Alcohol Storage

Q: A question for you about alcohol storage. If we have over 5 gallons of alcohol, 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol in a 1-hour rated room, is that acceptable?

A: It depends what type of containers the alcohol is stored in, the capacity of the containers, the size of the room, and the location of the room. Based on the assumption that the flash point of the alcohol is 53°F and the boiling point is 181°F, the alcohol would be considered a Class IB flammable liquid, according to NFPA 30-2012, section 4.3.1.

The maximum size container is identified in Table 9.4.3 as follows:

Glass                           1-quart

Metal (not a drum)      5.3 gal

Safety Can                  5.3 gal

Metal Drum                 119 gal

Rigid Plastic                Not Permitted

Polyethylene               5.3 gal

Fiber Drum                 Not Permitted

According to 9.5.1, the maximum volume stored in a safety cabinet is 120 gallons. According to 9.6.1, the maximum allowable quantities of Class IB flammable liquid is 120 gallons per control area, which is defined as a space in a building. This would be a designated space and nothing else would be permitted to be stored in this space.

According to 9.7.2, the maximum number of control areas for Class IB flammable liquids in a building is:

1st floor:                                   4

2nd floor:                                  3

3rd through 9th floor:             2

Above 9th floor:                       1

According to 9.3.6, storage of Class IB flammable liquids is not permitted in basements, which is defined as a level having ½ or more of its area below ground level. According to 9.9.1, the fire-resistant construction rating of the control area storing Class IB flammable liquids is:

  • 1-hour fire-rated if the control area is less than or equal to 150 square feet
  • 2-hour fire-rated if the control area is more than 150 square feet but not more than 500 square feet.
  • 4-hour fire-rated if the control area is more than 500 square feet.

So, the answer to your question is yes, 5-gallons of 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol stored in a metal can, or a safety can, or a metal drum, or a polyethylene container in a 1-hour fire-rated control room (i.e. designated storage room), that is not over 150 square feet in size, would be acceptable, provided the room is not located below ground level.

Brad Keyes
Brad Keyes, CHSP

Brad is a former advisor to Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP) and former Joint Commission LS surveyor. He guides clients through  organizational assessment; management training; ongoing coaching of task groups; and extensive one-on-one coaching of facility leaders. He analyzes and develops leadership effectiveness and efficiency in work processes, focusing on assessing an organization’s preparedness for a survey, evaluating processes in achieving preparedness, and guiding organizations toward compliance. 

As a presenter at national seminars, regional conferences, and audio conferences, Brad teaches the Keyes Life Safety Boot Camp series to various groups and organizations. He is the author or co-author of many HCPro books, including the best-selling  Analyzing the Hospital Life Safety Survey, now in its 3rd edition. Brad has also authored a variety of articles in numerous publications addressing features of life safety and fire protection, as well as white papers and articles on the Building Maintenance Program. Currently serving as the contributing editor of the monthly HCPro newsletter Healthcare Life Safety Compliance  gives Brad further insight into the industry’s trends and best practices.