Medical Gas Shutoff Valves

Q: As a hospital security assessor, I am concerned about the availability of hospital gases in Behavioral Health Units. It would be easy for a patient to pull the tab off the plastic covering on the window and tamper with the gases. Would it be permissible to install a clear locking door with hardened glass in place of the plastic panel and provide access to the locked box via scan card with the caveat that the door would automatically unlock open during a fire event?

A: One has to ask why would there be medical gases on a behavioral health unit? Do you treat acute-care patients there? However, if you have them there, then you need to deal with them.

Your question appears to address the medical gas shutoff valves, or zone valves as they are often called. According to NFPA 99-2012, section 5.1.4.8, zone valves have to be visible, accessible and readily operable from a standing position in the corridor. NFPA 99-2012 does not prohibit the use of special locking arrangements for access to the zone valves.

I think you have a legitimate concern, especially if you document this concern in a risk assessment. But I suggest you contact your authorities having jurisdiction, and ask them if it would be permitted. At a minimum, I suggest you ask:

  • Your accreditation organization
  • Your state agency in charge of hospital design and construction
  • Your local building authorities
  • Your state or local fire marshal