Open Mesh Curtains in Hospitals

Q: Our hospital is fully protected with automatic sprinklers. Our cubicle curtains have an open mesh at the top to prevent water discharged from a sprinkler head from being obstructed. Where is the code requirement that specifies what shape and size opening in the mesh is required in the curtains?

A: The answer is found in the Life Safety Code (LSC) section 19.3.5.5, which requires newly introduced cubicle curtains to comply with NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems (1999 edition). NFPA 13 requires the suspended curtain to be mounted a certain distance away from a sprinkler head based on the vertical distance the top of the curtain is to the sprinkler deflector. NFPA 13 does not have any exceptions that would allow the open mesh at the top of the curtains in lieu of the specified distance from the sprinkler. However, the annex section of 19.3.5.5 requires the installation of the cubicle curtains to be coordinated with the installation of the sprinkler heads. One option the annex offers is for the curtain to have a ½ inch diagonal mesh (or a 70% open weave panel) at the top of the curtain and extend at least 18 inches below the sprinkler deflector. While the annex section is not an enforceable portion of the LSC, it does offer explanatory material for the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) to use in making their interpretations. In this case, Joint Commission has said they will accept the open mesh at the top of the curtains that complies with the requirements of the annex section. Ironically, later editions of NFPA 13 also included similar language in their annex section, as well.

I suggest you check with your local and state authorities to ensure they are OK with the open mesh option.