object to be placed in front of the valves as long as the valves were accessible. At the least, it doesn’t seem to prohibit that.

But yet another individual said take a look at NFPA 99 (1999 edition), section 4-2.1.2.3 (d) on zone valves. For sake of clarity, I will repeat it here word-for-word (bold emphasis is mine):

Station outlets shall not be supplied directly from a riser unless a manual shutoff valve located in the same story is installed between the riser and the outlet with a wall intervening between the valve and the outlet. This valve shall be readily operable from a standing position in the corridor on the same floor it serves. Each lateral branch line serving patient rooms shall be provided with a shutoff valve that controls the flow of medical gas to the patient rooms. Zone valves shall be arranged that shutting off the supply of gas to one zone will not affect the supply of medical gas to the rest of the system. A pressure gauge shall be provided downstream of each zone valve.

The above description is found under a section titled “Zone Valve”. The bolded section in the above description refers to the requirement of a manual shutoff valve that is located on the same story which is readily operable from a standing position in the corridor. That’s not necessarily the zone valve, but why isn’t this description also included in section 4-3.1.2.3 (i) which describes shutoff valves? The 2012 edition of NFPA 99 further elaborates on ‘Zone Valves’ and describes them in the same way that most people think of shutoff valves.

According to the online dictionary, the word ‘readily’ means without difficulty or delay; easily or quickly. So section 4-3.1.2.3 (d) of NFPA 99 (1999 edition) makes it pretty clear that the manual shutoff valve for the room outlets must be operated easily, and without delay. Parking a wheeled gurney in front of a medical gas shutoff valve could easily delay the operation of the valve; or at the minimum, it would provide a hindrance to the operation of the valve. Therefore, the wheeled gurney (or any other object) would not be permitted to be placed in front of the medical gas shutoff valves.

I think the accreditation organizations have got this issue correct. Anything that blocks access to a medical gas shutoff valves (whether it is called a shutoff valve or a zone valve) hinders the ‘readily operable’ capability of the medical gas valves, and would be a citable offense.