Apr 19 2017

Sprinklers in Construction Areas

Category: Construction,Fire Watch,Questions and Answers,SprinklersBKeyes @ 12:00 am

Q: We have a construction project in our cafeteria. We have an ILSM and additional measures in place. However, it was determined last week that we need to remove the sprinklers in the area for eight weeks. The construction is located on the lowest level and is unoccupied with no patient care in the area (but there’s patient care in the building). With the sprinklers out of service 24 hours a day, is a fire watch required? We also are looking at using 1 hour barriers and 3/4 hour doors during that time. Do the barriers change anything with a fire watch? Thank you

A: Can’t you re-install temporary sprinklers in this construction area for the duration of the project? You will need to turn the sprinkler lines upward to within 12 inches of the deck and install upright sprinklers. It is imperative that you have sprinkler protection, otherwise you will need to conduct a fire watch, continuously for the 8 weeks there are no sprinklers.

Yes… a fire watch is required because you have impaired sprinklers. It doesn’t matter where the impaired sprinklers are located… if you have impaired sprinklers, you must do a fire watch. NFPA 25-2011 section 15.5(4) says where the sprinkler system is out of service for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period, you need to conduct a fire watch. CMS has said in their Final Rule to adopt the 2012 Life Safety Code published May 4, 2016, that a fire watch is conducted continuously, without interruption. The designated individual who performs no other function, continuously walks the impaired area looking for fire and the potential for a fire to occur, without leaving the area. This means the individual may not leave the impaired area to use the restroom, take a lunch break or any other function unless he is relieved by someone else.

This ‘continuous’ fire watch must be conducted for the duration that the sprinklers are impaired … 8 weeks. Can you afford to have that many FTEs designated to do nothing else but a fire watch for 8 weeks? I would believe it would be less expensive if you would turn up the sprinklers and install upright sprinkler heads in the construction area.

The fire watch does not affect the rated barrier, but the 1-hour fire rated barrier is required to separate the construction area from the occupied area if there are no sprinklers in the construction area.

Aug 01 2011

Fire Watch Frequency Requirements

Category: Fire Watch,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 8:27 pm

Q: Do you know of any guidelines for the amount of time you have to conduct a fire watch during an Interim Life Safety Measures (ILSM) operation? Does it have to be every hour, or can it be every shift, or even once a day?

A: The requirement for Interim Life Safety Measures originates in section of the LSC and is actually referred to as Alternative Life Safety Measures. This section of the code does not specify the frequency of any measure implemented to compensate for an impairment to life safety. Sections and requires a fire watch must be provided (or evacuate the facility which is not feasible in a hospital) whenever the fire alarm system or sprinkler system is out of service for 4 or more hours in a 24-hour period. Again, these sections do not specify how often the fire watches should occur. There are other NFPA documents that discuss fire watches such as NFPA 601 Standard For Security Services in Fire Loss Prevention (1996 edition) and NFPA 51B Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work (1999 edition) but none of these standards specifies a frequency that fire watches should be implemented. So, when the code and standards do not specific a specific frequency, then it is up to the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) to interpret what the frequency should be. Since the typical hospital has 5 or 6 AHJs inspecting their hospital according to NFPA codes and standards, then you must adhere to the most restrictive requirement. While the Joint Commission does not officially specify the frequency a fire watch occurs, their senior engineer in the Standards Interpretation Group has said during informal discussions that he would require hospitals to have fire watches twice per shift, based on an 8-hour shift.

However, I suggest that you contact your local and state AHJs and find out what they require. My experience shows that many localities have surprisingly restrictive requirements when it comes to fire watch frequencies.

Sep 01 2010

Fire Watch Requirements

Category: Fire Watch,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 4:58 pm

Q: What is actually required in order to perform a Fire Watch when the fire alarm system is inoperative? How often should a Fire Watch be performed?

A: The Life Safety Code (LSC) section requires an approved fire watch be conducted whenever the fire alarm system is out of service for 4 or more hours in a 24 hour period. The Annex section A. explains that a fire watch should at least involve some special action beyond normal staffing, such as assigning an additional security guard to walk the affected areas. These individuals should be specially trained in fire prevention and in occupant and fire department notification techniques.

NFPA 601 (1996 edition) Standard for Security Services in Fire Loss Prevention provides examples of procedures for fire loss prevention:

  • Check permits for hot work
  • Check for obstructed sprinkler heads or closed control valves
  • Check portable fire extinguishers for availability
  • Check temporary fire alarm equipment
  • Check affected area is clear of discarded packaging
  • Check affected area for clear path of egress
  • Check for any forms of ignition

While there is not a specific requirement that fire watches be performed by security personnel, it is strongly recommended that you do not leave this important responsibility to someone who does not have an active stake in the safe operation of your facility. There is not a prescribed frequency in any NFPA code or standard on how often a fire watch should be conducted, so it is left up to the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) to make this determination. Joint Commission has indicated that two fire watch rounds per 8 hour shift would be acceptable, however it is recommended that you contact your local and state authorities to determine what frequency they require.

NOTE: Whoever you choose to perform the fire watch, they will need to have basic training on what to look for and what action to take. The Fire Watch form under the “Forms” page can be used for not only documentaing that a fire watch has been initiated, but also serves as an education tool for just-in-time training for the individual who conducts the fire watch.