Mechanical Room Fire Extinguishers

Q: What are your thoughts on using CO2 extinguishers in an HVAC mechanical room, instead of an ABC type?

A: It likely would be a situation where you would be non-compliant with NFPA 10-2010, and therefore you would not be compliant with the 2012 LSC. A CO2 extinguisher carries a BC rating, meaning it is classified for use on flammable liquid fires and electrical fires. But what about fires in your mechanical room that are caused by normal combustibles (paper, cardboard, plastic, linen, etc.)? I’ve yet to see a mechanical room that did not have some level of combustibles stored in the room (filters, boxes of spare parts, trash bags, etc.).

I would recommend ABC fire extinguishers for all mechanical rooms, and the dry powder type is the most common and affordable to use. However, if the mechanical room has sensitive electronic equipment, then perhaps a Clean Agent ABC type extinguisher would be more appropriate.

CO2 extinguishers have a limited value, and should only be used in areas where you have flammable liquids in use and storage, such as laboratories, pharmacies, and perhaps a grounds garage.

Fire Extinguishers in Vehicles

Q: What is the standard on fire extinguishers in work vehicles? We have them in our transit vans to our home health nurses. Do we need them inspected and retagged every year like our buildings? Also do they need a monthly check as well?

A: I am not aware of any NFPA code or standard that requires portable fire extinguishers inside vehicles used/owned/leased by healthcare organizations. If there is a requirement to have them, it may come from your insurance provider.

However, the expectation is once you have them, you must maintain them. So that would mean you need to inspect them monthly, and provide maintenance service on an annual basis.

Fire Extinguishers

Q: Are portable fire extinguishers required in business occupancies?

A: Yes… Section 38.3.5 of the 2012 Life Safety Code says portable fire extinguishers must be provided in every business occupancy in accordance with 9.7.4.1. Section 9.7.4.1 references NFPA 10 for installation, inspection, and maintenance of portable fire extinguishers.

Strange Observations – Part 33

Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals…

Equipment rooms can be a major source of findings for surveyors.

Mostly because equipment rooms are often out-of-sight / out-of-mind. And because often times no-one is assigned to maintain the equipment rooms in safe condition.

Here we have a trash cart and a water machine obstructing access to electrical panels and a fire extinguisher.

Fire Extinguisher Signs

Q: I was wondering if there was a specific regulation that states exactly where fire extinguisher signs need to be located. Is there a difference between patient area and staff area? Looking over the new Life Safety Code regulations I have not been able to get a specific answer on where signage location is mandatory.

A: The only thing I can find is section 6.1.3.3.2 of NFPA 10-2010, which says where visual obstructions of fire extinguishers cannot be completely avoided, means shall be provided to indicate the extinguisher location. The Annex section says acceptable means of identifying the fire extinguisher locations include arrows, lights, signs, or coding of the wall or column.

 So, while there is no direct requirement to install signs over fire extinguishers, you may do so. However, be aware: Some AHJs will expect signs identifying the locations of all extinguishers once you start using signs. Their logic is, if you use signs to identify the location of some extinguishers, then your staff will expect to see signs for all extinguishers.

The AHJs do have the right to interpret the code as they see fit. I suggest you ask your AHJs to see if they would require all of the extinguishers have signs.

Strange Observations – Part 32

Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals…

I get it… I understand that many people like to decorate their work area to help brighten up the day for everyone.

I like those people… They are the happy, cheerful, positive, encouraging type of individuals.

But keep an eye on them, as they will eventually start decorating features of Life Safety that will get you in trouble.

Still another reason to do frequent rounding inspections (i.e. monthly) in all areas.

4-Inch Corridor Projection

Q: With the adoption of the new 2012 Life Safety Code by CMS, we had a discussion about projections from the corridor wall. Since the LSC only allows projections to be 4 inches, the question that came up was in regards to fire extinguishers mounted to the wall and not recessed as they project out from the wall about 7 inches. Will we be required to recess them or will they be allowed? The same question was raised about wall mounted telephones?

A: Actually, the 2012 LSC allows a 6-inch projection into the corridor [see 19.2.3.4(4)], but CMS’ Final Rule published May 4, 2016 said they will enforce the more restrictive 4-inch maximum projection into the corridor, based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For all healthcare facilities that receive Medicare & Medicaid funds, they must comply with CMS’ exception to the 2012 LSC.

To answer your question, there are no exceptions to the 4-inch maximum projection rule. So, anything projecting more than 4 inches into the corridor, including fire extinguishers and telephones, would likely be cited by a surveyor or inspector.

I read a survey report just the other day where the surveyor cited the hospital for having an ABHR dispenser that projected into the corridor by 4 1/4 inches. So, AHJs are citing anything that projects more than 4-inches into the corridor, including fire extinguishers.

This may be a good opportunity to consider oval-shaped fire extinguishers that do not project more than 4 inches into the corridor. Take a look at these compliant fire extinguishers from Oval brand: http://ovalfireproducts.com/

 

Strange Observations – Part 13

Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen when consulting at hospitals…

Believe it or not, there is a fire extinguisher buried behind all of the trash on the carts.

If a fire were to occur, how fast would the staff be able to find the extinguisher?

Fire Extinguishers in Chute Rooms?

Q: Our hospital is wondering if it is a requirement to have fire extinguishers in our linen/trash chute room? If so where can I find the code reference?

A: No… it is not a requirement to have portable fire extinguishers inside the trash/linen discharge room, or the trash collection room. However, it is a requirement to have a properly classified fire extinguisher within the maximum travel distance for that extinguisher and the level of hazard it is intended to handle from everywhere in the facility, which would include the trash collection room. The extinguisher would have to be a Class A:B and located within the maximum travel distance for a Class A:B (probably 75 feet).

MRI Fire Extinguisher

Q: Do the accreditation organizations require a fire extinguisher inside the MRI room, or can it be located in the MRI control room?

A: The accreditation organizations would follow what NFPA 10 requires. NFPA 10-2010 has limitations on travel distance for portable extinguishers. An extinguisher inside the room with the magnet is not required provided the travel distance to get to the extinguisher meets the requirements set forth in NFPA 10. As an example: The maximum travel distance to get to a Class A extinguisher is 75 feet. But the travel distance to get to a Class B extinguisher is either 30 feet or 50 feet, depending on the capacity of the extinguisher and the level of hazard for the potential fire. But to answer your question, I don’t think the accreditors would require an extinguisher inside the MRI room, provided you do not exceed the travel distance to retrieve it. Also, be aware you need a non-ferrous extinguisher, but I’m sure you already knew that.