Aug 07 2014

Missing Ceiling Tiles

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am

Missing Ceiling Tiles Web 3Most healthcare organizations have acoustical tile and grid suspended ceilings in a large part of their facilities. They are relatively inexpensive, and allow access to the many mechanical systems that are located above the ceiling. So, why is their such a fuss about a missing ceiling tile, or gaps in the ceiling?

The reason why is the ceiling is an integral part of the smoke detection system and the sprinkler system. When a fire occurs, the smoke and heat rises until it meets the ceiling, then the smoke and heat travels horizontally until it encounters a smoke detector or a sprinkler head. If there is a missing ceiling tile, then the smoke and heat will rise up through the hole where the tile was located and fill up the space above the ceiling before it attempts to activate a detector or sprinkler. This impairs the ability of the smoke detector and the sprinkler head to function and surveyors will likely cite the organization.

Likewise, if the ceiling has broken tiles, or misaligned tiles, or gaps greater than 1/8 inch caused by anything (such as data cables temporarily run up through the ceiling), this too is a problem that surveyors will likely identify.

 However, a missing ceiling tile or a cracked tile with gaps greater than 1/8 inch are not Life Safety Code violations if the room or area does not contain sprinklers or smoke (or heat) detectors. Technically speaking, there is no impairment with a missing ceiling tile if there are no sprinkler heads or smoke detectors present. Now, there may be an Infection Control issue since the space above the ceiling is typically very dirty, but to be sure, it is not a violation of the NFPA codes and standards.

Ceiling tiles often become stained or damaged from water leaks, and maintenance staff typically remove the tiles before they fall to the floor. It is imperative that a ceiling tile is replaced as soon as the leak is repaired, even if you don’t have the correct ceiling tile in stock. Use any tile to prevent an impairment to sprinklers and smoke detectors.

Make sure you access your facility for any missing ceiling tiles or cracked tiles with gaps larger than 1/8 inch.


May 23 2012

Missing Ceiling Tiles

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:01 pm

Want to know a secrete?

It’s a pretty sure bet that a hospital does not perform a very good job on Hazard Surveillance Rounds when missing ceiling tiles are discovered by surveyors. This is a slam-dunk issue and an easy one to prevent.

First, we need to fully understand why a missing ceiling tile is a problem. According to section in the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code, in smoke compartments that are fully protected with automatic sprinklers, a corridor wall is permitted to be non-rated and extend from the floor to the ceiling, provided the ceiling resists the passage of smoke. According to NFPA, an acoustical tile and grid suspended ceiling does qualify as resisting the passage of smoke. Unfortunately, the IBC does not have such a liberal definition, and they require a ‘monolithic’ ceiling, which is usually defined as a lath and plaster or gypsum board.

In rooms that are not open to corridors, the ceiling still has to resist the passage of smoke for the benefit of the sprinkler heads and smoke detectors, if present. Heat and smoke will rise to the ceiling, and then travel across the ceiling until detected by the sprinkler or smoke detector (same logic applies to heat detectors). If the ceiling does not ‘resist the passage of smoke’ because there is a missing or breach in the ceiling tile, then the heat and smoke will travel above the suspended ceiling and activation of the sprinklers and smoke detectors will be delayed, or may not happen at all.

But the problem is basic education. We all know that hospitals will eventually leak water, and ceiling tiles are always the casualty of water leaks. Leaky roofs, busted pipes and over-flow toilets will happen to old and new buildings, and the water will eventually drip onto a ceiling tile. A typical scenario will have a maintenance individual remove the wet tile and discard it, and take the appropriate action to resolve the leak. All too often, a replacment ceiling tile is not inserted due to various reasons such as forgetfulness or a need to dry-out the space above the ceiling.

But the ceiling serves an important function of life safety, and according to section, alternative life safety measures must be implemented during repairs of required fire protection features. Like it or not, the ceiling tile is part of the fire protection feature, and when tiles are missing, alternative life safety measures need to be implemented. (Some AHJs call them Interim Life Safety Measures.)

The simple thing to do is just replace the missing ceiling tile with another, even if it isn’t the correct one, in order to continue the important fire protection feature of a ceiling that resists the passage of smoke. This requires education of the individuals performing the ruotine hazardous surveillance rounds, and teaching them to check for misisng, broken or partially raised ceiling tiles. And don’t forget the maintenance individuals, so they fully understand the importance of the ceiling tiles. It wouldn’t hurt to educate the contractors who work in your facility, as well. They can unknowingly do as much, if not more, damage than anyone else and they aren’t usually supervised all the time.


Feb 06 2012

Ceiling Resisting the Passage of Smoke

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am

Do the ceiling tiles in these pictures look anything like what you may have in your hospital? If so, then you may be out of compliance with the Life Safety Code. The ceiling, no matter what it is made of, is required to ‘resist the passage of smoke’, according to the Life Safety Code.

The logic behind this requirement is if a fire were to start in a room with sprinklers or a detection system, the ceiling must ‘resist’ the smoke from traveling up to the interstitial space above the ceiling. That way the heat and smoke will travel along the ceiling and activate a sprinkler or a detector. If the ceiling does not ‘resist’ the passage of smoke, then the heat and smoke would bypass the suspended ceiling and delay activating the sprinklers or detectors.


When the facility is protected with sprinklers or a fire detection system, the ceiling is required to resist the passage of smoke. An acoustical suspended ceiling with tiles and a grid, have been identified in the Life Safety Code as meeting the requirements of ‘resisting the passage of smoke’, even if the ceiling has speakers and light fixtures.

Now, a missing ceiling tile or a hole in an existing ceiling is pretty obvious, and most people would agree those tiles would not be able to resist the passage of smoke. However, an IT cable run along the wall up to and through the suspended ceiling with the tile setting slightly ajar may not be as obvious. But this is just as bad as a hole in the tile or a missing tile all together, as the tile cannot properly resist the pasasage of smoke. It’s not properly seated in the grid.

If you have a temporary situation that requires IT cable for just a day or two, you could probably get by without cutting the tile or grid by using an Interim Life Safety Measure (ILSM). But for longer installations, it is best to properly install surface mounted raceway, like Wire Mold and properly trim the ceiling tile and grid to continue to resist the passage of smoke.


Missing escutcheon plates (escutcheon plates are the trim rings around the exposed sprinklers or cover plates over the recessed sprinkelrs) are just as bad as missing or broken ceiling tiles, as they no longer resist the passage of smoke. Without the escutcheon plates, smoke and heat will bypass the sprinkler and the activation of the sprinkler will be delayed.

Take a look at your acoustical tile and grid suspended ceiling system through-out the hospital. If you find cracked, broken or missing tiles, or tiles with holes, or untrimmed tiles, or sprinklers with missing escutcheon plates, you need to resolve those problems before a surveyor or an inspector cites you for it.