There will be significant changes for facility managers to deal with when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finally adopts the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code. This excerpt from a new upcoming book by Brad Keyes and published by HCPro, titled “Preparing for the New Life Safety Code” discusses changes involving the life safety equipment.
Portable fire extinguishers may be the most over-looked and taken-for-granted component of fire safety in a healthcare facility today. Perhaps it is because for the most part, they are out-of-sight, out-of-mind? No, they are never really out-of-sight, but there are so many of them in a healthcare facility that individuals may tend to over-look them in the same manner as one may overlook the trees in a forest. Other than the security officer or the maintenance technician who is assigned to inspect fire extinguishers on a monthly basis, most people do not give them a second thought, until they are needed.
The 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code (LSC) referenced the 1998 edition of NFPA 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, which is one of the oldest referenced standards that healthcare organizations have to comply with. There have been 3 revisions to this standard since then, and the 2012 edition of the LSC references the 2010 edition of NFPA 10.
Once the 2012 edition of the LSC is finally adopted, NFPA 10 will have changes that every facility manager will need to know. While some of the following items may appear to be requirements that organizations must already comply with, they do represent a change in the standard:
- Other than wheeled extinguishers, portable fire extinguishers must be securely installed on the bracket or hanger provided by the manufacturer, or on a listed bracket for that purpose; or placed in a cabinet; or placed in a wall recess. (Placing the extinguisher on the floor, table, desk or other such item will no longer be permitted.)
- Extinguishers installed under conditions where they may be subject to physical damage or dislodgement, must be installed in manufacturer’s strap-type bracket designed specifically for protection
- The extinguisher must be mounted in such a way that the manufacturer’s operating instructions must be located on the front and clearly visible
- Electronic monitoring of extinguishers is permitted
- Non-rechargeable fire extinguishers must be removed from service no more than 12 years from the date of manufacture
- Halogenated agent fire extinguishers (Halon) must be limited to applications where clean agent is necessary to extinguisher a fire without damaging equipment
- Persons performing maintenance and recharging of fire extinguishers must be certified by one of the following criteria:
- Factory training and certified
- Certified by an organization acceptable to the AHJ
- Licensed, certified or registered by a local or state AHJ
(Persons performing the monthly inspection are not required to be certified.)
- Discharge hoses on wheeled units must be coiled in such a manner to prevent kinks and allow rapid deployment
- Hoses on wheeled-type extinguishers must be completely un-coiled and examined for damage during the annual maintenance procedure
Electronic monitoring of fire extinguishers is permitted in lieu of physical monthly inspections. Procedures for monthly inspections have been changed for non-wheeled, rechargeable extinguishers to accommodate electronic monitoring systems, and now only requires:
- Extinguisher is located in its designated place
- Access to and visibility of extinguisher is not obstructed
- Pressure gauge reading is in the proper range
- Fullness determined by weighing
Dropped from the monthly inspection list is the following:
- Confirming that the operating instructions are facing outward
- Ensuring the safety seals and tampers indicators are not broken or missing
- Examination for obvious physical damage, corrosion, leakage or clogged nozzles.
Probably the largest impact of change in fire extinguishers to the average facility is the electronic monitoring that will be permitted once the 2012 edition of the LSC is finally adopted. Manufacturers of these specialized monitoring cabinets have sensors to ensure nothing is parked in front of the cabinets; special listed mounted brackets to determine the weight and presence of the extinguisher; and pressure sensors integrated with the extinguisher to monitor pressure ranges. These specialized monitoring cabinets communicate back to a central monitoring area, and have proven to be very useful in high-theft areas.