Oct 16 2014

Fire Alarm System Interface Relays

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am
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Fire Alarm Interface RelayOut of sight is out of mind. It is the master illusionist’s greatest asset. He gets you looking at something that is distracting your attention away from the object at hand, and before you know it he makes it seem that through a magical intervention, something appears. Or disappears. Or… whatever. The point is, while your attention is located elsewhere, something else happened that you did not notice.

When I was a kid they called that a trick. Actually, it still is a trick, but now they call it something else, like an illusion. Harry Houdini was first called a magician before he was called an escape artist. But I don’t remember seeing anything in print where they called him an illusionist. The word “illusionist” sounds so much nicer and professional for today’s environment than “magician”. But, I digress… That seems to have very little to do with what I want to share today.

A review of the survey deficiency reports indicates surveyors are looking for documentation that the hospital has tested the interface relays and modules on the fire alarm system. I guess that’s the bridge between the illusions and the interface relays: You can’t see them. The interface relays are “out-of-sight and out-of-mind”. If you can’t see them, you tend to forget they are there, and then they are not included in the fire alarm testing report.

Many facility managers rely on the fire alarm contractor to provide a complete test report without actually checking what was tested. This is a grave mistake. No offense to fire alarm testing contractors, but you should never rely on their advice or opinion on the level of testing. You (as the facility manager) have to be smarter than the fire alarm testing contractor to ensure they did everything correctly. They don’t necessarily know what codes and standards (or what editions) you need to comply with, but you should know. That makes you the expert.

Not long ago I was consulting in a hospital and reviewing their fire alarm test report. The report failed to indicate that they tested their interface relays. I asked the facility manager about it and he called the sales representative from the fire alarm testing contractor who happened to be nearby. He stopped in while I was there and I asked him why they did not test the interface relays. He said he knew they were supposed to be tested, but told me (and this is a direct quote): “The hospital would not let me test them”. This surprised the facility manager and myself, and the sales rep explained further.

“We had to bid our services to the hospital based on a request for proposal. Nothing in the request indicated that the interface relays were included. We submitted a bid strictly based on what was requested in the proposal. Had we added anything that was not requested, we would not have been awarded with the contract.”

Some would say that the fire alarm testing contractor was unethical for not informing the hospital of all the items that needed to be tested that were not included in the RFP. I don’t know if that is unethical or not, but I will tell you this: That hospital got exactly what it asked for in the RFP. Unfortunately.

So, back to the point: Get those fire alarm interface relays included in the fire alarm testing process and document each one individually, with a “Pass” or a “Fail” notation. Here is a list of the most common interface relays used in hospital fire alarm systems:

  • Magnetic hold-open devices
  • Air handler shutdown
  • Kitchen hood suppression system
  • Elevator recall
  • Magnetic locks
  • Fire pump
  • Smoke dampers
  • Clean agent suppression systems
  • Sprinkler dry pipe/pre-action systems
  • Overhead rolling fire doors

Take a look at your latest fire alarm test report. Does it include interface relays? If not… better get on the phone to the company or individual conducting the testing for you.

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May 15 2014

Fire Alarm Test Reports

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 5:00 am
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fire-alarm-system-detects-protects-24-x-7-250x250[1]Fire alarm test reports are the number one item that surveyors look at during the document review session. It is also the number one document that draws the most findings and citations, mainly because there are so many devices connected to the fire alarm system. A typical 200 bed hospital may have over 2,000 devices connected to the fire alarm system that need to be tested.

Nearly all of the requirements for the frequency of the tests performed on fire alarm systems can be found under NFPA 72 (1999 edition), section 7-3.2. The one exception would be the requirement for the water-flow switch testing which is found under NFPA 25 (1998 edition), section 2-3.3. (NOTE: This does not take into consideration the recent CMS categorical waivers.)

Often times a contractor performing the fire alarm testing will not test all of the devices listed below, even if your hospital has them in your system. The reasons may differ but the bottom line is the hospital facility manager must review the contract and determine what is actually required. Many times the standard contract (or signed proposal) will state something to the effect the fire alarm system will be tested in accordance with NFPA 72, although it doesn’t always refer to the proper edition (most hospitals are on the 1999 edition of NFPA 72). If the contract says it will test to NFPA 72, then you must hold them accountable for testing everything on the list below.

Make sure the test report lists the complete inventory of each and every device connected to the fire alarm system. All of the initiating devices, all of the occupant notification devices and all of the interface relays must be listed in an inventory complete with their location and whether they passed or failed their test. And don’t forget all of the batteries in the fire alarm system, not just those in the fire alarm control panel. There may be other batteries involved such as those in a remote panel or a Notification Appliance Circuit (NAC) extender panel.

Here is a list of devices that could be connected to the typical fire alarm system in a hospital:

Device/Test

Frequency

Initiating   Devices

Water-flow switches

Quarterly

Smoke detectors

Annually

Heat detectors

Annually

Duct detectors

Annually

Manual pull stations

Annually

Supervisory   Signal Devices

Low air pressure switches

Quarterly

Low water level switches

Quarterly

Tamper switches

Semi-annually

Notification   Devices

Strobes

Annually

Horns

Annually

Bells

Annually

Chimes

Annually

Interface   relays and modules

Magnetic hold-open

Annually

Air handler shut-down

Annually

Kitchen hood suppression sys

Annually

Elevator recall

Annually

Magnetic locks

Annually

Fire pump

Annually

Smoke dampers

Annually

CO2/Clean agent suppression

Annually

Sprinkler dry-pipe/pre-action

Annually

Overhead rolling fire doors

Annually

Control   panel batteries

Charger test

Annually

Discharge test

Annually

Load voltage test

Semi-annually

Smoke   detector sensitivity test

2-years

Off-premises   monitoring transmission equipment

Quarterly

Here are some basic requirements about the fire alarm test report:

  • Make sure the report is dated and signed by the service technician and you (the owner’s representative)
  • Make sure all the devices connected to the fire alarm system are accounted for and inventoried in the report
  • Make sure resettable heat detectors are ‘tested’ rather than ‘inspected’. Lazy technicians may not want to get out the hot-air guns to test the heat detectors so they just ‘inspect’ them
  • Make sure the heat detectors are tested with heat, and not with magnets. Only the one-shot non-resettable heat detectors are permitted to be tested with magnets.
  • When items on the report are identified as having ‘failed’ their test, make sure there is follow-up action to resolve the issue
  • Don’t forget to assesse the failed devices for Interim Life Safety Measures (ILSM)
  • Resolve all deficiencies and staple copies of the paperwork that demonstrates the repair was completed, along with a re-test, to the test report
  • Ensure that the technician performing the fire alarm testing, service and repairs meets the qualifications for certification or licensing. This applies to in-house staff or contracted staff. Have the qualifying documents on file.

Maintain your fire alarm test report at this level of documentation and you should not have any troubles with the surveyors.

 

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Mar 13 2014

Fire Alarm Monitoring of the Generator

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am
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imagesFWTL2IM2Does your fire alarm system monitor the emergency power generator? It may have to. Section 1-5.8.7 of NFPA 72 (1999) requires the fire alarm system to monitor the primary and secondary power supplies for the presence of voltage at the point of connection to the fire alarm system. Failure to monitor either connected power supply should result in a ‘Trouble’ signal. Under normal power conditions, the emergency power from the generator is not connected, and therefore is not monitored. But when the emergency power is connected, it must be monitored, according to NFPA 72. However, there is an exception to 1-5.8.7 that says:

“The power supply of an engine-driven generator that is part of the secondary power supply, provided the generator is tested weekly in accordance with chapter 7”.

So, that means if the generator is tested weekly, then the generator is not required to be monitored. But Table 7-3.2 of NFPA 72 (1999) says engine driven generators must be tested monthly, not weekly. So is this a conflict in the standard? I looked at the 2010 edition of NFPA 72, and apparently the technical committee thought it was, as they corrected their table (Table 14.4.5 which is comparable to Table 7-3.2 of the 1999 edition) which now says the generator must be tested weekly, and Table 14.4.2.2 (of the 2010 edition) on Test Methods, says the test must be in accordance with NFPA 110.

But NFPA 110 does not require weekly operational tests, only weekly inspections. They do require monthly tests of the generators. Again, is this another conflict? Perhaps not, as the frequency of the generator test (weekly) is determined by NFPA 72, but the methods and parameters of the test are determined by NFPA 110.

This is what is apparent to me: NFPA 72 requires the fire alarm system to monitor the voltage at the point of connection on both primary and secondary power supplies. The exception to this requirement for monitoring is if the generator is being tested weekly, but not many organizations are testing their generators weekly. If you are not testing the generators weekly, then make sure your fire alarm system is monitoring the voltage output of the generators when they are connected to the fire alarm system.

Is any national AHJ currently enforcing this issue at the moment? I am not aware that any of them are, but it is a NFPA requirement and healthcare organizations are required to be compliant with all NFPA standards referenced by the Life Safety Code. Better to be on top of this and have your fire alarm system compliant before one of the AHJs asks to see your documentation.

 

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Sep 12 2013

Standy Power Source for Fire Alarm Systems

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 5:00 am
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imagesCAGH53PCFor obvious reasons, fire alarm systems are required to have two sources of electrical power sources according to NFPA 72 (1999 edition), section 1-5.2; a reliable primary source and a standby secondary source. There is an exception to this requirement for two sources, where the primary source is connected to an emergency power system where a person specifically trained in its’ operation is on duty at all times. This could be an emergency power generator used to deliver the primary power full time such as co-generation with the commercial utility company.

Where a standby power supply is provided, it is required to provide power to the fire alarm system for a minimum of 24 hours when the fire alarm system is functioning in a non-alarm condition. At the end of the 24 hour period, the standby power supply must provide power to the fire alarm system operating in emergency mode for 2 hours, and the notification appliances (strobes, horns, chimes, etc.) for 15 minutes.

You can use batteries to meet this 26 hour power supply requirement, or you can use the emergency power generator, life safety branch already provided in your hospital or nursing home. If you choose to use the emergency generator power as your standby source, then you must have batteries that are capable of operating the fire alarm system in a non-alarm condition for four (4) hours, then operate the system in an emergency mode for 15 minutes.

That is why you may observe smaller batteries in the hospital fire alarm control panel as compared to the batteries in a non-healthcare occupancy location, such as a clinic or office building. Those batteries would have to be sized to operate the fire alarm system for 26 hours, as compared to the 4 hours if the system had emergency generator power as a standby source.

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Apr 18 2013

Door Locks in Healthcare Occupancies

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am
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exit_mag_lock_hospital_10662932[1]Outside of the healthcare setting, locks on doors are utilized nearly everywhere we go, and we don’t give it much of a thought. But in the highly regulated industry of healthcare, we must be very vigilant and astute to what the codes and standards will and will not permit. Unfortunately, locks on doors that are in the path of egress are greatly misunderstood by hospitals, and therefore are widely abused.

 Ordinarily, you are not permitted to lock a door in the path of egress in a healthcare occupancy however, there are three exceptions:

  • Delayed egress locks
  • Access-control locks
  • Clinical needs locks

 Delayed Egress

Delayed egress locks are a lock when a person pushes on the horizontal crash bar of the locked door, a local buzzer will sound, and the door will automatically unlock within 15 seconds. This effectively allows a person to egress through the door, but just delays their egress, hence the name. The requirements for a delayed egress lock are:

  • Delayed egress locks are only permitted in buildings which are fully protected with smoke detectors or automatic sprinklers
  • The delayed egress locks must unlock upon activation of the sprinkler system or a heat detector or a smoke detector, and remain unlocked until manually reset. Notice that activation of a manual pull station is not required to unlock a delayed egress lock.
  • The delayed egress locks must unlock upon loss of power to the mechanism controlling the lock
  • Upon 3 seconds of activating the releasing device (horizontal crash bar) a local buzzer must actuate (to alert staff someone is attempting to exit), and within 15 seconds of activating the releasing device, the lock shall automatically unlock. The locks must reset manually, not automatically.
  • The code allows for the delayed egress lock to automatically unlock within 30 seconds if approved by the AHJ, but HFAP does not approve of this option.
  • A sign, in 1 inch letters, must be posted on the door which reads:

PUSH UNTIL ALARM SOUNDS

DOOR CAN BE OPENED IN 15 SECONDS

  • Only one delayed egress lock may be installed in the path of egress to the public way.

These types of locks are not uncommon in hospitals, but are not used very much. The most common deficiency observed with delayed egress locks is they are installed in a building that is not 100% protected with sprinklers or smoke detectors. [Code reference: 7.2.1.6.1, 2000 edition of the LSC]

 Access Control

Access Control locks are very common in hospitals, and most likely are misunderstood on their correct operation by the facilities staff.  An access control lock usually utilizes a magnetic lock (mag-lock) assembly, and is often integrated with the badge swipe reader to control access into a department. The requirements for an access control lock, are:

  • A motion senor must be mounted on the egress side of the door, that will detect a person approaching and will automatically unlock the door in the direction of egress
  • A loss of power to the device controlling power to the access control lock must unlock the doors in the direction of egress
  • A manual release device must be mounted within 5 feet of the door, and between 40 to 48 inches above the floor which, when depressed, will automatically unlock the door in the direction of egress, and must be identified with a  sign that reads:

PUSH TO EXIT

  • When depressed, the “Push to Exit” button must directly interrupt power to the lock, independent of the access control system electronics, and the doors must remain unlocked for a minimum of 30 seconds
  • Activation of the building sprinkler system or the building fire alarm system must unlock the door in the direction of egress

The most common deficiency with access control locks is the absence of the required motion sensor and/or the “Push to Exit’ button on the egress side of the door. When properly installed, access control locks are not a lock for people trying to get out of the building, but they serve as a lock on doors for people trying to get into the area controlled by the lock. [Code reference: 7.2.1.6.2, 2000 edition of the LSC]

 Clinical Needs

Clinical needs locks are only permitted in healthcare occupancies (hospitals). They are not permitted in any other occupancy. These types of locks are permitted where the “clinical needs of the patients require specialized security measures for their safety, provided that staff can readily unlock such doors at all times”. Clinical needs locks are permitted for Behavioral Health units, such as psychiatric and Alzheimer units, to prevent patients from leaving the unit unauthorized, and potentially harming themselves or others.  Clinical needs locks requires all staff who work on that unit (which includes physicians, nurses, aids, clerical, maintenance, foodservice, housekeeping, etc.) to have a key or device to unlock the door on their person at all times. [Code reference: 19.2.2.2.4, Exception No. 1, 2000 edition of the LSC]

 Fire Alarm Connection

Delayed egress locks and access control locks are required by code to be connected to the fire alarm system and automatically unlock the door whenever there is an alarm. However, there is no such similar language for clinical needs locks to unlock on an alarm. In addition to the Life Safety Code, NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm Code, (1999 edition) section 3-9.7.1 and 3-9.7.2 says if you have a lock on an exit door it must be connected to the fire alarm system, and it must unlock the door on a fire alarm. HOWEVER, the exception to 3-9.7.2 essentially says this is not required if an AHJ says so, or if another code says so. So, we go back to the Life Safety Code, and we see that delayed egress locks and access control locks are required to unlock on an alarm, but the clinical needs locks is very silent on the subject. When a code is silent on a subject that means it permits it.  Therefore, section 3-9.7 does not apply to clinical needs locks in a hospital, because the Life Safety Code permits it. The code writers understand that psych patients are smart enough to actuate a fire alarm to unlock the exit doors. Therefore, they wrote the code in such a way to not require clinical needs locks to unlock the doors in the path of egress on activation of the fire alarm system PROVIDED all staff carry a key to unlock the door in case of an emergency. That is the trade-off: They will not require the locks to unlock on a fire alarm, as long as all staff can unlock the doors in the event of an emergency.

 Dead Bolt Locks

Generally speaking, dead bolt locks are not permitted on a door in the path of egress in a healthcare occupancy. The only exception would be a dead bolt lock which automatically retracts when the door handle is twisted but other than that, they are not allowed. The reason for this is the LSC only permits one releasing action to operate the door. So if a dead bolt lock is installed on a door in the path of egress and the lock is not part of the latch-set, then it would require two actions: one to unlock the dead bolt and another to turn the door handle, to operate the door. Please note that pulling or pushing is not considered one of the actions to operate the door. [Code reference: 7.2.1.5.4, 2000 edition of the LSC]

 

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May 29 2012

Fire Alarm System Batteries

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 5:00 am
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What’s the number one item that fire alarm testing contractors fail to properly test? Batteries. OK, I don’t keep statistics on these types of things, but based on the lack of a response when I ask to see the documentation that the fire alarm system batteries were tested, it sure seems like this is the most common item that is not properly tested.

And it really doesn’t have to be that way, if someone would only read NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm Code (1999 edition) and perform the test as required. Table 7-2.2 prescribes the methods on the selective testing, and Table 7-3.2 prescribes the testing frequency of the selected tests. Doesn’t get any simpler than that.

But reality demonstrates that batteries usually receive only a cursory effort at testing, and falls short of the NFPA 72 requirements. There are multiple reasons why this happens, and the most common one that I hear is “This is the way we’ve always done it”, and “Joint Commission doesn’t ask us for this information”. Whether or not Joint Commission asks to see this documentation (and they are now asking for that), you still have other authorities who may be asking to see that the batteries are properly tested.

I had the opportunity to ask a fire alarm testing contractor why he didn’t test the fire alarm system exactly as prescribed by NFPA 72. His answer was very logical: “Because the hospital wouldn’t pay me to do it that way”. He explained that he got the contract through a successful bid process, and he bid only what the hospital asked for. If he included additional work that was not in the bid request, he probably would not get the contract. This places the responsibility for compliance squarely on the head and shoulders of the hospital representative, typically the facility manager.

 So, let’s look at what is required for testing the batteries in a fire alarm system. Most batteries now days are sealed lead acid type batteries, such as the one in the picture to the left. According to NFPA 72, table 7-2.2, there are three tests that need to be conducted:

Charger Test:  With the batteries fully charged and connected to the charger, the voltage across the batteries shall be measured with a voltmeter. The voltage shall be 2.3 volts per cell plus or minus 0.02 volts at 77 degrees F, or as specified by the equipment manufacturer.

Discharge Test:  With the battery charger disconnected, the batteries shall be load tested for 30 minutes following the manufacturer’s recommendations. The voltage level shall not fall below the levels specified. [Note: An artificial load equal to the full fire alarm load connected to the battery shall be permitted to be used in conducting this test.]

Load Voltage Test:  With battery charger disconnected, the terminal voltage shall be measured while supplying the maximum load required by its application. The voltage level shall not fall below the levels specified for the specific type of battery. If the voltage falls below the level specified, corrective action shall be taken and the batteries shall be retested. [Note: An artificial load equal to the full fire alarm load connected to the battery shall be permitted to be used in conducting this test.]

So, those are the testing methods required by NFPA 72, but what about the frequencies? All three tests must be conducted when batteries are initially installed, but only the first two tests (Charger Test and Discharge Test) are required annually thereafter. The third test (Load Voltage Test) is required semi-annually after installation, and this is the test that frequently does not happen.

The testing requirement is for ALL batteries in the fire alarm system, not just the ones in the main fire panel. Don’t forget those NAC panels scattered throughout the hospital that serve as power boosters for the occupant notification devices. And, check out the remote annunciators, as there may be batteries in them as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May 09 2012

Spot-Type Smoke Detectors Used in Air flow

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 5:00 am
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I was recently at a hospital where I noticed the smoke detector installation (at left) inside a mechanical room. It made me stop and exam the installation as my first thought was the smoke detector was too close to the air diffuser. As the pictures indicate, the detector was only about 4 inches from the actual air diffuser, and NFPA 72 (1999 edition) A-2-3.5.1 requires detectors to be spaced a minimum of 36 inches from air supply or return diffusers. Now, to be sure, this reference is found in the Annex section which is not part of the enforceable standard, but many (if not all) AHJs use the Annex section to help them determine compliance with the standard. The 36 inch rule is enforced by many of the AHJs which inspect hospitals.

Let’s review what the pictures indicate: This is new construction for this situation and the wall to the left of the air diffuser is a 2-hour fire rated vertical shaft which also doubles as the smoke compartment barrier in this area. In the pictures you will notice a combination fire/smoke damper in the short duct which is connected to the return air system. It is understandable that a fire damper would be required in a 2-hour vertical shaft (or for that matter, any vertical shaft where the duct penetrates the vertical barrier), but a smoke damper? Well, yes, it is required, as 18.3.7.3, exception #2 in the 2000 edition of the LSC says smoke dampers are not required in smoke barriers with fully ducted HVAC systems. The pictures indicate that the return air is not fully ducted, but a case could be made that is is “fully ducted” since there is no suspended ceiling in this mechanical room, and the return air diffuser location is no different than if it was ducted to a ceiling mounted diffuser. Besides, in this situation, the IBC building code is used and they do not have an exception for smoke dampers in smoke barriers.

But back to my first thought: Is the spot-type smoke detector too close to the return air diffuser? According to NFPA 72 (1999 edition) A-2-3.5.1 it is. But one needs to take into consideration section 2-10.4.2.2. of the same standard. This section says if smoke detectors are required in the return air system by other NFPA standards then a smoke detector listed for the air velocity present should be located where the air leaves each smoke compartment or in the duct system before the air enters the return air system. Well, smoke detectors are required to activate the smoke damper, according to NFPA 105 which says smoke detectors that activate smoke dampers need to be installed according to NFPA 72.

Section 2-10.4.2.2 of NFPA 72 (1999 edition) does state that detectors in the return air system are not required if the entire smoke compartment is protected with smoke detectors. In this situation, that is not the case, so it is not an option. Going back to the Annex section A-2-10.4.2.2 of NFPA 72 (1999 edition) we find that the smoke detector needs to be listed for the air velocity present and installed up to 12 inches in front of or behind the opening of the return air system.

So, in summary, I see two issues in this installation: 1). Is the smoke detector listed for the air velocity present? and 2). Is the smoke detector mounted up to 12 inches in front of or behind the opening for the return air system?

For #1, I cannot answer this question, but I did inform the organization that they need to confirm the smoke detector is listed for the  air velocity in which it is used. I was later informed that the detector was a Siemens ILI-1 which is rated for 0 – 300 ft./min. The airflow around this detector would have to be measured to confirm it is within the listed operating range of the detector.

For #2, the detector is mounted within 12 inches of the air diffuser, so it is well within the limitations of the specifications.

Based on the above, the spot type smoke detector in the picture appears to be within the requirements of NFPA 72.

[Thanks to Greg Waldman of Stanford Healthcare for assistance with this issue.]

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Apr 20 2012

Fire Alarm System in Construction Sites

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 5:00 am
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The subject of a working, operable fire alarm system in construction sites recently came up and the question was: Are pull stations and occupant notification devices required in a construction site, inside an occupied hospital?

My answer was Yes, based on section 18/19.3.4 of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code (LSC) which requires healthcare occupancies to comply with section 9.6. Now sections 18/19.3.4.2 requires fire alarm initiation to be from manual (pull) stations in accordance with 9.6.2, and by water-flow switches. Pull stations are required to be located so the maximum travel distance to get to a pull station is 200 feet. Also, a pull station is required no more than 5 feet from an exit.

Occupant notification devices are required according to sections 18/19.3.4.3.1, which again refers to section 9.6.3, and they are required to be placed in strategic locations to alert occupants of fire or other emergencies.

According to section 18/19.3.4, fire alarm systems are required throughout healthcare occupancies. I do not see any exceptions to this requirement for construction zones or areas under renovation. Just because hospital staff (nurses, technicians, aids, etc.) are not occupying the area under construction, it is still occupied by construction workers, and adequate protection is required. So, I can say without hesitation that fire alarm pull stations and occupant notification are required in construction areas inside a hospital.

Now, having said that, section 4.6.10.1 does allow construction sites to be compensated with alternative life safety measures (also known as Interim Life Safety Measures, or ILSM) for features of life safety that are impaired due to the construction. Well, if there is demolition underway, I can see the desire to remove pull stations and horn/strobe units to prevent them from being damaged. If the decision is made to remove these features of the fire alarm system, then a risk assessment must be conducted to determine what interim measures should be implemented to compensate for the deficiency.

So, as I see it, the organization has two options in regards to operable fire alarm systems in construction sites: 1). Leave the pull stations and occupant notification devices and water-flow switches in normal operating condition, or: 2). Remove all devices and implement ILSMs.

But what are the Pros and Cons to these two options?

By leaving the pull stations, horn/strobes, and water-flow switches in operating condition inside the construction site, the PRO is the hospital has a safer environment, both for the construction workers, but also for the rest of the occupants of the facility. The occupant notification devices will alert the construction workers of any fire emergencies in the building, and the pull stations will allow quicker activation of the fire alarm system should a fire start in the construction site. The CON is these devices could be damaged during construction and therefore need replacement, and there is the cost of labor to keep these devices operating properly amidst a ‘hostile’ environment. False alarms can sometimes accidentally occur on the pull stations or by damage to the initiating circuit.

By removing all of the fire alarm devices, ILSMs will have to be implemented, such as fire watches, staff & contractor education, conduct extra fire drills, and daily surveillance. The PRO to this option is the fire alarm devices are removed so they cannot be damaged and the initiating devices cannot accidentally set off unwanted alarms. Also, ILSMs may already be implemented for other reasons on the construction site, such as a deficient smoke compartment barrier or non-operable fire rated door assemblies. The CON is no matter what ILSMs are implemented, they will never be as effective as an operable fire alarm system with pull stations and occupant notification devices. Also, the cost of hospital labor to perform fire watches, extra fire drills, education of staff and contractors and performing daily surveillance must be factored in as well.

When I was the Safety Officer at the hospital where I worked, I preferred to leave pull stations and horn/strobes in an operating condition in construction sites. I felt it provided a safer environment for everyone. However, it is recognized that it is not always possible in all conditions.

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Jan 17 2012

Disabled Pull Station

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 11:59 pm
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 I was at a hospital recently that was installing a completly new fire alarm system in their building. I came across the disabled pull station in the picture to the left, and noticed that there was a large piece of tape across the handle of the pull station.

The facility manager that I was with said that particular device was part of the new system and it was not activated yet. He pointed out that there was an old fire alarm pull station (which I had not noticed), located within a few feet of this device and it was still activated.

This is a very big advantage that I have over the facility managers: They are in their building day in and day out and they do not typically think like a person who has never been been inside the facility before. Since I noticed the disabled pull station first, it did not make me look for the other activated pull station, which was about 5 feet away. If there had been an actual fire emergency, it is possible that a person who is unfamiliar with the fire alarm upgrade to see the disabled pull station, and not necessarily notice the old activated pull station, and move on down the corridor in search of one that actually operates which would delay the activation of the fire alarm.

I suggested to the facility manager that he install a sign over the disabled pull station, stating this device was not activated and a description (with an arrow) describing where the closest active pull station is located. Since this particular hospital had established a procedure of posting all public signs in three languages (English, Spanish and Chinese) then this temporary sign would also have to have all three languages.

A surveyor or inspector could very well cite this hospital for failure of proper interim life safety measures, or at the very least, failing to identify all safety and security risks in the environment.

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